6 Sacramento Kings A new shooting guard could pay off big for the flashiest team in the league

November 01, 1999

The Kings were creatures of quirky habit last season. Before
games center Vlade Divac and guard Jon Barry often went to Taco
Bell and ordered meals that never varied--two bean burritos and
two cheese quesadillas for Divac, three double-decker burrito
supremes for Barry. When assistant coach Pete Carril arrived at
smoke-free Arco Arena for home dates, he always placed the
stogie he'd been enjoying on a shelf just outside the security
entrance, and then retrieved it on his way home. Backup center
Scot Pollard prepared for games by trimming his jawline beard.
"It's my Amish look," he told The Sacramento Bee. "It makes me
want to go out there and work."

Until last season one of the few habits the Kings hadn't
developed was winning, but it seems they're now able to make that
a regular practice as well. After 13 seasons with losing records
since moving to Sacramento, the Kings finally broke through with
a 27-23 mark in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, and they
appear to be ready to leave .500 even further behind. "Anything
under 50 wins I will consider an unsuccessful season," Divac
says. "We are capable of reaching that goal. We've played
together for a year, the young guys have the experience of the
playoffs last season, and we've added some talented players."

The most important addition is 6'6" shooting guard Nick Anderson,
who fills two of Sacramento's most obvious needs from last
season--consistent backcourt scoring and a veteran presence on a
predominantly young team. The Kings traded guard Tariq
Abdul-Wahid and a first-round draft choice to the Magic for
Anderson, a 10-year vet who has already set the bar even higher
for Sacramento. "With the nucleus on this team," he says, "we
should be thinking about the [championship] hardware."

Those thoughts may be premature, but it's hard to blame the Kings
if they get carried away. Their flashy, fast-paced style--they
scored 100.2 points per game last year, making them the only team
in the league to average triple figures--and near upset of the
Jazz in the first round of the playoffs last May erased the
notion around the league that Sacramento and Siberia were one and
the same.

"I remember talking with other players in the past, and we used
to say Sacramento was the last place we would want to be traded,"
Anderson says. "But that's changed. Now this is the place to be."

The Kings are scheduled to appear on NBC nine times this season;
they had never cracked the network's lineup before. Charismatic
forward Chris Webber, whose 13.0 rebounds per game last season
led the league, and second-year point guard Jason Williams, who
is as much entertainer as playmaker, are the main reasons for the
team's sudden popularity. But without the arrival of Anderson,
Sacramento would probably still be a playoff bubble team instead
of one with a chance to do some serious postseason damage. "Nick
has an inside-outside game, he gives us another guy with shooting
range, he's a good post-up player, and he's an athlete who
defends," says Kings vice president Geoff Petrie. "He has a
maturity and understanding of the game that we need."

Anderson came by some of that maturity the hard way, surviving a
confidence-crushing two-year slump that began when he missed
four crucial free throws for the Magic in the opening game of
the 1995 Finals, which the Rockets went on to sweep. His overall
game deteriorated after that, especially his free throw
shooting, which sank to 40.4% in 1996-97. He was so hesitant
about going to the line that he stopped driving to the basket,
afraid of getting fouled. His timidity reached the point where
the Magic had to include an incentive in his contract--based on
how many free throws he shot--to keep him from hiding on the
perimeter. But with the aid of a sports psychologist, Anderson
rebuilt his psyche and averaged 14.9 points and 5.9 rebounds
last season while making 61.1% of his foul shots.

Anderson should also help steady the sometimes out-of-control
play of Williams, whom he befriended two years ago after watching
him play in a college game at Orlando Arena. After Williams was
thrown off the team in his junior year at Florida for testing
positive for marijuana, Anderson became his mentor, counseling
him on basketball as well as off-the-court behavior. "Jason is
going to be a great one," Anderson says. "He just needs to slow
down a little. Even last year, I was watching him on the
[satellite] dish, and I was saying, 'Slow down, slow down.' But
he'll learn, and I'll help him."

