7 Sacramento Kings They're the league's most entertaining team, but without more D, this show goes nowhere

October 30, 2000

The purple in the Kings' color scheme has never been more
appropriate. That's the hue the faces of Sacramento fans will
take on as they hold their breath waiting for power forward Chris
Webber, whose contract expires at season's end, to decide about
his future. Webber, who led the team in points, rebounds and
blocks last year, is widely known as C. Webb, but the Kings'
priority is to make sure that they see Webb--in a purple uniform
beyond this season, that is.

The Kings' short-term forecast is as unchanging as a Sacramento
summer. Once again they will be a high-scoring, sweet-passing,
poor-defending unit destined to log more time on the Play of the
Day than in the playoffs. After being chained in the league's
basement for more than a decade, they have made an impressive
ascent from 27-55 in 1997-98 to 44-38 last season, an improvement
that coincided with the May '98 acquisition of Webber from the
Wizards. That's why much of this season is likely to be spent
parsing Webber's words, which have included references to joining
Shaquille O'Neal in the Lakers' frontcourt and playing with
Knicks guard Latrell Sprewell, a close friend. Webber served
notice on the first day of training camp that scrutinizing his
utterances would be fruitless. "Get ready for all the cliches,"
he said. "I'm going to wait until the season is over. I don't
want to play bad and then want to leave, or play well and then
say I want to stay."

Although the Kings can't be sure how much longer Webber will
stay, they can at least be reasonably certain about how he'll
perform as long as he does, which is more than can be said about
flashy point guard Jason Williams. After a turnover-plagued
season in which he shot just 37.3% from the floor, Williams
violated the league's drug policy in July, which earned him a
five-game suspension to start 2000-01. He has been so erratic on
and off the court that one of coach Rick Adelman's priorities is
to find a reliable alternative. Free-agent pickup Bobby Jackson
will get first crack at the point in Williams's early absence;
reserve Jon Barry and Doug Christie, acquired from the Raptors
for Corliss Williamson, will also take turns there.

They would all be wise to remember that the way to Adelman's
heart this year will be playing D. The Kings, who led the league
in scoring with 105.0 points per game, were generous to a fault
last season, allowing 102.0, an average exceeded only by the
Clippers and the Warriors. In Williams, Webber and center Vlade
Divac, Sacramento has three of the best passers in the league at
their positions, but the Kings sometimes seem so concerned with
their offensive creativity that they forget about the other end
of the floor. "We can create more havoc on defense than we have
in the past," Adelman says. "We want to be more active
defensively and not find ourselves reacting to everything."

Unfortunately, Sacramento may not have the personnel to make that
approach work. It's telling that Adelman's only
better-than-average defenders are newcomers, Christie and
Jackson. The Kings may try harder to stop teams, but they'll
still have to depend heavily on their offensive firepower to win.

That will work well enough for them to put a scare into their
first-round playoff opponent. Still, they'll succumb, as they
have in the last two years. Considering their history, that's not
a terrible fate. But the comfortable plateau the Kings have
reached has a trapdoor, and only Webber can decide whether it
will open under their feet.


COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH MYSTERY MAN Sacramento's season hangs on Webber (left), and Kings fans hang on every clue to his unknown future.

In Fact

Last season the Kings hoisted a league-high 1,656 three-point
shots but finished 28th in accuracy (32.2%). Only the Sonics'
Gary Payton (6.3) put up more three-pointers per game than
Sacramento's starting guards, Jason Williams (6.2) and Nick
Anderson (5.5).

Projected Lineup


SF Predrag Stojakovic 11.9 ppg 3.7 rpg 1.4 apg 44.8 FG% 37.5 3FG%

PF Chris Webber 24.5 ppg 10.5 rpg 4.6 apg 1.71 bpg 48.3 FG%

C Vlade Divac 12.3 ppg 8.0 rpg 3.0 apg 1.26 bpg 50.3 FG%

SG Doug Christie[1] 12.4 ppg 3.9 rpg 4.4 apg 1.40 spg 40.7 FG%

PG Jason Williams 12.3 ppg 7.3 apg 1.44 spg 37.3 FG% 28.7 3FG%


G-F Nick Anderson 10.8 ppg 1.31 spg 39.1 FG% 33.2 FG% 48.7 FT%

G Bobby Jackson[1] 5.1 ppg 2.1 rpg 2.4 apg 40.5 FG% 28.3 3FG%

G Jon Barry 8.0 ppg 2.4 apg 1.21 spg 46.5 FG% 42.9 3FG%

C Scot Pollard 5.4 ppg 5.3 rpg 0.78 bpg 0.72 spg 52.7 FG%

F Lawrence Funderburke 6.4 ppg 3.1 rpg 0.4 apg 52.3 FG% 70.6 FT%

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Kings

"These guys lack toughness, especially in the frontcourt. They
need somebody mean and physical inside, like a Dale Davis or a
Charles Oakley. Chris Webber can't really be that guy because the
Kings need him to do too many other things. Corliss Williamson,
who was traded to Toronto, had that type of nastiness; it's hard
to believe they couldn't find more minutes for him.... Webber's
grown up a lot. You don't have to be afraid to build a team
around him anymore. He's playing for a contract this year, so
this could be his best season yet.... The Kings look pretty, but
they don't play defense, especially point guard Jason Williams.
He'll never be a great defender, but he could be a lot better. He
doesn't seem to care about it.... Adding guard Doug Christie will
help. He's a solid defender who can play multiple positions, and
maybe he'll light a fire under Nick Anderson, who's lost his
confidence.... They can make the playoffs on their talent, but to
go very far, you have to get a stop when you need it, and they
can't do that."

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