Kings Blog and Q&A

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

February 26, 2007
In their defense

They held Indiana to 38.2 percent shooting, which is evidence aplenty for coach Eric Musselman's claim that this was the Kings' best defensive outing of the season.

The irony, of course, is that this took place without their best defender, as Ron Artest wasn't present for the Kings' impressive win over the Pacers on Sunday night. But Musselman wasn't alone in the assessment.

"I think so, yeah, by far," reserve swingman Francisco Garcia said when asked if he agreed. "When we play defense like that, it's tough to beat us. They had a stretch where they were up by 10, then we came back defensively and got some stops. We just kept it going after that, got some confidence. Defense wins games."

In a pleasant change of pace, Musselman avoided the urge to simply breakdown the box score after a game and instead analyzed the importance of the bench play against the Pacers.

"Those guys now feel like they have a role," he said. "Cisco thinks he's a one-man press now. He's always yelling (a play called) one-two, and then running over the ball. If your second unit and some of your eighth or ninth men can feel like they can hang their hat on some type of system or some role when they come in, we'll have to see where this takes us."
-- Sam Amick

Block party

They won the game, so it was OK to admit that the experience had been humbling. Kevin Martin and Ronnie Price had a good laugh recounting the way Jermaine O'Neal swatted their dunk attempts. Both players had dunks stuffed by the Pacers big man who is second in the league in blocks (2.98 per game). Martin had his revenge during his 21-point third quarter, beating O'Neal through the paint and slamming with his right hand. O'Neal had six blocks, with Price pointing out that the impressive part goes beyond the size and

athleticism. O'Neal has a knack for finding the ball in midair, avoiding the foul and keeping the leather from going anywhere near the hoop.

-- Sam Amick

Late to the (Martin) party

You'd think Martin's name would be out there by now, but there were a few media folks behind me on the baseline who were having their first introduction. As Martin took over in the third quarter, these guys were asking where he went to college. This was, mind you, the so-called Mecca of hoops in Hoosier country where anything less than IU apparently isn't worthy. "Western Carolina?!" one guy exclaimed with heavy sarcasm. "The hoops factory."

Another asked if he had already surpassed his career high. When told it was 40 points, he said "What? Really?"
-- Sam Amick

Etc.

Apparently the Pacers were blaming Artest's absence for their own demise, with coach Rick Carlisle saying he had geared "80 to 90 percent" of the scheme toward the small forward. Some players were frustrated by the lack of adjustments once it was clear a new plan was needed.
-- Sam Amick

February 25, 2007
The no-show show

So here we are at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, and I'm wondering how many thousands of fans wouldn't have bothered to brave the snow and icy roads if they'd known Ron Artest would be a no-show.

If the guy with the sign near the Kings bench is any indicator, there is still plenty of hatred for Artest in Hoosier land. The sign has Artest's old "91" jersey with a circle around it and a line through it, and it reads "Back Stabber."

Because it's Artest - who career is full of stories of secret getaways and bizarre behavior - his absence has created an air of mystery in the place. The Kings are merely citing personal reasons, and I was told he was with the team in Indianapolis until this morning. He flew back to New York, where his wife and family had come out from Sacramento to see Friday's game at New Jersey. Artest is expected to join the team for tomorrow night's game at Philadelphia.

- Sam Amick

February 25, 2007
Fans still screaming, sort of

You know, the haters are just never happy.
Take this road trip.

So the Kings suffer yet another close loss, this one perhaps more agonizing than any other because of the shotclock-gate surrounding John Salmons' too-late jumper against Washington, and the talk begins again about how these almost-wins have got to stop. So they go ahead and get blown away the next night at New Jersey, and there's still complaining. Geesh.

But seriously, this group needs to find a way to come home 2-2 from this trip. Tonight should be interesting with Ron Artest coming back to Indy again, with the key question whether he tries to do too much and make some sort of personal statement. Tomorrow night at Philadelphia is winnable, of course, because the Sixers are just 18-38. But it doesn't help that the Kings will be playing for the fourth time in five nights, not to mention dealing with the backward travel that had them going nearly three hours by plane to the West only to go back East again. OK, so maybe that's a personal complaint more than anything else.

