The moment RonArtest realized he was glad to call Sacramento home, he was on the other sideof the country. It happened last summer as he walked around the Queensbridgeprojects in New York City with Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof. No cameras,no security, no attention--just an employee showing his bosses his childhoodhome. "They wanted to see how I grew up," says Artest, 26, who spenthis life through college in New York. "I got a chance to walk them aroundmy hood and introduce them to all my ghetto friends. I would have neverimagined walking in the ghetto with my owners. That just doesn't happen. Thatmeans a lot. I love them. I'll do anything for them."
The Maloofs'investment in the mercurial Artest, whom Sacramento acquired last January fromthe Pacers for Peja Stojakovic, has already paid dividends. The Kings were17--24 before the deal, but following a brief acclimation period they went on a14--5 run to reach the postseason for the eighth straight year. "When I gotthere, guys were lazy and I felt that we needed to play harder to make theplayoffs," says the 6'7" Artest, who averaged 16.9 points, 5.2 reboundsand 4.2 assists in 40 games with the Kings. "We had a lot of guys who'dgiven up on the season."
Things haven'tgone as well since: Sacramento lost to the Spurs in the first round, coach RickAdelman was fired, and guard Bonzi Wells left as a free agent. Still, Artesthas high expectations. "We've grown as a team, and we know what we gotta donow," he says. "I'm motivated to take my game and this team to anotherlevel."
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
QUINCY DOUBY* (R)
(R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATISTICS)
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Kings
Will theirveteran players--particularly Mike Bibby and Brad Miller--respond to EricMusselman, who's a get-in-your-face, fiery kind of coach? You know whatMusselman will want defensively: Be aggressive, play the passing lanes andcause deflections. Can he get that out of guys who are accustomed to formercoach Rick Adelman's less aggressive style?... Ron Artest is an intensecompetitor, and he wants to win. In that sense he has a lot in common withMusselman--they could have a honeymoon period.... Bibby is at his best with thegame on the line. He's like Sam Cassell that way, with that swagger that giveshis team confidence. Bibby didn't seem to mind playing off the ball when Artestshifted to point guard at times last year.... Miller is still one of the mosthighly skilled players in the league. But will Musselman focus on Miller'spositives, his shooting and passing from the high post, or on the negativesthat may show up on the defensive end?... They'll need more offense from KevinMartin, who has a little hitch in his shot but has become a good scorer.
The Kings have the longest active sellout streak in the league at 313 games.Since moving to Sacramento in 1985, the franchise has sold out 835 of 884 gamesat Arco Arena.