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Maloof feels goodplaying Minnesota

May 4, 2004 6:06 AM

The second round of the NBA playoffs brings a new challenge and travel itinerary for George Maloof.

"I feel good about this series,’’ the Sacramento Kings co-owner told GamingToday late Monday afternoon. "Both teams are banged up a little, but I think we come in healthier and we’re confident."

Usually it’s Dallas, San Antonio or the Lakers that wind up in the Kings way to that elusive NBA championship. Minnesota is fresh blood, winners of their very first playoff series after seven years of opening round playoff losses. And, Sacramento is in the unaccustomed role of underdogs with Minnesota opening at —210 to win the best 4-of-7 series.

"Both teams are evenly talented," Maloof said. "KG (league MVP Kevin Garnett) is on a mission. But, Mike Bibby is playing much better than he did at this time last year. Plus, the rest helped Chris (Webber) and Vlade (Divac)."

You will see the Maloof brothers on TNT in Minnesota and Sacramento, but Dallas owner Mark Cuban will just have to book a room at the Palms, the lavish casino resort owned by the popular Las Vegas family.

"He stayed here last week," George said. "As for us, we’re just living for the moment. We don’t think about losing or what we’ll do next year."

Maloof said he’s not sure about the availability of star sixth man Bobby Jackson, a former collegiate standout for Minnesota’s Golden Gophers.

"Bobby is still hurting," Maloof said. "I know he wants to play in front of his friends. It’s too soon to tell. He may be ready later in the series."

Maloof believes San Antonio will beat the Lakers in the other semifinal out West.

"The Lakers have a hard time with the Spurs as you saw in Game 1," he said. "I think the best trade not made was Tony Parker to New Jersey for Jason Kidd. Parker is really an outstanding player."

Maloof acknowledges that the Kings are viewed by NBA experts as down from past years.

"We did struggle at the end of the regular season and there may not be as much pressure on us to win since we are underdogs," Maloof said. "But we beat a great Dallas team. We’re the same group of guys and very positive of our chances. So go ahead and take us for granted. It doesn’t bother me."