As many of you may have heard, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof gave a candid interview this morning on the "Rise Guys" show regarding coach Reggie Theus.
While much of his feedback (interview here) was similar to expectations set last season, Maloof ended the interview with a somewhat ominous reference to Theus and his uncertain future.
"He's got to get a system," Maloof said. "And if he gets that system and we have confidence in him and he's got a bright future with us. If he doesn't get that system, then you know, you know he better, he better try to get one quickly." - Rise Guys
I caught up with Maloof this afternoon by phone to ask him to expand on some of his points, specifically his desire for a more-defined system from Theus. As a reminder, Theus is in the final guaranteed season of his contract. Below the Q&A with Maloof is a response from Theus himself, who goes to great lengths to explain and defend his system in his own Q&A.
For more on the situation - including some relevant context - read tomorrow's Bee.
BLOG UPDATE: Read the story here.
KINGS CO-OWNER JOE MALOOF
Q: You seemed pretty vocal on the air today, and I wondered if you could expand on that.
A: I just listed a few things that we had problems with last year that we've got to get worked out. It's some of the same problems, protecting that three-point line and cutting back on turnovers.
Q: What about the young guys? You felt strongly about that last year, and this year you have Jason (Thompson) and Spencer (Hawes) playing some good ball but guys like Quincy (Douby) and Donte' (Greene) not playing much. How do you feel like Reggie is doing integrating the guys you want to build with?
A: Actually, I'm pretty pleased with how he's working the young guys in connection with the veterans. He's got a pretty good balance there. I think we've got a lot of young talent, and we've got some good veteran leadership with Brad (Miller) and John Salmons and Kevin (Martin), those kinds of guys. I think he's doing OK.
I'd like to see Donte' get in there more, and Quincy. But Quincy's been hurt. I'd like to see Donte get a little more playing time because I know he's got a really bright future if he continues to work hard.
Q: Joe, you want to see those guys play, but you also can't love what you're seeing inside Arco as it's not filling up like it used to. It's got to be killing your bottom line. How tough is it to juggle building with winning enough to keep people interested?
A: Well I think the last couple years, we didn't really have a defined roadmap for our team. Were we a veteran team, or were we going to try to rebuild? After we traded Mike (Bibby), and of course with the trade of Ron (Artest), and the acquisition of these young players that (Kings basketball president) Geoff (Petrie) has been able to get through the draft, now people can see that we do have a defined future. That's to build through youth, and at the same time have a blend of veterans like we do now with Brad and Salmons and those kinds of guys.
Now people have something to hold onto, something to look forward to. I tell ya, it's a fun thing to watch. It's pretty exciting when (Theus) turns them loose. And then we can't forget about this Bobby Brown and Beno (Udrih). I tell ya, I'm just bullish on this team. I think there's some talent here. I think Geoff has put together some good, good, good talent here. I want to make a run for the playoffs, and I think we can.
Q: You just mentioned, 'When he turns them loose,' and you mentioned a desire for a system this morning (on the radio). Explain that more for me in the context of whether Reggie is doing what you want.
A: I think he's had some ups and downs, peaks and valleys, like any young coach does or any coach who's new at it. He's doing a better job this year than he did last year. I think he needs to continue to try to definitely improve his defense, and by that I mean defending that three-point (line). I get tired of seeing all those three-pointers that everybody does. There's got to be a way to stop that.
Note: The Kings entered Friday's game ranked 29th in opponents' three-point percentage (.410).
I don't know what the answer is because I'm not a coach but there's got to be a way that he can get that stopped because that's going to cost us some games in the future and he's got to get that rectified. And then he's got to get a way to cut down on those turnovers (the Kings entered Friday's game ranked 23rd in the league at 16.2 per game and were last in the league last season with 16.1 per game) . Those two things are the two most glaring points that I see.
The positives that I see is that he is that he's getting the young players an opportunity to develop. He needs to make sure he doesn't bury any of them on the bench. I don't want them buried on the bench. That's our future. We've got to get fans back in the building, and the only way you get fans back into the building is we've got to keep the excitement, and I think it's youth-driven. That's the way it is.
