Kings Blog and Q&A

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

December 15, 2006
Longing for the good old days

Question: As a longtime Kings fan, I really miss the offense of past years when they would back door you to death. Now I notice the other teams are running on the Kings and scoring easy baskets as Barbosa (Suns) did the other night and have seen other teams do the same since. I really thought the Kings could have won that game had they not givin up all those layups and three-pointers. Their defense started out pretty well at the beginning of the year What has happened and where is the offense we are so used to?

- Paul, Pinetop, Ariz.

Answer: Yeah, it's definitely a case of not knowing what you have until it's gone. I found myself thinking the same thing watching the Suns, but the Kings simply don't have enough players with that sort of mindset/passing skills or a coach with that sort of history anymore. Kings GM Geoff Petrie would love to get back to that style, but he needs help on that campaign if it's going to happen.

- Sam Amick

December 15, 2006
Time to start over?

Question: It seems to me that the Kings have two options right now. Make a huge move that could allow them to contend again, or blow up the team and try again. The only way to accomplish the first, in my opinion, is to go hard after Kevin Garnett if there's any chance. Otherwise, it seems we should dump salary, accumulate draft picks, perhaps land Greg Oden and start over. This year's draft is supposed to be very strong, and there also may be some free agents on the market this summer, like Billups, Milicic, Carter, etc.

- Rory, Sacramento

Answer: So long as Geoff Petrie is running the team and the Maloofs own it, I have a very hard time believing they'll ever be willing to start over. You are right, though, that it creates a tough middle ground when you are trying to rebuild while not taking too many steps backward. If they did, it's not as simple as dumping salary. If Mike Bibby doesn't opt out, they still have to pay him $13.5 million next season and - if he decides not to opt out again following next season - the $14.5 million after that. If they could move Kenny Thomas ($30.5 million including this season and through 2010) for someone with an expiring contract, that would help. If not, Thomas has an early termination option after next season, so maybe he exercises that and frees up space. And if nothing else, the Kings have $14 million worth of players in the last year of their contracts.

- Sam Amick

December 15, 2006

Question: Would anyone really be dumb enough to take Bibby or Miller away from us?
-- Alex, Shingle Springs

Answer: Bibby is moveable, and Miller a little trickier. Bibby is still young enough to be a very good player for years to come. And if he opts out of his contract after this season, someone could lock him up for a lowered rate (he makes $12.5 million this season) in exchange for his long-term stability. Or you could not re-sign him and clear all sorts of salary room once he's gone. As for Miller, he would be tough to move. He has three seasons beyond this one on his deal for approximately $34 million, and his reputation has only dwindled since Chris Webber and Vlade Divac left town.
-- Sam Amick

Question: Was appointing Eric Musselman as head coach a mistake? It seems he's doing the same things wrong that he did at Golden State: unclear player rotations, poor game management and a weak defense.
-- Skip Bullock, Albany, Ore.

Answer: We're a long ways from knowing the answer to that question. And when it comes to the debate over Rick Adelman vs. Musselman, it will always be, for the most part, an irrelevant one since the Maloofs-Adelman relationship had deteriorated so badly.

But on his own, Musselman has certainly had his share of tough times early in his tenure. His rotations are absolutely unpredictable, though I find it humorous how fans are sometimes never happy. With Adelman, so many fans grew tired of the 7-8 man rotation, which was predictable night in and night out. If the Kings were winning games, the rotation would be a non-factor.

And I think it's reflective of a bigger problem, that Musselman has to try to make up for huge voids - be it rebounding, scoring, defense etc. - on any given night by getting creative with the lineup. Unfortunately for the Kings, it leads to a lack of identity, which has also impacted things defensively, as you noted.
-- Sam Amick

Question: Sam, what is going on with Ron Artest? Does he really think that he is in the "go-to" category with Kobe and LeBron? He can be "the man" around the basket, but he feels that he must shoot long jumpers? Are we heading for a major power struggle with Coach Musselman?
-- Tim Smith, El Dorado

Answer: You wouldn't be the first person to think Ron has an over-inflated sense of his offensive skills. And even from an overall sense, his attitude toward team-building through the concept of one "go-to" guy is unfamiliar in Sacramento, where even Chris Webber shared the spotlight with plenty of others.

Ron is best used going to the hole or posting up, with an occasional jumper mixed in. Now whether Musselman can convince him of that is another story.

