Kings Blog and Q&A

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

July 28, 2007
Yes, a couple of years...

Q: Hey Sam, being a guy that lives in the North Bay Area, I am stuck hearing about the Warriors because that is who is covered locally. My question is, what are the biggest areas of concern for the Kings? I didn't get to watch many Kings games last year, and they stunk when I did watch. Any hope of putting together a decent club in the next couple of years?

- Miguel Lopez, Healdsburg, CA

A: The qualifier in the question says it all Miguel - "in a couple of years." Even if Mike Bibby and Ron Artest weren't traded in the next two seasons and Artest didn't opt out next offseason (as I think he'll do), then the Kings will get roughly $23 million off the salary cap between those two guys. Kings hoops prez Geoff Petrie is looking two years down the road, hoping to add young and promising pieces before then and maybe land a deal in the interim that makes cap room even sooner while also providing building pieces. Petrie will build a contender if he can find flexibility.

The consensus, though, is that the waiting game for that time to arrive could be a slow and painful one for Kings fans.

-- Sam Amick

July 26, 2007
It always comes back to Game 6

Q. Has there ever been any doubt of NBA game fixing? Albeit, the 2002 Kings/Lakers Game 6 may have been the most blatant example, haven't practices like home court calls, favorable treatment of stars, and the punishing of agressive players (Dennis Rodman, Ron Artest) been part of the NBA for decades?

John Moore
Hanalei, Hawaii

A. Yeah, but it's quite a lethal leap from the sort of unwritten rules you mentioned to a Sopranos-style fix job more in line with the Black Sox scandal in baseball.

In general, fans are forgiving because of the human factor. If a particular ref has it out for a certain player, then that's just how it is. If a ref gives into the screams of nearly 20,000 and gives the home team a crucial call, that's going to happen. But cheating the game for one's own personal gain is a different kind of disgrace.

-- Sam Amick

July 17, 2007
Wondering about the summer long shots

Question: I wish there was more detailed coverage of the Vegas summer league. It would be nice to get more info on how the players are doing. I'm especially interested in Mustafa Shakur. Does he look like he might end up on the regular-season roster? Can he compete in the NBA or does he at least have potential? thanks.

Peter Lozancich, Salt Lake City

Answer: At least two stories a day and blogs from Vegas wasn't enough coverage! Gotta love Kings fans. :)

Seriously, though, the flurry of big-picture news meant I didn't write much on the summer-league hopefuls. Shakur, as I said in an earlier answer, is a nice player but nothing flashy. He was part of Arizona teams that underachieved throughout his college career, attaching questions to Shakur's name that he's now trying to answer. I could see him being invited to training camp.

Otherwise, Syracuse center Daryl Watkins has a lot of upside, an NBA body, enough athleticism and can really change shots down low. Forward Nik Caner-Medley (Maryland) is a really nice player - almost a three-four scoring type - and quite the fiery competitor, although he's undersized.

- Sam Amick

July 17, 2007
Moore acquisition changes Bibby trade dynamic

Question: If a Bibby-for-a-power-forward trade came off, wouldn't that mean a second big transaction would have to take place to fill the void at point guard with a real, quality point guard replacement? Now we don't even have a true point guard to back up Bibby.

Tom Harding, Sacramento

Answer: Now that the Cleveland talks seem to be off and the Kings have agreed to terms with Mikki Moore, any Bibby deal is going to involve a point guard coming Sacramento's way. That being said, I could see the Kings starting the season with this roster and waiting until the February trade deadline time to try again.

- Sam Amick

July 16, 2007
Artest's impressions of Africa

The Kings' Ron Artest, with National Basketball Players Association president Billy Hunter and fellow players Theo Ratliff, Maurice Evans and Etan Thomas, is in Kenya on a humanitarian mission held in conjunction with "Feed the Children" co-founders Larry and Frances Jones. Their goal was to distribute 44 million meals to 1 million residents. In e-mails to Kings beat writer Sam Amick, Artest conveyed some of his thoughts about the trip. Look for more on Artest's trip this week in The Bee from columnist Ailene Voisin:

Africa is beautiful. I met the Massai tribe. They live like what I imagined 300 years ago. They drink blood and milk and eat a meat-only diet. They are organized and support each other in the community. You have to have 10 cows to be married and 22 years old, approximately.

They didn't know how my skin color was so different and didn't know that slaves were taken from Africa to America. It was humbling.

