Kings Blog and Q&A

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

October 31, 2007
Trade talks

Still learning more, but two sources close to the Kings confirmed that there were trade talks with Chicago sometime recently. And considering the rumors that sprouted from a Chicago radio station had the Kings as part of a three-team deal sending the Lakers' Kobe Bryant to Chicago, it only makes sense. The Kings are ripe to be involved in a Bryant deal, with plenty of pieces they're willing to move and looking for a variety of pieces from legitimate help to salary cap relief. The talk - not sourced talk, just talk - is that the deal may have sent Ron Artest to the Lakers and brought either Ben Gordon and maybe even Joakim Noah to the Kings. Whatever the pieces, it does not appear to be anywhere close to close to happening and appears to have been quiet for at least a few days. - Sam Amick

October 30, 2007
The new N'awlins

There's a man from New Orleans who's been on my mind for more than two years now, a friendly gent who was a quintessential caricature of what you'd think a Bayou boy would be.
He drove a mean swamp boat, manuevering the floating blowdryer through the canals in the pre-Katrina days and telling a mean story at the same time. He educated tourists, made them laugh with his wit, thick accent and hometown charm. I've always wondered if he made it. I'll probably never know.
The last time I was here was just weeks before the hurricane hit, as my wife and I did the New Orleans vacation during that summer and even ventured up toward Biloxi and the Mississippi coastline. I have hours of surreal home video footage, the utopian before to what became a hellish thereafter. So needless to say, I was very curious to see how the region was bouncing back as the Kings headed this way to open their campaign.
What I've realized, though, is that looks can be deceiving. I've been in the city for nearly 32 hours now, and it looks as if nothing ever happened. The French Quarter is hopping like always, the Riverwalk is in working order, and the same mix of culture and cuisine seems to have survived. A look at the front page of the local paper, however, tells a different story about the sort of surrounding areas where I met the swamp man.
* "La. OKs first 75 'Katrina Cottages," - in essence, the feds are funding housing for Katrina victims as if this tragedy happened last month. And if the obvious delay doesn't get you wondering, the fact that only military personnel can stay there surely will.
* "Aid for condos, mobile homes lags," - Self-explanatory.
* "Trailer sites face deadline in Jeff," - The locations of Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers having already been trimmed from 13 to six in the region, there's a Nov. 1 deadline to get all the trailers out. Even if there are people inside. Now in all fairness, a FEMA spokeswoman says they won't leave folks homeless for a second time but it's remarkable how the river communities still appear dependant on this sort of temporary housing.

With all that in mind, the return of the New Orleans Hornets is certainly a positive but seems to have all the impact of a President Bush apology. The locals are more excited about the All-Star game in February, with the obvious windfall that should come from that event much-needed. But as far as the Hornets, they had some 2,000 tickets available for the season opener as of today. As one local told me, "Nobody I know is too excited about it."
There were about 2,500 fans at a Hornets rally on Monday, and the good-will continued at a "NBA Cares" event at the city's Audobon aquarium a day later. If nothing else, league commissioner David Stern should be glad Chris Paul landed with this franchise. The Hornets' point guard has a way with words, and his speech to a group of 60 local students at the aquarium was one of sincerity and appreciation. At the end, he couldn't help but throw in a competitive word or two while sharing the room with the entire Kings team.
"Come out and support us (on Wednesday)," he said. "Come see us beat these guys."
Kevin Martin said a few nice words, too, and the event seemed to make the kids happy. Players split up in groups to read books and discuss the lessons therein. It was happy go lucky in every way. On the surface, anyway.
- Sam Amick

October 29, 2007
Greene Monster debuts

Just got word that Orien Greene will start Wednesday night at New Orleans, as Kings coach Reggie Theus made the announcement to his team on Sunday night.
The choice makes sense, as Francisco Garcia or Quincy Douby may not be speedy or defensively aggressive enough for the likes of New Orleans' Chris Paul and letting him run free is a surefire way to being torched. I don't get the sense that this is Greene's job exclusively, though, and it could change based on matchups and - of course - outcome. The opener is certainly the Kings' best chance to avoid going 0-3 on this trip, and they will catch a small break as Hornets forward David West (sprained ankle) is expected to sit. The last time West laced 'em up against the Kings, he went for 25 points on 10 of 19 shooting in a torrid finish to his season.
- Sam Amick

October 26, 2007
Pete Rose and me

Mr. Hustle loves Reggie Theus.
Kobe Bean Bryant? Not so much.
He’s a fan of the Maloofs – even had dinner with Palms Casino frontman George Maloof just last week. He loves A-Rod even more than Theus, mainly because – as Pete Rose was telling me – the Yankees slugger has a hunger for learning baseball that’s insatiable. He picks Rose’s brain whenever they have dinner together, sends him endless text messages on his fancy IPhone.