The thing with Ron is that he's at a fork in the road of sorts in his career. Known for so long as one of the game's best defenders, he entered this season determined to be recognized one of the best scorers, too. But there's a reason 99 percent of players are heralded for their play on one end of the court, and not both. It's a pretty tough juggle.
-- Sam Amick

Question: Do you think Musselman was the right coach for the Kings? They were more fun to watch under Adelman and he won more games with this same squad last year minus a few players. How do you feel about maybe going after Garnett?
-- Reggie, Fresno

Answer: If the Kings could find a package to get Garnett that wouldn't gut the entire roster, they -- along with most teams in the league -- would pull the trigger. And, really, a dominant down-low presence is the one thing the Kings have been missing for some time now.

As for Musselman, everybody loved the guy when the team was 8-5. But losing can change things. And the comparisons to last year are a little tricky. The absence of Bonzi Wells is tough to gauge since his replacement, Kevin Martin, has played so well. Ron Artest's mindset is also different this season than it was when he came in last season, another factor that is impossible to accurately gauge. Get back to me in 30 more games, when there's been ample time for this group to mold or melt.
-- Sam Amick

Question: As a Sacramento native in the nation's capitol I stay up late night after night to watch the Kings continuously allow their opponents unfettered access into the paint. What, if any, chance do the Kings have of trading for an athletic, shot-blocking big man to help alleviate our perimeter defensive mistakes? And if so, who might be available between now and the deadline?
-- MJ, Washington, D.C.

Answer: You've got to believe Kings exec Geoff Petrie would have brought one to town if they had the chance, but quality big men are in short supply. At this point, I think acquiring a younger, more athletic power forward is a higher -- and more do-able -- priority, as was evidenced by their pursuit of Seattle's Chris Wilcox.
-- Sam Amick

December 13, 2006
The Question remains

Five days later, and teams around the league are still waiting for an Answer.

The eventual destination of Philadelphia guard Allen Iverson remains unknown, with the developments in the last two days including the Kings' stance that they went from in the mix to out of the mix. And today, while reading ESPN's Marc Stein, I found his note interesting regarding Iverson having some say in the team to which he's traded.

Like Ron Artest a year ago, Iverson does not have a no-trade clause. Yet also like Artest a year ago, it appears the sheer threat of future unhappiness is enough to dissuade certain teams from taking part or the parent team from certain deals. While at the Kings-Warriors game last night, I heard the same rumor Stein reported regarding Iverson putting the kibosh on any prospect of him landing with either Northern California team. It reminded me of, once again, a year ago, when Artest's agent issued a statement detailing his supposed lack of desire to play in Sacramento. Soon thereafter, Artest was professing his happiness for landing here.

Artest's self-appointed control began with the trade demand itself. And a year later, he said on Tuesday night that he wouldn't have created problems for Indiana if they didn't respond to his trade demand.

"Just go out and play the game," Artest said when asked what he would have done if Indiana refused to trade him. "That's pretty much it. In my case, I just wanted to play. I wanted to get traded, but at the same time I was going to play and play to win."

If the story about Iverson's recent influence is true, it makes one wonder: if Philly exec Billy King doesn't find a deal he likes in the coming days, does he revisit this part of the country against Iverson's 'wishes? And if pressure is applied to Iverson like it was applied to Artest - when certain powers-that-be stepped in to remind the player that obstructing a trade just isn't allowed - could things change dramatically and quickly like they did last time? And is Iverson still wanted in these parts, or might Kings exec Geoff Petrie look for ways to be the benefactor in ways other than AI by way of a three-plus team deal?

For now, we should be calling him the Question, because the mystery remains.
-- Sam Amick

December 11, 2006
AI talk: More questions than answers

Disclaimer at the outset: when a player of superstar significance is on the trading block, speculation reaches levels before unseen. And so it is with that premise that we discuss what the powers that be might be thinking regarding the soon-to-be-traded Allen Iverson. It seems clear the Kings are somehow involved in the discussions either for Iverson or a deal involving him and perhaps other pieces and teams beyond Philadelphia.

First from the 76ersí vantage point. Hereís one thing I havenít heard discussed: beyond Iversonís trade demand, team president Billy King has an equally unhappy Chris Webber on his hands. Less than a month ago, Webber told The Beeís Scott Howard-Cooper that he wanted out, then later said he merely wanted to play a role that included the fourth quarter.

