It has been only a few days since Bibby was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, but he enjoyed the warm welcome.
"It was good; it made me smile," Bibby said.
Then, Ron Artest, another Kings player rumored to be leaving town, went out and provided another example why the Kings might not want to deal him. He scored 29 points and Kevin Martin had 26 for the Kings, who defeated the Hawks 119-107 on Wednesday night and spoiled Bibby's homecoming.
"He is a great player, one of probably four or five two-way players in this league that affect a game at both ends of the court," Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "He's playing smart; he's playing aggressive."
Bibby hugged well-wishing fans and arena employees before the game, then laughed and joked with his ex-teammates in pre-game warmups when he wandered toward their side of the court. The 10-year veteran received a standing ovation following a video tribute just before the game and the Arco Arena fans were on their feet and even louder moments later when Bibby waved to the crowd during player introductions.
"People never forget," Bibby said. "A lot of good things happened while I was here, and the fans were a big part of that."
Even with Bibby making his trademark jumpers and scoring 17 points, the Hawks lost their sixth consecutive game and eighth straight overall in Sacramento, where they haven't won since Feb. 23, 2000. The road has been a miserable place recently for Atlanta, which lost its seventh straight and 13th in 14 games.
It was another strong effort by Artest, who has been the subject of trade rumors for the past month. Scoring from the outside and muscling inside at times for baskets, Artest hit nine of 12 shots, 10 of 14 free throws in scoring 20 or more points for the ninth time in 10 games.
Artest, who becomes a free agent in the offseason, has reiterated this week that he wants to stay with the Kings. He praised Bibby, who missed the first 36 games this season with a thumb injury and didn't play well when he returned.
"It was good to see him and good to see him play well," said Artest, whose defense helped limit Hawks leading scorer Joe Johnson to only 16 points. "He shot like the Mike I know. They are lucky to have him."
The Kings broke up a close game with a 13-2 run early in the fourth quarter, sparked by Brad Miller, who scored six points. Beno Udrih converted a three-point play and moments later was credited with a basket on goaltending to put Sacramento ahead 117-104. Sacramento outscored the Hawks 26-17 in the fourth quarter.
"Somehow we have to get back to defending and rebounding the ball," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "We scored enough points, but we have to defend. We're not going to beat teams like this until we do."
Stepping in as a starter for Bibby, point guard Udrih contributed 18 points and 10 assists for the Kings, who have won seven of their past eight games at home. Francisco Garcia scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half and Miller added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
"We have great confidence that Beno can handle the job, that's why we keep going to him," Theus said. "He's making good decisions and I think his defense has been just as good, too."
Josh Childress scored 18 points for Atlanta, which lost by 29 points Tuesday night to the Lakers. Marvin Williams had 13 points, Joe Johnson had 12, Al Horford added 12 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out late in the game, and Josh Smith added 11 points.
Bibby admitted before the game he was anxious, nervous and also suffering from a minor injury -- a bruised right heel that happened Tuesday in a lopsided loss to the Lakers. Although Bibby has struggled with his shot this season, that wasn't the case against the Kings. He made four of five 3-pointers and had three assists in 31 minutes.
"It was weird playing him. He doesn't look good in that uniform," Garcia said jokingly. "He's a friend; you wish him the best. I hope he gets healthy."
Garcia made a pair of 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds of the third quarter to lift the Kings to a 93-90 lead heading into the fourth.
- After the Hawks complete their five-game road trip Monday, two nights later they will face the Kings at home.
- Talking before the game, Lue commented on playing with the Lakers as a visiting player during the heated rivalry with the Kings. "Shaq loved coming here and you had Phil (Jackson) on the bench with earplugs because of all the cowbells. It was crazy coming to Arco in those days."
- Kings owners Gavin and Joe Maloof took out a full-page ad in the Wednesday editions of the Sacramento Bee, thanking Bibby for his efforts during his years as a King.