Kings Blog and Q&A

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

March 31, 2007
On the plus side

Now that it's official that all silver linings or positive points are welcome for Kings fans who have less to root for by the day other than draft pick possibilities, consider these nuggets from an otherwise-dreary evening at Arco Arena.

Beyond the Kings' loss, there was the triumph of Jason Hart. Anyone who knew Hart on any level was happy to see him succeeding, let alone having the sort of nail-in-the-coffin impact on his old team that he had in his 16-point, seven-rebound, six-assist outing. And much the same way that almost every professional can be judged by his reputation among peers, there was no better indicator than the reaction of his former teammates. Most of the Kings players and even a few assistant coaches went out of their way to offer Hart hugs and handshakes despite the game's outcome.

I've read plenty from fans who are down on Hart because of how his agent handled his situation earlier this season, but the truth about pro sports is that it gets ugly like that sometimes - especially when a player is fighting to stay in the league and staring free agency in the face. As Hart said about his agent, Bill Neff, back at the height of the mud-slinging, that was "my guy looking out for me." As for Hart, he never went public with his true feelings before he was released and resisted the urge to after beating the Kings.

"There's a lot on the line, so it's not about revenge or anything like that," Hart said. "You just want to get the win. The Clippers haven't won here in a while, so it's just sweet when you can get the win."

The other feel-good development was that of Harold Pressley, another guy who's hard not to like who was hired Friday as the Kings director of player development.

Pressley - who will mostly serve as a player mentor and liaison to the NBA - wasted no time in earning his new paycheck. He chatted with numerous players after the loss, and he seemed to spark nothing but positive reactions and some semblance of rapport among those who were still around. And if he could pull that off after a loss like this one, imagine the possibilities in victory.

- Sam Amick

March 28, 2007
What will next week bring

Dear Diary,
What a week! There was the Ron Artest court date that led to the Ron Artest absence last Thursday in Phoenix, and then there was me sitting on a plane in Sacramento on Friday night thinking the drama was in the past. Boy, was I wrong.
When I landed, I did the normal routine – turn back on the cell phone and see what I missed while out of touch in the clouds. Just one e-mail popped up, but it was plenty. An editor from hiphopgame.com had sent a message, informing me of the exclusive breaking news that Artest was considering retirement.
The news, of course, was eventually everywhere, even though that’s not apparently how Artest wanted it. He told Stephen A. Smith on ESPN radio that he didn’t think his musings would be for public consumption, acted like this whole thing was supposed to stay under wraps. But according to the editor of the Web site where Artest writes a journal, he only sort of wanted the news out there.
Yet “sort of” is a tough thing to pull off in this Internet age, tougher still when the people breaking the news bend over backward to inform the mainstream media, and Artest himself sends unsolicited text messages to most of his teammates with the same information.
“Ron wanted the news out there, but I don’t think he wanted it everywhere,” hiphopgame editor Brian Kayser wrote in an e-mail. “I would have never run the news piece on the site if he didn’t want it up because that would reflect poorly on me.”
But…
“I really wanted the journals to reach the sports audience,” he continued when I pointed out that the The Bee – and likely other major media outlets – was about as “everywhere” as it gets. “I think they’ve been great for Ron, too, because he has a forum to express himself without the censorship.”
Confused? Me too. For obvious reasons, I’m not buying the fact that he didn’t want it out there. Now why he wanted it out there, only Ron knows. Was this a way to drive traffic to a niche Web site and his journals – a publicity stunt like the time he asked for time off in Indiana to promote his music? Or maybe it was Artest going public with the notion that no measure is too drastic when it comes to fixing his recent troubles and his family life? Or maybe, as his latest journal seems to indicate, it’s the case of a man who can’t help but offer his life up for public consumption despite the claims that he’s done with the spotlight.
“I broke the news on HipHopGame about possibly retiring from basketball,” he wrote in the journal. “That was not a publicity stunt to get attention. That was exactly how I was feeling that night. The next day I was really leaning towards retirement because I wanted to be by my family more.”
And tomorrow? What a week!
-- Sam Amick

March 24, 2007
Forecast: Clouds with good chance of purple rain

Of course the clouds left with the Kings.

Of course Thursday thunderstorms disappeared from the Phoenix sky a day later, when the flights started coming and going with ease and a place recognized for its endless sun returned to form. And this being the land of many golf links, you could safely say that's par for the course.