Observations: There was loads of love for former Kings assistant Pete Carril in the Kings locker room on Saturday night. Mike Bibby was just about to beginning a postgame interview session by his locker when he put it on hold to give a hug to "Coachie," with some 15 reporters wondering if Mike would come back or use the moment as his getaway. He did indeed return, although he didn't say anything as interesting as the quote he gave Liz Robbins of the New York Times before the game when asked about the climate in Sacramento and the relationship with frustrated Kings fans. "They are still the same fans, but a lot of them scream at us now, instead of scream for us," he said.

Other interesting tidbits from Robbins' piece … Joe Maloof on close losses: "He (Kings coach Eric Musselman) needs to address those close losses ... I think he's a little inexperienced, to be honest. Nobody is going to work harder than Eric Musselman.”

More assessing of Musselman from Robbins: When asked to describe Musselman's style, Shareef Abdur-Rahim looked over to Bibby for an assist, but Bibby said, "You got to answer that for yourself, dude."
Abdur-Rahim answered, "Intense."

– Sam Amick

February 25, 2007
Still a King

It seems Mike Bibby wanted to be traded because the Kings wanted to trade him. Make sense? While Bibby has often spoke of his affinity for Sacramento and his time there, he was peeved that the Kings were so eager to move him. And by the time the negotiations were actually taking place, I'm told Bibby's agent, David Falk, was heavily involved in trying to make a deal work with Cleveland.

Communication wasn't an issue because, coincidentally, Falk also represents Cavs
exec Danny Ferry. When Ferry couldn't get the deal to go through, I'm guessing he was uttering words of frustration that sound similar to his agent's name.

- Sam Amick

February 23, 2007
Let the belated therapy session begin

So here's the thing about All-Star weekend in Vegas: great beginning, disastrous ending.

Beyond the near 400 arrests and general feeling of chaos, there was me at the MGM Grand parking garage at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday night. I had stayed at a media party too late to begin with, having been sucked into a hilarious and heated debate between two beat writers over whether young players are better served by going to college or not. But as I came up on the MGM garage, I saw a barricaded exit and a line of cars backed up into the second level. There was a cop searching cars and the people in them, and a surly security guard who wouldn't tell me what was going on. Eventually, I learned that there had been a drive-by shooting in the garage, with bullets flying but, luckily, just one person hit and no fatalities.

So, of course, that means it's time for me to get going, considering I see some 30 cops lining up in military form nearby to begin the manhunt. I eventually get the car out - after cab rides to and from my hotel, three hours passed and no sleep - and then get to deal with the airport.

By 6 a.m., the boarding pass line for Southwest is already two hours long (I heard it was four hours long by 8 a.m.), with the mass of people stretching out of the airport and, as far as I could tell, ending somewhere near the Stratosphere. People were cutting in line and getting testy, including myself, and we could've used a few of those cops from back at the MGM to keep the peace. I met a man there, though, who was furious long before coming on this scene.

His All-Star tale was not a happy one. He estimates that he spent some $9,000 on the weekend, with $5,000 going to two tickets to the All-Star game on Sunday.

"I didn't enjoy a minute of it," he said. "I wanted to sell the tickets, but my wife would've killed me. But this is crazy. I've spent a lot of time in Vegas, doing karate competitions, and this is something else. It's awful. You'll never see me here again."

He was right. By the time the weekend was over, the local radio stations were practically offering free flights out of town if the hoops crowd would just take off. To the contrary, the congestion meant half the people on my flight didn't make it in time, and I spoke to a number of people who changed their flights to leave the next day or wound up being delayed all day in Sin City.

I'm no city planner, but Vegas sure didn't seem ready for this.
-- Sam Amick

All-Star update

If you haven't read the story about the man with the fake media credential, then stop here and scroll below for Chapter I: "This Guy Worked Under Cover."
As for Chapter II? Call it "Revenge of the Sterns." It turns out the NBA caught the man with the press plan, removing him from Thomas & Mack Arena before tipoff.

