You know, it was only three years ago that the best Kings team ever assembled took the floor, an Horry 3-point miracle and more than a few missed free throws away from an NBA Championship. We had acquired Mike Bibby from the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies that past offseason, and with him, Chris Webber in his prime, Doug Christie’s defensive presence, Peja Stojakovic’s deadly 3-point shot, and Vlade Divac’s versatility at Center, they were poised to knock off the two-time defending Champion Los Angeles Lakers. Bobby Jackson, sixth man of the year, Scot Pollard, Lawrence Funderburke, Hedo Turkoglu off the bench. It was their best shot at an NBA title. Boy, were those the days.
Fast-forward to the end of this past 2004-2005 season. Our starting lineup consisted of Mike Bibby, Cuttino Mobley, Brad Miller, Peja Stojakovic and Kenny Thomas. See, Chris Webber was traded to Philadelphia with two other bright prospects for what seemed to be “scrub players” at the time, in Corliss Williamson, Kenny Thomas and Brian Skinner. Doug Christie was traded to Orlando for “the cat”, Cuttino Mobley. The Kings rumbled and stumbled their way to finish 50-32, and were subsequently pummelled in the first round by a resurgent Seattle Supersonics team, led by Ray Allen and, surprisingly, Jerome James.
Now, the thoughts crossed my mind as a Kings fan, as I’m sure it did for many Kings fans – “Geoff Petrie has finally lost it,” “we’re officially on the downslide,” “Oh, God, we’re reverting back to the ‘glory days’ of 1985.” Basically, we were gonna suck.
O, Ye of little faith …
All it took was a boot in the ass, in the form of former King Jerome James, the Kings defense and all-around play transforming him into Shaquille O’Neal incarnate. The Kings, as they were at the end of the 2005 season, looked like a perennial low-seeded team, and needed some changes, as they would soon lose more prospects to free agency. Needless to say, Petrie had some work to do. Work, most say, Petrie does best.
In the course of the offseason, Petrie has made some ingenious moves that, if all works out, will only add to his legendary wheeling and dealing that brought us Webber, Bibby, Peja and Miller in the first place. First, after letting go of current shooting guard Cuttino Mobley to the L.A. Clippers, Petrie paid the small price of former sixth man of the year Bobby Jackson to acquire the services of emotionally erratic, yet extremely talented, Bonzi Wells from the Memphis Grizzlies. Next, Petrie spent the low price of a second-round draft pick for, what many consider, the best backup point guard in free agency, Jason Hart from Charlotte, to fill the void left by Bobby Jackson’s departure. Finally, after a deal with the New Jersey Nets fell through, Petrie pulled the trigger to acquire free agent power forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim. With the additions of players like Ronnie Price and Jamal Sampson, the Kings now experience a bench depth that rivals that of the 2002-2003 season, which included the likes of Damon Jones, Scot Pollard, Keon Clark and Hedo Turkoglu.
With the current starting lineup of Mike Bibby, Bonzi Wells, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Peja Stojakovic and Brad Miller, the Kings, on paper, are a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference. Should their latest acquisitions pay off, just as so many of Petrie’s moves have, they have the potential to become … dare I say it? … Championship contenders within the next two years.
Thanks to Geoff Petrie and the Kings organization, great things are possible when it comes to Sacramento basketball. (P.S. – Congrats to Ruthie Bolton for her retirement ceremony tonight, and the Sacramento Monarchs on the regular season Western Conference Title.