Not that the previous Kings administration needed to be dinged further - and in his two decades, Geoff Petrie had more hits than misses - but Kawhi Leonard's performance in the just-concluded NBA Finals isn't easing anyone into retirement. Thus, the peril of the NBA Draft. Leonard's game is simple, old-school, and brilliant. His work ethic reminds Gregg Popovich of Chris Mullin, and at 21, his performance on the big stage hints at something beyond All-Star caliber.
Leonard could have been a King. And he could have been a Warrior, though at least Golden State officials can be comforted by Klay Thompson's presence. The 6-foot-8 Leonard was available in 2011 at No.7 - the pick the Kings owned - and after draft day deal with Milwaukee (dumping Beno Udrih, re-acquiring John Salmons), he was still there when Sacramento selected at No. 10. Instead, the Kings traded for Salmons, drafted Jimmer Fredette, and the Spurs acquired Leonard at No.15 after swapping George Hill to the Indiana Pacers.
During our conversation earlier in the week, San Diego State coach Steve Fisher offered a few thoughts on Leonard, the former Aztec standout who turned pro after his sophomore season: "I thought Kawhi would be good, but not this soon, obviously. He has the biggest hands of anyone I have coached since Chris Webber (Michigan). And he has worked really hard on his shooting ... is making quite a name for himself. He is a gym rat at the top of anybody's list. I couldn't be happier for him."
Other p.m. thoughts:
* Val Ackerman, the new commissioner of the reconfigured Big East, remains the most influential figure in women's professional basketball ... next to NBA Commissioner David Stern. Ackerman, who was regarded as one of the league's original salary cap experts (just listen to Jerry West), started pressing Stern to finance a women's league in the late 1980s. She received major support from Russ Granik, Rod Thorn, Rick Welts, among others, and anticipated the inception of the WNBA in 1992 - right after the Barcelona Olympics. Instead, when the U.S. women's team faltered and the squandered the momentum, plans were tabled until Tara VanDerveer led an undefeated Team USA to a perfect record in the 1996 Games. * If you're Boston GM Danny Ainge, at least Doc Rivers (three-years, $21 million) didn't dump you for the Lakers. Besides, it's rare that so much coaching talent is still available at this point in the same offseason: George Karl, Lionel Hollins and Nate McMillan, to name a few.
* Former New York Knicks GM and Phoenix Suns assistant Al Bianchi is writing his memoirs, entitled "A Face In The Crowd: A Journeyman's Trip to the NBA." New Kings assistant GM Mike Bratz is a key figure in the book, according to Al. "Mike was a great kid," Bianchi told me Tuesday, "one of those kids who was always on the bubble. He wasn't overly quick, but could really shoot the ball, and just wanted to play. Everybody writes about the superstars, but to me, the journeymen are the most interesting."
* Mike Bibby coming to town for the NBA Draft proceedings? About time. His lethal jump shot and deceptive, change-of-pace dribble-drives have been missed. And it's interesting to see TV clips of Shaquille O'Neal dining with Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov earlier tonight in Menlo Park. Shaq - who was genuinely disappointed the Maloofs didn't attempt to sign him when he became a free agent - undoubtedly could help DeMarcus Cousins, though his schedule with TNT should give pause. So where is Bill Walton anyway? In terms of explaining fundamentals and footwork, Walton is a walking, talking, limping, genius.
* Fredette has skills, but right now, he's a 6-foot-2, catch-and-shoot player. If he improves his ballhandling and adjusts to the physicality of the league, who knows? He has excellent instincts and court vision. Meantime, he just needs to run to his spots and shoot the ball.