With Webber's having gotten over his initial eagerness to bolt
Sacramento after arriving via trade in May 1998--the club wants
to sign him to an extension before his contract runs out at the
end of this season--the Kings' disposition is fairly sunny these
days. The possible exception is small forward Corliss
Williamson, who went through contentious contract negotiations
during the off-season. Before the 1998-99 season he had signed a
one-year, $500,000 contract with Sacramento in hopes of getting
a lucrative long-term offer from the team last summer. Instead
he got a one-year, $3.5 million contract, far from the six-year,
$36 million deal the team reportedly discussed with him two
years ago. When camp opened, Williamson said he was satisfied,
but any lingering resentment he has might eventually come to the
surface, especially if promising second-year forward Predrag
(Peja) Stojakovic, Sacramento's best long-range shooter, cuts
into his playing time.

The Kings' starting five is solid, and with Stojakovic, Barry and
the newly acquired Tony Delk and Darrick Martin, they have a
serviceable bench. If they can tighten up a D that was one of
only two to allow an average of more than 100 points (100.6) last
year, some of the team's lofty dreams could come true. "As long
as we don't believe the hype, we'll be all right," says Webber.

Winning is one habit you don't want to give up. --P.T.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Upwardly mobile Divac thinks the once lowly Kings have a good shot at 50 wins. COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER/NBA PHOTOS Nick of time Anderson's arrival gives the young Kings some much-needed leadership.

FAST BREAKDOWN

STARTING FIVE [4 stars]
BENCH [3 1/2 stars]
COACH [3 stars]
FRONT OFFICE [5 stars]
CHEMISTRY [4 1/2 stars]

By the Numbers

1998-99 record: 27-23 (tied for sixth in Western Conference)
Coach: Rick Adelman (second season with Kings)

1998-99 PER GAME POINTS FG % REBOUNDS TURNOVERS
AVERAGES (rank) (rank) (rank) (rank)

KINGS 100.2 (1) .445 (12) 45.6 (2) 16.8 (28)
OPPONENTS 100.6 (29) .446 (21) 47.0 (29) 15.8 (10)

In Fact

The Kings were the only team to average 100 points per game in
1998-99. The last time only one team averaged triple figures was
1954-55; that season the Celtics (101.4), like the Kings, also
allowed the most points.

Projected Lineup

STARTERS PVR* 1998-99 KEY STATS

SF Corliss Williamson 104 13.2 ppg 4.1 rpg 1.3 apg 48.5 FG%
Points per game of Most Improved Player runner-up in '97-98
dropped by 4.5

PF Chris Webber 6 20.0 ppg 13.0 rpg 4.1 apg 48.6 FG%
First member of franchise to lead league in rebounding since
1956-57

C Vlade Divac 24 14.3 ppg 10.0 rpg 4.3 apg 47.0 FG%
Triggerman of Sacramento's fast break led all NBA centers in
assists

SG Nick Anderson[#] 88 14.9 ppg 5.9 rpg 1.9 apg 39.5 FG%
Magic's first draft pick, in 1989, shot career-low from floor
last year

PG Jason Williams 46 12.8 ppg 3.6 rpg 6.0 apg 37.4 FG%
Led all rookies in minutes (36.1) and steals (1.90); second in
assists

BENCH PVR* 1998-99 KEY STATS

F Lawrence Funderburke 242 8.9 ppg 4.7 rpg 0.6 apg 55.9 FG%
Third on team, behind Webber and Divac, with 222 total rebounds

F Predrag Stojakovic 256 8.4 ppg 3.0 rpg 1.5 apg 37.8 FG%
Leading free throw shooter (85.1%) among rookies last season

F Tyrone Corbin[#] 261 7.5 ppg 3.1 rpg 0.9 apg 39.1 FG%
Second stint in Sacramento; has played for eight other teams in
14 years

G Darrick Martin[#] 287 8.0 ppg 1.3 rpg 3.9 apg 36.7 FG%
Left-knee strain sidelined him final 13 regular-season games
with Clippers

G Tony Delk[#] 294 6.8 ppg 1.5 rpg 2.6 apg 36.4 FG%
In tries and accuracy, three-point shooting has declined each
season

[#]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 102)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)