Speaking of which, that was about the time this conversation on a Southwest flight from Burbank to Las Vegas hit the height of surreal. Pete Rose….no, Pete Freakin’ Rose!….was showing this lifelong baseball fanatic his new toy after an hour’s worth of friendly conversation. There's a classic picture of him sliding head-first (as always) that pops up when the phone turns on, and the gals at his souvenir shop at Caesar's in Vegas helped him get the font nice and big so he can read all those queries from A-Rod with ease. Oh yeah, we're buds now.

It all started in the front row, where I went against my normal nature and plopped down in the middle seat because, well, it was a short flight and that leg room is so enticing. A quick glance to my right reveals that Rose is my wingman, and I'm not about to not say hello. All in all, Rose could not have been a nicer man.
I caught him during part of his routine, as he spends half the month in Los Angeles and the other half at his Vegas store that - it appears - is his main hub of his life of signing autographs and selling t-shirts that read, "I'm sorry I bet on baseball." But the phone bit was only one of the many fascinating and surreal moments...

* He wants my opinion on the NBA referee scandal involving Tim Donaghy, and it's all I can do to not blurt out "It's a gambling disgrace the likes of which American sports has never seen!" Oh, wait...

* For the record, he has no idea how OJ Simpson got those autographed Pete Rose baseballs that he subsquently lost and and was so hell-bent on reclaiming during his Vegas souvenir sting operation in September.

* The Vegas NBA All-Star weekend in February was as bad for him as it was for everybody else.

* Rose - a former Cincinnati Reds manager himself, remember - thinks the Yankees should have done more to hold on to Joe Torre and holds the man in the highest esteem.

Theus is in his favor, too, though I assumed their connection was a Vegas thing and don't know the backstory beyond that. Regardless, Rose weighed in on what it will take for Theus to get the most out of his Kings players. And truthfully, Rose was impressive when the topic turned to managing men and his voice turned from conversational to authoritative.

"His job is to get the most out of each and every one of those guys," Rose said. "You have to rule with one set of rules, but treat every player as an individual and know what makes them tick.
"There's three ways to handle a player. There's guys who need a good kick in the (butt) to get going, guys who need you to pat them on the (butt) and guys that you can just leave alone."
And there's guys like me, who just couldn't stand to let Mr. Hustle fly alone.
- Sam Amick

October 25, 2007
The laughs that came before the loss

His name is Elie Seckbach, and he's the most entertaining media member you've never heard from.
It took me a few years to appreciate what Seckbach does, but the Israeli hoops correspondent has certainly grown on me. In short, the LA-based gent runs around locker rooms at the Staples Center with a video camera in search of humorous or off-color commentary from NBA players. His skill is in his fearlessness, as Seckbach - who operates as a freelance journalist of sorts - is a master at asking questions no one else will ask or would ever even ponder. Tonight, for example, he polled Kings players on their knowledge of the upcoming Hannukah holiday.
Some players shy away from Seckbach, and some embrace his off-beat approach. He's been around, though, for nearly a decade, plenty long enough to get to know local legends Shaq and Kobe and capture some priceless moments. A few more must-sees include Seckbach's routine dealings wtih Kobe and a "Yo Mama" joke battle with Shaq.
He pulled some good material out Ron Artest tonight that included an update on Artest's hometown buddy and Israeli hoops legend Willie Sims (see "priceless moments" for the backstory). He got Kings coach Reggie Theus talking, too, asking him about a locker room vibe that he perceived as much-improved from last season. More specifically, Seckbach wanted to know if there was a secret to maintaining a harmonious locker room.
"I’m pretty straight forward," Theus said. "I treat everybody pretty much the same. But at the same time, I make no bones about the fact that if a guy’s getting me 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds a night), I’ll be taking him to dinner almost every night. They’re the same, yet they’re different. I took care of my power forwards during (his playing days), too."

***

Series smack – Francisco Garcia’s loyalties have long been known.
The New York native who grew up a few blocks from Yankee Stadium is, of all things, a Boston Red Sox fan. But after Garcia bound through the Kings locker room bragging that his Sox were up 3-1 in Game 1 of the World Series, Artest convinced no one that his sudden love for the Colorado Rockies was anything short of jumping on the bandwagon.
“C-R baby!” Artest yelled after professing his allegiance.
From across the way, Mike Bibby hollered, “Yeah, since last week.”
Before the first pitch of what eventually became a Red Sox Game 1 win, Garcia predicted a fast start for his squad.
“Oh, you know we’re going to win tonight,” he said. “(Boston starting pitcher Josh) Beckett is real big for us, so we’ll be alright. (The Rockies) have been hot, but it’s nothing big for us.” - Sam Amick

October 24, 2007
Time to refine

When the Kings turned the table on Portland with their latest win - going from a 24-point defeat to a 24-point victory in back-to-back games - coach Reggie Theus said it was important on the "psychological warfare" front.
The early edge, in other words, does matter.
And if that's the case, so do these final two exhibition games. First, it's the Clippers tonight, who are a fringe playoff team just like the Kings but are still months from having franchise forward Elton Brand back from injury. Then it's the Lakers in Vegas on Friday, another squad with (Kobe) issues aplenty but the similar hope of being one of the eight teams representing the Western Conference in the playoffs. Expect bigger minutes for the starters, a competitive feel much like the Dallas game in Las Cruces that surprised even the participants, and keep an eye on the fight for the power forward starting spot that could go down to the finish. Kenny Thomas has played very well this preseason, for now halting the edge Mikki Moore appeared to have. On the inside and out, the edge certainly matters.

