The Miami Heat have made their way to Sacramento for their annual west coast match-up against the Kings. But unlike other trips to the capital city in years past, tonight is different. As reports circulate about a Kings move to Seattle, Saturday night’s game could very well be the last time the defending champs step foot inside Sleep Train Arena.
“I know there’s a lot of disappointed fans probably here in Sacramento,” Heat forward Rashard Lewis told Cowbell Kingdom following practice yesterday in Sacramento. “A lot of fans of Seattle went through it the first time the team moved from Seattle to Oklahoma.”
Lewis began his career in the Pacific Northwest when the SuperSonics selected him 32nd overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. He called Key Arena home for the first nine years of his career and made his first All-Star team as a member of the green and gold in the 2004-05 season.
Though he feels for Kings fans, he’s thrilled about the prospects of a Sonics return to Seattle.
“For me as a personal standpoint, me starting my career in Seattle, I’m kind of excited about it because I get a chance to go back and visit where I started my career before I’m done playing basketball,” Lewis said.
The 33-year-old veteran also tipped his hat to the fans of the Emerald City calling them “very supportive” and one of the best in all sports. Lewis also brought to light the 41-year history of the Sonics franchise, which included one championship in three trips to the NBA Finals.
“It’s legendary though,” the two-time All-Star said of the Pacific Northwest’s basketball-crazed culture. “They have history with the basketball team being in Seattle, so I think they deserve it.”
Charlie Villanueva may not who know who Isaiah Thomas is, but Dwyane Wade certainly does. The Heat guard vividly recalled his match-up against Thomas last year and thought that was when the Kings second-year player put himself on the NBA map.
“I knew he was playing well,” Wade told a scrum of reporters yesterday. “But that was like a coming out party it seemed like.”
In the Kings’ only meeting with the Heat last season, Thomas scored 24 points while making five-of-eight from beyond the three-point line in a 120-108 loss in South Beach. The eight-time NBA All-Star complimented Thomas’ game, saying that the 23-year-old guard plays with a high-level of intensity.
“He has an engine man,” Wade said of the Kings starting point guard. “He’s one of those guys who plays with a chip on his shoulder I’m sure from all of the things he’s probably heard…He’s one of those little guys that are just tough to guard and if he’s making his shot from the outside, it’s going to be a tough night.”
Erik Spoelstra commends Keith Smart
Tonight’s game pits two of the league’s youngest coaches against one another. The 42-year-old Erik Spoelstra and the 48-year-old Keith Smart have just nine years of NBA coaching experience between them. While the Kings have struggled for much of this season, that didn’t stop Spoelstra from commending Smart for the work he’s done in recent weeks.
“I think they’re very well coached,” Spoelstra said. “I think Keith Smart has done a very good job with this team.”
In their last 10 games, Sacramento has posted just a 5-5 record. But, they’ve addressed the issues of hero ball that’s plagued them so frequently as a young team, dishing out 23.4 assists while committing only 13.4 turnovers per contest since Dec. 23.
“You see how they’ve improved,” Spoelstra said of tonight’s opponent. “It doesn’t necessarily always show up in the win/loss column; it’s how they play. But they’re playing more connected, more as a team. And they have a lot of very good young talent, so when you’re coached well with that talent, that talent gets better as the season goes on.”