This article is the first in a series I will be continuously doing on the numerous “What If” scenarios that kept this particular sports nut scratching his head for years. While many of you may have your own lists that stretch further back in sports history than my reach, for the purpose of this series I am going to write about the things I personally witnessed or followed and have me questioning today, What If?
They were a team that made name for themselves in the 2000-2001 NBA season, posting a 44-38 record. They impressed many by finishing 5th in the Pacific Division and losing in the first round 3-2 to the powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers who went on to win the NBA Championship. But while the Kings were ousted in a memorable first round matchup that proved not only could they contend with the NBA Elite, but put them on the ropes. It built a foundation for a tremendous collection of talent heading into the following season and gave the city of Sacramento basketball hope.
Unfortunately the 2001-2002 season started off with a bang and ended with an unceremonious and a questionable exit from the Playoffs, once again at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Kings were led by forward Chris Webber who was coming into his own during the rise of Sacramento amongst the Western Conference elite. Webber was a mathcup problem and a career 20-10 guy that created havoc on both ends of the court. It can easily be said the Webber was one of the catalysts that ushered in the generation of athletic, versatile power forwards who didn’t have to rely solely on a post game.
Webber had put up strong seasons, but it can be argued that his value to the Sacramento Kings came “full-circle” in the 2001-2002. He posted 24.5 points per game while notching 10.1 rebounds. Although either number wasn’t a career high for Webber, his 50% field goal percentage was his best in a Kings uniform. Webber also chipped in close to 5 assists a game and it can be argued he has the best team around him that he had played with at any point during his career.
A young 23-year-old Mike Bibby was the point guard. Explosive, fast and a motor that sparked the Kings’ intensity. He was a new addition to the Kings via the Vancouver Grizzles (now the Memphis Grizzlies) and had a very decent 1st season in black, white and purple. He finished the season with 13.7 points and 5 assists per game. But Bibby also provided a perimeter game that helped round out a potent Kings offense.
The Kings relied heavily on center Vlade Divac who was known for getting under the skin of defenders, in particular Shaquille O’Neal who consistently complained about Divac’s “flopping” when drawing calls. Doug Christie was the defensive stalwart of the team, able to shut down the likes of Kobe Bryant and other potent scorers in the Western Conference.
Sharpshooters Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu provided the Kings with a 3 point attack that left defenses in shambles. The Kings would enjoy a stellar season finishing with a 61-21 record which would rank #1 in the Pacific Division.
They carried that momentum into the playoffs. In the first round they ousted Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz 3-1. They then moved on to defeat Dallas Mavericks 4-1.
But the Western Conference Finals would be the catalyst to the downfall of one of the NBA’s most exciting teams in the early 2000s. It would send the franchise into a tailspin of bad luck and misfortune.
The Kings met the Lakers once again in the Playoffs, this time in the Western Conference Finals. Webber was a complete monster in the series and posed a impossible matchup for the Lakers to contend with. Combined with the up-tempe pace, 3 point ability and the fortune of finally finding some sort of strategy to slightly contain Shaq, the Kings had clear early control of the series.
Then we arrived at Game 6.
The Kings led the series 3-2 and seemingly had complete control of the series and were almost a “lock” to head into the Finals and face the New Jersey Nets. But the NBA and it’s refs had a different outcome in mind.
The Kings played stellar throughout the game and even held Los Angeles without a field goal for over 5 minutes down the stretch. The Lakers scored on just 5 field goals in the entire quarter, but made 18 free throws in the final six minute while the Kings shot just four. Think that’s a little off-balance? The Lakers attempted 40 free throws, in comparison the Kings show only 25 during that game.
One of the many questionable calls was a no-call on Kobe Bryant on a play where Bryant’s elbow popped Mike Bibby in the face while cutting to the hoop (a clear offensive foul), drawing blood. Take a look at the picture to the right for a still-shot of the foul. It left Bibby on the floor, holding his face.
