When it comes to getting the basketball from one end of the court to the other in a hurry, and then doing something good with it once there, few players are in a class with Kansas City's Phil Ford.
Not even Ford knows what will happen when he goes flying up court, though.
"You have to let things develop when you're out leading the break," he said. "I don't know what I'm going to do until it happens. One of the worst things you can do is have your mind made up too soon. I like to get assists, but when I get into the scoring area -- in the lane -- I'm looking to score."
Mainly because of Ford's quickness and ability to penetrate a defense, the Kings have become one of the NBA's premier fast-breaking teams.
"We like to run, run, run," said Ford.
The kings, one of the hottest teams in the league right now, having won seven in a row and 15 of their last 18 after beating San Diego last night to tie for the Midwest Division lead, will play at Capital Centre tonight at 8:05 against the unpredictable Bullets.
"Any team that fast-breaks well gives us trouble and Kansas City really pushes the ball up the floor quickly," said Bullet Coach Dick Motta. r
The fast break has been one of the missing parts from the Bullets game most of this season. In 28 games so far, they have been outscored on the break 21 times.
The Kings beat the Bullets all three times they played last season.
Ford is the primary reason.
"He penetrates as quick as hell and he plays with a great deal of enthusiasm," said Motta. "He's some player."
The 6-2 Ford is scoring 18.2 points a game, compared to 15.9 last season when he was rookie of the year. He is also averaging 7.2 assists a game.
One reason Ford is so effective is that he is flanked by two outstanding shooters -- Otis Birdsong and Scott Wedman.
"It's great for me to be able to play with shooters as great as Bird and Scotty," Ford said. "They're going to hit the open shot a lot more often than they're going to miss it.
I know Otis has the reputation for being such a great shooter, but he can also put the ball on the floor and create his own shots if he has to."
The 6-4 Birdsong is averaging 22.3 points a game, Wedman 18.3.
Things haven't always been so rosy for the Kings, however. Just two seasons ago, they finished last in the Midwest Division, 20 games below .500.
Then they hired Cotton Fitzsimmons as coach, drafted Ford and won the division title with a 48-34 record last season.
They stumbled in the playoffs, however, losing to the Phoenix Suns in five games in the Western Conference semifinals as Ford shot a dismal 26 per cent and averaged only 5.8 assists and 7.8 points.
The Kings started this season losing 11 of their first 16, but then finally started clicking.
"At the beginning of the season we were playing hard, but we just weren't winning," Ford said. "We're a better team than we were last year. We have more experience playing together and we have a great chemistry here."
The Kings, Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks are the only teams that start the same lineups they finished with last season.
"The only real difference in my game from last year is that I am scoring more," Ford added. "The defenses are letting me inside and I'm taking advantage of it."
The Kings have also improved their defense and, as it is with so many fast-breaking teams, their defense keys their offense. Kansas City leads the NBA in forcing turnovers and is second in steal.
"We like to force things," Ford said. "We want to pressure a team as much as we can."
The other Kansas City starters are Sam Lacey and Bill Robinzine.
On the bench are three former Atlantic Coast Conference players, Len Elmore of Maryland, Tom Burleson of North Carolina State and Gus Gerard of Virginia.