As Sam Sees It

My NBA basketball team allegiance changed dramatically following the free agent draft. Previously, I had been one of the few fans of the hapless Vancouver Grizzlies. That team will likely play its next season in Memphis.

The Grizzlies made one of the best selections of the draft when they picked Shane Battier of the Duke Blue Devils. I was excited at the prospect of seeing the former Devil star teamed with the player whose presence on the Vancouver roster explains why I was a Grizzlies fan.

Mike Bibby played his high school basketball for my brother Jerry Conner at Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix. It is probably not a stretch to count both him and his mother Virginia as personal friends. Certainly, they and the rest of his family and my brother are friends.

About mid-night of draft day, Bibby was traded to the Sacramento Kings. The other principal in the deal was Sacramento’s colorful point guard Jason Williams. Williams is a spectacular player who will likely thrill the new Memphis fans.

Bibby has become an iron man in the NBA. He was among the leaders in minutes played and did not miss a game all season. He was among the league leaders in assists despite playing on a team that seldom played the up-tempo game at which he excelled in high school and college.

Virtually everyone who has seen him play agrees that Bibby makes his teammates better. In high school, he got special enjoyment from involving everyone in the scoring column. He took more pride in a sparkling assist than a score. Do not be surprised if the Kings aren’t a better team this season.

Sacramento, of course, was a second round play-off team this past season. The Kings were among the elite of the league last season. They see the acquisition of Mike Bibby as taking the final step to become serious championship contenders. Here is one fan that believes they will be proven correct.

The morning after my NBA allegiances were scrabbled, the Phoenix Suns announced the trade of Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury. The trade of Clifford Robinson followed this. This drove the Bibby story from the front of the sports pages.

Kidd is probably the best point guard in the NBA. For this reason alone, I doubt the wisdom of these trades. The Suns probably needed to do something to become more competitive, but a healthy Penny Hardaway may have been the real key to the success of this team regardless of whether Kidd or Marbury is at the point.

There have been some great trades by this franchise in the past (Charlie Scott for Paul Westfall comes to mind) and some stinkers (Paul Silas for Charlie Scott or Dennis Johnson for Rick Robey among others). Time will tell which, if either category, this one belongs in.


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