SACRAMENTO -- The Arco Arena crowd drowned out the P.A. system announcing his name in introductions and held up signs saying, "Peja Who?" and "Sac Loves Artest," smiley face and all. Coach Rick Adelman played him the entire fourth quarter and ran the offense through him on every possession.
Hail, King Ron-Ron
Ron Artest, the focus of all that love and attention, merely did everything the Kings could have hoped for, on and off the court, while leading his new team to a 98-91 win over the Denver Nuggets in his first home appearance.
"We'll take him! We'll take him!" shouted Kings owner Gavin Maloof, sporting one of the many No. 93 Artest replica jerseys dotting the crowd. "I don't see why that other team didn't want him, but we do!"
For one night, anyway, the Indiana Pacers looked absolutely crazy for having made good on Artest's trade demand. Artest talked amiably with the media before and after the game, demonstrated his trademark smothering defense on everyone from Carmelo Anthony to Earl Watson and brought the victory home with six points and three assists in the fourth quarter.
His numbers -- 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists -- don't capture what a matchup nightmare he presented. Nuggets coach George Karl went from Greg Buckner to Kenyon Martin to Marcus Camby and never found a solution to Artest posting up on the left block.
"When you're going to a player at the end of games, he has to be able to make a play for himself, make free throws and make plays for others," said Adelman. "He's willing to do that. It gives us something we haven't had -- a guy who can break people down."
The highlight of the night may have been Artest getting upset when Mike Bibby earned himself a fourth-quarter T while the Kings were protecting a five-point lead. "C'mon!" he shouted, glaring at Bibby.
Granted, glimpses of the crazy Ron-Ron surfaced here and there.
• There's the No. 93 uniform he chose because the shape of the numbers represents "infinite intensity."
• A pre-game question about fitting into the Kings' offense went in his ear, worked through the labryinth that is Artest's mind and produced: "If a player comes in that is more talented, I'd move aside. I don't have to leave Arco."
• He was the lone King not wearing his sweat pants in warm-ups.
• When teammate Kevin Martin said, "Let's go, baby!" coming out of a fourth-quarter timeout, Artest's expression remained blank.
• When Adelman joked with him and Bonzi Wells in front of the Kings' bench in the final seconds, Wells smiled but Artest remained stone-faced.
"Sometimes I have bring myself down to earth," Artest said before the game.
But if that's all the crazy Ron-Ron the Kings see, they will assuredly take it.
"He brings a wild card, as far as personality, to this team," says Shareef Abdur-Rahim. "It's a good mix."
Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images
Before he took the court for the first time wearing Sacramento's whites, Ron Artest donned a happy outlook. He finished with 19 points in the Kings' 98-91 win over the Nuggets.
More than playing time, what separates Marvin Williams and Chris Paul is the difference in experience. Just 18 months ago, Williams was dominating inferior competition in the sleepy Puget Sound port of Bremerton, Wash. Williams is 13 months younger than Paul -- he won't turn 20 until June -- and has seen much less high-level game action. Paul had two seasons at Wake Forest to run the show, while Williams came off the bench in his only season at North Carolina.
Additionally, the 6-foot-9 Williams has yet to fill out physically, making his adjustment to the man's world of the NBA that much tougher. That's one reason he didn't turn pro directly out of high school, even though he could have been a lottery pick.
"It's a different game," said Williams. "It's definitely an adjustment. [The year of college] was huge. I mean, huge. ... I had the opportunity to go to the NBA out of high school and I turned it down. A lot of my classmates did [come out], like Josh Smith. I just didn't feel mentally ready for that jump coming out of high school."
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Kobe Gets 40
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Vince Carter clears the boards for the Nets, who handed the Pistons a 91-84 defeat, snapping Detroit's win streak at 11.
Luol Deng, Bulls forward: The sublime Sudanese was not feelin' it, 1-for-8 from the floor, good for two points in the 98-94 loss to the Mavs. The man from the land of Bol will recover, no doubt.
Quote of the Day
"We've won 22 of our last 24. You play 82 games, and you don't like to say you didn't have it, but we didn't have it tonight."
-- Pistons coach Flip Saunders, whose team fell to 37-6 in a loss to the Nets.
-- Andrew Ayres
The Blazers did consider drafting Chris Paul with the No. 3 pick, but ultimately decided they had their point guard of the future in Sebastian Telfair. They eventually traded the pick to the Jazz for the No. 6 and No. 27 picks in the draft. They used the No. 6 pick on high school phenom Martell Webster. GM John Nash said after the draft that had the Blazers kept the pick, they still would've drafted Webster at No. 3.
The verdict: Like Knight in Atlanta, Nash has blundered in Portland and might lose his job by summer over errors like passing on Paul. Nash said in an interview after the draft that he believed Telfair was "ahead of the curve" in comparing him to Paul.
Here's the recipe for defeating the Detroit Pistons this season. If you're an opponent you want to establish a low-post presence on offense, dominate the boards, get out on the fastbreak and force them into shooting beyond the arc. In the six losses this season the Pistons were outplayed in each of those categories.
-- ESPN Research
The degree of quit displayed by the Knicks against the Lakers was so disheartening that Knicks coach Larry Brown got himself tossed by referee Steve Javie midway through the third quarter.
Kobe Bryant had been parading to the free throw line all night, the discrepancy so glaring that the Knicks posted each team's attempted foul shots on the scoreboard each time one of the teams went to the line.