I can't say I'm surprised. I found it absolutely hilarious that the guy's attempt at being discreet actually included a camouflage hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses - both of which he wore indoors. He stuck out like a sore thumb, and drew even more attention by schmoozing with everyone from the catering folks in the media dining room to anyone else who would take his card. Give him this, though: he had fun.

"We made a move too fast and too soon, so we ended up getting escorted out of the arena before the doors even opened," he wrote in an e-mail in the days after. "It was/is absolutely hilarious. My people rolled when we got back to the hotel and we told them what transpired and how. Nonetheless, I had a great week and I'm glad I was put out of the arena, because if I was there and had to watch Kobe (Bryant) receive the MVP trophy I would have been even more ill than I was already."
-- Sam Amick

February 22, 2007
Clock winding down

With 40 minutes to go, all is quiet on the Kings’ end. Mike Bibby has not been told he has been traded, according to someone close to him. And according to a
source close to the situation, it’s looking like Bibby won’t be. According to a source in Cleveland, it appears the Cavs have moved on to other, non-Bibby
business. There is still time for someone - including Cavs GM Danny Ferry - to ring the purple phone with the can't-pass sort of deal, though.
-- Sam Amick

February 22, 2007
The waiting game

Mike Bibby was mad, but not about anything regarding his own uncertain status. He was none too thrilled because I wrote in a game story in Wednesday's paper that he was culpable for letting Boston's Delonte West score 19 of his 23 points in the first half. As it turns out, I was the guilty party.

"I was guarding (Rajon) Rondo!" he yelled. "That was Kevin (Martin). How you gonna say that was me?"

Cooler heads quickly prevailed. And if nothing else, I was able to take Bibby's mind off the elephant in the room while he wrapped up morning shoot-a-round in the Verizon Center of our nation's capital. The Kings point guard who is "waiting like everyone else" to see if the Kings do, in fact, trade him in the next two hours (and counting, noon Pacific trade deadline) shared his thoughts on what was a bizarre day for him.

In short, he said it's been made clear that, even if he remains a King, he is not wanted in Sacramento. And that much, Bibby admitted, creates a difficult situation.

"The way things are going, by the direction it looks like they're trying to go in, you kind of expect a trade," Bibby said. "I think they're trying to go in a different direction, and I don't think I'm involved in that direction."

So where would that leave him if they don't do the deal?

"I have no idea," he said. "I don't know where it's going to leave me. I mean I haven't been shooting the ball well this year, and my numbers are slowly
declining in every situation, so you never know if they want you or whatever."

There was no shortage of love for Bibby at the morning practice, with players treating him as if he was a brother on his way out to war. Rookie Quincy Douby shoved Bibby in a playful way, saying "That's my big brother right here," and Bibby said he was about to head off to lunch with the guys who, for now, are his teammates.

"I'm going to go eat with some of the guys right now, and we can talk a little bit because this might be the last time that we ever get to eat like that again for a while," Bibby said. "I'm going to go out and have lunch with the guys and wait, just like everybody else."
- Sam Amick

February 21, 2007
Brown? Snow? Gooden? The possibilities

There's still time before Thursday's trade deadline, but the Kings are having a difficult time moving Mike Bibby. The challenge is simple, with most of the difficulty coming because of the size of his contract ($28 million in the next two seasons) and the uncertainty of his situation. A team willing to pay for his services has no guarantee he won't opt out after this season, and those looking for salary cap space that would come by acquiring him and Bibby opting out have no guarantee he won't stick around. His recent play is probably a small factor, but it can't help matters that he's offering very little on the floor.

Cleveland remains the closest thing to a frontrunner, though a three-team situation continues to appear the most likely way. Interestingly, I was playing craps at the Palms a few days ago when I could hear a conversation between Cleveland's Eric Snow and Chicago's P.J. Brown, both of whom would seem to have some chance of landing in Sacramento. Snow was venting about how he'd recently lost his starting job, and Brown -- who has wanted out of the Windy City for some time -- was saying the trade talk had been quiet but he was sure the Bulls would pull something off when he least expected it.

