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3 Sacramento Kings In the skilled--and well-scrubbed--hands of Mike Bibby, the league's most explosive offense will be even better

Oct. 29, 2001
Oct. 29, 2001

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Oct. 29, 2001

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3 Sacramento Kings In the skilled--and well-scrubbed--hands of Mike Bibby, the league's most explosive offense will be even better

Mike Bibby, the Kings' new point guard, hates germs almost as
much as turnovers. In restaurants he has been known to head
immediately for the men's room to scrub up after shaking hands
with well-wishers or after using a stranger's pen to sign an
autograph. While that seems like slightly compulsive behavior,
such a stickler for cleanliness might be what Sacramento needs,
now that the team has washed its hands of the exciting but
unpredictable Jason Williams. After three seasons with Williams
at the helm the Kings are counting on Bibby to tidy up their
attack and help them make their most serious run at a
championship ever.

This is an article from the Oct. 29, 2001 issue Original Layout

"Everybody's looking forward to playing with him," says center
Vlade Divac. "Jason could do some spectacular things, but
obviously he also made mistakes by taking a lot of chances. This
team has so much talent that all we need is someone to take care
of the ball and be consistent. Bibby has shown he can do that."

The draft-day trade that brought Bibby and guard Brent Price
from the Grizzlies for Williams and swingman Nick Anderson is a
steal for Sacramento. Bibby is a more consistent shooter than
Williams (45.4% to 40.7% last season), and his average of 8.4
assists ranked fourth in the league. In fact the only question
about Bibby, 23, is whether his unadorned style will mesh with
Sacramento's flash-and-dash offense. He has no doubts on that
score. "I like to push the ball as much as anybody else," Bibby
says. "Running with these guys will not be a problem."

Although Bibby's primary running mate, forward Chris Webber,
will likely miss the first two weeks with a sprained left ankle,
at least he's in the fold after signing a seven-year,
$123-million contract. (The Kings also re-upped shooting guard
and defensive stopper Doug Christie with a seven-year,
$48-million deal.) "The only team that's better than us is the
Lakers," Webber says, and it's hard to argue with him. Divac,
who's never exactly been a conditioning fanatic, showed up at
training camp in surprisingly good shape after a summer of
running and weightlifting. Small forward Peja Stojakovic, 24,
has blossomed into a dangerous scorer and could earn the
All-Star spot he barely missed a year ago. The only King
improving at a faster rate than Stojakovic may be Hedo Turkoglu,
a 6'8" swingman who will get significant minutes at all three
perimeter positions. Defensive-minded point guard Bobby Jackson
and frontcourt banger Scot Pollard fill out an eight-man
rotation that's as solid as any in the league.

Webber's flirtations with other teams during his free agency
were traumatic for the Kings, but the team may ultimately
benefit: He now has an added incentive to prove wrong those he
feels snubbed him. "[Rockets guard] Steve Francis told me they
thought I was cocky," Webber told The Sacramento Bee, referring
to members of Houston's front office, "and I'm going to try to
kill them every year for that." He was also offended by how he
believes the Magic courted Raptors center Antonio Davis more
seriously than Orlando did him.

While it doesn't exactly sound as if staying put was Webber's
first choice, Sacramento fans will forgive him that if he can
take the Kings farther than the conference semifinals, where
they were swept by the Lakers last season. The Kings did beat
the Suns in the opening round for their first playoff series win
since 1981, which makes them a dynasty compared to what Bibby
endured in his three years with the Grizzlies, who went 53-161
in that stretch. "I don't even know what the playoffs feel
like," he says.

This year, he's likely to find out what the conference finals
feel like, and if Webber maintains a healthy anger throughout
the playoffs, the Kings may be in for an even better feeling.

--Phil Taylor

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH PAYBACK After re-signing for $123 million, Webber has to wait for his ankle to heal to get revenge on the teams he thinks snubbed him.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Kings

"Going from Jason Williams to Mike Bibby was a real plus. With
Bibby at the point, they'll have a lot more consistency. He does
the same things as Williams but makes better decisions and is
more accurate shooting the three.... Transition defense is the
key to stopping the Kings. You have to pick up Bibby as early as
possible and prevent him from seeing the whole floor. But it's
not just getting back; it's locating their shooters,
particularly Peja Stojakovic, because they love to hit that
first trailer. They also like to get Chris Webber on that early
post-up. You can't let Webber get the quick seal, in transition
or in half-court, so you have to bump him off the box and try to
move him out, although he can get hot outside.... They don't
have a complex system in the half-court, and they frequently
fail to execute, but they can all pass and shoot. You have to
double Vlade Divac but not too early. Wait until he backs in,
and don't double with whoever's guarding Stojakovic. They run
Peja off screens, and you have to play those honest. If you
cheat and come over the top, he'll fade to the corner and kill
you from there.... They'll be better defensively, too. Your
problems start when your point guard gets broken down; Bibby's
not a great defender, but he's better than Williams.... I think
they overpaid to keep Doug Christie, but Scot Pollard's a good
role player for them. One guy people don't think about much is
Bobby Jackson, an underrated player who has been on the floor a
lot at the end of games."

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 55-27 (second in Pacific)
Coach: Rick Adelman (fourth season with Kings)

STARTERS
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

SF Peja Stojakovic 20.4 ppg 5.8 rpg 1.21 spg 47.0 FG% 40.0 3FG%
42
PF Chris Webber 27.1 ppg 11.1 rpg 4.2 apg 1.69 bpg 1.33 spg
19
C Vlade Divac 12.0 ppg 8.3 rpg 1.15 bpg 1.07 spg 48.2 FG%
67
SG Doug Christie 12.3 ppg 3.6 apg 4.4 rpg 2.26 spg 39.5 FG%
54
PG Mike Bibby[1] 15.9 ppg 8.4 apg 3.7 rpg 1.30 spg 45.4 FG%
39

BENCH
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

G-F Hedo Turkoglu 5.3 ppg 2.8 rpg 0.70 spg 41.2 FG% 32.6 3FG%
129
G Bobby Jackson 7.2 ppg 2.0 apg 3.1 rpg 1.10 spg 43.9 FG%
137
F-C Scot Pollard 6.5 ppg 6.0 rpg 1.26 bpg 0.62 spg 46.8 FG%
220
F Gerald Wallace(R)[1] 9.8 ppg 6.0 rpg 1.5 apg 1.17 spg 43.8 FG%
283
F Lawrence Funderburke 4.9 ppg 3.3 rpg 0.3 apg 49.6 FG% 62.3 FT%
288

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)

"You have to pick up Bibby early and prevent him from seeing the whole floor."