Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

July 25, 2006
The next Bobby Jackson?

An unproven NBA talent came to Sacramento, his career statistics nothing too impressive and no indication that significant success was on the horizon.

No, we’re not talking about the Kings’ latest addition, utilityman John Salmons. We’re talking about Bobby Jackson, the former Kings’ super reserve who was used today as a comparison by Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie.

The lesson, Petrie was intimating, is that opportunity and fit are vital parts of a player’s success, and that the stat line, certainly, doesn’t always tell the whole story. Before the Kings signed Jackson in 2000, he had averaged 5.1 points and 2.4 assists in 73 games with Minnesota in what was his third season. Then after averaging 7.2 points in his first season with the Kings, Jackson averaged 13 points per game in the next four seasons as the fan-favorite sparkplug.

Salmons - the four-year player who played in 82 games and averaged 7.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 25.1 minutes for Philadelphia last season - may very well experience similar success. If nothing else, he’ll be around teammates who know what it’s like to play with 76ers’ superstar Allen Iverson.

Salmons’ stance towards Iverson was the same as Kings forward and former 76er Kenny Thomas before him: for all of A.I.’s talents, it’s tough to get a piece of the pie on his team. That factor was enough for the Kings to investigate Salmons’ production when Iverson was not on the floor, leading to their eventual conclusion that he can do much better in a different system.

Kings coach Eric Musselman is already a huge fan of Salmons’ versatility.
“We envision when he’s at the point that he will have the ability to post up other point guards who, sometimes, are four or five inches smaller,” Musselman said. “And we envision that if we move him over to the (small forward spot), that he can be isolated and beat people off the dribble. …It’s very unique to find a player who can play (point guard, shooting guard and small forward) not only offensively, but he can do it defensively too.”

The next Bobby Jackson of sorts? Stay tuned.

- Sam Amick

July 24, 2006
Why the long wait, Geoff?

Nowhere in Geoff Petrie’s job description does it say “public relations.”

The man’s title, officially, is Kings president of basketball operations, a fancy way of saying “general manager.” But while his task, clearly, is to assemble talent for his NBA team and decide the hows and whos of a winning formula while juggling huge contracts and crunching salary cap numbers, he handled Monday’s developments in a way that left Kings fans more disenfranchised than they needed to be.

On the same day in which Petrie announced the signing of four-year forward John Salmons, he confirmed the inherent conclusion that Bonzi Wells would not be returning to the Kings. The intersection of both developments led fans all over Kings nation to a faulty deduction that the Kings chose Salmons over Wells, leaving many upset with the personnel chief.

Petrie, meanwhile, told me that the Wells talks broke down 10 days ago, which led to a question I didn’t think of, unfortunately, until hours later.

Why not return the three phone calls I left in that span to let the folks know that Wells’ return wasn’t likely? It would soften the blow of Wells’ departure, and allow fans to actually get excited about the up-and-coming Salmons. Instead, the large majority of fans I interacted with via e-mail etc. couldn’t care less about Salmons, who has enough talent to garner a $25.5 million, five-year deal from the Kings and offers of similar sorts from Toronto and Phoenix.

At the moment, it looks like the Kings severely overpaid, but – as always – we’ll see next season. Fans, though, were crushed to learn that Wells – who won them over with his hustle and toughness – would not be back. They were frustrated to no end with Petrie, who – truthfully – had a slim to none chance of satisfying Wells based on the Kings’ salary cap situation and his owners’ desires not to pay luxury tax.

It didn’t have to be that way.

– By Sam Amick


-- Sam Amick

July 14, 2006
Kings did well in Vegas

The Kings are done with their second annual Vegas summer league, and the team’s only bad news was second-year swingman Francisco Garcia’s bone spur that will keep him off the court for three weeks. Rookie draft pick Quincy Douby – formerly a shooting guard at Rutgers – embraced the project of grooming him to run the point, though training camp in October will truly tell if he is capable of playing the new position this season.
Third-year shooting guard Kevin Martin flourished as he should. The comeback award goes to second-year point guard Ronnie Price, who had some rough moments early but finished strong (31 points against Dallas in the finale as the Kings finished 4-1). While at Utah Valley State, Price didn’t do much distributing, as he was expected to start and finish plays on the offensive end. He is a very capable defender, but needs to improve his passing game.
Former UNLV forward Louis Amundson – who has been signed to a partially guaranteed contract and invited to camp – was the surprise of the session for the Kings. Don’t be surprised if he is joined in camp by Justin Williams, the Wyoming shot-blocker who played well, and Eugene “Pooh” Jeter, the former University of Portland point guard who showed enough to impress the Kings coaches.
– Sam Amick

