Sometimes, the key to success in the NBA is fitting in. Kenny Thomas seemed to be an ill fit in coach Jim O'Brien's system with the 76ers, and Brian Skinner didn't fit in at all.
Now, however, the two players seem to be ideal fits for the Sacramento Kings, and they have flourished since the six-player trade on Feb. 23 that put Chris Webber in a Sixers uniform.
"It's like I went to Palm Springs," Skinner said last night before the Kings faced the Sixers at Arco Arena.
Asked if he was happy in Sacramento, Thomas quickly replied: "Yes, I am."
"It's the way we pass the ball, the way we play," he said. "It doesn't matter who scores. Everybody on this team can score, and everybody on this team can pass. Here, I can use every aspect of my game."
Thomas wasn't happy with the way he was used this season with the Sixers. After averaging a double-double in points and rebounds last season, he was averaging 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds at the time of the trade, getting most of his points on jump shots off pick-and-rolls with Allen Iverson.
"Everything revolved around Allen," Thomas said. "Whenever he passed me the ball, I had the opportunity to shoot. There's a lot of times I was knocking down shots and he kept telling me to shoot. Obviously, Allen had some confidence in me. But it is what it is. It's over now."
When a columnist for the Sacramento Bee asked him last weekend about his coaches in Philadelphia, Thomas credited Larry Brown and Chris Ford with helping him. When he came to the last one, he said: "O'Brien - no comment."
Last night, Thomas didn't want to address any problems he might have had with O'Brien.
"It was a struggle for me, not with Coach Ford but... ," he said, letting the sentence go without an ending. "It was a different situation. It seemed like [O'Brien] had a lot of interest in other areas.
"I totally enjoyed playing with Allen. In my eyes, he's one of the greatest to ever play the game. It was a pleasure to play with him and those guys on the team. But Billy King [the Sixers' president and general manager] just felt it was time for a change, and he did what he did."
Thomas' was averaging 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game for the Kings going into last night.
Skinner has been doing far better in Sacramento than he did in Philadelphia. He started his 14th game for the Kings last night, filling in for the injured Brad Miller.
"I stepped into that role," Skinner said. "So I'm just thankful to God for giving me an opportunity to play, and I'm playing productive minutes."
Skinner played in just 24 games with the Sixers, spending most of his time on the injured list. Asked what happened, he answered: "I don't know. I really don't know. Some players are more adjusted to playing certain situations, and I wasn't one of them. I'm not going to get into it. Stuff was said behind closed doors, and I didn't agree with it all. But that's all I'm going to talk about."