Bumbling and grumbling
Bibby questions attitude of some of his teammates
By Sam Amick - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, January 11, 2007
The night before, they were nowhere to be seen.
Mike Bibby, Brad Miller and Ron Artest -- the captains of a ship taking on water -- were not among those trying to explain the Kings' meltdown against Cleveland on Tuesday night at Arco Arena. The duty of dissecting a third consecutive heartbreaking loss was left to other players inside a morose locker room.
But the captains' presence already had been felt before the media entered and the trio exited, when the frustration of a season that continues to fall short of expectations became a heated discussion among players on how to fix it.
One day later, the longest-tenured Kings had plenty to say. While Miller was most vocal in the emotional behind-closed-doors session, Bibby questioned the motives of some of his teammates after Wednesday's practice.
"We've got to put away the individual stuff and go try to do the collective team thing," Bibby said. "Try to win a game instead of trying to see how many points you can score or how many shots you can get up ... . It's frustrating, but I think everybody's goal has to be winning, and I don't think it is."
Bibby, who forever cites his three losing seasons in Vancouver as a what-not-to-do for an NBA career, said there is an unwanted familiarity between the situations.
"We've got to make sacrifices for each other and try to win," Bibby said. "No one remembers a high scorer on a bad team.That does nothing for you. Everybody looks good when you win, and we're not winning."
For Miller, it wasn't just that the Kings lost a 17-point lead, or the Cavaliers faced little resistance in a stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters when they made a 30-point swing, or even that the two-man game between him and Bibby that resulted in a combined 33 points by halftime wasn't there in the second half. Miller said there are offensive inefficiencies that need addressing, namely a need to attack the rim more and remember the importance of a three-man game among him, Bibby and Kevin Martin that often leads to easy baskets. And when the jumpers aren't falling, Miller said, the post personnel need to be used.
"We probably should have had Kenny (Thomas) or (Shareef Abdur-Rahim) or Mo (Taylor) in there more," Miller said. "(The Cavaliers) really got concerned about taking that part away. It seemed like when (the two-man game) goes well, that's a big part of our offense. But they made the adjustments, and we didn't make the adjustments to counter that."
Miller said he spoke up in the locker room out of a desire to remedy the situation.
"If no one says a word, no one cares," he said. "That's basically what it is. It stays in the locker room, and that's what it is."
Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie said the frustration should surprise no one. The nature and timing of the overtime defeats to the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland before the Cleveland collapse not only left the Kings at a loss for why they can't close out games, it was the largest missed opportunity yet this season after they had won four of five games.
"After the last three losses, and the way they've come down, I don't think you can blame anybody for being frustrated," Petrie said. "In some ways, the fact that they're frustrated shows they care. Once you get past the emotions of it, you've got to be realistic about what adjustments everybody needs to make, not just what you think other people need to make."
Artest took the opposite approach in evaluating the latest loss, searching hard for a silver lining when he said it was "a fun game to be a part of."
In the first quarter, Artest gave his teammates plenty of plays to enjoy by posting a season-high six assists. Artest, as the period proved, has appeared to accept the Kings' approach more than ever recently. His style is, as he has said many times, a street-ball or isolation version compared to the Kings' preferred style of ball movement, cutting and screening. But he had just one assist in the final three quarters and finished 4 for 14 from the field.
"I don't even think it's frustration," Artest said. "We just weren't playing hard. We were up 15. We got a little bit comfortable. We were having fun, which is important to have fun, but we've got to find that fine line between having fun and competing."
The second-half fade caused a fan reaction that bothered Bibby.
"The whole five and a half years I've been playing (in Sacramento), I don't think the team has been booed (as it was after the third quarter Tuesday)," Bibby said. "That's kind of bad as far as (the fans) always being behind us and getting us through hard times and stuff. That's tough."
About the writer: The Bee's Sam Amick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org