#11 Sacramento Kings As if this team didn't have enough problems, three starters have barely been Kings for a day

February 08, 1999

If there's one NBA franchise that could have done without the
lockout, it's the Kings. An abbreviated preseason and a
truncated schedule of games isn't the Rx for a team with four
new starters, a new coach and even new owners, the Maloof
family, in place. "We look a lot different from last year," says
coach Rick Adelman, who replaced Eddie Jordan in the off-season,
"but I couldn't be happier with the core guys."

When he was dealt to the Kings last May, the most significant
core guy, power forward Chris Webber, seemed to agree with the
late San Francisco columnist Herb Caen's observation that "dying
in Sacramento may be redundant." Though he sorely needed to
reupholster his image, Webber intimated that he wasn't going to
play in the basketball Siberia that is Sacramento, and he was a
no-show on the first day of training camp. "I just want to win,"
he groused repeatedly during the lockout, a thinly veiled
reference to the fact that the Kings have endured 15 straight
losing seasons.

When Webber arrived for Day Two of camp, however, his spirits
were buoyed considerably. Vice president of basketball
operations Geoff Petrie, who's in the final year of his
contract, went for broke this off-season, signing center Vlade
Divac to a Kings' ransom (six years, $62.5 million) while
retaining bruising forward Corliss Williamson, a potential star.
What's more, to ease Webber's adjustment to his new team, his
college coach at Michigan, Steve Fisher, was hired as a
Sacramento assistant. "So far, it's been great," says Webber of
his new place of employment. "We're all ready to start winning
some games. I think we have a strong front line and a lot of
young talent."

Even more pleasant surprises are lurking in the backcourt.
Rookie point guard Jason Williams, a risky seventh pick from
Florida, has impressed his teammates and coaches with his
decision making, athleticism and flair. And while the Kings will
miss the shooting and steadiness of Mitch Richmond, who was
traded along with Otis Thorpe for Webber, they may have found a
replacement in Serbian swingman Predrag (Peja) Stojakovic.
Sacramento's 1996 first-round selection and the reigning MVP of
the Greek League, the 6'9" Stojakovic might well replace Tariq
Abdul-Wahad, a second-year King, as the starting two guard.
"Peja's not just a player to build on," says Divac, the star
Stojakovic most idolized as a child. "He can help us right now."

Ultimately, though, Sacramento's success rests largely on
Adelman's skills as a collagist. It doesn't help that 14 of his
first 20 games are on the road. "It's my job to find the right
combinations and so forth, but the players also need to work
hard to get on the same page," Adelman says. "It will be
exciting, though, because it's basically a fresh start for


COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER/NBA PHOTOS Moving in A driven Webber could lead the Kings to their first winning season in 16 years.


Starters PVR* 1997-98 Key Stats

SF Corliss Williamson 74 17.7 ppg 5.6 rpg 2.9 apg 49.5 FG%
PF Chris Webber[+] 13 21.9 ppg 9.5 rpg 3.8 apg 1.75 bpg
C Vlade Divac[+] 40 10.4 ppg 8.1 rpg 1.47 bpg 49.8 FG%
SG Tariq Abdul-Wahad 154 6.4 ppg 2.0 rpg 0.9 apg 40.3 FG%
PG Jason
Williams(R)[+][1] 132 17.1 ppg 6.7 apg 2.65 spg 40.3 3FG%

Top Reserves Bench Ranking (out of 29 teams): 19

F-G Predrag Stojakovic (R)104 23.9 ppg 4.9 rpg 2.5 apg 46.2FG%
G Vernon Maxwell[+] 207 6.9 ppg 1.2 apg 39.9 FG% 33.0 3FG%
F Lawrence Funderburke 221 9.5 ppg 4.5 rpg 1.2 apg 49.0 FG%

1997-98 Record: 27-55 (fifth in Pacific)
Coach: Rick Adelman(first season with Kings)

[+]New acquisition (R)Rookie
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 68)
[1]1997-98 statistics at Florida
[2]1997-98 statistics for PAOK in Greece

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)