By Sam Amick - Bee Staff Writer
Last Updated 1:34 am PST Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Story appeared in SPORTS section, Page C5
When point guard Mike Bibby was asked during the summer whether he wanted to stay with the Kings for years to come, he said one factor would dictate his answer.
Love, of both the financial and emotional sort.
Bibby -- whose contract allows him to become a free agent this summer -- said he wanted to feel wanted, to feel as if the Kings' management had handpicked him to lead the franchise into another era, just as he had before. But Monday afternoon at the Kings' practice facility, Bibby didn't look as if he was feeling the love.
As it has become apparent that the Kings are involved in trade discussions with Philadelphia regarding star guard Allen Iverson, Bibby's name has been the one most often discussed in possible trade scenarios. The mix of his salary and his story in Sacramento have led many to believe his time here might be near an end, leaving Bibby to wonder where he stands with the team for which he has played since 2001.
"I've been traded before," Bibby told reporters with a solemn look, citing his 2001 trade from Vancouver to Sacramento.
Silence ensued, then a question about whether he can tell if his involvement in the AI sweepstakes is rumor or reality.
"No," he said. "You guys will probably know anything before anything happens at all."
More silence, broken by an inquiry about whether this serves as a distraction.
"It's not distracting me at all," he said.
Kings forward Kenny Thomas became the first to make a public plea against a Bibby-Iverson swap. It came as no surprise, considering Thomas -- who played with Iverson from 2002 to 2005 -- is a strong proponent of Bibby's and no huge fan of playing with Iverson.
Thomas is like so many others who have laced it up with the seven-time All-Star, players who may admire his individual talents but regret the way Iverson leaves little offensive room for others by dominating the ball.
"I'd be real sad if Mike left, real sad," Thomas said. "I think it'd be a mistake to trade Mike. ... I like the team that we have.
"I would prefer to play with Mike. Mike's a great passer, and a great player, and he makes us all better."
Since Iverson made a trade demand Friday, the possibilities for his next stop have only grown. But the Kings' possible offer might be as attractive as they come. In Iverson, the Kings would be receiving a player whose contract has two seasons and approximately $40 million remaining beyond this one.
In Philadelphia on Monday, Iverson's nameplate was removed from his locker, which was cleaned out. He was not in the arena for the 76ers' 81-79 loss to Portland, the third consecutive contest he was on the inactive list.
Coach Maurice Cheeks was peppered all day with questions about Iverson but said his only focus was on the players in the locker room and ending the team's skid, which has reached eight games.
"I'm not here to say how this happened, how that happened," Cheeks said. "We're just going forward with the people we have, and we're trying to win games. I think our team has been pretty good through all of this."
Team president Billy King told the Associated Press in an e-mail that he would not comment until a deal was done.
If Iverson were dealt to the Kings, they would, by all indicators, receive the sort of explosive talent who could spark an offense that ranks 14th in scoring and 22nd in field-goal percentage. Iverson, 31, a four-time scoring champion, is leading the league in scoring (31.2 points).
Bibby, meanwhile, would give the 76ers a high-level point guard while being reunited with former Kings forward Chris Webber, who has expressed his own unhappiness of late and likely would be thrilled to play again with his old point guard.
What's more, the Kings have plenty of pieces to make the numbers work, with five expiring contracts and young players to offer. Bibby is owed $12.5 million this season compared to Iverson's $18.5 million, and the salaries returned to Philadelphia would have to come within 125 percent of Iverson's deal.