Kings (11-40) at Thunder (12-38)
Scoring: Kings 13th (99.1), Thunder 21st (97.2).
Shooting: Kings 26th (44.3 percent), Thunder tied for 18th (45).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (109.9), Thunder 25th (103).
Shooting defense: Kings 30th (48.2 percent), Thunder 26th (47.1).
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-4.7), Thunder seventh (plus-2.4).
The link: Thunder coverage in the Oklahoman.
The almanac: On this date in 1986, 5-foot-7 Spud Webb of the Hawks had two perfect scores of 50 to beat teammate Dominique Wilkins in the slam-dunk contest at All-Star weekend in Dallas. On this date in 1992, Cedric Ceballos of the Suns made his (allegedly) blindfolded "Hocus Pocus" dunk to win the title at All-Star weekend in Orlando. On the same night, Craig Hodges of the Bulls beat Jim Les of the Kings in the final round of the three-point contest. On this date in 1996, Charles Barkley scored his 20,000th career point.
The Suns would be joining the Kings, Thunder, Timberwolves, Grizzlies and Warriors in a race to the future in the West, though not necessarily in that order. Definitely not in that order, actually, with some new ranking of the young teams with the most promise due after the Feb. 19 trade deadline allows for an exhale. (The Trail Blazers, atop the potential list at the start of the season, are playing .600 ball and contending for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, so they're no longer sitting at the kid's table.)
Nothing is off the table in Phoenix in a downward spiral of such velocity that it surpasses any prediction of its demise. The Suns reportedly want a package of young players, draft picks and expiring contracts, a notion GM Steve Kerr is not denying, and Kerr clearly would be trying to restore order if this was just wild, unfounded speculation. No denials that Stoudemire is very available.
Let's see. Young players, particularly a replacement power forward, first-round picks and expiring contracts. That would be:
*The Nets As Dave D'Alessandro reports in the Newark Star-Ledger, New Jersey has those exact pieces. The contracts, second-year forward Yi Jianlian and rookie forward Ryan Anderson, and three No. 1s the next two years. It's a potential major hit to long-standing plans to bid for LeBron James in summer 2010, if Stoudemire does not opt out of his deal, but maybe the Nets see that chance slipping anyway as the economic crisis cripples plans to move into New York City. And maybe the Nets see the chance to lock up a very good team right now and not have to risk the James uncertainty: Brook Lopez at center, Stoudemire at power forward, Vince Carter at shooting guard, Devin Harris at point guard. That moves them to the fourth- or fifth-best team in the East.
(This has been Anderson's fate ever since being drafted. The former Oak Ridge High star has an agreeable contract and the upside to have a long career, and everyone knew the Nets were in great flux heading to the Summer of LeBron. He'll end up in a lot of speculation.)
*The Warriors. No good expiring contracts, which makes it very difficult for Golden State to get in the mix, but lots of prospects and young bigs in particular: Andris Biedriens (tough to trade as a base-year player), Brandan Wright, Anthony Randolph. It's hard to imagine the Suns wanting anything to do with Corey Maggette's contract, but the Suns also said they're making a commitment to defense and then traded two of their best defenders within the last year, Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw, so maybe logic has nothing to do with it.
*The Cavaliers. They have the expiring contract of Wally Szczerbiak, a well-regarded rookie power forward (J.J. Hickson) and the mentality to win now. That's an urgent formula for dealing. Cleveland is 39-9 starting Ben Wallace, so imagine the possibilities of James and Stoudemire together along with the energizing Mo Williams.
*The Knicks. Maybe. The whole Summer-of-LeBron thing. But maybe they (or the Nets) figure the presence of Stoudemire makes it a more-attractive destination point. New York does have the trade chips of David Lee, the possibility of a 2009 lottery pick and short contracts galore.
*The Kings. Tossed that one out the other day to a lot of reaction. Some fans / Kings watchers like it, some don't because they'd rather have Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson or one or two No. 1s than the risk of Stoudemire walking as a free agent after next season. Plus, the Kings need defense and rebounding, and that's not Amare. But Sac has the exact buy-in to become a player in this if it chooses.
No matter what, the Suns appear headed to some major move, probably involving Stoudemire but maybe O'Neal because his trade value isn't going to be higher. No matter what, the Kings will be impacted.