***

En route to my flight this morning, I officially decided that the Terminal B sports store should no longer be the unofficial indicator of what's popular in Kings land. There were Mike Bibby jerseys, Ron Artest jerseys and a buried Brad Miller jersey. So I asked about No. 23 - you know, that Kevin kid who's slowly gained the popular vote among Kings fans and just might be in town for a while? I got a blank stare and the authoritative word from the morning shift worker that a purple jersey with that number was never for sale here. Catch up, folks.
- Sam Amick

October 21, 2007
Back on track

Clearly, the Kings can't win games in which I'm not present.
Sure, it's only an 0-1 record this season, but it's tough to dispute the connection. My absence for personal reasons (always wanted to say that!) has ended, and the same Kings team that fell by 24 to Portland on Friday won by 24 against the same Portland team tonight.
Alright, so maybe that's a stretch too. Injuries hurt Portland tonight nearly as much as they hindered the Kings on Friday. But in all seriousness, there were performances of real substance to be considered in this outing.
Among them, the revival of Francisco Garcia and Mikki Moore was vital, with their competitive pulse racing again and both players - as these guys always say - doing what they do. Darryl Watkins took advantage of his minutes like he hadn't yet, scoring 13 points and grabbing four rebounds in 18 minutes.
"Darryl Watkins gave us a nice boost in the post," Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "He had a nice presence."
With just two preseason games left until the Oct. 31 regular season opener, it was almost a do-or-die game for Watkins. One would think the rotation is about to shrink as the significance of the games grows, and the roster is still vulnerable to more cuts.
With Justin Williams out with his off-the-court troubles and Shareef Abdur-Rahim recovering from knee surgery, Watkins could very well be shoved down the totem pole when they return. Unless, that is, he can reproduce this kind of outing in any sort of routine manner.
John Salmons was again solid in starting for Ron Artest (bruised left knee), and I've yet to field a complaint from the coaching staff about the swingman since the season began. Yet as team temperature gauges go, I'm curious to see these final two affairs. In the Clippers and Lakers, the Kings will face squads that would conceivably be battling for the eighth and final playoff spot. It's a tone-setting road trip finale in every way. - Sam Amick

October 19, 2007
Scouting the Kings (and, as it turns out, the Jazz)

It was a good night for everyone with the Kings at “The Pit.”
OK, so maybe not everyone.
It turns out that long after the Kings’ 105-91 win over Utah at the University of New Mexico, beat writers for the Jazz stumbled upon a sacred document that was mistakenly left in, of all places, the media room.
A scouting report.
The ins and outs of the Jazz and what the Kings think of them are documented by Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune. And while it's surely going to ruffle someone's feathers in the Kings organization, fans should enjoy a rare look at how these players get broken down and dissected.
Some more fine work from the Utah folks...
While I hit on the the Jason Hart vs. Ronnie Price point guard battle that now continues in Utah, Tim Buckley of the Deseret Morning News has an extended look.

***

In the interest of feeding the starving Kings fan and because there's so much focus on reserve roster spot battles during the preseason, I had a chance to catch up with the Kings who will actually matter most come November.

Mike Bibby, for starters, enjoys how he's being used in the offense so far.
"They’re running me off some screens now instead of me always having the ball in my hands, so that’s good," Bibby said.
He's off to a slow shooting start, though, having hit 19 of 55 shots overall (34.5 percent) through four games and 6 of 15 three-pointers. The more important shots, Bibby noted, are the ones he'll take more and more on his own as the regular season nears.

"I'm alright," Bibby said. "It's coming down to the end of preseason, so I'll start getting up my dose of (practice) shots . I haven't got my normal shots up really. I've just got to get my wind and just get in the aspect of picking (that) up."
Bibby continues to draw praise for his willingness to defend, and it seems as if an agreement that satisfied both parties is in place. In short, Bibby has long complained that help defense, aka team defense, is more of a problem for the Kings than lack of individual defense. It's been a point of discussion between Bibby and Kings coach Reggie Theus, who has promised to hold every player accountable during those times when blown rotations or being out of position lead to easy buckets. So far he has, and the collective confidence and trust among teammates seems to be in place.
"We’re helping each other a lot," Bibby said. "When we help each other, good things happen."

