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Bibby Is Kings' Iceman Cometh

May 26, 2002|MICHAEL WILBON | WASHINGTON POST

They needed an ingredient that would cut the spice, essentially a flavor reduction. The Sacramento Kings had all the shooters, dunkers and fancy passers a team could ever want. What they needed was a pragmatist, a driver who knew when to cover the break, a playmaker whose game was based in nuance.

So they swapped the glittering Jason Williams for the vanilla Mike Bibby and the Kings have been transformed. For the first time, they have playoff substance to go with their considerable style. Last postseason they were swept by the Lakers; this year they have a 2-1 lead even without All-Star Peja Stojakovic and it's mostly because of Bibby.

"He makes huge difference in our team; it's so obvious," King Coach Rick Adelman said Saturday.

King forward Chucky Brown, who has seen it all playing for 12 NBA teams in 13 seasons, would watch Sacramento (a team he joined only in February) and be wowed like the rest of us.

"Jason was a good player and a popular player for the Kings," Brown said, "but Sacramento was so freewheeling and dealing. They'd throw a behind-the-back pass with three seconds left when a simple chest pass would have been the smarter move. It's still there, just toned down.

"Mike Bibby's been a perfect fit here because he's so cool under pressure. He never appears rattled, at home or on the road. I call him the 'New Iceman' because he's that calm all the time."

That calmness brings, more than anything, reliability. Williams could bring you out of your seat with his Maravich-like passes and pull-up jumpers, but reliable he never was. The Kings were never going to beat the Lakers and probably were never going deep in the playoffs with Williams as the lead guard because he couldn't pull back, couldn't do the mundane, colorless things a playmaker has to do in the postseason.

Bibby is the son of a former NBA point guard, USC Coach Henry Bibby, and plays like one. Getting Bibby was the perfect trade for the Kings from the moment General Manager Geoff Petrie announced it. (Sacramento beat the Wizards, among others, to the punch for Bibby.)

The one thing Bibby had not done his first three years in the NBA--he was playing for the last-place Vancouver Grizzlies, remember--was play in the playoffs. "He is being exposed to the playoffs for the first time," Adelman said. "And he's getting better every game."

Bibby's emotional makeup and his ability to get a veteran team to trust that he knows when to push and when to pull back is what has Sacramento and the Kings as excited as this 2-1 lead over the Lakers. If the Kings are going to dethrone the Lakers, the challengers will have to be steadier than they've ever been, smart, efficient and sometimes downright bland, which goes against their every instinct. The Kings have a lot of talented players, but this particular job falls to Bibby, which is why Webber says with plenty of justification, "Mike Bibby has been a godsend."

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