Either way, Webber is considered as close to untradeable as they come. But if Philly convinced the Kings to send Mike Bibby their way, one would think Webber - his close friend and Kings teammate from 2001 to 2004 - would be ecstatic. Not sure what thatís worth, especially since Webber is clearly not the focal point of the 76ersí concerns, but itís something.

Also, Philly gets to try Bibby for at least the remainder of the season. If the mix works, all parties move forward building from there. If Bibby - who has this season and next remaining on his deal but also has an early termination option available for after this season - opts out, Philly has salary cap space galore two seasons earlier than they would have if Iverson stuck around.

And, of course, the Sixers may demand that one of the Kings' young talents is included in the deal, so as to guarantee that the future beyond the next few seasons is, on some level, being considered.

Chances are, Bibby would be thrilled to be anywhere so long as he had a chance to shine enough this season to give him momentum going into possible free agency. His agent, David Falk, had been seen with alarming frequency of late, schmoozing with Petrie and the Maloofs at Arco Arena and perhaps requesting an extension so as to remove the mystery of Bibbyís marketability come summer time.

Now from the Kings standpoint, itís tough to gauge what theyíre thinking regarding Iverson because, well, the question of whose mindset matters at the moment is again coming into play. Around the league, the general consensus is that Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie likely wouldnít pursue Iverson, just as so many thought he would never go after Ron Artest. But the Maloofs showed in their push to get Artest last year that they are willing to take their gambling ways to the NBA forum.

Could their thinking, perhaps, be that a) the Kings offense has been struggling with Bibby at the helm, and Iverson is the one player who could guarantee a high-rate of scoring that doesnít require fancy offensive sets, or b) ticket sales are lagging, and AI could certainly provide a boost there, and c) that the one-two punch of Iverson on offense and Artest on defense would be, in the simplest of equations, exactly the sort of bookend ballers that lead to championships? Again, pure guess-work here.

There are a thousand other angles, of course, including a locker room chemistry question that is a whole separate topic and the fact that maybe Bibby wouldnít be the centerpiece of the deal after all. There is the fact that the Kings could merely be a third, fourth, or fifth team in a mega-deal that would allow them to move certain players theyíve been eager to unload. There is also the reality that, as the 76ers have indicated, half the teams in the league have called about Iverson, meaning the Kingsí intentions or deductions may not matter in the least.
-- Sam Amick

Stagnant offense

Question: Where in the world is the Kings team we used to know and love? Just walked out on watching the Heat game - this edition of the 'team' is sad. Guy with the rock does 'his thing', the rest stand around. What happened to the idea of moving the ball and all moving at one time? Back in the day when teams could not guard them because they all were moving. Now, the 'D' gets to stand and rest (4 do) which one guy is the 'D.' What is the coaching staff doing about this? -- Ross Stone, Elk Grove

Answer: The idea of moving the ball is alive and well within the Kings locker room, just not the practice. While the Kings had a season-high tying 25 assists in Sunday night's win over Atlanta, it remains to be seen if they can learn to share the ball on a consistent basis. They are definitely guilty of too much isolation play, or at least guys who seem pretty caught up in their own attack rather than the collective one. As for the coaching staff, they're telling the players to move the ball. But truthfully, it seems like the message must come from those who were around to see it work so well in past years, from Mike Bibby to Brad Miller to Kevin Martin and a few others.
-- Sam Amick

Stop the clock or not?

Question: Iwas wondering why the Kings didn't take a time out with 9 seconds left in the game and trying to break a losing streak? The Kings weren't shooting well all night and they have no go-to guy like Wade, so why not set up a play that at least has a chance of success. It appeared that again the coach lacked the ability to control his team when it really needed his words of wisdom. -- Steve Rapaport, Stockton

Answer: I agreed with Kings coach Eric Musselman on this one. It's never good to let a defense get set for a potential game-winning play, and it's tough to argue with the shot the Kings had. Mike Bibby had a good look at the rim from close range, and was fouled by Dwyane Wade and didn't get the call. Granted, Musselman has found some success with plays out of timeouts, but this was a time to push the tempo and catch the Heat off-guard for what could have been a shocking win instead of another tough Kings loss.
-- Sam Amick

A question of size

Question: I personally feel the Kings lack the overall size and athleticism it takes to be a legit half-court team. You have to be able to post-up defenders (especially with your power forwards). Do you feel that the Kings have the personnel it takes to be the half-court team they are trying to be? As far as defense goes, how can you be a defense-oriented team without a legit shot blocker? -- James, Chico