Meanwhile, Kevin Martin has been the quiet killer of the preseason. The Kings fourth-year shooting guard worked extensively on every nuance of his offensive attack during the offseason, most of it during his annual time spent with his personal coach, David Thorpe. In one practice session at the Kings practice facility that I observed, the task of the day was for Kevin to learn how to keep his options open when he drives the lane. In the past, Thorpe was noting, Kevin would pick up his dribble if his first plan of attack didn't work, then often find himself stuck and passing out while the flow of the offense stalled. The goal, then, was to keep the dribble alive and transition quickly into a second, or stalled, attack. Sure enough, I've seen him execute that approach numerous times so far, and it seems as good a sign as any that he is certainly still improving. The damage thus far? Martin is 27 of 44 from the field (61.4 percent), 5 of 11 from three-point range, 27 of 30 from the free-throw line, and averaging 21.5 points. The insanity of it all? He's averaging 24.8 minutes per game.
"I'm very happy," Martin said when asked about his overall self assessment in the preseason. "I feel real good about the way I’m playing, about the way we’re playing as a team. Everything’s going smoothly."
Lastly, and by far most importantly, Kings center Brad Miller has officially ditched those awful corn rows. He claims the braids were starting to come unraveled.
“I’m not going to do them if they don’t look good,” he said with a laugh.
Not too sure they ever did, Brad. - Sam Amick

October 19, 2007
The Miller melee reviewed (and a verdict)

Still no word yet on whether Dallas swingman Josh Howard will be suspended for his backside bashing of Brad Miller's head.
Mike Bibby, though, was quick to point out that things might (OK, who are we fooling...things would) be handled differently if Kings small forward Ron Artest was involved.
"I just know if it was Ron...Don't give nobody no special treatment," he said.
Bibby and Kenny Thomas were the ones coming to Miller's aid, with Kings assistant Chuck Person putting the grapple hold on Howard while Artest steered clear of the fray.
"I knew Brad's not really too much of a fighter, so I had to make sure and protect Brad a little bit," Bibby said. "I was trying to get in there. Kenny was there before me, I was right behind Kenny just trying to make sure nothing got out of hand since it was only a preseason game."
Artest, however, applauded Howard's decision to defend his teammate - even if he ran 40-plus feet to do it.
"That's his guy," Artest said. "You don't do that in the street, and he's hood too. You've got to respect it. I respect it."
BLOG UPDATE: The league handed down a two-game suspension on Friday, meaning Howard will miss the Oct. 31 opener at Cleveland and Nov. 2 at Atlanta. His official return? The Mavs home opener on Nov. 3 against...the Kings. Intrigue already.

- Sam Amick

October 19, 2007
Q and The Jet

The Jet and Q

They are no more than colleagues - Jason "The Jet" Terry and Quincy "Q" Douby.
But bonded by their basketball styles and slinky scoring frames, they have apparently formed a mutual admiration society. A few weeks back, Douby - the Kings second-year guard - discussed how he often watches tape of the Dallas guard as a how-to of sorts. He loves his game, and continues to work toward a day when his own resembles something close to it.
The feeling, as it turns out, is mutual.
"I’m a big fan of his," Terry said after the Kings' 101-99 loss to Dallas on Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. "I used to watch him play in college (at Rutgers), and I thought he was one of the best guards to come out (in the 2006 draft). He definitely was underrated where they drafted him at (No. 26), because he was one of the best point guards to come out.
"He has a deadly scoring touch, and he can play the point guard position.
He reminds me a lot of myself, a 1-2 combo guard really trying to find his way, but can play both positions."
Douby may have found his NBA big brother.
"I always make it a point when we play them or we pass them during the season to talk to him," Terry continued. "Being a nine-year veteran, I look at him as one of the younger players I can mentor and tutor along. I like his game, because he reminds me of me so much. He can direct the team and he can get his team in sets. He knows automatically at the point, when you get rid of the ball and it comes back to you, that’s when you turn into a point. That’s something he’ll learn as he gets more and more playing time."
Douby held his own when faced off against Terry, including a crossover in which Terry hand-checked him in the chest and Douby simply pulled up and nailed a mid-range jumper. He finished with seven points on 3 of 6 shooting, two assists and just one turnover in 17 minutes. Terry, of course, was the Kings killer with his ice-cold game-winning three with four seconds left that sparked his trademark celebration (arms outspread flying like a jet while running the floor).

See for yourself (Terry footage is old-school)
Q & "The Jet"

- Sam Amick

October 18, 2007
The Not So Enchanted State

A quick greetings from New Mexico, where the playoff-like game on Tuesday in Las Cruces has been quickly forgotten in light of the Justin Williams situation.
In brief, Williams is in Sacramento and has been placed on a leave of absence from the team. For now, it appears the Kings will stand by him and wait to learn more about the case. His non-guaranteed contract, obviously, would make it very easy for the team to part ways with Justin right away, but he remains on the team. If he is charged, a not-guilty plea could mean the case is drawn out for months and I don't have a sense as to whether the Kings would be willing to endure more negative PR to remain supportive.
Players were quiet on the subject at shoot-a-rounnd this morning at "The Pit" at the University of New Mexico, a whole lot of no comments and an attempt to get ready for tonight's game against Utah.
To rewind, though, to the Kings' 101-99 loss to Dallas on Tuesday, I walked away with two general impressions. The defense, for one, looked very strong - with rotations being made much more effectively than last season, the guys communicating and the Mavericks generally having to fight for shots. A few industry experts (coaching and scouting types) I polled were very impressed, too.
Secondly, fans and folks around the team were very surprised by how much the starters played considering this is typically the time to play end-of-bench guys as the evaluating continues. My take is that it was a one-shot thing, with Kings coach Reggie Theus looking to give his old Las Cruces folks a good show. What's more, Dallas coach Avery Johnson was matching him with how much he used his starters. Next thing you know, it feels like the 2004 first round playoffs all over again. I expect more reserves to play tonight. - Sam Amick

October 16, 2007
On the road again...

