Thursday, March 31
Playoffs R Us!
We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.
-- Aesop (620-560 BC)
Anyone else ever have a birthday where you didn’t exactly get what you were hoping for? I remember one year where instead of a caseload of Topps baseball cards I got a matching sweat suit. Maroon, I think.
Well, that’s kind of how I’m looking at the playoffs this year; equal parts anxiety and zeal. Mix in the fact that the Sonics will likely draw the Kings in the first round, a team that has weathered all sorts of injuries and turmoil this year, and my anxiety dial ratchets up to 11.
Let’s look at these Kings, then, in the first part of what I hope to be a series of articles on who the Sonics can expect to face in the playoffs this spring.
These are not the Kings of five years ago, a team so deep that they inspired fans to wear “Da Bench Mob” t-shirts in honor of their substitutes. With Bobby Jackson sidelined with a sprained left wrist, Brad Miller out with a broken leg until the 2nd round of the playoffs, Chris Webber in Philly, and Vlade in L.A., Mike Bibby has been forced to pick up the slack.
And while he’s been a rock for the team since Webber was dealt, Bibby’s minutes are approaching a Latrell Sprewell-in-Golden State level. After never playing more than 36 mpg in any season in Sac, Bibby’s at 39 this season, and above 40 over the past two months. After an incredible February that saw him average 26 ppg on 49% shooting, Bibby has crashed back to earth, averaging 19 points on 39% shooting in March (including 30% from beyond the arc).
While Bibby is helped by Cuttino Mobley’s offense, he sorely needs someone to come of the bench and provide him with some rest. Recently, that player has been Eddie House, a decent long-ball threat but not the spark that Jackson has been throughout his career.
Here’s some numbers. In their past four games, the Kings have gotten the following point totals from their bench: 17, 20, 11, 16. Compare that to the Sonics over the same four-game span: 36, 27, 42, 18.
Now, that’s an admittedly small sample size, and the Lakers never got a bunch of scoring from their bench in the midst of three consecutive titles, but even when he’s healthy, Brad Miller ain’t Shaq, and Mike Bibby isn’t Kobe Bryant (ed. note: insert joke here).
To me, the Sonics’ depth speaks to their ability to withstand foul trouble and injuries. If Ray Allen misses a game, Flip Murray steps up. When Rashard goes down, Wilkins comes in and takes charge. For crying out loud, does anyone even remember what Radmanovic even looks like?
Even better for the Sonics, the Kings are a team with high expectations, and after a dismal showing in the playoffs last season and pulling a 6 in the playoffs this go-around, some in Sac are getting a little antsy.
Add in the fact the Sonics are 3-0 against the Kings this year, and you can’t blame the Sonics for wishing that Sac falls into their lap.
On Monday: A look at the Kings, player by player.
On Tuesday: How the Kings and Sonics match up.
PN at 5:13 PM