Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Kings' hunt for elite guard has heightened intensity this year

Published: Sunday, Jun. 9, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 10, 2013 - 4:13 pm

The search for Bigfoot. That might be about it. Heck, Vivek Ranadive's ongoing pursuit of a general manager is in its infancy compared with the organization's annual attempt to track, identify and acquire an elite lead guard.

How long has it been? Eight years since the aging, aching Doug Christie was traded?

The list of his potential successors at times has included Beno Udrih, Bobby Brown, Quincy Douby, Francisco Garcia, Will Solomon, Tyreke Evans and Isaiah Thomas. Mike Bibby, of course, was an above-average playmaker, but he was most effective when Christie was the primary distributor and he was free to roam the floor and launch his lethal jumpers from the corners or the wings.

Fast forward to a new ownership group, to another head coach, and to another appearance at the NBA draft lottery, and Saturday's morning audition at the Kings' practice facility gains added significance. As Vlade Divac once said after eviscerating the San Antonio Spurs, "Sometimes the ball has eyes." Too often around here, the Kings suffer from a collective and contagious case of tunnel vision; they can see the basket but can't seem to find a teammate.

So while coach Michael Malone later Saturday stated the obvious – that the Kings will select the best available player if they retain the No. 7 pick – there was heightened intensity around the flurry of point guard sightings in recent days at the practice facility.

Friday, Trey Burke paid a visit. The former Michigan standout participated in an individual workout and a series of shooting and ball-handling drills, but for fear of jeopardizing his draft status as the No. 1 lead guard candidate, he refused to take part in the group sessions.

The atmosphere at Saturday's audition that featured lottery point guard prospects Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. McCollum, along with projected second-rounder Peyton Siva of NCAA national champion Louisville, was far more intense both on and off the court.

For one reason, the new boss was in town. Ranadive, who in the midst of an expansive, even exhaustive search for his top front- office executive, sat with minority owner Mark Mastrov throughout the opening session. He seemed so intent on the action, he appeared oblivious to the heat. He wore jeans and kept his lightweight athletic jacket zipped. Before flinging a backpack over his shoulders and venturing out into the heat, the new Kings owner engaged Malone in a brief, animated conversation.

"Right now, people are asking us, 'Who do you think we'll draft at (No. 7)?' " Malone said. " 'What position and what need?' And when you're coming off a season where you won 28 games, there's a lot of weaknesses."

DeMarcus Cousins is a center. Evans is a shooting guard or small forward. Thomas is too small to flourish as a starter, all of which means that once again the Kings are looking hard at point guards.

The two most intriguing prospects Saturday – Carter-Williams of Syracuse and McCollum of Lehigh – offer varied skill sets and physical tools.

At 6-foot-6, Carter-Williams has the size, length and versatility to see over defenses and defend multiple positions. Physically, he resembles a young Scottie Pippen, and not unlike the Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer during his early seasons with the Chicago Bulls, he is regarded as an excellent defender who needs work on his shooting mechanics; he cradles the ball with both hands and has a noticeably awkward, herky-jerky release.

The overriding question about the 6-foot-3 McCollum is the familiar one: What position does he play? Is he a point guard or undersized scorer? In his (foot) injury-shortened senior season, he averaged 23.9 points and 2.9 assists. What he offers, he insisted after the workout, is maturity, polish and offensive craftiness comparable to Steph Curry.

To some extent, the first test for this new Kings administration will be to avoid overreacting to any of these auditions, the temptations notwithstanding. Four years ago in similar circumstances, Ricky Rubio went through a solo workout that precipitated the Geoff Petrie-Jason Levien split. In a subsequent group session, Evans dominated Curry and Jonny Flynn, who is out of the league but that day gained supporters in the Kings' front office.

"You hear different things," noted Malone. "You catch little bits and pieces. Now, I'm really studying these guys on film; studying them hands-on is so important. Can they follow directions? Can they pick things up? To me, you always get nervous about drafting players that may be mistake players. We want to see guys, and once they understand directions, can they compete? How hard do they work? I want to get into the intangibles. What kind of a heart they have and what kind of competitive soul they have."

But don't forget the pass. Do they see, and just as important, will they see?

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin



Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Email: avoisin@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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