Tonight's Las Cruces event being a "home" game and all, it comes with all the offerings of Arco Arena except for the building itself. So as I hit the Southwest terminal for the first of so many times this season, it only made sense that I'd run into the rest of the traveling Kings show. Dancers, announcers Scott Moak and Big Mike,even a Colleen Maloof sighting on the Los Angeles leg bound for El Paso, Texas.
Las Cruces might be a bit more like Las Vegas for this short stay (although, sadly, Eva Longoria was seen at LAX but was left behind).
The word is there's an event before the game with local dignitaries, not surprising with the family's esteemed name in their home state and the background of Phil Maloof as a former New Mexico senator. Kings coach Reggie Theus will reconnect with his former New Mexico State team, and I am very curious to see how much of the Reggie Nation passion remains.I spoke with Las Cruces Sun sports editor Teddy Feinberg yesterday, and he passed the word that his staff is fired up for this game. The NBA in Las Cruces is a treat on its own, but the Theus reunion brings a whole new excitement - although it's questionable whether the game will sell out.
"He's still a God-like figure here," Feinberg said.
Part of the Theus appeal, clearly, is how he can appeal to so many. He still returns the phone calls of the local writers, not the norm in a world where the making it big-time typically means you big-time the folks you no longer need.
On the court, it could be a rough homecoming for Theus and his squad as Dallas and Dirk may be grumpy after being asked to play so far off the beaten NBA path. The best show may indeed be the one off the court.
- Sam Amick

October 13, 2007
Still going strong

Ron Artest nearly slid through the glass door of the Kings practice facility on Saturday. So, yes, for those who wondered, the effort level remains.
A scrimmage that included Artest's dive for a loose ball and countless other collisions was spirited in every way, with the rock-em-sock-em highlights including....
* Justin Williams barreling over Brad Miller in the paint and nearly sitting on his head - which drew loud applause from Kings coach Reggie Theus.
* Brad Miller helping Kevin Martin up at least four times after the shooting guard either took charges or hit the deck unintentionally.
* Darryl Watkins swatting Justin Williams on a dunk attempt and generally having a good showing.
All in all, Theus remains pleased with how his players have responded during practice. And after a long film session to break down the many miscues against Phoenix on Thursday, he's glad their minds are engaged too.
"They’re showing me a willingness to learn, and I can’t ask for any more," Theus said. "I’m a little surprised, actually. Guys are really tuned in, and they’re playing hard.
"I think right now, that they’re trusting me, trusting our staff that we’re going to get better and that the stuff we’re doing is going to ultimately work for us."
Also continuing is the praise for Mike Bibby's defense. He showed a bit during the scrimmage, picking up full court pressure and pestering his man early.
"I’m very happy with Mike’s effort defensively," Theus said. "His leadership and everything has been right on the money as far as what I want out of him."
The team put in another offensive set today, probably a good idea considering the way the first half went the other night.

***

Kings related tidbits...
*Players from Indiana and Houston have weighed in on the Reggie Rules. My favorite part? By the time I'm done writing after a game and make it to the hotel, I will have had a longer night out than any of the players.

* CBSSports.com's Tony Mejia has the Kings winning 26 games this season, while ESPN's John Hollinger sets the mark at 27 (Insider only article). All of which proves Theus has a very real chance to overachieve here.

* It's been confirmed that Brad Miller and Mike Bibby were honoring the recently-retired Corliss Williamson with their recent haircut choices. At least it sure looks that way...

Corliss corn rows.jpg

Brad


Corliss mini fro.jpg
Mike

In the interest of full disclosure, this post was partially inspired by Henry Abbott of TrueHoop.

October 10, 2007
Surgery a success for Hawes

Just spoke to Jeff Hawes, the father of Kings rookie center Spencer Hawes, and he said this morning's arthroscopic surgery in Seattle was a success.
"It went great," Jeff Hawes said. "They did it cleanly and quickly, and he’s champing at the bit to get back. He understands the process, and he’s just excited and anxious to get playing. It's been frustrating for him."
According to Jeff Hawes, microfracture surgery was "never discussed" and will not be needed.
- Sam Amick

