Mike Bibby is basketball royalty around Sacramento, where the Hawks play Wednesday night. If he comes close to doing what he did with the Kings, he'll be royalty in Atlanta someday, too.
Acquired in a trade deadline deal a year ago today, Bibby helped the Hawks snap a nearly decade-long playoff drought last season. The Hawks pushed the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games in a first-round series. And he did all of that with thumb, heel and quad injuries hampering him every step of the way.
"He's been a warrior for us every step of the way," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "I don't know where we'd be without him."
Now Bibby has the Hawks in position to chase a home-court slot in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Their 31 wins at the All-Star break is the team's best win total in that span since 1997.
"Honestly, I think Mike has been the biggest piece to our puzzle in terms of us climbing to the top and trying to be one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference," said Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson.
"Without a good point guard, it's hard to be a good team in this league. And Mike's been that for us from the first day he got here. He's been a huge plus."
Funny. That's not the way many people viewed it a year ago. Bibby was coming off of thumb surgery when Sacramento dealt him to the Hawks in a five-player deal. After a glorious six-year run with the Kings, a complete franchise revival that Bibby helped engineer, he had to sit and watch a Western Conference powerhouse be dismantled piece by piece.
Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu and Peja Stojakovic all left town before him.
Bibby was the last one to go. But he knew it was time.
"Things always come to an end," Bibby said. "All good things come to an end. And me and the Maloof family and (Kings general manager) Geoff Petrie are friends to this day. I have a great deal of respect for them. It was just time to move on."
Atlanta wasn't necessarily a destination that Bibby had on his short list. But once he realized he was coveted, he warmed to the idea of the challenge of being part of yet another franchise revival.
"Hey, sometimes one team's junk is another team's prize," said the 11-year veteran who will be a free agent this summer. "I love the guys I'm playing with now. This last year has been a good ride. I feel real comfortable with the guys. And they're my family away from home."
LAKERS 96, HAWKS 83: Don't let the final score fool you.
The Hawks weren't anywhere near as close as the final digits might indicate. They were down by as many as 27 to the Los Angeles Lakers before losing at Staples Center in the first game after the All-Star break for both teams.
An early nine-point lead went up in smoke before halftime and the Hawks' composure, swagger and mettle went right along with it.
The Lakers snapped the Hawks' three-game road win streak and did it in dominating fashion, out-rebounding the Hawks by a staggering 67-39 count.
"We played a quarter and a half," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "And they hit us in the mouth and we shut it down. We were still in the game. You hold them to 45 points going in at the half, and come out the third quarter and we were just flat... to the point where they hit us and we just never responded."
The Hawks surrendered season highs in offensive rebounds and total rebounds to the Lakers, while also allowing Pau Gasol (12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists) and Lamar Odom (15 points, 20 rebounds and five assists) to go to work on them at will throughout the night.
Kobe Bryant barely broke a sweat on this night, deferring to others and finishing with just 10 points, four rebounds and two assists in just 28 minutes.
Hawks All-Star Joe Johnson didn't fare much better in a losing cause, finishing with 14 points on 6-for-17 shooting and dishing out five assists.
"You just have to forget about this one and move on," he said. "Move on."