Martin McNeal looks at the Kings' Game 6 loss to end their season and gives his take on what the offseason holds.
News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.
May 6, 2006
May 5, 2006
It was impossible to ignore the parallel. Here was Artest limping around, forcing himself to play through a painful sprained right ankle. Then there was the man for whom he was traded in Indiana, Peja Stojakovic, unable to play in any of the
Pacersí four losses to the New Jersey Nets in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
I have no idea the severity of Stojakovicís knee injury. But this I do know. Something often seems to get in the way of Stojakovic being there when his team needs him. Either mentally or physically, the cat doesnít seem capable of toughing his way though
And although I donít know Artest that well yet, I donít think the physical standpoint ever will be questioned.
Finally, the Kings hit someone in the third quarter. First, it was too little, too late. Miller was called for a flagrant foul on an attempted block on Manu Ginobili. Really, Miller just couldnít jump high enough to seriously challenge the shot and ended
up making contact with the body.
Sacramento sabotaged itself with five turnovers in the first eight minutes of the third quarter, leading to 11 Spurs points. Meanwhile, like the champion it is, San Antonio had committed nary a turnover.
Tony Parker is a one-man fast break, even in a half-court set. Iíd like to see Parker and Phoenixís Leandro Barbosa in a court-long foot race with and without the ball.
May 5, 2006
It is loud as heck in here, as expected, and hot, too. I guess itís supposed to be that way when Ė at least for the Kings Ė the season is on the line. Usually in a game like this and a
situation like this, a team can be a little anxious to succeed and in turn, trip over themselves. Two minutes have passed and the Kings have not scored from the field.
The good thing for the Kings is the Spurs only have two points.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich went back to Robert Horry at center, in part, because he is one of the smartest players in the league and also can naturally defend Brad Miller on the perimeter. Pop knows he has Miller in doubt and wants to keep him
Itís 12-8 Spurs at the first time out, the crowd now is more anxious than the players, not really realizing that there are so many turns and twists to unfold. The Kings are 3 for 10 shooting and down four? Kings fans should be
thanking the heavens. They could be trailing by 14.
May 4, 2006
Sam Amick talks about the Kings' Game 5 loss in San Antonio and looks at Game 6 Friday at Arco.
May 3, 2006
One of the recurring complaints Iíve heard throughout the postseason, which has been boosted by the inordinate number of games that were decided in the final seconds, is that too many of the games are on NBATV. Tuesday night in particular - and in the middle of the Game 5 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio - I received several e-mails and phone calls from individuals who live outside Sacramento (Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas) asking why the game wasnít telecast.
Unfortunately, anyone who hadnít purchased a cable television program that includes NBATV was left waiting for the highlights later that night on ESPN, Headline News or TNTís post-game show.
But if youíre a Spurs fan, what are you thinking? The defending world champs are in a potential seven-game series, and they are relegated to playing a pivotal Game 5 on a channel that few people even know exists? Geez, I would be a little offended. I personally donít understand why the Spurs fail to connect with the viewing audience the way some of the leagueís other elite franchises have. Given that the NBA is personality-driven, this probably has more to do with Tim Duncanís reluctance to reveal much of his personality during television and print interviews. He is terrific in his TV commercials, though.
Anyway, a league spokesman confirmed the good news: NBATV telecast of seven games in the first round - and the playoffs - ends with Thursdayís New Jersey-Indiana game.
May 2, 2006
SAN ANTONIO - As the postseason continues toward its conclusion, perhaps Friday night in Arco Arena, the issues that Geoff Petrie has to address during the offseason are increasingly apparent. Besides resolving Rick Adelmanís
situation - and assuming that the roster will be adjusted to complement Ron Artestís skills - he clearly has to upgrade the roster in two areas - power forward and perimeter shooting. Brad Miller is a high post center who can pass, shoot, and there was a time, collect close to 10 rebounds per game. But the power forward spot has been problematic, particularly on the defensive side, since Chris Webber blew out his knee in Dallas. Petrie undoubtedly will try to maneuver to acquire someone who can offset Millerís lack of mobility and athleticism.
Kenny Thomas is only 6-foot-7, and erratic at both ends. Shareef Abdur-Rahim is only 6-foot-9, and probably best-suited as a reserve. He is not nearly as quick or effective as he once was, though his jump-hook remains is a terrific option.
And when you study the Spurs - the model for Western Conference teams, if not the league - the their balance is exceptional. They make it difficult for opponents to attack the basket, which makes it imperative to (a) score in
transition and (b) space the floor with three-point shooters. In the deciding three minutes in Game 5, for instance, Mike Bibby was the Kingsí only consistent outside shooter on the floor, and he labored through a 3-for-12 night.
The effort is there, and Artest is sensational, but the Kings have holes. Petrie will have a busy summer.
May 2, 2006
SAN ANTONIO Ė I guess itís been too many years since Iíve lived in the south (Atlanta). Iíd forgotten how quickly the weather can turn violent. While ironing my clothes in a downtown hotel room before leaving for the arena, all hail broke loose.
Seriously. Wind and rain began whipping against the windows on the 13th floor, and within minutes, turned into marble-sized balls of hail. Car horns went off, traffic stalled on the freeways, and the streets flooded.
Was this an omen or what?
Given the Kingsí postseason history, it would be just their luck to be on the verge of victory later this evening when, say, Mike Bibbyís potential game-winner was in the air, and the electricity in the AT&T Center to go out.
May 1, 2006
SAN ANTONIO - Those mood swings inside Arco Arena these days are dramatic, to say the least.
But there was something very different going on Sunday night. For the first time in three postseasons, I started to sense that Kings fans actually believe their team has a chance to play the role of the upstart, of the underachiever, instead of the annual victim. Was it when Ron Artest chased down his own errant shot and scored just before intermission? When Brad Miller caught a pass and, without hesitation, stroked a jumper from the left side in the third period? During that sequence when Bonzi Wells powered into the lane for that rebound basket that prompted the spontaneous chanting from the crowd? Whenever it was, it had seeped into the air, something akin to a verbal swagger.
Given the clubís history, even the most faithful Kings fan had myriad reasons to be skeptical. Robert Horry ring a cowbell? Remember how the Kings squandered a double-digit lead while Vlade Divac twitched on the bench during
the Game 3 overtime loss to the Dallas Mavs in 2003. That Chris Webber debate in 2004 (should he start or sub?). The uninspiring performance in
last yearís brief series with the Seattle Sonics? Those first two losses in San Antonio seemed to feed right into Sacramentoís annual swan song: There they go again.
But the tenor of Sundayís convincing victory was a complete shocker. The smart money was on the Spurs. How dumb was that? Ron Artest and Bonzi Wells are providing that mental and physical toughness that has been lacking since Bobby Jacksonís early, healthier days, and their size, strength and relentlessness are continuing to cause matchup problems. The Spurs also
are having little success attacking the interior - once an infamous Sacramento soft spot - and at least partly because of Tim Duncanís foot problem, the Kings have become increasingly selective about their double-teams, no longer automatically running at Duncan and leaving themselves vulnerable from the perimeter. Manu Ginobili just looks lost, stunned by his inability to create much of anything with Artest forever hugging his hip.
I donít envy Gregg Popovich right now. The Spursí coach is probably poring over psychology books as we speak. The world champs donít want to become one of the few No.1 seeds ousted by No. 8, especially a team that scrambled to
make the playoffs. So Iíll stick with my original prediction - Spurs in six. I still think there is too much talent, versatility, experience and coaching, along with the homecourt advantage, for a San Antonio collapse. But itís a shaky prediction. The Kings are showing me something. The Kings are hanging tough.