October 10, 2007
Hawes under the knife again

Before we get to the Reggie Theus debut, there's the ongoing matter of Spencer Hawes' health - or lack thereof. What's known is that his left knee will be checked out today by way arthroscopic surgery. Hawes will either be ready to start a four to six week recovery at that point, or suffer the same fate as Greg Oden and require microfracture surgery.
That much has been known. Yet what is new to this saga is just how extensive Hawes' knee problems truly are. Last week, he told me he had microfracture surgery on his left knee at 14. What he didn't mention was that, according to Kings spokesman Troy Hanson, he had to go back in for a re-do of sorts six months later after he came back too early. What's more, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story from Feb. 7, 2004, states Hawes had "three surgeries" as a freshman at Seattle Prep but makes no mention of microfracture, chances are, because the procedure and the dreaded M-word hadn't become part of the sports culture just yet.
Then there was an arthroscopic surgery on his right knee before last season at Washington, followed by today's procedure. In all, that would make four jobs on the left knee and one on the right after today.
Either way, that's a lot of wheel work for a 19-year-old. We'll know today if he has another flat or if the refilling can begin. - Sam Amick

October 10, 2007
Keep the champagne on ice

A friend sent me a text message in the second half of the Kings' win over Seattle on Tuesday night, offering advice for the team's new coach.
"You should tell (Reggie) Theus to go straight home after the game," the message read.
It was, of course, a reference to the unofficial anniversary of Eric Musselman's DUI arrest. After the Kings' preseason home opener last year against Utah, all the news of a productive training camp and motivated team was halted by the damaging distraction of Musselman's blunder. To call the night ominous of the season that woudl follow is an understatement.
And on that logic alone, Theus - who said on Monday that he doesn't drink alcohol - is ahead of the old regime at this point. The players seem to be buying what he's selling, and his game control and rapport with players was apparent in the opener. The only distraction has been the curfew he implemented, a move that only increased his popularity among fans.
His welcome was certainly warm from the fans, but there sure were a lot of empty seats inside Arco. Musselman's home opener was a sellout (17,317), but there were just 13,284 this time.

***

A few quick impressions from the game...
* New addition Mikki Moore was right when he said afterward that he had rushed things. I'll go ahead and pretend his debut is on Thursday, because he didn't give nearly enough to see what he can be.
* Orien Greene appears to be the early leader over Mustafa Shakur, at least according to Theus' gameplan. Shakur didn't play and Greene received 15 minutes, and I'm beginning to wonder if Greene could make the squad as a combo guard because of his defense. He can guard ones, twos and threes, and may be given a chance to if he can play with some serious confidence on offense. Run the team, move the ball quickly and wisely, take (and make) open jumpers when they're there. Easier said than done, though.
* Even with Shareef Abdur-Rahim sidelined, the annual question of who starts at power forward remains. Kenny Thomas was given the nod in the opener over Moore, but stay tuned. Neither one did much to win the spot against Seattle, although Thomas' eight rebounds to Moore's one give him the easy edge as the Kings - get this - actually outrebounded a team, 42-40. Moore may also play significant time at center, too, and Justin Williams could be brought in as a power forward.

***

For those who enjoyed the story on Daniel Shapiro and his battle with throat cancer, check out this training clip of the Kings' strength and conditioning coach in action.
You can see the headset he wore to help project his voice, the one that earned him the nickname "JT" because he looked like Justin Timberlake. As a final note on Shapiro, the strange twist is that he likely wouldn't be with the Kings had his father, Gary Shapiro, not lost an 18-month fight with leukemia.
When his 58-year-old father passed in 2002, Shapiro - who had moved home to Seattle to care for him - decided to branch out and eventually accepted a job at the University of Dayton. His experience with the Division I program led to the Kings calling. Sure enough, he was offered the Kings job on the second anniversary of his father's death.
"It turned a day that was going to be very sad into a happy one," Shapiro said.
- Sam Amick