To put the Kings at even more of a disadvantage both their centers, Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard fouled out of the game something that Divac would later say he expected to happen. When Divac picked up his fifth foul, Webber told him “We’re going to get (bleeped).”
“Our big guys get 20 fouls (actually 24 Friday night), and Shaq gets four?” said Kings head coach Rick Adelman. “You tell me how the game went. It’s just the way it is. Obviously, (the Lakers) got the game called the way they wanted it called.”
“But I’ll tell you what, our guys played their tails off, and they still had a chance to win. I give them credit. We’re not going away Sunday (Game 7).”
The game was so one-sided in officiating that it inspired consumer advocate Ralph Nader to write a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern, calling for an investigation into the questionable calls. Something David Stern did not take very well. In fact this angered Stern.
“He spoke like the head of a giant corporate dictatorship,” Nader later said.
Afterwards, L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke told magazine Sports Illustrated that he asked Stern about the game during the NBA Finals that year. In another angry response, Stern laid down his iron fist on the columnist.
“He looked at me, pointed his finger, and said, ‘If you’re going to write that there is a conspiracy theory, then you better understand that you’re accusing us of committing a felony. If you put that in the paper, you better have your facts straight,” Plaschke said.
“So I just backed off,” he said. ” I didn’t have any facts, just what I saw, but he got very upset at me.”
In 2008, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison for betting on games he officiated and accepting cash payments from gamblers.
Donaghy would tell the FBI that the NBA would occasionally utilize it’s own referees to “manipulate results”. Donoghy would confirm that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Kings and the Lakers was one of those “manipulated” games. Donaghy alleged in his own book that fellow NBA referee Dick Bavetta was generally assigned to manipulate games in which the NBA wanted a specific result or outcome. To make things even more interesting, another referee assigned to that series was Bob Delaney, a former FBI agent who infiltrated the mafia. The third referee assigned to the game in question was Ted Bernhardt.
The Kings would go on to lose Game 7 of that series. The Lakers would move on to a Finals matchup against the New Jersey Nets and win the NBA Championship.
The next season in 2003 the Kings would start strong again, only to lose Webber to a devastating injury in the playoffs that would derail his career and rob him of the explosive ability that made him so potent.
Webber would return to the Kings but not as the same player he once was. He would be traded on February 23rd, 2005 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
I remember watching the Sacramento Kings and being enthralled in their play. The Lakers, as dominant as they were had issues playing the Kings and a fierce rivalry that would have been amazing to witness for years to come. I also saw the infamous Game 6 start to finish and it was a series that made me tune out of the NBA for a while. I was never a Kings fan, but I pulled for them in that series.
They had the look of a championship team and it’s fair to assume they would have disposed of a weaker New Jersey Nets team in the same fashion the Lakers did.
The series led the Kings and Webber down a horrible tailspin of bad luck and misfortune and now in 2012, the Kings are a struggling franchise that may eventually be relocated. A sad ending to a once exciting franchise that unfortunately ran into a series that was never fully in their control, or the Lakers for that matter. A series, that is my opinion, that had an outcome determined long before tipoff of Game 1.
So What If the Kings didn’t have to deal with that officiating crew working any game of that series? Would they still have lost? Would they have brought a championship to Sac-Town? This particular writer thinks yes. But then I ask myself if that officiating crew hadn’t been working the Kings/Lakers series what series would they have worked? And if they did work a separate series would we be talking about that team in this article?
One can only wonder.
I posted the videos of every minute of Game 6 and Chris Webber’s injury below. Judge for yourself. Be on the lookout for my next What If article.
Eagles’ Jalen Mills Arrested
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills was arrested in Washington D.C following an altercation with Washington Wizards player Devin Robinson, according to the Associated Press’ Howard Fendrich (via the Washington Post).
Both men were charged with disorderly affray, which is described as fighting in a public place.
