Kings at Pistons. The disappointing showdown of the year

By Sam Rubenstein

The big return of the villain to the scene of the crime is happening tomorrow night. I don’t know what people are expecting, other than a boring game. There are subplots now such as Sacramento vs. Chris Webber and whatever is or isn’t going on between Flip Saunders and Rasheed (and The Insider). As for Ron Ron’s return, I wouldn’t get too excited. If there’s anything I’ve learned from Ron Artest over the years, it’s to expect the unexpected. When you’re waiting for him to snap, he stays calm. When all is going well, he’s more likely to implode. The Kings are even worse than you realize right now. Portland has a better record than them. Let that sink in.

I went to the Kings-Knicks game on Monday, and one thing that struck me is that Ron shouldn’t have been the guy forcing shots at the end. He cost Sacramento the game with his shot selection. Kevin Martin is their best offensive player, and you don’t take your best offensive player out of the game like that. Ron is still a superstar and one of the best two-way players in the game today. He was on the cover of ESPN the Magazine a few weeks ago, and the feature included a thought which I’m paraphrasing as “I’d like to play for the Knicks, but not until next year after I’ve won a championship with Sacramento.” The Kings are closer to the lottery than a championship.

Ron Artest is still my favorite player in the NBA. It’s kind of sad that his return to the Palace is going to be bigger news than his play this year. He’s banged up, and he just isn’t the scorer that he thinks he is. Kevin Martin is shooting over 50% from the field and nearly 42% from three. He leads the team in scoring, even though he takes the third most shots. (Mike Bibby leads the way with 15 per game). In a way, he’s become the new Peja. The best shooter and scorer on the team, but there are other personalities that feel they need to be the guy with the ball in their hands. If the Kings were having a good year, positioning themselves to be one of the few teams that is both physical and high scoring, with Ron in the MVP race, then I’d be worried about a self-destructive implosion. Can’t see that happening this time. Which is a good thing, despite the loss of entertainment value.

The Pistons are a mess for different reasons. They’ve completely sold out their championship identity, which was the defense of the Wallaces and strong leadership from – GASP!!! – Larry Brown. Then again, they are in the East, so they could end up making the Finals anyway. And how did it work out that there was ANOTHER trade that made the West stronger and the East weaker? If the FBI isn’t too busy cracking down on steroids, we could use some help over here sorting out the conference gap.

Saturday Night, what should have been the best “Say hello to the bad guy” game since Roger Clemens pitched at Shea, is just another game. Please keep your beer cups to yourself, Pistons fans.