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News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

January 9, 2009
Opening tip: Meanwhile, Mike Bibby is a hero again

Heat (18-16) at Kings (8-28)

Scoring: Kings 21st (96.1), Heat 23rd (95.7).
Shooting: Kings 20th (44.5 percent), Heat tied for 18th (44.6).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (105.2), Heat 11th (95.9).
Shooting defense: Kings 26th (47.3 percent), Heat fifth (43.9).
Rebound differential: Kings 27th (minus-3.6), Heat 24th (minus-2.4).

The links: Heat coverage in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post.
The almanac: On this date in 1947, Don Martin of the Providence Steamrollers became the first player to score 40 points in a game. On this date in 1972, the Lakers' 33-game winning streak, the longest in major-league sports history, ended in a 120-104 defeat to the Bucks. On this date in 1991 Michael Jordan reached the 15,000-point plateau in his 460th game, faster than any player except Wilt Chamberlain (358 games). On this date in 1996, the Raptors became the first team to go an entire game without making a free throw. Toronto went 0 for 3 from the line in a 92-91 loss to the Hornets.

__________

This is not to say the trade was a bad move. It was absolutely the right move to deal Mike Bibby to Hawks last February for Shelden Williams, a second-round pick and the expiring contracts of Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue and Lorenzen Wright. You'd have liked the Kings to get an actual player out of it, but Bibby was shooting 40.6 percent after posting a 40.4 the season before, Beno Udrih was working the contract-year bait-and-switch and the roster overhaul was about three years behind schedule, so it was no time to hold out for the ideal offer.


But look who's having a big season while his moping Sacramento successor is perfecting the art of crash and burn.

It's piling on poor Beno to link the two, yet also unavoidable. Udrih in a declining role as the starting point guard a few months after getting five years and $32.3 million to re-sign, Bibby a few months from becoming a free agent and the second-leading scorer on a 22-12 team that has won seven of the last 10 and is on pace to finish with its best record since 1996-97.

Being away from the Kings is an obvious benefit -- he would be another bad defender on a very bad defensive team and wouldn't have the assertive personality to help lead a flailing team. In Atlanta, there's a couple decent shot blockers as backstops, Al Horford and Josh Smith, and the positive energy of an increasingly winning environment. They're still the Hawks with a muddled ownership situation that makes it impossible to predict the interest level to pay big to keep Bibby in the summer, but 22-12 in the wake of pushing the title-bound Celtics to a Game 7 in the first round is huge forward movement.

Forward for them. Forward for him.

Bibby in 2006-07, his final full season with the Kings: 40.4 percent overall, 36 percent on three-pointers, 17.1 points, 4.7 assists, 2.4 turnovers.

Bibby in 2007-08, combined with the Kings and Hawks: 41.1 percent overall, 37.5 percent on three-pointers, 13.9 points, 6.0 assists, 2.5 turnovers.

Bibby in 2008-09, in 34 games with the Hawks: 46 percent overall, 43.9 percent on threes, 16.2 points, 5.4 assists, 1.5 turnovers.

The shooting projects to his best showing since 2002-03 and the three-point accuracy to a career best. Obviously a big deal in his game that has rarely been about being a prototype distributing point guard. The assists are down, but the turnovers are way down, all the way down to tracking to another career best, despite an increase in minutes.

What easily could have been an ungrounded, transitional period in his career, with Bibby and his expiring contract as a trade chip and Acie Law lined up as the eventual replacement, has instead become a time of rejuvenation. It's hard to imagine the Hawks wanting to tinker with a team on 53-win pace, though you never know with them, and Law is getting 10.2 minutes a game a season and a half after being drafted in the lottery.

What doesn't show up in the stats is that, per Sports Illustrated, Bibby has stepped into a leadership role, just as the Hawks had hoped. Who knows why now and not before. Maybe he never felt the need in a Kings locker room filled with veterans, but the Bibby personality was always that of a good teammate who fit in well because he didn't mind being a setup man or complementary piece.

Either way, Atlanta wanted him to take a louder voice this season and Bibby apparently has responded. That plus the numbers makes it a successful half-season, with the real possibility of more to come. That perception holds no matter what's become of his old job.



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