While Mitch Richmond (left) and Kevin Martin (right) were playing with remote controlled cars in the parking lot, Ron Artest made off with the time machine. "I’ll be back," Artest yelled. "I have to go back and fire my dog sitter."
With all of the players delivered, I now entered the practice facility. The players, suited up in the various Kings uni’s in which they had traveled, had descended upon the practice facility courts. Jon Barry and Danny Ainge were shooting free throws together. Chris Webber and Otis Thorpe were measuring their height against each other, back-to-back (in shoes). Vlade Divac was attempting to help Joe Kleine with the stubborn knot that was in the drawstring of Kleine’s vintage warm-ups.
It was like a scene out of "Field of Dreams," except for the fact that it was basketball and not baseball, it was inside instead of outside, the timeline was different, black players were actually permitted, and I wasn’t in fear of losing my farm. Come to think of it, it wasn’t anything like "Field of Dreams," except when Kevin Martin said, "
Ty Cobb Grant Napear wanted to play announce, but we couldn't stand the son of a bitch when we were alive here...so we told him to stick it!"
With the help of Jerry Reynolds and Geoff Petrie, we began to organize the camp. We divided the 29 invited players into two teams. For the most part, the teams were shaping up as first generation Kings vs. second generation Kings.
At center, Kleine, Thompson and Polynice were assigned to team "A." Kleine went to shake Thompson’s hand…and missed. OP started to complain about his lack of playing time, until we were able to convince him that we hadn’t started playing yet. Divac, Pollard and Miller were assigned to team "B." They shared a Vlade-led group hug, with Miller recoiling when Pollard playfully grabbed at his ass.
At power forward, Thorpe, Tisdale and Grant to team "A," Webber and Funderburke to "B." Tisdale waved warmly at Webber. Webber reciprocated by giving Tizzy the throat-slash gesture. C-Webb was ready to go.
Small forwards to "A" were Johnson, Simmons and Williamson, with Stojakovic, Turkoglu and Artest heading to "B." Peja breathed a sigh of relief when he and Artest were assigned to the same squad. Ron-Ron didn’t notice, though – he was running self-assigned suicides.
Shooting Guards Theus, Ainge and Richmond headed to "A," while Barry, Christie and Martin went to "B." Theus was clearly distracted by the windows in the facility, which faintly projected his reflection. Jackie Christie led Doug over to team "B." Within 30 seconds of joining team "A," Ainge and Polynice started jawing with each other. We were going to have to keep an eye on that.
We had to source an extra point guard for team "A" to go along with Smith and Webb, so Jason Williams was the logical selection, seeing as how he was the next chronological PG on the list. "F*ckin’ A," shrugged Williams. Wait’ll these f*ckers get a f*ckin’ load out of me." Bibby went to team "B" along with Jackson and NaPG Evans.
Before breaking into an official scrimmage, we had the players go through some stretching. "What happened to all of the Physioballs?" asked Artest, but we convinced him to warm up by chasing a Hummingbird that had somehow gotten into the gym. At one point Artest became a little confused and began chasing a terrified Spud Webb instead, but we quickly interceded on Spud’s behalf.
We next had everyone run suicides (sprints consisting of baseline to quarter court and back, to half court and back, to three-quarters court and back, and then full court and back. "I was told that there would be no math," quipped Polynice. Theus set himself up nearest the run of windows, and double checked his hair. We signaled the players to begin, and Kleine promptly tripped over the in-bounds line. Artest was the first to complete the run, followed by Ainge and Doug Christie (Jackie was in the stands, screaming profanities at Artest and Ainge the entire time). Divac miraculously finished fourth, despite smoking the entire time. Pollard had actually run out the gym door, and reappeared about 15 minutes later, wearing a dress, high heels, and singing "There’s No Business Like Show Business" as though he were Ethel Merman. Martin would have finished higher, but he spent most of the exercise trying to initiate contact. Otis Thorpe led at the halfway point, but finished last.
You could tell that the guys were itching to play, so we formed the two teams. The initial starting five for the "A" squad was Thompson, Tisdale, Simmons, Richmond and Williams. Team "B" started with Divac, Webber, Stojakovic, Christie and Bibby.
