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SACRAMENTO VS. LAKERS | KING NOTES

Best Is Yet to Come, They Say

June 03, 2002|Elliott Teaford

SACRAMENTO — They once were a national joke, a civic disgrace.

Well, they would have been a civic disgrace except the locals followed them with a collegiate-like passion, selling out Arco Arena night after night in spite of the bad basketball they was played there.

But the snickering (and an eight-season playoff drought) soon ended when Geoff Petrie became the King general manager before the 1994-95 season. It took time, but Petrie assembled the cast of characters that pushed the Lakers to a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals.

The Kings lost Sunday to the Lakers, but there was a sense that this is only the beginning for Sacramento.

"The greatest thing about it is seeing these guys have this kind of success," Petrie said. "I've told this story before, but at the beginning, you're just trying to get better, then you trying to win with some guys you hope you can keep together for a while. You try to grow and you go from there. How do you imagine that [the team is fighting for a chance to play in its first NBA Finals in more than 50 years?]"

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Coach Rick Adelman sounded a defiant tone in his closing news conference.

"We're not going away, I can guarantee you that," he said. "You saw how much we grew this season. You saw how we grew individually. We had so many guys grow up this year."

When someone asked if he believed the Kings had proved they are as strong as the Lakers with their showing in the series, Adelman grew testier.

"You don't think we have enough quality?" Adelman asked. "I think we played that team right down to the wire. You want to say they're a better team, go ahead."

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Now that Mike Bibby has had a taste of playoff experience, he wants more.

"This loss really hurts big, but I think that we have many more years of this to come," he said after scoring 29 points, including 14 of the Kings' last 18. "We played a great series. We should have closed it out when we had a chance to close it out. We played the best we could, but it wasn't enough."

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There was only one reason the Kings lost Sunday, according to center Vlade Divac--16-of-30 free-throw shooting.

"I can't recall ever having a night like tonight, where we collectively as a team missed so many free throws," said Divac, who made five of 10 before fouling out.

Added guard Bobby Jackson: "Nobody is going to win a game when you are shooting 30 free throws and make only 16 of them. That's how the ball rolls sometimes."

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Elliott Teaford

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