NEW ORLEANS -- He wouldn't have been Sacramento's savior, but he would have helped.
Bobby Jackson, the former Kings point guard who used to back up Mike Bibby without missing a beat, shook his head in disbelief after his Hornets routed the Kings 104-90 in Wednesday night's regular-season opener.
Jackson knew as well as anyone the significance of Bibby's absence because of a torn thumb ligament, one that was only beginning and had some 10 weeks still to go.
He knew, as fellow Hornets point guard Chris Paul had said the day before, that these Kings were nothing close to the Kings the league had come to know.
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He knew, and this was the surprising part, that had Hornets general manager Jeff Bower not declined a trade with the Kings over the summer, Jackson might have been the kind of veteran presence Sacramento needed.
The trade, Jackson said, would have sent forward Kenny Thomas to New Orleans and Jackson and small forward Rasual Butler to the Kings.
As it was, it went nowhere. Some months later, the same could be said for the Kings.
The debut of coach Reggie Theus was predictable in its outcome, with the Kings still reeling from the loss of Bibby and absence of Ron Artest (league suspension). The Hornets returned to the Big Easy's New Orleans Arena with an easy victory in which they led by as many as 26 points.
The Kings allowed a 15-3 run to end the half. In the third quarter, Sacramento was outscored 30-19 and trailed 87-61.
It was reminiscent of the 2005 regular-season opener, when the Kings lost by 26 points in the Hornets' Oklahoma City debut.
"The league loves to schedule us against them, I guess," Kings center Brad Miller said. "I've been around this league long enough to know it's a tough environment where you're going to have to play a great game as a team. And obviously, we didn't do that."
This wasn't so much the beginning of a new point guard era as it was the start of a point guard carousel. Third-year player Orien Greene was in for the first six-plus minutes, containing Paul with one missed shot but failing to stop him from sharing the ball with three early assists.
Second-year guard Quincy Douby took over, lasting until midway through the second quarter when a blind screen from Hornets center Tyson Chandler gave him a mild concussion. Douby did not return.
The combined line from the Bibby-less point guard group? Six points and two assists. Paul had 22 points and 12 assists.
"Anytime you don't have Mike Bibby or Ron Artest on the floor, it's definitely different," Paul said. "I really think they're a talented team. ... I think it's only a time until they find their groove."
There was no groove in the Kings' frontcourt. Mikki Moore, Thomas, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Miller and rookie Darryl Watkins were outmanned by Hornets forward David West and Chandler, and Sacramento was outrebounded 44-34.
"I told them before the game that rebounding and Chris Paul getting into the lane was going to be our problem, and that was our problem," Theus said. "It's beyond frustrating (to be without players), but you have no choice to deal with it. The one thing I told my guys they didn't stop playing hard, because we were down big."