July 13, 2006
See ya, Vegas, in 7 months

In seven months, they’ll do it all over again.
Professional basketball players will be scattered about Sin City, with fans and media on hand to capture it all while the normal Las Vegas goings on coincide with the special hoops event.
But comparing the NBA’s summer league to its Vegas All-Star game in February is like having a Margarita at your house and calling it Mardi Gras. And if there’s one conclusion to come to after this “preview” for the NBA’s midseason party, it’s that the city isn’t even close to being ready for the scene to come.
Vegas is a crammed city to begin with, nowhere moreso than the flashy parking lot that is the Las Vegas strip. When the Kings and Lakers played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center – site of the 2007 All-Star game - last preseason, traffic was a nightmare, too. So what will happen when the players aren’t rookies and roster fillers, but the game’s biggest stars? The proximity to L.A. means there will be plenty of Hollywood types and a huge hip-hop draw, luring in the E! Channels, MTVs and Entertainment Tonights that will join the ESPNs and endless other sports media. Hotel rates across town have already been set at absurd rates, a clear indicator that greed will rein when the demand far outweighs supply. In a word, chaos will define the spectacle. And I just might rent a mo-ped to get around.
– Sam Amick

July 12, 2006
Leaving Las Vegas

One day more.
No, not the theme song from the Broadway play, Les Miserables, but the time left on my annual tour of duty in Las Vegas. I’m hardly expecting sympathy, but this city can certainly wear on you after anything more than three days (this is Day No. 7 for me). This trip is nothing like last summer league, in which the Kings’ stay was two days longer and the trip went two days extra (for a grand total of four) when I was assigned to cover the World Series of Poker. By the end, I was truly one of Les Miserables.
And still, chances are none of that was as exhausting as those arena discussions over at the Palms Casino yesterday. Both city officials and the Kings owners came out of the marathon discussions with, essentially, the same message: there was some progress, but much more work left to do. Considering these talks, potentially, could go down as historical in the regional sports perspective, you’d think being on the scene would be quite a treat – excitement, tension and drama filling the air. At least that’s what I thought when I ventured over to the Palms even though I wasn’t on arena-watch duty.
It would have been more gripping from my couch in Sacramento. There was no vibe, no buzz, just a mid-size pack of media trying to keep from upsetting the resident security staff while playing the waiting game. Kings-wise, the day wasn't that much more interesting.
They had no game, only practice, in which forward Louis Amundson sat out with a sore knee, rookie guard Quincy Douby played after taking the previous game off with a sore right Achilles, and the only new injury was when coach Eric Musselman’s son, Michael, took a short tumble from the mini-bleachers. He bumped his head, but it sure comes in handy when dad has a training staff at the ready.
The Kings play Dallas tonight in their summer league finale, in which they may play without Kevin Martin. The third-year shooting guard has already done what he came here to do: show that his offensive game is reaching new heights and his defense continues to improve. Should free agent Bonzi Wells not return to Sacramento, Martin will be expected to carry a whole lot more of the scoring load. As always, there’s the disclaimer that this is only summer league, but he has averaged 22.8 points per game (third behind Minnesota’s Randy Foye and Houston’s John Lucas). He’s done it, though, while going 100 mph, which has resulted in some minor back spasms – hence the possible rest. I guess I’m not the only one ready for a break.
– Sam Amick

July 11, 2006
Music to Artest's ears

Warren LeGarie is a smart man.

The orchestrator of all things summer league (who is an agent for coaches otherwise) was thrilled to hear that he'd have Kings forward Ron Artest as a blockbuster attraction. So when the idea arose to play a track off of Artest's rap CD before the Kings game against the New York Knicks, LeGarie had no problem making Artest happy.

Did he ever.

When "Dirty North" was piped out to the Cox Pavilion crowd, Artest went nuts in a good way, running over to media director Dennis Rogers and eager to show his appreciation with - what else? - his own CDs.

He unloaded 200 of them, enough to cover at least half the crowd that watched the Kings fall 79-78 for their first summer league loss. For a while, it seemed like the game would never begin.

The game prior was a ludicrous whistle-fest between Detroit and Phoenix, one that resulted in 96 fouls. And that's in four quarters of summer league play where they have just 10 minute quarters, good for a 2.4 fouls per minute ratio.

Once the game began, the Kings and Knicks engaged in a back and forth affair. Kings point guard Ronnie Price locked down on Knicks mini-mite Nate Robinson in the final minute, sparking a fastbreak layup from Kevin Martin to put the Kings up 76-75. But Price was whistled for a touch foul on the next sequence, putting Robinson at the line and giving the Knicks a lead they didn't lose.