According to the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, a verbal altercation broke out between the two that escalated into a physical fight that took place on the sidewalk.
Robinson was transported to a hospital following the fight with Mills and upon his release he was taken to to department’s 2nd District station where Mills was detained.
Mills and Robinson were “involved in a verbal altercation which escalated into a physical altercation on the sidewalk adjacent to the Opera Night Club” in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to the police report.
Both teams have since responded, with the Wizards essentially parting ways with Robinson due to the incident.
“We are aware of the incident this morning involving Devin and are disappointed in his actions. We will not extend him a qualifying offer for the 2019-20 season,” the Wizards said in a statement.
The Eagles issued a statement saying that they are “aware of the situation” and “continuing to gather more information.”
Mavs’ Kristaps Porzingis Accused of Rape in New York
Dallas Mavericks big man and former New York Knick Kristaps Porzingis is being investigated back New York for an alleged rape that a woman told police took place sometime last year, according to the New York Post.
The woman, who informed police about the alleged rape on Thursday, says that she waited more than a year to come forward regarding the incident because she had discussed receiving $68,000 from Porzingis to keep quiet.
Roland G. Riopelle, the attorney for Porzingis, has since denied the allegations and has said they had previously referred the case to federal authorities due to the “accuser’s extortionate demands.”
“We are aware of the complaint that was made against Mr. Porzingis on Friday and unequivocally deny the allegations,” Riopelle said. “We made a formal referral to federal law enforcement on Dec. 20, 2018, based on the accuser’s extortionate demands. We also alerted the National Basketball Association months ago, and they are aware of the ongoing investigation of the accuser by federal law enforcement. We cannot comment further on an ongoing federal investigation. Please refer any questions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the National Basketball Association.”
The woman alleges that the incident took place on February 7th, 2018, at the Sky building in New York, where Porzingis lived, just hours following Porzingis suffering a torn ACL, the injury that has kept him off the court for more than a year.
An NBA spokesman said the league is aware of the situation while the Knicks’ team spokesperson said; “This is Kristaps’ personal matter and not related to the Knicks.” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stated that the team is aware of the situation but “we have been instructed by federal authorities not to comment.”
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Knicks had informed the Mavericks of the pending Porzingis rape allegations during a trade call with NBA headquarters, that took place on January 31st, that finalized the deal that sent Porzingis to the Mavericks.
A spokesman for the New York Police Department issued the following: “The NYPD takes sexual assault and all rape cases extremely seriously, and urges anyone who has been a victim to file a report so we can perform a comprehensive investigation, and offer support and services to survivors.”
Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins Says Fans Have Called Him ‘N—-r’, Says He’s Reported it to League
Golden State Warriors big man DeMarcus Cousins is speaking out about how NBA fans treat players, revealing that fans have called him the N-word during games and stating that he had reported the incidents to the league.
Cousins discussed the incidents during an interview with Chris Haynes on the ‘Posted Up’ podcast:
“Oh, I’ve been called n—-r, and it’s crazy because this has happened to me on a few occasions. I reported it to the league, and, you know, I may have said whatever I said back, and I was still punished for it. But obviously it became a bigger issue when it was Russ [Westbrook] and he was still fined for it. I don’t really understand it. We’re the product. We push this league. So, I don’t understand. When does our safety, when does, it become important?”
While Cousins spoke candidly about his experiences, he did not specific which cities in which he heard the racial slurs.
“I don’t really want to, because I’m not really trying to put a label on an entire fan base” Cousins said when discussing which cities he heard the slurs. T”here are ignorant individuals in every city. I’ll just put it like that. [NBA] tells you to ignore it, or whatever the case may be. But how many times am I supposed to ignore that? Me coming from where I come from [Mobile, Alabama]. They lucky all they got was a response.”
While Cousins did not mention any cities or teams, Haynes reported that one city was Sacramento, where Cousins spent the majority of his career playing for the Kings.
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