October 8, 2007
Making a point

As an add-on of sorts to today's piece on Mustafa Shakur, there's plenty more to say about the backup point guard competition.
It's relevant for a few reasons. First, coach Reggie Theus has made his message known that poor defensive play will limit a player's minutes - no matter who that player is. And if history repeats itself with Mike Bibby, that means he might not be asked to carry as heavy a load as in years passed (which could be a good thing for his body, by the way). Secondly, the minutes of John Salmons and Francisco Garcia could be affected here, too. If Theus doesn't find a backup he wants to routinely rely on, he'll plug the hole with guys who can bring the ball up - a la Garcia and Salmons. And so far, he doesn't seem impressed by any of the point men.
On the other hand, the players themselves all seemed pleased with their play.
"I'm getting really confident playing this position, learning all the plays and learning everybody's position," second-year guard and backup point guard candidate Quincy Douby said. "I just feel real confident. I definitely feel I can play this position."
From watching scrimmages, Douby's offense and control has been impressive. He should be given a longer leash under Theus, in part because he's a second-year guy now and in part because Theus appears to be much more willing to rely on youth than Eric Musselman was. Something to keep in mind while watching Douby is that he fashions his game in the line of Jason Terry, the speedy, shifty, Mavs point who has a similar body to Douby's.
In addition to Douby and Shakur, third-year player and free agent signee Orien Greene is also in the mix. Greene's challenge is to prove he's more than a defender, but I can't get anyone to talk about anything but his defense. Bibby said the Greene Monster was even guarding Ron Artest yesterday, manning up and more than capable of being physical with the ripped Ron-Ron. Greene, though, said he feels there's been progress on other fronts, too.
"I feel like I'm showing my all around game as opposed to just the defensive end," Greene said. "I'm knocking down shots, getting other guys shots. It's going pretty well, I think, but we've got a month left to go so we'll see."
He is explosive, though, and the question seems to be finishing and hitting his jumpers. For those looking to learn a bit more about Shakur and see him just before the June draft, check out this clip.
***
The few media members on hand for Sunday's scrimmage were elated to watch the action, as Theus has been far more willing to raise the curtain on his sessions than past coaches.
But Theus himself was less than thrilled. A two-quarter scrimmage ended with a 35-34 win by Artest's team. I call it Artest's team, you see, because he hit a sensational three at the buzzer to win it, falling out of bounds on the left side and being caught by teammates in a row of seats as the ball fell through. In Theus' mind, though, it was a rare highlight.
"They're really kind of getting the bugs out," Theus said. "There's no fluidity to what we're doing. Drill-wise, they're busting their butts, doing everything I'm asking them to do. But now it's trying to translate it from the drill scenario to the court."
"I let them play two quarters and I didn't say much to them, but I wasn't real pleased with the execution, the overall mindset of how you run an offense....We had a turnover every other time down the court."
Ailments that did not appear to be serious...
Francisco Garcia turned his right ankle during a scrimmage and iced it for the remainder of the practice. Justin Williams and Shakur both took fingers to the eye that looked awfully painful.
- Sam Amick

October 5, 2007
Injury updates

The Kings announced this morning that Spencer Hawes will have a second opinion on his left knee given by Dr. Dr. Lawrence Holland in Seattle on Tuesday. Kings forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who had late-June surgery on his right knee and has yet to recover, is also seeking a second opinion and will be out at least three to four weeks. - Sam Amick

October 5, 2007
Question and Answer time!

It’s been way too long since I answered questions in here, so let’s start catching up…

Question: Why is everybody so quick to have an opinion about Mike Bibby's "D" when Brad Miller couldn't block a shot if (his life) depended on it? Bibby is the best point guard you are going to get. Any point guard (Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Baron Davis, Chris Paul) that you consider to be better then Bibby, WILL NOT be traded away from their teams. They're there to stay. Miller, on ther hand, (stinks). Parker, TJ Ford, Paul have no fear what so ever when they see Miller waiting for them in the Key. Why not trade Miller? – Dawud McKinney, Sacramento

Answer: Money makes the world go round, Dawud. Bibby’s monstrous contract ($28 million over the next two seasons) is tradable because a) he can opt out after this season or at least come off the books in 2009 and b) his floor value remains much higher than Miller’s. Brad, meanwhile, comes with three more seasons at a bit less money (approximately $34 million over three seasons) with a greater danger of deterioration.
Remember that before Brad came into camp looking so svelte, he was a 7-footer who carried more weight than he should have and was coming off his worst season since coming to Sacramento in 2003.
Also, Miller’s strengths (passing and offense) make him a niche fit and limit the trade possibilities that might be there if he was a bruising, banging, scoring big man. I do agree, though, that people aren’t giving Bibby his due as far as what he can still do. He’s far from done in this league and could absolutely erupt if he’s both healthy and put in the right situation.


Question: Who's going to start between Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas? – Efeezy, Maine (a big-time Kings fan who moved away)

Answer: My guess? Neither. The talk and feel around new addition Mikki Moore makes me believe he could very well be the starter. I haven’t seen him much, so I’m simply reporting the impressions of others, but there is positive talk about his skills on both ends and – interestingly – a tangible value being attached to his personality and on-court demeanor. New coach Reggie Theus is paying heavy attention to chemistry, and that could mean more minutes for Moore. Kenny will definitely be pushing to hold onto his spot, though, and Abdur-Rahim (recovering from right knee surgery in late-June) may not be ready to roll until late in the preseason (Blog update: looking like the regular season now).


Question: What is the future of our point guard position? – Arnold, Mandaluyong City, Phillipines

Answer: For now, Mike Bibby is your starter and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the backup becomes Quincy Douby, Orien Greene, Mustafa Shakur or maybe even a heavy dose of swingman Francisco Garcia at the point. I’m curious to see if Bibby gets on board with Theus. He may be traded sooner rather than later if he doesn’t, and I can’t help but think that might not be exactly what Mike wants.


Question: Looking at the uncertainty about who the back-up point guard is going to be, and the logjam at power-forward, do you see any surprises happening concerning who makes the final roster? – Anthony, Sacramento

Answer: As I touched on today, I think the big man battle is one to watch. During summer league, I sensed that Justin Williams really needed to continue impressing the organization and – most importantly – continue improving in order to survive. The good news for Justin is it sounds like he’s doing just that. Still, the intrigue of Darryl Watkins is that he could be a very serviceable big man with a great NBA body that you just can’t teach. Or who knows, maybe the shocker comes when late camp invite Rashid Byrd is the one who remains!


