Shareef's Trail of Redemption begins tonight.
Rick Adelman has said Shareef won't get back into the starting lineup yet, not until he gets his strength and conditioning back. I have to imagine the rope will be a little longer though. Now that Reef can actually breathe normally running up and down the floor, I don't see why you'd arbitrarily restrict him to 20-25 minutes if he's playing well.
Nothing would be more poetic than Shareef playing like an All-Star the rest of the season as the Kings leap into the playoffs. Absolutely nothing. I can't be convinced otherwise. (Okay, a championship for the River City would work. Nothing else.)
Also, Kevin Martin will draw Ben Gordon tonight. This means that, if all goes well, Speed can have his long-awaited 30-point game. I'm very excited about this.
The Bulls beat the Nuggets last night, though they apparently did so in grand Sacramento fashion, by almost blowing a 20-point lead. This means we could see the vaunted double-vomit game tonight, where both teams go up by 20 at some point, only to end up in a tight game in the closing minutes that comes down to Brad Miller drilling threes while plotting an egging of Brian Cardinal's Northern Indiana home.
Everyone has been calling this one a must-win, and it's hard to disagree. A loss would be a massive momentum-killer, both overall and at home. A win? That's three straight and five under .500 going into a big game at Phoenix.
Without further adieu, the lineups!
PG - Kirk "The Good Luke Ridnour" Hinrich
SG - Ben "Possibly Not Much Better Than Kevin Martin" Gordon
SF - Luol "Former SR Object of Hoops Affection" Deng
PF - Mike "Disappointing, but Freed" Sweetney
C - Tyson "I Swear I'm Better Than Eddy Curry" Chandler
PG - Mike Bibby
SG - Kevin Dallas Martn
SF - Ron Artest
PF - Kenny Thomas
C - Brad Miller
(Everytime things are looking up, I get real excited with the nicknames. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on me again. Fool me three times, well that's just f*cked up.)
The line: -5. Seems reasonable. Chicago isn't so good.
Fun bet o' the night: Inappropriate nostalgic accolades for returning Darius Songaila. I liked the guy, too - he was a very watery version of Ron-Ron before Ron-Ron was cool. But the guy was here two seasons, and he was a bit player most of that time. The Bobby Jackson welcome was appropriate; a similar one for Darius would be overboard. Politely thank him for his past service, and hope he misses every shot (along with the rest of the Bulls).
Sideshow most likely to be entertaining: Scott Skiles in the postgame. The dude is a quote machine. I'd love for him to give some insight on our team. Also, check out the always insightful Blog-a-Bull, where lots of Chicagoans will wax poetic about the game. Or something.
Best matchup: Luol Deng vs. Ron Artest. And no, not on Chi's side of the ball. Deng is apparently a great young defender. Ron-Ron was handled pretty well by Shane Battier the other night; let's see if the Bulls' youngsters can do the same.
Goal Tracker update: The Kings are one game behind the Warriors for fourth place in the Pacific. The Warriors do not play tonight, but play at Indiana Friday and at Cleveland Saturday. The Kings are currently six games below .500 with 33 games remaining. The Kings are 3.5 games behind the eighth place LA Lakers, who also hold the third place position in the division.
It's on TNT, y'all. We're going to have fun fun fun til Charles and Kenny take it away. Let's go Kings!
(And as always, this is an open game thread. Use it before, during or after the game to discuss it. Also, opinions on Steve Kerr's analytical skills are not discouraged.)