Answer: Both good questions. The Kings most definitely lack a shot blocker, and the lack of one has serious ramifications on their defensive capabilities. And as far as being a half-court team, their most dangerous post threat - Ron Artest - has a hard time getting down there from his small forward position. And another capable option - Shareef Abdur-Rahim - is nowhere near as dangerous as he was a few years ago, partially due to the lack of athleticism you referenced. And Kenny Thomas' offensive game is in and out to begin with, not to mention that his best skills are in the mid-range game. Not the best mix for half-court play by any means.
-- Sam Amick

Comparing guards

Question: For all intents and purposes, I think it'd be a terrific idea to trade for Iverson perhaps for Mike Bibby, who btw has his father on the sidelines and would probably make C-Webb happier in Philly. Iverson is far superior to Bibby in every way. Agree or disagree? -- Ed, Washington

Answer: I don't even have to make an argument for Bibby vs. Iverson, as the All-Star appearances do it for me. It's seven to none, in Iverson's favor. And how about this: a "Hall-of-Fame monitor" statistic compiled by basketballreference.com. According to the site, a likely Hall-of-Famer should have a score of 135 or greater. Iverson is at 237, while Bibby is at 91. Mike has been very good for a long time, but Iverson has been great.
-- Sam Amick

December 5, 2006
Finding the elusive big man

Question: I've been perplexed by Petrie drafting SGs the last three drafts. Obviously the pick of Francisco and K-Mart seems to be pretty good. While I dont doubt Douby will be good, he is still a project. How come the Kings didn't grab a big man to keep as a project? Is this simply a problem with roster space, or have no big men have been available for Petrie to sign/draft and develop? Do the Kings feel its easier to just acquire bigs via free agency? Why didnt they keep Amundson or Williams to develop for the future?
-- Jeff, San Francisco

Answer: I hit the Douby question on another post (look below), so I'll focus on the question of the big man. It's pretty clear that big men aren't all that easy to find via free agency, and I'm pretty sure the Kings are on a constant search to upgrade their front line. There were big men available in the draft, although the ones of any predicted quality were essentially gone by the time Petrie's No. 19 pick came along. In general, I think Petrie just sees more upside with a guy like Douby, who could one day be a dangerous shooting specialist like he was at Rutgers. It all goes back to the basic ideology that drives the franchise, that love for acquiring scorers and shooters that so many teams lack. They were very high on both Amundson and Williams, but clearly not high enough.
-- Sam Amick

December 5, 2006
Bibby's health

Question: I follow the Kings from afar, and have two questions that aren't fully answered in the box scores: How hurt is Mike Bibby? And how healthy is Brad Miller now? Bibby's numbers (esp. shooting) have been down and Miller's just come back from injury.
-- Wade Bloggs, New York

Answer: In Bibby's words, he is "a machine." The man simply won't admit an injury unless it's enough to put him on the inactive list. That being said, I don't think his hand is affecting his shot like before, though he continues to lose the fight against accuracy. As for Miller, he's improving by the day, and could be considered healthy. He's running fine, not hobbling or looking like there are any adverse effects of the torn tendon in his left foot that put him out for eight games.
-- Sam Amick

December 5, 2006
The big picture

Itís official: the Kings are fed up with losing to teams they feel they can beat. Monday night was the latest example, as they lost to an Orlando team that had the look of an Eastern Conference champion coming in.

Throwing away the Magicís blowout loss to the Clippers on Sunday night, they had won 12 of their previous 14 games despite eight of them coming on the road. Really, the Kings were a Kevin Martin or Mike Bibby three-pointer from pulling the upset -- though the combo was 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. And they nearly pulled off the upset without Ron Artest, whose back problem is starting to look like the sort of injury that he may have to battle through for much of the season.

Games like these may be the difference when playoff seeds are handed out in late April. Officially, the 8-8 Kings are in eighth place in the Western Conference, ahead only in tie-breaker fashion of .500 teams New Orleans, Golden State, and the Clippers. Howís that for a sign that plenty of decent teams will be watching the postseason from their couch a few months from now?

Whatís more, the underlying elements arenít in the Kings favor. Theyíre still taking chemistry lessons, are inconsistent defensively, have had plenty of injuries to slow them down, and are showing the same road woes as they did early last season by dropping five of their first seven games away from Arco Arena. Beat Phoenix tonight, though, and you have your much-needed spark.
-- Sam Amick



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