PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2006-07 statistics
PG MIKE BIBBY
SF RON ARTEST
C BRAD MILLER
KEY BENCHPLAYERS: G Francisco Garcia, F Kenny Thomas, F Shareef Abdur-Rahim, G OrienGreene*, F John Salmons *New acquisition
Record: 33-49(11th in West) Points scored: 101.3 (8th in NBA) Points allowed: 103.1 (24th)Coach: Reggie Theus (first season with Kings)
With the hiringof Reggie Theus as coach, the owners of the Kings--also known as the owners ofthe Palms Casino Resort--seem to be moving the franchise closer to Las Vegas,in a figurative if not literal sense, and not just because Theus is a UNLVproduct. During 13 seasons as a big guard with six NBA teams, he demonstrated aVegas-style flash and dash on and off the court: trash-talking andfancy-passing, fur-wearing and club-hopping.
So what did Theusdo after the Maloof brothers, Gavin and Joe, lured him from New Mexico State?He went all Bob Knight. "I'm not trying to be a jerk," Theus told TheSacramento Bee. "All I want to do is set some parameters. The players knowthey were irresponsible last year."
Theus bannedcellphone use from the team bus, which is tantamount to banning, say, oxygenfrom the lives of these young millionaires. He instituted a curfew on the road.He ran his players' tails off in practice while openly questioning theirdefensive effort from past seasons, particularly that of Mike Bibby.
Theus says thatas a player he most respected the coaches who were toughest on him, and heconjured up San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Utah's Jerry Sloan as guys whohave gotten it done the old-school way. Whether veterans such as Bibby and RonArtest want tough love from their coach remains to be seen. So far Artest hasbought into the rules and regs--he calls them "very reasonable," thoughhe expects the coach to also be "flexible" (the volcanic Artest'sdefinition of flexible perhaps being more flexible than most's)--but Artest'shistory suggests at least one revolt before the season is over. And Bibby, whenupset, is capable of playing 82 games in a permanent sulk.
Changes wereneeded at Arco Arena to be sure, but the ol' Vegas guard is rolling the dicewith this one.
An opposingteam's scout sizes up the Kings
It isn't going towork between Mike Bibby and Ron Artest. When they're on the court neither oneseems to want to help the other. It's not as if they're at war, it's not Kobeversus Shaq, but it's not good chemistry either. . . . Bibby is not quite goodenough to be the star of the Kings, but with another team he might be the guywho puts them over the top. That is, as long as he's not being asked to create,but can just bring it up, get the team into its offense and then spot up forjumpers. . . . You can say that Artest just needs to play for the right coach,but I wonder if that coach has been born yet. . . . I'm not sure ShareefAbdur-Rahim can get it done physically anymore. There were so many times lastyear when he had no lift. . . . Brad Miller is too young and skilled to bedeteriorating, and if he's healthy I wouldn't be surprised to see him bounceback. . . . You know what bothers me about Kevin Martin? He is a terribledefender. I just don't get it, because he has the athleticism to be a goodone.
In 11 years withfour teams Shareef Abdur-Rahim has been on the losing side 551 times in 824games played, an average of 50.1 losses per season--the worst average amongactive players with at least four years of service.
STARTING LINEUP: DAVID E. KLUTHO; STEVE YEATER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (2); ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (2)
ROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Theus has gone from laid-back player to hard-nosed coach.