Team "A" got off to a fast start, as the squad repeatedly fed Tisdale, who was beating Webber badly with his left-handed "Tizzy flip." After the fifth consecutive Tisdale conversion, Divac pointed out to Webber that Tisdale was indeed left-handed. "Think like Theus," advised Divac. "Pretend that you are looking in mirror." Tisdale did not score again for the remainder of the session. Other highlights from the first portion of the first session:
- Tank Thompson was not thrilled with Divac. The combination of Vlade pulling Thompson out to cover him in the high post, coupled with consecutive flops by Divac on the defensive end had Thompson more than a little perturbed.
- Christie had a little bit of an effect on Richmond, but Richmond completely stymied Christie. It was easy to forget just how good of a defensive player the Rock was, and he wanted to refresh everyone’s memories ASAP.
- Lionel Simmons got a lesson in how devastating Stojakovic was as a shooter in his prime.
We sent in an entire line of substitutions for both teams. Team "A" was now Polynice, Thorpe, Johnson, Theus and Smith, while team "B" trotted out Miller, Funderburke, Artest, Martin and Jackson. Highlights:
Bobby Jackson pwned Kenny Smith. B-Jax’s energy was more than Smith was prepared for, and it showed. We quickly subbed in Spud Webb. Webb was a better speed match, but Jackson had his way with Spud when he took him to the rim. Artest volunteered to cover Jackson, even after we reminded Ron that B-Jax was on his squad.
- Eddie Johnson hit consecutive jumpers as soon as he got into the game, and that was enough for Artest, who did not allow EJ to breathe for the next 10 minutes.
- Theus kept trying to post up Martin, screaming "I’m the guy that you want to get the ball to!" over and over again. Frankly, Theus’ teammates appeared to have little interest in getting the ball to Reggie.
And then it got ugly. OP attempted an "OP Dope" on Miller, but Miller was so woefully slow in reacting to it that he inadvertently wound up in perfect defensive position, forcing a turnover. "Nice thinking, pinhead," Ainge yelled from the bench. Polynice charged Ainge and the fight was on. Polynice screamed "Remember Tree Rollins!" and bit Ainge on the finger. Ainge picked up Spud Webb by the ankles and began swinging him at Polynice, his form reminding everyone why he never panned out as a baseball player. Jackie Christie rushed down from the stands and ushered Doug to safety, then returned to the fray and began hitting Ainge over the head with her purse. Martin was felled by a Webb left hook that was meant for Ainge. Artest was attempting to calm the situation by singing a medley of his rap songs, to no avail.
By the time it was said and done, we had no choice but to dismiss OP and Ainge. Further, Spud had suffered a concussion, so he would also have to go. Martin was woozy but conscious, so we determined to keep him around for further evaluation. And just like that, we were down to 26 players.
We took a small break, and when we returned, we set team "A" with Kleine, Grant, Williamson, Richmond and Smith on the floor. Team "B" countered with Pollard (sans heels), Webber, Turkoglu, Barry and Evans. Points of interest:
- As was the case with Jackson, Smith was now getting killed by the precocious Evans, and Kleine/Grant/Williamson really weren’t providing much resistance to Tyreke once he got to the rim.
- Webber repeatedly set Turkoglu up for shots – you could tell that C-Webb really had an affinity for young Hedo. Meanwhile, Turkoglu wore every make and miss on his face, almost Jason Thompson, v1.0.
- Kleine/Pollard was an epic match up. Every time that Pollard prepared to stop Kleine, Kleine stopped himself (though he did throw a couple of nifty uncontested in-bounds passes). Pollard eventually started covering himself, much to the delight of Artest, who was taking notes.
This portion of the session ended with Richmond just flat lighting up an exasperated Jon Barry. Poor JB tried everything, including exhorting a non-existent crowd. By the time it was over, Barry had floor burns, scalp burns, and burn burns. What he did not have was any points, another victim of Richmond’s full court tenacity.
I conferred with Reynolds and Petrie, and we agreed that another four players had to go before we took a meal break. With various and mixed emotions, we bid farewell to Funderburke, Turkoglu, Barry and Smith, leaving us with:
C: Kleine, Thompson, Divac, Pollard, Miller
PF: Thorpe, Tisdale, Grant, Webber
SF: Johnson, Simmons, Williamson, Stojakovic, Artest
SG: Theus, Richmond, Christie, Martin
PG: Williams, Jackson, Bibby, Evans
I liked the way that the team was shaping up, but there was still more work to do. Petrie recommended that we go to Hooters, because he really "liked the wings." We bid adieu to the newly dismissed players, all of whom were cordial in their exodus, except for Kenny Smith, who had quietly slipped away and was nowhere to be found.