Rambis' take on the Lakers; Scot shines; T.D. on Webber
NBA Inside Stuff magazine will go behind the scenes to cover the postseason atmosphere at arenas around the league during NBA Playoffs 2001. Here is a look at the scene in Phoenix as the Kings closed out their first-round series.
In town for the Nike Desert Classic, the annual pre-draft tournament for college seniors, Lakers assistant GM Kurt Rambis decided to stop by America West Arena on Wednesday night to do a little scouting for the second round.
"I'm here to get play calls and information," he said. "You get a much better feel for the game and what's going on when you can sit real close to the action, and I've got a front row seat."
Although "Rambo" didn't want to talk about the Kings too specifically, he was willing to share a scouting report on his own team, which swept the Blazers in its opening round series.
"I think so many things really came together at the right time," he said. "Shaq has really picked up his game. He's playing extraordinarily well on both ends of the court. He's just dominating teams and they've got no answer for him inside. And he's really picked up his defense. Guys know that they can extend their defense and if they get beat, he's going to cover their back. He's going to come in and nobody wants to run into 'The Wall.'
"Derek Fisher, his leadership qualities, his intensity, his defense, are all characteristics that we knew he could bring. But he's been shooting the lights out. (Brian) Shaw's been playing well. (Horace) Grant's been playing well. (Robert) Horry's been playing well. All of our role players have been really stepping up. And Kobe coming back from injury, the last six or seven ball games that he's played, he's doing an unbelievable job of distributing the basketball. His turnovers are way down.
"So I think we're just in sync right now, as well as we've been, I'd say, the last couple years."
In the days leading up to Game 4, Suns veteran Mario Elie
pointed to Kings reserve Scot Pollard
as one of the big reasons Sacramento was able to steal Game 3 and regain the home court advantage.
Pollard, who averaged 8.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in just 18.3 minutes per game, had several key offensive rebounds in the second quarter, which kept the Kings alive after struggling early.
"Two words: box out," said Elie of the adjustments the Suns needed to make before Game 4. "Guys were losing site of him for some reason. I mean, he's the biggest guy with the worst hairdo in the league. How are you going to miss a guy like that, looking like a Samurai? He ain't hard to find."
Apparently, Pollard is a little harder to find that Elie realized. The 6-11 forward/center hauled down a game-high 13 boards in the Kings' series-clincher.
Samurai Superstar II
Pollard seemed to find it amusing that his opponents were so surprised by his playoff performances. Jason Kidd
even named him the "MVP of the series" through the first three games.
"See, that was my plan the whole time, to distract Phoenix and make them think I was the marquee player," he said sarcastically prior to Game 4. "That way it takes more pressure off of Chris (Webber) and Peja (Stojakovic), so they can really hurt 'em, because they've got to worry about me now. They've got to double-team me because I'm an offensive threat now all of a sudden. Like I haven't been doing this all year."
In case you're wondering, the 26-year-old averaged 6.5 points and 6.0 boards during the regular season.
T.D. on C-Webb
Suns guard Tony Delk
, who spent the 1999-2000 season with the Kings, believes Webber should re-sign with Sacramento when he becomes a free agent this summer.
"I don't think going to any other team would help him out as much as being in Sacramento where he knows he's the man," Delk explained. "The fans love him, guys love playing with him and it's just the right situation for him. It keeps him straight and he doesn't have any distractions.
"To move anywhere else, I think, would be hard for him to get into another city and start over again. It's just like starting your career over again when you go to a new city, you've got to learn new plays, a new offense, learn players, coaches ... He has everything in Sacramento that he needs."