Cemented on the bench, figuratively miles away from Kings coach Rick Adelman, Scot Pollard was wondering if he made a mistake.
Fresh off waivers, Pollard signed with Sacramento looking for the playing time he never got with the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. Adelman had little use for the 6-foot-11 center, who played a total of three minutes in his first month.
In his second year in the NBA, Pollard was noted more for his flamboyant style of wicked sideburns and painted fingernails.
But then the Jazz came to the California capital city for a game March 30. With Chris Webber sick, Adelman told Pollard to be ready.
Pollard, whose father, Pearl, starred for the University of Utah 40 years ago, watched in dismay as Adelman went with an untested rookie in the first quarter. Finally, the call came.
"I was fortunate enough to take advantage of that opportunity to show that I could play," said Pollard, who grew up in Murray before moving to San Diego in junior high school.
In his first real NBA test, Pollard responded with 11 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and two steals in 36 minutes. Often guarding Karl Malone, Pollard helped spearhead Sacramento's upset in overtime.
"I wasn't a real genius in playing him," Adelman said. "Sometimes, the last guys give you energy you don't always find."
A professional career was born. Buoyed by his effort against the Jazz, Pollard began making his way into Sacramento's playing rotation.
With Webber injured for Sacramento's final five games, Pollard averaged 11.2 points and nine rebounds a game as the Kings went 4-1.
In relief of Vlade Divac and Webber, Pollard played 18 minutes against the Jazz in his first playoff game Saturday. On Wednesday, he grabbed the game's final rebound and after getting fouled, hit one of two free throws to cement Sacramento's three-point win that gives the Kings a 2-1 series lead.
"You have to be ready when you get your shot," Pollard said. "A lot of it is timing. Some guys, when they get their shot, they're not ready. I was fortunate that I happened to have a good game when I finally got quality minutes."
A long time coming. After a solid career at Kansas, Pollard was a surprise first-round draft pick of the Pistons. He played in 35 games as a rookie.
Shortly after the lockout was lifted, Pollard learned from his teammates that he was part of the Christian Laettner trade with the Hawks. Life in Atlanta was not a peach. Saddled with the flu, Pollard started the season on the injured list. Without a future in Atlanta, he requested his release.
Within hours, his agent Jeff Austin -- who also represents Kansas alums Greg Ostertag and Jacque Vaughn -- hooked up Pollard with the Kings.
"He just does a lot of things that don't show up in the box score," said Geoff Petrie, Sacramento's vice president of basketball operations.
On a team full of scorers, Pollard is a garbage man. It's the same role he played in college, when he was surrounded by Ostertag, Vaughn and future NBA lottery picks Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz.
"I was the fifth option at Kansas," Pollard said. "I can handle taking out the trash in the pros."
For the last week, he also has become a ticket broker. Pollard has two brothers, Neal and former Brigham Young player Alan, who live in northern Utah. With few of his teammates using their playoff tickets in Utah, Pollard has negotiated enough for his family.
Pollard, who wears No. 31 -- the same number his deceased father wore at Utah -- believes the Kings can win.
"On those nights when everything is clicking for us, we're tough," said Pollard said. Spoken by a man who showed some toughness in holding Karl Malone scoreless on three straight touches.
BY PATRICK KINAHAN
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE