Wednesday , Nov , 01 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Kings tip off new season against Timberwolves

(Sports Network) – The Sacramento Kings begin the 2006-07 season with a
three-game road trip, as they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight in the
season-opener for both clubs at the Target Center.

Sacramento is a different team than it was at the start of last season. It
has a new head coach and will begin the campaign with defensive stopper Ron
Artest on its roster.

The Kings finished last season with a 44-38 record and returned to the
postseason for the eighth straight year. They were the eighth seed in the
Western Conference playoffs and faced No. 1 San Antonio in the opening round.
The Spurs knocked out Sacramento in six contests, 4-2.

Eric Musselman is the new head coach. The Kings hired Musselman in early June
as their new general after relieving Rick Adelman in early May of the head
coaching duties. Adelman, who guided the Kings to three Pacific Division
titles, spent eight seasons with Sacramento and is the franchise’s winningest
coach.

Musselman was an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies for nearly two
seasons and is a former head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Last season was saved on January 25th when Sacramento dealt sharp-shooting
forward Peja Stojakovic to the Indiana Pacers for Artest. With the 26-
year-old Artest in the lineup, the Kings were a solid 26-14 in the regular
season and were able to get back to the postseason.

Artest, who is a one-time All-Star and was the 2003-04 NBA Defensive Player
of the Year, averaged 16.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists for the
Kings last season. His intensity and hard-nosed defensive style has rubbed
off on his teammates and has helped them become a tougher squad to compete
against.

Mike Bibby, who completed his eighth year in the NBA, had his best season as a
pro for the Kings in 2005-06. He led the team in scoring (21.1 ppg) and
assists (5.4 apg). Along with forward Kenny Thomas, Bibby was the only
other King to play in all 82 regular-season games.

Bibby is sidelined with a thumb injury. Tests on the injured thumb revealed he
has a mallet thumb, meaning the tendon along his thumb tip was separated from
the distal bone.

Two-time All-Star center Brad Miller had another solid season in 2005-06, as
he averaged 15.0 points and a team-best 7.8 rebounds, while forward Shareef
Abdur-Rahim, who signed with the Kings as a free agent in August 2005,
contributed 12.0 points and 5.3 boards per contest.

Guard Kevin Martin and Thomas were also key figures in Sacramento’s success.
Thomas added some tough play inside and the 6-7 Martin continued to
develop into a solid player in just his second season in the league.

Gone is swingman Bonzi Wells, who signed as a free agent with the Houston
Rockets. Wells averaged 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in 52 games for the
Kings.

The Kings added another guard, as 26-year-old free agent John Salmons signed
a multi-year deal with the club. Salmons spent the first four years of
his career with the Philadelphia 76ers. He averaged 7.5 points, 2.7 rebounds
and 2.7 assists in 82 games last season for the Sixers.

Sacramento was just 17-24 on the road last season. The Kings are scheduled to
visit the Chicago Bulls on Friday and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

The Timberwolves are trying to find an identity, They finished the
2005-06 season with a disappointing 33-49 record and did not qualify for the
playoffs for the second straight season.

All-Star forward Kevin Garnett is still the cornerstone of the franchise and
management would like to win with him leading the way. The 30-year-old Garnett
led the Timberwolves in scoring (21.8 ppg) and rebounding (12.7 rpg) during
the 2005-06 campaign. He seems to have lost some of his passion and is visibly
frustrated with the state of his squad.

If Minnesota, which lost in the 2003-04 Western Conference finals to the Los
Angeles Lakers the last time it was in the postseason, can start winning it
would rejuvenate Garnett.

Ricky Davis, who was acquired from Boston during the season in a blockbuster
trade that sent Wally Szczerbiak to the Celtics, is a solid player. Davis
averaged 19.4 points in 78 games with Minnesota and Boston last season. The
6-7 Davis can play shooting guard or small forward and is currently
Minnesota’s second best scoring option, behind Garnett.

Mark Blount, Trenton Hassell, Troy Hudson and Marko Jaric are all role
players, while guard Rashad McCants showed a lot of potential during his
rookie campaign.

During the offseason, Minnesota did sign free agent guard Mike James. The 31-
year-old James averaged an impressive 20.3 points and 5.8 assists in 79 games
for the Toronto Raptors last season. The Timberwolves hope James will help
take some of the load off of Garnett’s shoulders.

Villanova product Randy Foye was drafted by Boston with the seventh overall
pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, but ended up with the Timberwolves after being
dealt by the Celtics to Portland. The Trail Blazers sent Foye to Minnesota for
Washington guard Brandon Roy, who was selected with the sixth overall pick by
the Timberwolves. The 6-4 Foye will play immediately and can fill in at both
guard spots. He could very easily end up being the best player from the draft.

Head coach Dwane Casey enters his second year as the general of the
Timberwolves. His job is simple, help Garnett get the Timberwolves back to the
postseason.

The Timberwolves were 24-17 at home last season. They will visit the Denver
Nuggets on Friday at the Pepsi Center.

Minnesota won two of three from the Kings last season. Sacramento has lost
five of its last eight at the Timberwolves.

Sacramento has lost two straight season-openers, while the Timberwolves have
won six in a row.

SAC MIN