The Cavs could send Snow and Drew Gooden -- who I was told the Kings want -- for Bibby, but obviously that deal hasn't had legs. As for Brown, he matters only because a source told me the Bulls are interested in Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Brown makes $8 million while Abdur-Rahim makes approximately $5 million, so another piece would have to be offered from the Kings. But Brown would not only offer a veteran, defensive-minded, rebounding presence behind Brad Miller but an expiring contract.
-- Sam Amick


February 19, 2007
This guy worked under cover

He wasn't supposed to be there, and with that premise consider the outfit he wore: A camouflage sweatshirt, the hood pulled over his head and sunglasses indoors in the Thomas & Mack Center.
I'll keep the references at "he" and leave the name out because he might want to pull this trick again, and who am I to get in the way of a good scam artist? At Sunday's All-Star game, there was one media member whose access was as fraudelent as a rigged poker game. He was actually working, producing a Vegas-related video that would have qualified for a credential if he had made the paperwork deadline. But he didn't, and so he printed a fake press pass from a home computer. I only know this because I let the guy in the building, then wondered after the fact if he belonged. Then when I saw him enjoying himself in the media dining area, I meandered over in search of resolution. The guy was candid as could be about his ploy, but he didn't want to show his "pass" out in the open. So he waves me into the bathroom just to be covert, and shows the homemade product that looks almost perfect except for the fuzziness of the photo and the graphics. It's in a generic plastic sleeve instead of the league-issued type, but is otherwise impressive.
"I wasn't going to miss this," he says, "and I kind of have a sense of entitlement."
- Sam Amick



February 19, 2007
Deal or no deal?

When it comes to the final days before the trade deadline, things can change drastically in a matter of hours. With that being said, Kings exec Geoff Petrie said Saturday afternoon that there was nothing of significance cooking at that time.
"Right now, for us, there’s nothing that could be called on the front burner," Petrie said. "I’m not even sure if the stove is turned on."
And the prospects for things heating up soon?
"We’ll see," he said. "It’s like any deadline, like when you file your taxes you wait until the very last day to get them in there. Right now, there’s nothing of any interest for us."
I was told by a source to keep a keen eye on Cleveland, which already had talks with the Kings regarding Mike Bibby that died down quite some time ago. The Cavs wanted point guard Andre Miller from Philadelphia, but Bibby is supposedly high on their list, too. Asked whether a three-team deal might be the more plausible means toward making a move, Petrie said, "Not necessarily. I mean right now we’re at ground zero. (And) the more moving parts you have, the harder it is to get things done in general."
- Sam Amick



February 18, 2007
Being a fan - for one moment

Sure, go ahead and pay attention to the judges - Michael something and that Dominique guy, some doctor and a couple of younger guys. But on Saturday night at the slam dunk contest, I had my own scoring system to gauge the worth of the rim-shakers: my professional credibility.

Gerald Green comes from the right side on his first dunk, soars to find the ball via alley-oop bounce pass, and seems to fly so high that his shoulders just might be skimming the rim. I see all of this out of the corner of my eye while sitting inside the Thomas & Mack, as I have stories to write on other topics and deadline is fast approaching. But Green's dunk was apparently so spectacular that it breaks into my subconscious, and before I know it I have broken the No. 1 media rule.

I clapped.

Just one clap, accompanied with some sort of look of astonishment in a moment in which I quickly segued back into "professional" mode. But you know what? The kid in me was still having a good time.

From what I could gather, the contest offered enough to excite the masses watching on TV, and had a definite nostalgic feel with Jordan and the others on hand. What's interesting is that a little birdie told me it could have been even better.

Green won, of course, with one of his dunks having a Vegas touch as he jumped over a gambling table. And apparently, that was nothing compared to what Nate Robinson had planned. The reigning champ from New York had concocted a super dunk with Palms Casino owner George Maloof, who arranged to have a gaming table and Playboy bunny/card dealer set up for Robinson to dunk over. They even tried the dunk at a local high school, loading the table in a truck and bringing the bunny to make sure it was possible. Robinson pulled it off, and I'm told it was spectacular. The league apparently nixed the idea for what one could only assume were image reasons, leaving Green's over-the-table act to help him win the night. But maybe it's a good thing Nate got nixed on what would have been another sensational feat. I might have clapped twice. - -- Sam Amick

February 17, 2007
ALL-STAR WEEKEND: More "Agent Zero"

