Kings and Lakers

SACRAMENTO KINGS

Record:  44-38, 4th in Pacific Division, 8th in Western Conference

Statistical Comparison:

Noteable:

5th in assists
26th in blocks

Others:

10th in the league in scoring (98.9ppg)
17th in opponent scoring (97.3ppg)
12th in ppg differential (+1.5)
14th in field goal %
16th in opponent field goal %
16th in three-point %
18th in rebounding
8th (tie) in steals
20th (tie) in turnovers
9th (tie) in opponent turnovers

Additions:  
John Salmons, Loren Woods, Quincy Douby (R), Louis Amundson (R), Pooh Jeter (R), Justin Williams (R)

Subtractions:  
Bonzi Wells, Jamal Sampson

Key Players

PG:  Mike Bibby, Jason Hart, Ronnie Price
SG:  Kevin Martin, John Salmons, Quincy Douby
SF:   Ron Artest, Francisco Garcia, Corliss Williamson
PF:   Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Kenny Thomas, Louis Amundson
C:   Brad Miller, Vitaly Potapenko, Loren Woods, Justin Williams

Comments:  Welcome to the land of Pretty-Good.  There's nothing fundamentally wrong with this Kings team.  Mike Bibby keeps logging incredible season after incredible season.  Ron Artest is a legitimate game-changer.  Guys like Miller, K. Thomas, and Shareef are all decent, tending towards good.  They even have some nice young guys in Martin, Salmons, and Douby. (Please no jokes about how the latter guy should be a Blazer with a name like that.)  They're not going to fall apart any time soon.  But it's hard to see where they get any better either.  I suppose you could argue they've cleaned out Bonzi Wells' mental problems, but they also lost his size and scoring ability.  You still love their passing and scoring, but their overall defense is just, well, decent.  Maybe new coach Eric Musselman lights a fire under them.  On the other hand maybe he just cheeses them off like he did another pretty fair team in Golden State.  (Rick Adelman wasn't that bad you know.)  I mean, what do you say?  This team is the tuna fish sandwich of lunches, the 'Nilla Wafer of the cookie aisle, the Dairy Queen of dessert choices--all accessible, familiar, and plenty good but hardly a gourmet treat.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Record:  45-37, 3rd in Pacific Division, 7th in Western Conference

Statistical Comparisons:

Noteable:

5th in steals

Others:

7th in the league in scoring (99.4ppg)
15th in opponent scoring (96.9ppg)
7th in ppg differential (+2.5ppg)
19th in field goal %
12th in opponent field goal %
19th in three-point %
7th in rebounding
9th in assists
19th (tie) in blocks
9th (tie) in turnovers
19th in opponent turnovers

Additions:  
Vladimir Radmanovic, Shammond Williams, Maurice Evans, Jordan Farmar (R), J.R. Pinnock (R)  

Subtractions:  
Devean George, Laron Profit, Jim Jackson

Key Players

PG:  Smush Parker, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar
SG:  Kobe Bryant, Aaron McKie, Devin Green, Von Wafer, Danilo Pinnock
SF:  Luke Walton, Vladimir Radmanovic, Maurice Evans  
PF:  Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown, Brian Cook, Ronny Turiaf
C:  Chris Mihm, Andrew Bynum

Comments: There's been a fair amount of vocal pondering over the off-season as to how good Kobe really is.  Some suggest he's overrated because the Lakers aren't contending.  You know what?  Stop it.  Just stop.  35 points a game, 5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2 steals, 45% shooting, 35% from the arc, 85% from the charity stripe...and he's also a darn good defender. None of those guys you like better do that. (OK, I might accept Gilbert Arenas. Don't come with LeBron until he learns to defend better.)  The problem is you've got Lamar Odom who could be considered a minor star and then...ugh.  Mihm is probably your next best player. And that, my friends, is a sign that you are in trouble. I don't care how many Zen triangle diagrams you draw...the game plan is give the ball to Kobe and pray.  And that will remain the game plan unless and until they can manage to draft or sign some more significant talent.  But Kobe can't get much better than he is already and nobody else on the team looks to break out this season (I'm not holding my breath for Brown or Bynum) so again you have to ask where they're going to get more wins.  They'll likely be between 41-46 again.  The playoff cutoff last season was 42 wins.  With two or three teams below them having made significant additions the Lakers may find themselves hard pressed to get there again.  Even if they do I don't see any way they're a threat to take a seven game series from a good team.  However if they do barely miss the playoffs and then get Greg Oden from a one in a thousand chance in the lottery I am personally going to hike to New York and give David Stern a long-deserved punch in the nuts.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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