The Kings played without rookie draft pick Quincy Douby, who has a sore right Achilles but should play on Wednesday. Artest wasn't around to see it, though, as he left the grounds early in the second half and left minutes for the youngsters. An early swan song for the aspiring musician, you could say.
--Sam Amick

July 10, 2006
New York state of mind

The Kings decided to skip shootaround this morning, electing to rest throughout the day before their game this evening. Just guessing here, but I'm thinking
there's a fair number of players working on their tans and watching eye candy over at the Palms Casino Resort.

And considering their next opponent, who could blame them? Here come the New York Knicks, who bring their own exhausting drama and super stage even here at summer league. The saga of Larry Brown is over, the Knicks having fired their former coach and general manager Isaiah Thomas taking over.

Thomas, as always, has been trailed by the gargantuan pack of New York
media this week. Another sign the Kings' opponent is just a little different? The game will be televised, albeit on delay. NBATV is airing it on July 15 at 7
p.m. The Kings' finale on Wednesday will also be aired
(July 18, NBATV 9 p.m.)

The Knicks draw a different crowd here, the fans greater in number and decibel level. They are hard core, with 14-year-olds yelling suggestions to the Channing Fryes/Nate Robinsons/David Lees during midgame. Many of them spend the entire day trying to compile autographs, trailing players and quick with a New York-style crack if they get blown off. Strange as it sounds, the energy seems to carry onto the court, where the Knicks' show just seems a little more juiced than the rest. And their youngsters can provide a
thrill. Lee has been as entertaining as always, the high-flyer averaging 20.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. And Robinson, the reigning slam dunk champ, is
placating the crowd whenever they want the 5-foot-9 leaper to throw it down.

Then again, they were a hoot to watch last summer league, too, before proceeding to win 23 games. And as New York Times writer Howard Beck
pointed out, the irony is thick in the Knicks' selection of hotels. They are staying, of course, at the Wynn.
--Sam Amick

July 9, 2006
What happens in Vegas...


So Las Vegas being what it is - the adult Disneyland of the world and ultimate sensory overload experience for many - there is more to this summer league experience than basketball.

There is, for those in the basketball world, the Palms Casino Resort, that ever-expanding tower off the strip that is owned by the Maloofs. Not every NBA player, coach, executive, or agent is staying there. One who is not is Bonzi Wells’ agent, William Phillips, citing a conflict of interest if he did rest his head at the Palms, considering the ongoing negotiations of his former King free agent.

But the Palms certainly has the largest contingent. Just last night, a colleague of mine (San Francisco Chronicle writer Janny Hu) ran into Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo. Literally. He tried to pass on the right, got crossed up at the legs and apologized while flying by and licking his ice cream. It was a Palms moment.

The same could’ve been said for an evening at the Ghost Bar, that infamous party spot atop the casino with the breathtaking view of the city’s landscape. As it turns out, they won’t let you in with shorts, even if you’re willing to pay the $25 cover charge, meaning yours truly shared the killjoy award for the evening with Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Speaking of fine viewings, the Maloofs can’t watch Louis Amundson enough. For those coming late, he’s the former UNLV forward who went undrafted, despite numerous reports that he was the most impressive player at pre-draft camp in Orlando in June. Amundson - who has been signed by the Kings and will be at training camp in October - only had five points and three rebounds in the Kings’ win over Toronto on Sunday, but the fans went home remembering his thunderous putback dunk. Amundson has shown on numerous occasions now that he comes packed with power, and the putback came after he sprung from some five feet away, reached back to catch the ball and throw it down. Joe Maloof, the Kings co-owner who doesn’t decide playing time, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Amundson make the team and play a vital role this season. No one will be viewing Francisco Garcia for at least a month, as he discovered on Sunday that he has a bone spur in his left foot.

Otherwise, it was another solid day for Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin, who had 27 points despite getting drilled over and over by the Raptors’ Joey Graham. It was all the Oklahoma State product could do, because he certainly couldn’t stay in front of Martin. Top pick Andrea Bargnani (Italian who went No. 1 to Toronto in June 28 draft) continues to look worthy of the selection. He was 5-for-8 for 12 points, hitting both of his three-pointers and even ripping a reverse dunk between two Kings players. He’s something else, and something tells me he could get into the Ghost Bar with shorts on.
- Sam Amick


July 8, 2006
Kings get defensive

As Gavin Maloof himself noted, this is only summer league.

But two days into the Las Vegas affair, the Kings co-owner and family are ecstatic with their first impressions of new coach Eric Musselman and his six assistants.

There has been an early and heavy emphasis on defense, and the way the Kings played it in Friday night's win over New Orleans nearly had Gavin jumping out of his seat at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion. Seated next to his mother, Colleen, he raved about the full-court pressure, how players were taking charges and diving for balls.