I received an e-mail regarding the Gilbert
Arenas story today
(http://www.sacbee.com/100/story/125129.html), and
there is a mini-correction to be had. Arenas deserves
credit for many zany things, but those T-shirts that
read “If no one votes for me, I’m not going to do
anymore blogs” are not one of them. The kudos go to
Howie of the “The Hype Guy” Web site. Check out his
site and the T-shirts at
http://thehypeguy.com/2007/01/11/thehype-exclusive.
Also, I wanted to share a hilarious video of Arenas
that captures his personality better than any story
can, not to mention the fact that it’s some impressive
shooting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn6O42a5vl8

February 17, 2007
ALL-STAR WEEKEND: Panda Express

All those world-class eateries in Las Vegas, and I was
the one munching on fast-food Chinese, eating like the
common man at the far-from-common Palms Casino while
taking in the sights on Friday afternoon. The sights
are good on that side of the building, though, where
the concept of cheaper slots and cheaper food attracts
the locals and can sometimes create a culture clash
between the haves and the have-lesses.
So between bites of Firecracker chicken, I looked up
to see an attractive woman in an elegant purple dress
ordering from…McDonald’s. Then the purple got my mind
racing about the incredible lack of – as the Kings’
folks say – purple passion at this All-Star weekend.
As has been said before, there are no Kings reps of
any kind for the third consecutive year, a distinction no
other team has. The Maloofs have been repeatedly asked
about it, each time saying their guys just haven’t
played well enough to be All-Stars and they wish Kevin
Martin would have been chosen for the three-point
contest.
What’s more strange is that the only Kings presence
has been a bit eerie, almost foreboding. Just after
seeing the purple lady, I looked up to see a man
cruising past Haagen Daaz in a Mike Bibby jersey. Then
I saw the Maloofs being asked about possible Bibby
trades on NBA TV. And as fans have noticed on chat
room sites, the looks on their faces were, well,
interesting, and it clearly wasn’t the most
comfortable topic. All of this, of course, comes after
a similarly strange experience Thursday.
During the aforementioned Palms tour, chef Barry of
the Nine Steakhouse was showing us his Wall of Fame,
which is actually the door to his office. It’s signed
with autographs and messages of the biggest names in
sports who have visited the restaurant, from Smokin’
Joe Frazier to Joe Montana. So Joe Maloof tells Barry
that he needs more Kings players on the wall, that
Bibby is the only guy he has. And, of course, I’m
thinking something about how the permanent ink just
doesn’t seem so permanent anymore.
The disclaimer here is that there is one Kings rep –
Kings dancer Heidi, who was selected via fan vote to
be here. And there’s always Loren Woods, who earned
$400,000 courtesy of the Kings this year but was cut
and is playing in this afternoon’s D-League All-Star
game. There are actually a few players in town,
including Ron Artest. He is one of many featured
guests at a Mandalay Bay party tonight headlined by
rapper Ludacris.
--Sam Amick

February 16, 2007
ALL-STAR WEEKEND: JOE MALOOF ON THE KINGS

Oh yeah, “real” basketball
With six days left before the trading deadline, there were rumors flying recently that the Kings and Clippers had revisited talks involving Ron Artest and Corey Maggette, but Kings co-owner Joe Maloof said that wasn’t the case. The Kings simply wanted more the first time around, so any possible deal would have to be significantly sweetened.
Joe elaborated on his outlook not only on the trade deadline but the team as a whole. Not much setup needed, so interpret as you will.
On the overall approach to shaking up the roster:
“Where we don’t want to get caught is being a team that brings in the seven, six million dollar players who might help you get to the playoffs, but they’re not going to help you win a title. … Then what happens? You start overloading the payroll, you’re competing in the middle of the pack but you really don’t have a chance to win a title. We’ve always said that we wanted to win a title.
“We’re going to have to make some decisions. We’ve got to feel comfortable in our minds that, going forward, we have the right group of players. Right now, it doesn’t look like it. Things have to improve. We have to really take a hard look at what our future is. I mean it didn’t work with (Mike) Bibby, Peja (Stojakovic), and Brad (Miller), right? OK, so is it working now? Not really, so we’ll have to analyze it. That’s how I look at it.”
On the close losses:
“If you’re a salesman and you go into an account, the first thing you want to do is to close the sale. We haven’t been able to do it, and I don’t understand why. That’s what we have to get better at it.”
Any explanations?
“Maybe more experience,” he said, not clarifying any further. “We’ve been up 20 or so points and then we lose them. Something’s not right. Something’s not right.”
In general, there was a sense that nothing was imminent at the moment, with Maloof saying he hadn’t spoken to Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie in nearly a week. Then again, as he noted, things can heat up pretty quick as the deadline nears. Petrie arrives in town Friday night.
--Sam Amick