If you look at our starting five some day, you're going to have Beno and Kevin and they're still young guys. You can't forget about them, and about Salmons - who's young. I think it's a very talented, skilled team that needs to button down a little bit. We need to find our direction a little more. We need to find where we're going, and that's up to Reggie to get that done.
Q: Joe, the elephant in the room is that his contract is up this summer. How short is his leash right now?
A: Well, I think Reggie's future depends upon Reggie and how he develops our young players. Just like anything in life, you have to look at your wins and losses, look at your success. Is your team progressing? Are they getting better? Can you see a bright future for your team?
The past two years, nobody knew what we were. We didn't know what we were. There was no identity. It didn't seem like there was a path. Now we've got a path with the youngsters and the blend of the veterans.
KINGS COACH REGGIE THEUS
Q: You're definitely calling a lot more plays than I think you planned on. Would you agree?
A: Yes, 100 percent. But I've shortened the package. We have a very good system. We have an absolute system. We are a C-action, high-post, double-high post team that has quite a bit of ball and body movement. Anybody who watches us play knows that we're not a team that stands. We move. We cut and we move, and that is the way that we talked about playing.
The system that we put in early was a system that would allow those guys to do those things in an early offense. The system that we put in early was an early offense system, a system that you could run a continuity out of.
On why he's calling so many half-court sets and not relying on the the triangle-esque offense that was implemented in training camp ...
Well we may be a little bit young to (pause). It's a system that has a lot of reads, a system that you have to be patient with, a system that a lot of veteran teams have run and been very successful and won championships with. But it's a system that takes experience and a system that takes a little time to put in and to gather.
The best part of that is that we haven't run it very much. But every time we run it now, it's run perfectly - which is nice, because it's there and it's always going to be there. And it's still an early offensive system.
What I was trying to do was to not call so many set plays during the course of the game. But what I've been doing is finding places where the guys work best at, putting them in a set and letting them play but still allowing them to play freer. The concept is the same in terms of trying to let them play, just utilize the floor and utilize Brad and utilize the cuts and things. Those are still the same.
Q: Has it slowed you down, though? You guys aren't running all that much.
A: No, I don't think so. I don't think it's slowed us down. The focus was on getting out and scoring. Now the last few games, we have gotten quite a few fast breaks. I want them to run - we're not a run-and-gun team. We want to be an up-tempo team, a team that gets out and looks for easy baskets, and looks to get the ball down the court, but we're not a team that's going to forcefeed the run.
As we rebound better, we've gotten more opportunities. We're not far off from our early gameplan. It's just been manipulated and that's what you do. I always say, 'Offense is living and it's breathing. It evolves.' My job is not to put in a system and make my players run it. My job is to put in a system and allow my players to let me know what works for them, and that's what we're doing.
I'm making adjustments as we go, finding out more about Jason all the time and what he can do and what he can't do. Spence has been playing in a good place. Brad has been playing. Everybody seems to be in a good place offensively, so we have to continue to build on that.
The double high-post is perfect for us, and it's also run out of the 1-4 system. We have bigs who can shoot and pass, so we have to pull them away from the basket and give them room and give the guys room to play out of it. That is our system. And if you watch it, it's very similar to what Houston does, very similar. He's run the high post system a long time.
Q: In preseason, I was surprised with how at ease you seemed with the reality of your situation. You had made it clear that you wanted that third year (option picked up), and you just kind of said, 'It is what it is and I'm going to go do the job I'm going to do.' But do you have any sense of how long of a leash you have this year or kind of what the state of affairs is?
A: In all honesty, Sam, I'm just doing my job. I'm doing my job like I always have.
Q: Are you coming to work every day wondering what's next?
A: I'm coming to work with my hard hat on, lights blinking. That's what I do. Whatever they decide to do, it's up to them. I think if you were putting a checklist together in terms of what we said in the beginning of the season and what's going on right now, I think we've done that. I will be here with my hard hat on, doing my job. That's what I do. - Sam Amick