Reliable league sources tell me a cloud is indeed on this team's tail, and the pesky cumulus has been there from just about, oh, the very start. In the latest will-this-season-ever-just-be-about-hoops moment, the small forward had to do the two-court shuffle (basketball and legal) Thursday per his recent troubles. But of course, that wasn't enough. The aforementioned moisture sponges went from figurative to literal, actually blocking Ron Artest from entering town.

The cumulative effect of the cumulus is starting to become more apparent, with Kings players stopping well short of blaming this season on an individual or two but shaking their heads at how the issues keep coming in endless waves.

After the Artest-less Kings dropped their eighth game in nine tries, I stayed in town to soak up some spring training baseball with a few fellow media types. And while watching the A's host the Padres there was a fresh-start feel in the air that's been gone from Kingsland for some time.

And with their season's end fast approaching, the talk will soon turn to their own new beginning. As it stands, the Kings are tied for the eighth worst record in the league, with every loss improving their pick in the June draft. The lot of youngsters could very well have the versatile big man they so badly need, and fans should take solace in knowing that team execs Geoff Petrie and Wayne Cooper have been racking up the frequent flyer miles scouting the talent. The off-season trade chatter and buzz about coach Eric Musselman's job status will bring their own sort of intrigue for those with fleeting purple passion.

As Petrie himself sometimes tells his players when rough times come, the sun will rise again in the morning. For now, though, this remains one long, dark Kings night.

- Sam Amick

March 20, 2007
Checking out

Haven’t checked in for a while, and now it’s time to check out. And boy did the Kings ever check out on this monster trip, capping the five-game, seven-day roadie with a disastrous showing in Atlanta. They simply don’t look anything like a team that truly wants to be in the playoffs, and I have wondered more than once if the cumulative effect of this season’s unending dramas may have finally caught up with their collective psyche.

There are certainly individuals who want a ninth straight postseason appearance, but there is nothing close to a cohesive push that was there a year ago. Even coach Eric Musselman is sticking with the game-by-game approach, but you’d certainly think it was time to emphasize the opportunity at hand and make up the ground between them and the Warriors. After the Kings were done giving up a virtual dunk line and letting Zaza Pachulia look like an All-Star, Corliss Williamson said to me that the team needed some more “soul searching.”

As I see it, though, it’s way too late for soul searching. This team is probably going to continue playing unpredictably until the end, with the players themselves not sure what to expect every time out.

Nonetheless, fans who are actually intrigued by this Best of the Rest race may want to mark April 13 on the calendar. The Kings host Golden State in what could be a crucial game, with no lack of intrigue considering the Warriors’ 12-season playoff drought that included two seasons with Musselman at the helm.
-– Sam Amick

March 13, 2007
Marty Mac's World on video
March 8, 2007
A nail-biting question

Question: Am I the only one who wonders about the mental health of the entire Kings team? Besides the obvious troubles of the coach with his DUI and Artest and his ongoing anger issues - the rest of the team seems to act very strange at times. For example - why does Mike Bibby clip his fingernails each and every game while sitting on the bench? How fast could his nails actually grow between games? Is there any sane explanation for this obession? Just wondering if I am the only one who notices!
-- Bill McDonald, Elk Grove

Answer: The Bibby finger-clipping has been infamous for years, though I'm the last guy to analyze that habit. I'm guilty of picking my nails way too often - a nervous habit I guess. As for the other guys, I'll quote my colleague Marcos Breton, who said on TV recently that "two mugshots in one season is two too many."
-- Sam Amick

Question: Musselman needs his own roster at this point. This roster has Adelman written all over it. Bibby and Miller wants the corner series/Princeton offense back (finesse) while Artest, Shareef and Corliss want to play more of a power game. I think Muss is better suited to coaching power than fitness as was apparent in his Golden State days.
-- Ed, Potomac, Md.

Answer: You may be right, but that's nowhere near realistic. It's the NBA, meaning you have to make do with the roster at hand. Crafting personnel takes years and years of salary cap manipulation and a numbers game that is an inexact science. In general, though, I think your take is accurate.
-- Sam Amick

Question: Often I've heard that coach Musselman needs about 50 games to really understand his team, and how to use them effectively as a unit. My question is, Why? Fifty games represent just about an entire season. ...(And) didn't he sell himself during his interview on how well he knew the teams personnel and how to best utilize them in his "Defensive minded" schemes?
-- Tim Cash, Roseville

Answer: I'd be lying if I said I understood that mentality. Nonetheless, this team is finally starting to understand itself around the 60-game mark. As for Musselman's schemes, the defense obviously hasn't performed like he'd like. But as he's pointed out, there have been improvements in some key categories. The Kings are third in the league in forcing turnovers and points off turnovers, which generally reflects a feisty unit defensively. The rebounding has been atrocious, though.
-- Sam Amick