February 16, 2007
Life of luxury

Where to begin in the world of bizarre…

For starters, the Palms is an insanely extravagant, brilliantly executed resort concept that banks on the whims and desires of the young and wealthy. A few
colleagues and I had a fabulous tour courtesy of Joe Maloof, who pulled the curtain pulled back on a place that – while nice on its face – has most of its truly spectacular offerings in the VIP-type areas most visitors will never see.

Consider: the latest figure on the average US salary is $36,764, which would
almost be enough to stay one night in the Hardwood Suite and in the range of, say, the Crib Suite. And who knows what it would run to rent out the whole
floor of suites, which some corporations do for what they call “block parties.” There are no rules, nor should there be for what probably rivals the price of
a small country. And there are no worries of bothering the other guests, as an entire floor is fitted with sound-proof walls. Some of the suites have pools that
jut out over the edge of the building, creating a cliff-effect not suitable for anyone with a fear of heights. Or an NBA owner unhappy with his current
product.

“After a couple of those (Kings) losses,” Joe Maloof said, “I felt like swimming off the edge.”

The Maloofs hosted an EA Sports video game party on Thursday at their four-month old “Moon” club, which we had seen in the preparatory stages hours before and then during the nighttime action later. A handful of All-Stars were on hand for a hoops battle on big screen TVs on XBox 360s, with Tony Parker facing off with Chris Paul, and Carlos Boozer vs. Chris Bosh while the music pumped and lights dazzled. There was an open bar, too. And if that’s not the ultimate mix of every boy and man’s dream, I don’t know what is.

ESPN’s Scoop Jackson was the MC, announcing every rim-ripping dunk in the streetball game. A morning later, the festivities are heating up. The rookie
challenge is this evening, with all sorts of media events at the Palms during the day.

Random thoughts: Upon checking in yesterday, I looked up and saw a Tim Hardaway mugshot and headline reading “I hate gay people” on CNN Headline News, the coverage sprouting from his idiotic comments about gay former
player John Amaechi coming out recently. I don’t think this is the kind of crossover coverage David Stern was hoping for on All-Star weekend, but kudos to him for promptly removing Hardaway from all of his scheduled league appearances and distancing the league from his comments

…. Contrary to a line I had in today’s paper about the Paris Casino possibly representing the Western Conference since the East is backed by the New
York, New York Statue of Liberty that’s wearing their jersey, it turns out the lion in front of the MGM Grand is wearing a West jersey. Issue resolved.
-- Sam Amick

February 15, 2007
ALL-STAR WEEKEND: Let the fun begin

Chaotic? Just a bit.
My "Welcome to All-Star weekend in Vegas" moment didn't take long to arrive, coming courtesy of a rental car shuttle driver named Todd.

So Todd jams as much flesh and luggage as possible into his bus, but has to leave some 30 people behind. He nearly clips a guy on his way back into cluttered traffic, angers the man, then reports back to the mother station via CB radio that "there are some violent people on the curb!" He's not smiling.

Checking in at my hotel, I learn that at least a million fans have flown in for this circus. That's the estimate from a gal from New Jersey, who is here with her family and not only has tickets to Saturday's three-point and slam dunk contests, but will be seeing Jamie Foxx perform the same night, too. No star sightings yet, unless you count all the pudgy older guys I've seen in LeBron jerseys.
--Sam Amick

February 11, 2007
Signs of improvement

There is intrigue again, which is more than I would've guessed a few weeks ago. Anybody remember that Memphis game, when the Kings were pushing for the Worst of the West title after losing to the Grizzlies in what was their 11th loss in 14 games? Every Kings player I've asked agrees that their last loss was the low point of the season. Part of that deduction, though, comes from the fact that this team finally stopped digging its own hole long enough to look back on a lowpoint.