They were poor in my eyes but rich at heart.

(Taking this trip) makes me want to help and care for people in poverty, and they do matter to me and should to others. The tribe was truly happy at heart, but the people in the slums needed major attention.

July 16, 2007
What about Price?

Question: I did not think Quincy Douby looked like a pg last year or this summer. Shakur does not seem to be able to shoot or pass well and Jeter is not bad but streaky and did not defend well.

Why is no one tallking about the guy who seemed to do well last year at pg, Ronnie Price? When he played he shot well, defended well and seemed to run the offence. He is also one of the most athletic players on the team. Why is there not more talk about him at pg?

Answer: Kings exec Geoff Petrie said a few days back that Ronnie is still on their radar, but I don't expect to see him return.

What's interesting is that between summer league point guards Pooh Jeter and Mustafa Shakur, I wonder if Jeter isn't being hurt by Price's past as a scoring point guard.

The team may be looking to go a different route now, perhaps opting for a player.

-- Sam Amick

July 16, 2007
Garnett goes camping in Sac

Kevin Garnett is coming to Sacramento.

Not the Kings, mind you, because that sort of mega-trade just might warrant a bit more response than a blog entry. But the Big Ticket from Minnesota is the big ticket item in Mike Bibby's fantasy camp that starts on July 23.

Technically, Garnett is headed for Rocklin, where he and an All-Star cast of others will take part in what is easily the most star-studded lineup at a camp I can remember. The site is the newly-built Hardwood Palace, and the others include Bobby Jackson, Amare Stoudemire, Deron Williams, Stephen Jackson, Baron Davis, Richard Jefferson and undetermined Kings players.

But don't forget about Drew Gooden and a bit of irony, as the Cleveland forward was close to joining the Kings in a three-team deal last week in a trade that would have sent Bibby to the Cavaliers.

It will conclude Gooden's tour of all things Kings, as he spent part of this week chatting with team co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof at a summer league game at UNLV and even spent much of Thursday lounging at the pool at the Maloofs' Palms Casino Resort.

It only seems fitting that on the web site promoting Bibby's event - - he is wearing a white jersey with no logos or team names attached.

Contrary to my previous post, the Kings point guard doesn't look destined for Cleveland after the Kings' signing of former New Jersey big man Mikki Moore and the notion of him starting the season in Sacramento is more likely. Conceivably, any deal involving Bibby now would have to be for a point guard since the Kings are overloaded with forwards and none of the youngsters are anywhere close to ready to run a team.

- Sam Amick

July 16, 2007
Seeing through the suspension

The mystery is no more, not that it ever was much of one anyway. The NBA doesn't like Ron Artest.

No question he's long since stepped over the threshold of understanding, with the 2004 brawl in Detroit the most retold tale but a number of black-eye incidents coming on both sides of the melee. But the way in which the league handled his seven-game suspension was about as transparent as it gets.

The press release regarding the suspension lumped Artest and former teammate Stephen Jackson into one announcement, and they may as well have thrown a headline on the top that read "The Bad Boys are in trouble again." Jackson, of course, was throwing haymakers with Artest that December day in Detroit.

And it was only too convenient that his criminal recklessness charge stemming from an October incident came with an identical seven-game suspension to make sure these two are forever tied in infamy.

Timing, clearly, isn't what connected the two this time. Jackson was arrested last October while Artest was arrested on domestic violence charges in March. What's more, the news comes out while Artest is actually taking part in a positive event in Africa - the "Feeding One Million" campaign that's a project of the NBA player's association?

Artest has a better chance to lead the Kings to a title this season than he has of falling back in favor with commissioner David Stern anytime soon. It's the secret everybody knows.

Final thoughts from summer league ...

• The injury to Quincy Douby was by far the disappointment of the session, as the second-year guard had worked hard during the offseason and the Kings staff was eager to re-assess the young player. Instead, he played in only two games because of a back injury and the same questions that were there about his game before summer league remain. What's unfortunate is that the short time Douby had looked different than before, with his confidence seemingly on the rise and his poise on the court improved. Is he capable of becoming the point guard they'd like him to be? No clue in the slightest.

• Spencer Hawes left the right sort of impression in the finale, scoring 22 points against the Clippers in the very fashion that prompted the Kings to take the center with the No. 10 pick out of Washington in the draft. But beyond the sharp and diverse offensive game, Hawes showed off his hands more than once. He caught passes on the break that most players would fumble into the first row, catching and finishing with tough layups from underneath the hoop that he made look simple. Defense and rebounding remain the big uestions. But unlike with Douby, no one is pressing for the answers anytime soon.

