Excitement ensued yesterday as Christmas came early for Sacramento, with news of the hometown Kings settling in for what hopes to be a much more permanent stay. While there is reason for jubilance, we know it will take about as much work by Geoff Petrie (or a possible replacement) to put a team on the floor that can win in May as it did to save the franchise. While a playoff series in Sacramento seems a large way off, many former Kings are making a difference in the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
Landry, who played for the Kings from 2009-2011, has been a huge savior for the Golden State Warriors with the loss of David Lee to a torn right hip flexor. He is averaging nearly 15 points a game in the series and has helped control the contingent of versatile Nuggets bigs. Although Warriors coach Mark Jackson starts a small lineup, Landry has still played instrumental off the bench. In two huge home wins, Landry nearly put up a point a minute, scoring 36 points in 45 minutes.
Kevin Martin will also be asked to assume a larger role for the Oklahoma City Thunder with the loss of Russell Westbrook to a lateral meniscus tear during Game 2. Martin was already trying to fill the shoes of James Harden all season, who he was traded for just prior to the season, but now he will be asked to shoulder much more of the scoring load that evaporated with Westbrook’s injury. So far, he is averaging 13.5 points on 34.8% FG shooting, but he is likely to have more scoring opportunities, and must convert them to alleviate the pressure caused by Westbrook’s absence.
If Martin’s Thunder can finish off the Houston Rockets, there is a good chance they will run into the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clips have another former King, Matt Barnes, who played for the team in 2004-2005. Barnes has been a welcomed addition to the Clippers bench this season, and has provided them a playoff punch with 8.8 points a game – good for fourth best on the team. It’s not going to be easy to knock the Memphis Grizzlies from the playoffs for the second year in a row, and will likely take seven games like last year to do so.
Two much-beloved Kings players who may be seeing their playoff windows close are Francisco Garcia of the Houston Rockets and Gerald Wallace of the Brooklyn Nets. Both players were on the winning end of their games yesterday, but will be playing elimination games for the duration of the first round. Francisco started for the first time in Game 4 against Martin’s Thunder, which also happened to be their first win of the series. He knocked down three big treys in the opening quarter to set the Rockets in the right direction. Garcia, who was finally traded this year after eight seasons with the Kings, is averaging 8.8 points and has knocked down nine three-pointers throughout his first four games. His intensity and deep range will play a factor in whether or not they can make this series competitive.
Gerald Wallace’s late three-pointer and steal and fast break dunk helped seal a Game 5 win for the Nets over the Chicago Bulls. They still have to win one in Chicago to bring it back to Brooklyn for a Game 7 clincher. The Nets have struggled to beat an injury-depleted Bulls team, and will need Wallace and others to step up if they want to make it out of the opening round. In 5 games, Wallace is averaging 10 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Nets.
Metta World Peace (Los Angeles Lakers) and Terrence Williams (Boston Celtics) will both be drinking Mai Thai’s sooner than later. World Peace is probably already gracing the beaches of LA after a quick sweep at the hands of the Spurs, and Williams’ Celtics could meet their fate tomorrow against the New York Knicks. Both have failed to make an impact in the playoffs, as World Peace sat the Game 4 clincher and Williams has played a total of 19 minutes for the Celtics.
At one point, Kevin Martin’s Thunder had to be the most likely team to knock off the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat for the NBA Championship. The loss of Westbrook seemingly makes this a longshot.
Will any of these teams hold the hardware come mid-June? I assume not.
Is it fun to see some of our former buddies playing on the national stage on major network television though? Absolutely.