They are moving the ball, playing much better defense and the personal agendas have been set aside - or at least minimized - for some time. Even coach Eric Musselman has come through his two-game suspension in decent standing. While the team played well under Scott Brooks, they had put together a quality win at Minnesota under Musselman just before that served as a buffer before he let go of the team temporarily. And they've kept it going in his two games back.

If they can maintain the momentum through the All-Star break - say, winning two out of three while playing Seattle, Houston and New Orleans - it will go a long ways toward quelling what was fast becoming a bad situation. Then again, it seemed like Kings fans were already getting excited about being lottery-bound, eager for the organization to, as they say, blow it up and start the rebuilding process. The way the team's playing, though, it's looking like Greg Oden won't be wearing purple.
-- Sam Amick

February 8, 2007

Question: Why don't the Kings just change to a run and gun team like the Suns, the Mavs and Washington have done so successfully? They are lean bodies and they have young legs on the bench. There would be no problem with minutes for anybody. You must have size for the half-court game. The Kings have no size, but they have shooters. I say run!
-- Eric Napue, Topeka, Kan.

Answer: Eric deserves credit here, since his question came in late January, just as the team seemed to be running more. It's been a recent point of emphasis, and I agree with your take on it. Their scoring numbers have been on a steady rise, and they are now eighth in the league in points per game (100.2). Their defense, on the other hand, is 21st (100.9 points). But the number that truly matters is point differential, and that's where the Kings become a fascinating case study. With a mark of negative-0.7, the Kings are tied for eighth place in the Western Conference. Their close losses, though, have been the killer that's dropped them to 12th in the standings.
-- Sam Amick

Question: Why is Musselman not using Justin Williams? Like in the fourth quarter at Memphis?
-- John Cullen, Rancho Cordova

Answer: His answer has been a standard one, that he can't play everybody. The bigger question is why in the world did this organization go to so much trouble to fill a role they clearly don't value? Between the since-cut Loren Woods, Maurice Taylor and Williams, they paid approximately $2 million for a spot that just doesn't seem to matter to them.
The funny part is that Woods is absolutely dominating in the NBA's developmental league and seems headed for a 10-day contract in the NBA, just like Williams did after the Kings cut him. At this rate, look for Taylor to land and his feet and return to Arco and put up big numbers on his old squad.
-- Sam Amick

Question: I have heard that Eric is calling every single play for the Kings. Watching the games on TV and atArco I have not seen that. The argument goes as he is calling "every play" every mistake made is ultimately his fault.
-- Landy, Elk Grove

Answer: He doesn't call every play, but he calls a lot. It's certainly a lot more than former coach Rick Adelman, whose offense was all about open looks rather than more rigid play calling. As for whether called plays that aren't executed fall on the coach, it's not that simple. Players are paid to execute. But the valid argument would be that - as Musselman has said recently - the team may be better served running with more freedom so the guys can find a flow. Some players feel specific play calls are only necessary during scoring droughts, or coming out of timeouts etc., and don't enjoy what they sometimes perceive as micromanaging.
-- Sam Amick

Question: Are the Kings going to make it to the playoffs this year? It seems like the Kings were on a good role until Brad Miller came back from his injury. Then they went down hill from then on. Shareef and Kenny Thomas are not doing good at all and they should be traded to the Monarachs instead, don't you think? They should be traded for Kara Lawson. Kevin Martin is about the only thing that the Kings have at this point.
-- Jorge Lopez, Five Points

Answer: Tough crowd, Jorge. I can safely say that those are trade rumors my sources have not brought up. The playoffs are still possible, and very possible from a mathematical standpoint. The team is playing better lately, and if they can keep pulling out close games they'll be in the mix. What's more, how they play in the next few weeks may determine if they make a run with the current roster or push even harder than they already are for a deal before the Feb. 22 trade deadline.
-- Sam Amick



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