The real litmus test, obviously, will be carrying this summertime vibe into the regular season. What’s more, that will be the only comparison to the old regime that matters. While Musselman has allowed the media to watch practice (where defense has certainly been emphasized), former Kings coach Rick Adelman always dropped the curtain come practice time, leaving many to wonder and some to speculate about his style. Adelman always took, err, offense to those who said he didn’t work much on defense, though many former Kings substantiated that claim. Nonetheless, his approach resulted in a winning stretch of historic proportions for the organization. And until the new regime makes its own history - or at least produces relative success - all the defense chatter is just hype. This is, as Gavin said, just summer league.

Extra, extra: Louis Amundson just might be a perfect fit for the Kings. The former UNLV forward who signed with the team Saturday is a classic role player – strong with his 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame, but quick as well. During Saturday’s practice, strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro put the players through a quick-step drill in which they tapped through a ladder-shaped prop on the ground. Amundson was flying, his feet tapping the floor with the beat of an over-caffeinated drummer. Third-year shooting guard Kevin Martin was, like always, the speediest of the bunch, but I was impressed by Amundson. And if hoops doesn’t work out for him, he has the perfect look (solid frame and rugged face) to be headlining heavyweight bouts over at the MGM Grand.
There was some news out of practice, none of it good for Kings fans. Second-year swingman Francisco Garcia left the court with a sore left foot, and was sent back to Sacramento for an X-ray. The foot had been bothering him during the past few days.

Also, small forward Ron Artest won't play in Sunday's summer league game, as he previously committed to a basketball event in Los Angeles.
– Sam Amick

July 7, 2006
Artest's choke-job

Ron Artest choked on Friday.

Not in a small way, either. This qualified as one of the worst choke jobs I’d ever seen, enough to warrant the Heimlich from any Kings fans passing by. Of course, it had nothing to do with hoops, and everything to do with horseradish.

Shortly after the Kings small forward had his first practice with new coach Eric Musselman, he dined at a restaurant in the Maloof-owned Palms Casino in Las
Vegas, where Artest promptly stopped munching on the fried noodles that led to the near-disaster. It was, as third-year shooting guard Kevin Martin noted, the all-New York table with Artest, swingman Francisco Garcia, and rookie shooter Quincy Douby on hand.

That’s the running joke about this team lately, considering Artest is from Queensbridge, while Garcia and Douby are from Brooklyn. And while it was the first meeting between Artest and Douby, it was the less anticipated meet and greet of the day.

That morning, it was Musselman who was trying to spoon feed his new system to Artest and the youngsters in preparation for Artest’s summer league debut on Friday night. Musselman was all over the floor, but he went out of his way on numerous occasions to break things down for Artest, who said he supports the new coach and gave positive reviews about their first experience. The comic relief was in the corner, where Musselman’s two sons played and, at times, fought over a handheld video game system to pass the time. And, of
course, they were both sporting Ron Artest t-shirts.

Highlights from the action before the Kings game included the first Amare Stoudemire showing. The Phoenix center whose comeback from microfracture
surgery last year continues looked good, scoring 21 points to go with seven rebounds, seven fouls and six turnovers against Minnesota– a true summer league line.

The defensive play of the day went to Texas product LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland. Aldridge, who was selected second overall by Chicago and traded to the Trail Blazers, met Golden State’s Will Bynum at the rim for a monster block. Bynum had come flying from the left with a Michael Jordan-esque dunk attempt before he was stuffed and sent to the deck.

– Sam Amick

July 7, 2006
Kings summer league

Day 1 of summer league finished nicely for the Kings, who looked pretty bad early on but recovered for a respectable performance in a win over Minnesota.

As NBA scenes go, summer league is a unique one. The games for all 16 teams take place at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion, which is adjacent to the college’s larger venue – the Thomas & Mack Center. The crowds vary greatly, with a large portion of the viewers qualifying either as NBA executives, scouts, coaches, or player agents. For the fans, that means you’re rubbing elbows with some of the most well-known decision makers in the game, even if you don’t know it (who studies mug-shots of general managers?).

The letdown of the day was the absence of small forward Ron Artest, who may play Friday afternoon but could also wait until Sunday's game. In his absence, Toronto center Andrea Bargnani was the biggest name on the docket.

The No. 1 draft pick from Italy showed plenty of skill, hitting from long range and throwing down a putback dunk against Washington. He struggled with the
basics, though, traveling three times. And after his dunk, another international talent – Ukrainian big man Oleksiy Pecherov – countered with a fastbreak dunk of his own. If Pecherov hadn’t been drafted by Washington with the 18th overall pick, the Kings would have given him a long, hard look. As it was, they went with Rutgers shooter Quincy Douby.

The Kings rookie had a decent debut, showcasing his shooting skills in the second half. Fans will soon see, though, that he is already a solid ballhandler,
the product of running the show so often as a one-man scoring machine at Rutgers.
-Sam Amick



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