Question: Do you think the Kings could or should hire an older assistant coach like Del Harris, or perhaps get Pete Carril back. Maybe he can work with Musselman and fuse the Princeton offense with some low post activity.
-- Shawn S., Claremont

Answer: "Coachie," as they call him, is really a Geoff Petrie guy, though I don't think he would've complained if Musselman wanted him on his staff. And plenty of people agree with you about the need for a so-called sage, one who could lend some perspective on and off the floor when situations arise. There is a definite value in having a guy who has been there and done that.
-- Sam Amick

Question: What's Bibby's attitude now that he hasn't been traded? any long-term implications since he obviously knows he was "this close" to be traded? he seems like the type of player to hold a grudge or pout.
-- Brandon Castillo, Sacramento

Answer: He's been fine, actually. I think he wanted to get moved only because they seemed so motivated to trade him, but he's also somewhat of a home-body. He has a lot of family and friends settled in the area and has said before that he'd like to finish his career here. I don't see that happening though. He's playing better, too, which is good for Bibby and the Kings in regards to his trade value.
-- Sam Amick

Question: Do you think that David Stern will let the Maloofs take the Kings out of Sacramento and take them to their center of opperations (Las Vegas)?
-- Cameron, Rocklin

Answer: I think he will only if an arena deal in Sacramento can't get done. The league and the Maloofs want to stay in town, but - as has become so plainly evident - the politics of getting it done are a huge obstacle. After the All-Star weekend in Vegas, Stern has some major concerns to address about the city's ability to have its own team, and Vegas has arena issues of its own. What's more, the league's owners would much rather put an expansion team in Vegas because they'd receive a much larger chunk of change than if an existing team moved there.
-- Sam Amick

Question: If the Kings' owners revenue (including T.V.) doesn't change based on the win-loss record of the team, then what's the incentive to spend to acquire the necessary talent to deliver a winning team?
-- Steve Rosetta, Rancho Murieta

Answer: The incentive is good old fashioned success and a brand that's much better off if they're winning. And don't forget that this isn't the traditional NBA brand because of the Maloofs' Vegas endeavors. They use the Kings as a connection with their Palms Casino, and that only gets less attractive if the team is stinking up the joint.
The Maloofs are sincere when they profess to want nothing more than a title. And while they had become increasingly wary of paying the league's luxury tax in recent years, they have been speaking lately as if they're ready to spend carefree again if the pieces could make them relevant again. This offseason will be a fascinating one, with Geoff Petrie hoping to clear enough cap space to be able to bring in some new pieces and continue reshaping the team.
-- Sam Amick

March 4, 2007
L.A. Confidential

Ron Artest may have found the connection in the music biz to take his rap career to a new level. While post-game interviews typically take place at each player's locker, Artest broke the routine on Friday night in L.A. because he had been talking with "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson in the hall. Artest gave a copy of his "My World" album to Jackson, who looked equally elated to be speaking - for the first time - to Artest. I asked Artest if he was arranging for a surprise appearance on the show, he said, "I'd do it for fun, but (Jackson) is big in music, you know, so who better to give my album to?"

And will fellow judge Simon Cowell be getting a copy?

"Nah, Simon's mean," he said.

- Sam Amick


Finally clicking

Well, Kings coach Eric Musselman always said it takes 50 games to know your team, a line he learned from one of his mentors, Chuck Daly. But maybe with this group, it takes 58 games.

While everything could change with a bad homestand, the Kings seem to finally have an identity. They're playing selflessly on offense and, as commentator Jerry Reynolds pointed out to me, looking selfless on defense, too. Rotations are coming with the expectation that the next man in line will do his part, and it doesn't hurt that the team's shooters are stroking it pretty well, too.

But as for the personality of the team, comparing the season's first five games and the recent stretch is a window into the soul-searching process. While the Kings started 3-2, defense was the heavily-favored focal point and the offense only dished out 20-plus assists once. In the last seven games, the Kings have hit the 20-plus mark every time out and set a season-high with 29 in Friday's win at the Lakers. Defensively, they're not producing as many steals but are - much like the best Kings teams of old - playing well enough in the right situations to finish the job.

It's as if the players looked around one recent day, realized this season was coming very close to finishing as a total bore, then decided to take the collective route to mending matters. Let's see if it keeps up.

- Sam Amick



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