Watching Bobby Jackson against the Lakers last night reminded me of his performance in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference finals here at Arco Arena. A younger, thinner Jackson - I'm guessing he was 10 pounds lighter - repeatedly and successfully attacked the Lakers defense, and unlike some of his former teammates, wasn't overcome by the magnitude of the moment. I still believe the outcome might have been different if Jackson had been on the floor during the deciding moments, or about the time Doug Christie and Peja Stojakovic were hoisting airballs.
In the Kings' improbable victory Tuesday night, Jackson contributed 15 points in a similar, aggressive manner, mostly by driving the ball or pulling up in transition and converting off-balance, high-arching jumpers. He has been struggling of late, and not very happy about his playing time. But he looked a lot younger than his 35 years last night. He had more help than usual, as well. As he noted afterward, "I remember the 'old' Sacramento Kings used to have six players in double figures every game. ... We haven't played like this all year. We're young, but we have a lot better talent than our (record suggests)."
In a game Reggie Theus desperately needed to win to soothe some of the "fire Reggie" sentiment that has been building, the Kings received contributions from everyone who played. John Salmons was particularly impressive. He defended Kobe Bryant and played an excellent floor game, eschewing the one-on-one play that so often detracts from his overall abilities.
It's in the genes
After my colleague, Sam Amick, alerted me to Joe Maloof's recent illness - what initially was thought to be a stroke - I approached Gavin Maloof for more details. He said Joe was hospitalized overnight about a week ago in Las Vegas, but passed all the tests, and was released the following day. He suggested that his brother's illness was stress-related, which is not exactly uncommon. Not long after the Maloofs bought the Kings almost a decade ago, Joe shared a story that speaks to his intensity: After his father died in the early 1980s, he and his mother approached members of the Coors family and asked if they could continue running the company's beer distributorship in New Mexico. At the time, Colleen Maloof was a homemaker, not a businesswoman, and Joe and Gavin were 24 and 23 years old, respectively.
Anyway, Joe said Adolph Coors agreed to let Colleen keep the distributorship, but that a short time later, he became so anxiety-ridden that he was hospitalized and diagnosed with an ulcer.
In his few visits to Arco Arena this year, Joe hasn't looked well. He is recovering slowly from the double-knee replacement surgery he underwent in August, and which he only half-jokingly called "the worst decision of my life." He has lost approximately 30 pounds, and not only can't work out, but only recently shed the cane and walker.
"He's OK," Gavin said. "It was a scare, but he's OK. He's just had a tough time of it lately."
Friday night could be frightful
Just a hunch here, but the rematch between the Kings and Lakers on Friday at Staples Center might reveal a lot about the Kings, for this reason: the Lakers won't take Tuesday's season-worst defeat lightly. They will go at the Kings hard. If the Kings respond well and make a game of it, that would suggest Tuesday's impressive showing was more than an aberration.