Kings (15-56) vs. Phoenix (40-33)
Scoring: Kings 13th (99.9), Suns 1st (108.86)
Shooting: Kings 24th (44.8 percent), Suns 1st (50.4)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (108.46), Suns 27th (106.9)
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (48.2 percent), Suns 22nd (46.4)
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-5.04), Suns 10th (plus-0.89)
The almanac: On this date in 1952, Minneapolis center George Mikan scored a then -NBA Playoff record 47 points against the Rochester Royals in Game 1 of the Western Division Finals, but the Lakers were defeated, 88-78. On this date in 1960, Boston Celtics standout Bill Russell hauled down an NBA Finals record 40 rebounds as the Celtics lost to St. Louis 113-103. On this date in 1988, Indiana scored an NBA record-low 55 points (since the introduction of the 24-second shot clock) in a 74-55 loss to San Antonio. On April 10, 1999, the Chicago Bulls scored 49 points against Miami to set a new record low.
PROGRAMMING ALERT: Vlade Divac himself will be live blogging for The Bee on Monday at 1 p.m. ., cramming his monstrous frame into a cubicle at our offices and spending an hour answering your questions and getting nostalgic at www.sacbee.com/live. Be sure to take part.
Western Conference powerhouse team is exciting and successful, just not champions. Unable to reach the top of the NBA mountain, their high-scoring, scintillating offensive ways come into question and a conflict between ownership and the team's front office ensues over a lack of attention paid to defense.
A coaching change is made. It's never the same in the standings or the stands. The fun is taken out of a franchise.
Yes, the Suns are in town today, those distant relatives of the Kings who are still trying to keep their story from ending like the one in Sacramento did. Mike D'Antoni, of course, was their version of Rick Adelman, but D'Antoni was more disenfranchised than he was fired by the franchise. He went to New York, Phoenix owner Robert Sarver and GM Steve Kerr brought in defensive-minded Terry Porter to fix what they were sure was ailing them, and he was gone by the midway point of his first season after going 23-18.
It's surely not this simple. The Suns, like the Kings, lost key players that had played a huge part in their personality. But the focus of what was deemed important and valuable when it came to personnel changed in both situations even before the relevant coaches were gone, this after D'Antoni was once the actual GM and Adelman was always the coach who would be heard by like-minded Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie. Petrie never changed, of course, but there was a trade for Ron Artest that none other than George Maloof (not team co-owners Joe or Gavin, but their brother the Vegas hotel/casino operator) took credit for in what was a clear sign that there just may have been a growing identity crisis organization-wide.
The Suns, unlike the Kings, tried to hit the reset button. They gave Alvin Gentry D'Antoni's old job after Porter's firing, with none other than Steve Nash himself pushing for a return to the 'Seven Seconds or Less' days. Yet while the outrageous offense is back (115.3 points per game since the change), the 17-15 record in that span is a marginal decline for a team that may have nowhere to go but down.
After their collapse in Salt Lake City on Saturday night, the Suns - who have made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons - are 3 1/2 games back from the eighth and final playoff spot with just nine games to go. The aging Nash and Shaquille O'Neal are on the books for one more year, while Amare Stoudemire has next year and a player option for 2010-11 worth $17.7 million - not to mention the knowledge that the Suns tried to trade him in February.
It should be interesting to watch Phoenix's rebuilding from here. Does Gentry come back with all his D'Antoni-esque philosophies, or does a coaching carousel begin anew as it did with the Kings? Do they blow up the roster this summer, or hold onto their pricey veterans and wait for cap space in 2010? If nothing else, the Suns should jot down a few notes while inside Arco Arena today. The Kings, quite clearly, have shown them what not to do. - Sam Amick