The NBA season is upon us with action around the league tipping off Tuesday, and while I applaud Geoff Petrie's acquisition of shot blocker Keon Clark, the Sacramento Kings vice president of basketball operations barked up the wrong tree this summer.
While it was a valiant effort on the part of the genius mind behind a league-best 61-21 mark a year ago, it still won't solve the enigma that is the three-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The riddle that the Lakers hold over the entire NBA has a simple and lucid answer. And the former Toronto Raptor isn't it. Not even close.
With the current state of the NBA holding King Vlade Divac as the No. 2 offensive center in the league, part one to the mystery is accepting that no one or nothing is going to stop the diesel that is Shaquille O'Neal.
The 7-foot-1, 335-pound specimen, who recently dubbed himself the "Last Center Left," is simply something the Kings and the rest of the basketball world have no defense for.
But fear not Petrie, there is another route to solving the Lake Show conundrum.
The Answer: Shipping Peja Stojakovic, aka "Mr. Clutch Air Baller" (see Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals), for disgruntled New York Knick Latrell Sprewell.
And do it now.
Do it while the NBA is still hot on the Yugoslavian "pure shooter" before he gives way to a younger, more talented Hedo Turkoglu. And trust me, it will happen because not only is the multi-dimensional Turk a better rebounder and defender, Turkoglu can handle the rock and is on the verge of becoming a bona fide NBA All-Star.
Do it while the league, and most importantly the harebrained front-office of the Knicks, is down on Spree.
And here is the reason why.
Part two to the Purple-and-Gold puzzle is Kobe Bryant, the explosive guard that the Kings currently have no answer for.
Doug Christie? Give me a break. Yeah, he can play tough D, but against a player of Bryant's offensive prowess that simply isn't enough.
And on offense forget about it because Bryant has the skills to lock up more talented shooting guards.
Not only would Bryant continue to face a tough challenge with the ball if the Kings traded for Sprewell, the slasher extraordinaire has the speed and athleticism to make Kobe work on the defensive end, which is something Christie will never do.
Spree, who averaged 26 points on 48.8 percent shooting to Bryant's 22.5 and 53 clip from the floor in two matchups last year, would make the Laker expend energy on the defensive end, which in turn works against Kobe on offense.
This is exactly what Christie couldn't provide during the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
Christie, who scored 13 points in each of the first two games and went for 17 in Game 3 as the Kings built a 2-1 lead, failed when Sacramento needed him most.
While Bryant struggled to only 40.8 percent shooting while averaging three turnovers in the first three games, he ended up being the difference maker in the final four contests as the Lakers won three of four.
Christie's final four games - 32 percent shooting and 7.25 points per - was the difference as Bryant lit the Kings up for 25, 30, 31, and in a very remarkable Game 7 didn't have one turnover in 52 minutes while scoring 30.
And not only would the deletion of Stojakovic force coach Rick Adelman to start Turkoglu, the addition of Sprewell to the lineup would reunite Chris Webber with his long-lost buddy from the days of the Golden State Warriors.
In summary, Spree's athleticism would mean the Kings have an edge in three of the five floor spots against the La La Land Giants and as close to a tie-up at the two-spot as can be hoped for against the likes of No. 8.
Jeff Sutton is the News-Sentinels sports reporter. He can be reached at (209) 369-7035; at 125 N. Church St., or via e-mail.
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