As a side note, the Kings-Clippers matchup was an interesting chance to watch Hawes on the same floor with Florida State product Al Thornton. The Kings considered taking the super-athletic small forward with their pick before opting for the big man. Hawes won the faceoff, as Thornton had 17 points on 6 of 18 shooting.

• Daniel Artest may have wished for more playing time, but he didn't leave Las Vegas without scoring his first NBA basket. Ron's younger brother and a Kings summer league forward hit a 20-footer against the Clippers after playing just three minutes in all coming in. This time, Artest logged five minutes and grabbed two rebounds as well. Daniel has played community college basketball and had a short stint in Germany. At 6-foot-5, he's better suited to be a linebacker than an NBA forward, with his father, Ron Sr., saying he's far stronger than his older brother. Ron Sr. said Daniel is capable of bench-pressing and squatting more than 400 pounds, and he's topped the 900-pound mark on the leg press.

July 14, 2007
The big kid isn't afraid to put up the shots

Spencer Hawes and Jackie Butler were side by side, but not quite in the way the Kings may have hoped.

Instead of being teammates as a result of a three-team trade that would have sent Mike Bibby to Cleveland and brought forward Drew Gooden to Sacramento, Hawes was still the Kings' draft pick and Butler was suiting up for Houston on Saturday night at UNLV.

Not that it's the first time this has happened. Former Kings assistants Elston Turner and T.R. Dunn recently joined former head coach Rick Adelman in the Lonestar State before Butler. He came close to becoming a King before the deal fell through, and San Antonio (Butler's former team) moved on in discussions before eventually doing a deal with Houston.

All of which made it interesting to see Hawes and Butler match up. Butler -- a 6-foot-10, 260-pound big man out of the Coastal Christian Academy in Virginia -- showed some promise in the post while hitting 4 of 6 shots for 10 points. Hawes struggled at times with Butler's size, all while firing away on the other end en route to a 6 of 18 shooting night.

In this setting, no one on the Kings' coaching staff wants the prized pick to be shy. But Hawes seemed almost too determined to spark his offensive game, sometimes to the point of forcing shots. The worst case in the first half, when he called for the ball then shot an off-balance turnaround jumper from the top of the key ... with 10 seconds left on the shot clock.

In all, though, Hawes has shown more than enough to create the consensus that he'll turn into a quality NBA player. His skills in the post and beyond are what impress scouts, as Hawes is deliberate and effective in finding a good look when the ball is his. As is the case with most rookies, there is much work to be done with the nuances of the game. Against the Rockets, he sometimes forgot to call screens for his teammates on the wing and was guilty many times of setting half-hearted picks on the offensive end.

As Hawes said upon arrival in Sacramento, he's looking far more capable of providing stiff competition for Kings opponents than being anything close to a stiff himself.

- Sam Amick

July 13, 2007
Courtside in Vegas

When Kevin Durant wrapped up his third summer league game Friday night in UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center, the press core wanted to know about a special guest who'd been watching the Seattle rookie out of Texas in action.

The Chosen One, LeBron James, chose to sit courtside and admire a 32-point outing from Durant.

But forget about James - the Kings' Spencer Hawes was the one right at midcourt, watching his buddy hit 9 of 23 shots and impress with his ability to recover from a slow-shooting night by driving and getting to the line 16 times (hitting 13).

Hawes and Durant have been close friends for years. They even dined together just before the June draft in which Durant went No. 2 to Seattle and Hawes No. 10 to the Kings.

For Durant's part, he battled with Golden State's Italian guard Marco Belinelli. He was out played early but ultimately won the night as Belinelli hit just 6 of 22 from the field in the Warriors' 85-74 win.

The Kings, meanwhile, did not practice or play. They did, of course, sign big man Mikki Moore.

My early reaction is that Petrie overpaid, considering it's quite a jump from the $10 million offer Moore turned down from New Jersey to the $18 million the Kings will pay him. Style-wise, it's a good fit, but the natives otherwise known as Kenny Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim are surely getting restless as every addition of a big man means less and less playing time.

Saturday's action includes the much-anticipated Kings-Houston matchup at 5:30 p.m., with former Kings coach Rick Adelman sure to be peering from the stands while former Kings assistants Elston Turner and T.R. Dunn help run the Rockets.

