In Sacramento's double-overtime win over the New York Knicks in November, no player was on the court more than Ron Artest. Now, he's just another Kings star who is glued to the bench.
Facing the possibility of being without Artest for an extended period, the injury-riddled Kings look to sweep their season series with the Knicks when the teams meet in New York on Wednesday night.
Artest may have surgery this week to remove chipped bone fragments in his right elbow, according to a Kings spokesman. The eight-year veteran has missed two straight games, and Sacramento (11-18) fell to 2-8 on the season without him with a 117-102 loss to Phoenix on Sunday night.
"They are thinking it might be two or three weeks (Artest) will be out, but they are not sure yet," Kings coach Reggie Theus said.
Artest, one of the league's top defenders, is averaging 19.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 19 games this season. He missed the first seven games while serving a suspension, and also didn't play in a Nov. 21 game in Phoenix because he was visiting his ailing daughter.
Sacramento, however, got 28 points and eight rebounds from Artest in a 123-118 double-overtime win over New York on Nov. 16. Artest played a game-high 53 minutes.
Kevin Martin was the star of that game, finishing with a career-high 43 points. Martin, though, has missed 12 straight games with a strained groin, and point guard Mike Bibby has yet to play for the Kings this season due to thumb surgery.
Sacramento, which has lost four straight, is starting Francisco Garcia in place of Artest and the third-year swingman came through with one of the best games of his career Sunday, finishing with 30 points and six rebounds. Garcia was held to four points on 1-of-6 shooting in November's matchup with the Knicks (8-21).
Knicks leading scorer Jamal Crawford, who had 24 points in that game, said he expects to play Wednesday after missing Sunday's 100-83 loss to Chicago due to a bruised right hand. He shot around during practice Monday with a protective glove.
Stephon Marbury, Crawford's backcourt mate, has played in three of 13 games since his father died on Dec. 2. He also practiced Monday and coach Isiah Thomas said it would be the point guard's decision if he would return.
Thomas, trying to turn the Knicks' season around, has been trying different lineups all season. On Sunday, he started Zach Randolph at center in favor of Eddy Curry.
Thomas has been frustrated with Curry's defense and rebounding. The 6-foot-11 center is averaging just 5.1 rebounds per game. He grabbed eight boards off the bench Sunday.
"It shows me that while he may not like the bench, it definitely had an effect on his rebounding effort and if he continues to rebound, then the minutes are there," Thomas said. "But from that position, we need rebounding and some shot blocking. And if we can't get the shot blocking, then we definitely need the rebounding. So you just can't have 16 points and two rebounds. That doesn't work."
New York, which has lost four straight and 10 of its last 12, owns the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference, just one game better than Miami (8-23).
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