It never fails.
A basketball player - heck, any pro athlete - plays through sickness and everyone's talking about the time Michael Jordan braved through a stomach virus to score 38 points and lift the Bulls over Utah in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals (for the record, KHTK's own Carmichael Dave made me think of it on the drive home).
And while it's certainly sacrilege to call on that reference considering this is the rebuilding Kings v. the 10-win Grizzlies in January, John Salmons' ability to overcome his sickness in Thursday night's win was no small physical feat. He was sent home by trainer Pete Youngman, which tells you plenty since all involved were certainly aware that the Kings were down three starters already. There were antibiotics and fevers and the whole bit, yet there was Salmons bringing these guys back from the dead in the fourth quarter in which he scored 11 of his 28 points.
He nearly did it alone late in the game, but he merely salvaged the efforts of others that came before then...
* Who would've thought Brad Miller would have enough rim-shakers to compile his own dunking mix-clip this season?
The big man whose quickness may be at an all-time personal high went on the attack in the third quarter, driving around Hakim Warrick and throwing down a right-hander over Grizzlies center Darko Milicic to cut Memphis' lead to three. Then, of course, he thought he was Sam Cassell for a moment and couldn't help but offer a below the belt gesture that Gollum, err, Cassell has done for years.
And sure enough, it didn't take long for the YouTube nation to show him some respect - here it is.
His performance was certainly, shall we say, gutsy, with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The 10-of-10 output from the free throw line, especially, helped ensure the Kings weren't the ones losing this game at the charity stripe (Pau Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. wish they could say the same).
* Just when close games were close to becoming Issue No. 1 facing this team, they've won two straight games by four points or less. Before downing Orlando and Memphis, the Kings were 1-7 in games decided by four or less. And while they certainly needed a few breaks against the Griz, execution was there on offense and there were just enough defensive stops.
Pulling games out late has been the problem, not competing. Consider this: among the league's 12 teams with losing records, the Kings' point differential of negative 2.8 is the third best overall and by far the most respectable among the Western Conference losers.
* It was only fitting that Francisco Garcia's game-winning three-pointer came after Salmons managed to avoid a turnover - albeit barely.
The Kings finally fixed their turnover problem for a night, finishing with in what was their lowest turnover total since they had five on Dec. 1 against Houston. It was the fourth lowest total of the season. Not so shockingly, they are 4-0 in those games.
* Surviving without three starters is one thing, but one glance at the bench production shows why it's a tough act to maintain.
The Kings had 12 bench points (led by six from Quincy Douby), tying their third-lowest reserves total of the season. Then again, having four starters (Salmons, Garcia, Miller and Beno Udrih) score 20-plus helped.
As Theus confirmed on Thursday, he's looking to bring Kevin Martin and Mike Bibby in off the bench when they return. What happens thereafter is a complete mystery. While the bench certainly looks deep on paper once the health returns, that's no guarantee the likes of Garcia, Salmons etc. will maintain their groove when their roles change. A good problem to have, certainly, but it may be the the most intriguing coaching challenge of Theus' young courtside career.
* Apparently, former Grizzlies guard Dahntay Jones was a little too anxious to pester his former teammates. He fouled out in nine minutes of play, even if official Ed Mallloy didn't know it. After making the call that ended Jones' evening, Malloy asked Theus if Jones - who was hovering near the Kings bench on the floor - was still in the game or not during a break in the action.
"He fouled out," Theus yelled. "If you were paying attention, you'd know that."
* I noticed a comment on the Kings game story about how we should share more than just a few photos of last night's action. You're in luck "aprakash," as our hard-working photographers have been producing quality slideshows off of every home game. Check it out (it's at the top of the Kings page).
Quick sidenote: Ironically, Salmons was the last NBA player to ever guard Jordan. It was during Salmons' rookie season in Philadelphia, where the Sixers downed Washington 107-87 on April 16, 2003 and Jordan had 15 points and nearly that many standing ovations in his finale.
Salmons talked about it recently, saying how he was in awe of being in Jordan's presence and the magnitude of the moment. With the way Salmons has been playing and persevering this season, even Jordan himself would have to be impressed with the way he's leading this pack.
- Sam Amick