Losing and winners - The Kings fell to New York on Thursday night 96-84, but there were standout performances considering the team played without third-year swingman Francisco Garcia (excused for summer league, family matters) and second-year guard Quincy Douby (sore back).

Draft pick Spencer Hawes wasn't shy about picking up the offensive load, as the center out of Washington hit 11 of 25 shots for 22 points. It was his scoring high through three games, not that scoring was ever the question surrounding Hawes.

Rebounding, among other things, has been a Hawes hot topic, and he has grabbed five, six and seven boards, respectively.

Point guard Pooh Jeter, a second-year player out of Portland who was cut from the Kings' training camp last season, had his first big outing, scoring 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Point guard Mustafa Shakur, an undrafted rookie from Arizona, also was part of a second-half surge, scoring 19 points on 5-of-13 shooting after he had scored a combined five points in the first two games.

- Sam Amick

July 12, 2007
This time, Bibby trade looks likely

So the Mike Bibby to Cleveland trade talk is back in full force, and my gut is telling me for the moment that this deal eventually gets done.

For starters, the recent message from Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie that he's done looking to trade Ron Artest turns all attention to Bibby. And while stranger things have happened, there are very few people within and around this team who believe the Artest-Bibby will continue.

Yet while the Kings-Cavs trade chatter at Las Vegas summer league was discreet, there was nothing more noticeable than the lovefest surrounding Cavs forward Drew Gooden taking place during the Kings game. The Maloofs and Kings team president John Thomas all smiled and spoke with Gooden, who was equally affable.

You almost expected the whole group to walk across the way to the nearest conference room to announce their new player. But if, in fact, Gooden is headed for Sacramento, the questions surrounding Kenny Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim only intensify.

Both players are well into their careers but far from ready to accept a "happy-to-be-here" attitude. They both wanted to play and didn't like sharing time before the Gooden factor, so a deal there seems all the more likely.

Other observations from the day at summer league...

Someone snuck a time machine into UNLV's Cox Pavilion, because I swear that was Rick Adelman, Geoff Petrie, Jerry Reynolds, Wayne Cooper and the rest of the gang chatting in the stands and watching summer league action just like the old days. Adelman's new Houston squad actually took on Dallas, but he visited with his old Kings contingent before and after the game. The absence of new Kings coach Reggie Theus made the scene look even more like it was 2005 all over again, as Theus was out of town for the day.

Admittedly, the Bibby talk meant I had only sporadic viewings of the Kings' 96-84 loss to New York, but at least the second half was much better than the first. Down 57-39 at halftime, point guard Mustafa Shakur (University of Arizona) scored 14 of his 19 points after the break while draft pick center Spencer Hawes (22 points) and point guard Pooh Jeter (22 points) were more steady. Kings assistant Kenny Natt said he had a strong message at halftime to his youngsters that seemed to help turn things. It's a good sign, too, that Natt won't be afraid to have a strong influence whenever it's needed.

- Sam Amick

July 11, 2007
Good news, bad news for Garcia

Bad news for Kings fans en route to Las Vegas Summer League: Third-year swingman Francisco Garcia is out for the rest of the session due to family matters.

Too bad, too, considering the Kings had one of the most exciting rosters going by summer league standards. So as it stands, the Garcia report on this end will have to come from one game witnessed in Vegas and another at the Sacramento Pro League a few weeks ago at Capital Christian High School.

In all, Garcia seems to look more driven, poised, and potent than last season. A number of people have commented on his demeanor, that of a player who's exiting his early years and was mostly held under the thumb of former coach Eric Musselman last season. He worked for every one of his 21 points against Washington, getting banged to the floor at least four times in brutal fashion but bouncing up to lead in the win.

It remains undetermined how much Garcia will be used at the point, as it seems the Kings are eager to peek at Quincy Douby's development at that spot and Mustafa Shakur (University of Arizona).

Observations from this morning's practice...

*Kevin Martin continues to get his summer work in, and the third-year shooting guard was his own coach in the corner of a local Las Vegas High School. He shot jumpers, free throws, and worked enough to get a sweat going.

Martin, for the record, is not playing on the summer league team for the first time in his career. He jokingly decided, however, that it would only be right
if the folks at UNLV to retire his jersey in the rafters at Cox Pavilion.

*Quincy Douby has a sore lower back and will try to play in tomorrow's game against New York.

