Kings (0-3) at 76ers (1-2)
Scoring: Kings 22nd (92), 76ers 17th (96).
Shooting percentage: Kings 11th (45.2), 76ers tied for 12th (45.1).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (107.3), 76ers 12th (92.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 27th (50 percent), 76ers seventh (39.6).
Assists: Kings 25th (17.7), 76ers 16th (20).
The almanac: On this date in 1989, Sarunas Marciulionis and Alexander Volkov became the first players from the Soviet Union to appear in a regular-season game, Marciulionis for the Warriors and Volkov for the Hawks. Also on this date in 1989, the Timberwolves played the inaugural game in franchise history. On this date in 1995, the two Canadian expansion teams, the Raptors and Grizzlies, both debuted. Toronto beat New Jersey at home before approximately 33,000 fans inside SkyDome, while Vancouver lost at Portland.
Detroit wanted a new atmosphere, Denver wanted a new atmosphere, so they probably should have been considered logical trade partners all along. It still would have been tough to see this mutual detonation coming, though: All-Star Allen Iverson to the Pistons and All-Star Chauncey Billups along with Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb to the Nuggets in a deal reportedly about to go final.
This comes back to Ron Artest, of course. (No one gets away from that name. No one.) If Denver had done the deal with the Kings in February, it almost certainly would have been committing to give the new lineup a chance with a training camp, meaning the start of this season, and maybe all 2008-09. Not if Artest had opted out there, but if Ron-Ron stays, the Nugs have committed themselves to giving this a chance.
It's a risk applying logic to anything Artest-related, and now Denver management has entered the same hazy realm, but it's tough to avoid the conclusion. A Kings-Nuggets swap potentially changes the West last season -- Denver still gets pushed aside by the Lakers in the first round, but Denver with Artest realistically gets to No. 7 and avoids L.A. -- and it almost assuredly alters talks with Detroit.
PG: Allen Iverson.
SG / SF: Carmelo Anthony, Artest.
SF / SG: Ditto.
PF: Kenyon Martin or Nene.
C: Marcus Camby.
Bench: J.R. Smith, Martin or Nene, Linas Kleiza, Anthony Carter.
Or even if management moves Camby anyway in a money move, then Martin and Nene inside. That's a dangerous club, no matter what the high percentages that they don't last the season without some pyrotechnics.
The Western Conference dodged a close one and the Nuggets, instead, started tripping over themselves and turned into a playoff hopeful rather than a candidate for homecourt advantage in the first round, if not beyond.
What they're left with, if the reported deal does become official:
SG: Maybe Anthony Carter, who had been starting alongside Iverson, maybe Smith.
SF: Anthony. Maybe coach George Karl does 'Melo at shooting guard and Kleiza at small forward, but the wing positions are largely interchangeable for most clubs anyway.
PF: Martin (probably) or McDyess.
The West is not shivering in fear.
But how fun are the Nuggets to chart?
*Held off on acquiring Artest because they drew a line in the sand over Kleiza.
*Traded Camby to the Clippers in a salary dump that may bring nothing, literally nothing, in return.
*Sold the No. 20 pick to the Bobcats just before the draft to get away from the guaranteed first-round contract.
*Traded Iverson, in the final season of his contract, to take on Billups with this plus three years remaining and McDyess with this plus one.
Those crafty Denver bosses. They're pushing for Artest. They're moving money. They're moving money. They're taking on money.
Already known as a severely disjointed front office, with different voices ruling different days, the Nuggets are now officially rowing in circles. No one could have imagined at the time how the Kings talks in February would have tied to the long term. Now they can, in Denver and Detroit today more than anywhere.