- Sam Amick

July 10, 2007
Hoops heaven in Sin City

I’m breaking my word.
I swore to some Kings fans Tuesday that I wouldn’t share the secret that is summer league, but it just doesn’t seem fair not to. For NBA lovers who don’t love the outrageous prices at NBA venues, this should be an annual affair. Games all day long, the best and the brightest of the young draft crop, all in a setting that’s no grander than a Granite Bay High School varsity boys’ game.
Tuesday, for example, Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin not only signed autographs for seekers, but he walked to their seat in the stands of UNLV’s Cox Pavilion to do it. Ron Artest said hello to kids as they walked by, and the Kings players actually playing weren’t bad, either.
Between Francisco Garcia, Quincy Douby, Spencer Hawes, Justin Williams – and a host of hopefuls that includes Artest’s brother, Daniel – the Kings’ roster is among the more exciting in the 21-team bunch. Hawes, the University of Washington center who was taken with the Kings’ No. 10 pick, has been the early leader for standout summer league player. And despite his 4 of 16 performance against Washington on Tuesday, he still has Kings folks buzzing about how good he can be. Martin said Hawes “scored at will” in a Monday scrimmage.
Kings scout Scotty Stirling noted that – even though he struggled against the Wizards – the fact that nearly all of Hawes’ shots were around the rim was a sign of his potency.
And should Hawes develop quickly and actually produce this season, Kings fans can pat themselves on the back. Those around Hawes are saying the massive skepticism he was greeted with in Sacramento has him plenty motivated to prove doubters wrong.
– Sam Amick

July 4, 2007
Theus takes Kings business to the suites

Question: On my way past the Embassy Suites after the River Cats game Tuesday night, I spotted Bobby Weiss (Remember him? His last coaching gig was with the Sonics) talking to Reggie Theus. It was about 10 p.m., and they were outside, possibly having a job interview. Might Weiss be the future Kings chief assistant? Would this be a good move for Reggie and the Kings? Is there anyone else that has surfaced, as far as you know?

Frank Horowitz, Sacramento

Answer: Well this is a first for this forum - fans breaking news! Your timing is uncanny, as I received a call late Tuesday night saying Weiss was getting a look from Theus to be the lead assistant. So that's a confirmation, all the way down to the interview site. As the public was made aware when Stan Van Gundy bolted out of the Embassy Suites en route to take the Orlando job, that hotel is a favorite for Kings business.

- Sam Amick

Question: I read today where the Mavericks are interested in Gerald Wallace. What are your thoughts on the Kings leaving him unprotected in the expansion? Should the Kings have kept him? Why didn't they?

Melissa, Grass Valley

Answer: At the time, he was an end-of-bench youngster who wasn't getting much run from former coach Rick Adelman. The team was nowhere close to thinking about building for the future, although plenty wish they would have been in Wallace's case.

It seems pretty obvious they didn't know what they had, with the talk at the time about the then-teenager's lack of work ethic and focus. The unanswered question about Wallace is whether he can produce anywhere near this level on a winning team. And who knows, maybe he's on his way back.

Kings basketball prez Geoff Petrie said this week that he had called regarding the top four or five free agents on the market and the possibility of a sign and trade, which would definitely seem to include Wallace.

- Sam Amick

July 1, 2007
Moving Miller, Thomas not easy

Question: Sam, if the Kings are truly to transition to a youth phase, don't they need to get rid of the biggest contract burdens? Will it be possible to move Brad Miller and/or Kenny Thomas, or are we pretty much stuck to ride it out with them?

Chris J., Sacramento

Answer: I don't see how they move Brad, who has three seasons and around $34 million left on his deal. Not only has his game taken a plunge, but he spent much of last season dealing with foot problems that just wouldn't go away.

The Kings' hope is that Spencer Hawes develops quickly, taking over the center spot so Brad can play some power forward the way he did when Vlade Divac was here. Those were his best years.

Now, Kenny is a little different. He's owed nearly $24 million for the next three seasons, but he has an early termination option after this season that - if exercised - would make him an unrestricted free agent. So if the Kings can't trade him before then, and depending how this season goes, I could see Kenny opting out just to get in a better situation. Even before then, though, I wonder if he wouldn't be willing to restructure his current deal just to get moved.

The setup with Kenny and Shareef Abdur-Rahim sharing time hasn't made either player happy, and they could have even more minutes taken away this season if new coach Reggie Theus gives the youngsters some run.

- Sam Amick

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