Question: Hi Sam. Just one quick question. How many games will Ron Artest sit out due to the trouble he got into with his wife? – Ron, Woodbridge

Answer: Ron will be out seven games, although he appealed that ruling and is hoping it gets shortened. It likely won’t, though.

Keep the questions coming, folks...

October 4, 2007
More Hawes

Turns out the second MRI on Spencer Hawes' knee already took place. The team is still waiting for more opinions, but Kings coach Reggie Theus sure made surgery seem like a strong possibility. Hawes sat out again at today's practice. - Sam Amick

October 3, 2007
Waiting and wondering

Aside from the Reggie Rules, training camp has been pretty ho-hum so far. And as I see it, the most relevant topic to watch is the situation with Spencer Hawes.
Mr. No. 10 pick will have a second MRI taken on Friday, one that includes dye being put in the knee for a closer look and can only make me wonder how this plays out. This next step is per request from his personal doctor in Seattle, who chose this route after looking at the first MRI.
For what it's worth, I witnessed during summer league how he can wear his emotions on his sleeve. But judging by Hawes' reaction, there shouldn't be too much cause for concern among Kings fans as he's generally been optimistic and doesn't appear to be losing sleep over the injury.
But I'm still grasping the fact that he had microfracture surgery at 14 because a) the M-word is just bad news on so many levels and b) Hawes has said this injury is unrelated and it's been more than five years since that happened. Fuzzy for now.
So while we wait, it should be noted that Hawes dropped his first intellectual tidbit today. Known as a well-educated, politically-opinionated type, he was shooting free throws while listening to my babblings about Golden State and its active offseason. From the Nellie saga to harrowing contract talks and/or trade requests from much of the roster, it was the summer buzzkill that followed Bay Area bliss after a long-awaited playoff berth (and shocking series win over Dallas). Anyhow, Hawes' response to my mini-rant was this..."Laissez Faire, man. Laissez Faire. Free market economy."
l hadn't heard that since college history class and certainly didn't expect to be reminded by an NBA rookie. The Purple Politician living up to his name early on.
***
Talked to Theus more about his road rules. He said he did confer with Rick Pitino on the matter before going forward with the plan, and was well aware that the tactic didn't work so well for his mentor. He wouldn't specify if there would be bed checks at the respective hotels, but seemed confident word would get out if guys don't adhere.
For the record, Theus by no means offered this information. I began receiving calls the morning after the team dinner and asked him about it. It's an important point, I think, because he would come off a bit like a blowhard if he had gone to the media with this. It should also be noted that the cell phone rule is causing more of a stir than the curfew.
Even Aaron Goodwin, the agent who supported Theus in my Wednesday piece, called to clarify that his quote was only in regards to the curfew.
- Sam Amick

October 2, 2007
Can you hear me now?

The Esquire Grill downtown has become the place to be for all things Kings these days. First, Kevin Martin celebrates his five-year extension with a press conference at the eatery. Then Monday night, Reggie Theus gathered his squad together for a team dinner that - unfortunately - wasn't filmed for public consumption.
As I report in today's paper, Theus' season-starting message included a notice that a road curfew would be in order. What's more, no cell phones are to be used on the team bus. And what I would've given to see the looks on some players' faces when that news came down.
But while some guys may not like it (and for the record, no players publicly expressed anything but support for the idea) here's the thing: I'm on board. Given the current climate, the backdrop of a 33-win campaign and the fact that there is so much at stake both individually and collectively for this bunch, why not start things off with a little order in the house after what was a chaotic last season on and off the court?
Without even delving into the reality that the NBA's awful run of negative PR makes this a good time to pull such a move, Kings wins would go a long way toward helping the waning fan support in terms of tickets (yes, the sellout streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999 is in jeopardy) and arena support. Even if this Cal Expo plan transpires and no public money is needed, this current lull in the purple passion is one the Kings could do without and the fans - judging by the early returns on our poll - seem to like the idea that their team is taking things seriously.
Several Kings players are badly in need of a resurgence in their respective careers, Kings hoops prez Geoff Petrie doesn't want to be affiliated with a losing squad for too much longer, and Theus is looking to show his coaching merits with this bold move.
Truth be told, Theus paid no attention to how bold it was. He was following his instinct and looking to ease his mind of some of the worry that can come with distractions on the road. Will it prompt some folks in the league to accuse him of using college tactics (a la New Mexico State) on pros? Absolutely. But the inspiration seems to be all NBA, a la Jerry Sloan (whose coaching career began in Chicago with Theus as his star).
From Theus' declarations that status or years served won't dictate playing time to his early talk of defense and this latest tactic, the similarities in style are many. And even apart from that connection, a coach who is new to this level must have some freedom to run the ship the way he'd like to. Sink or sail.
Maybe it doesn't hold up, gets vetoed by the player's association, rethought by Theus or even sparks mutiny in the locker room. Maybe it sticks, has the desired effect and - chances are - gets lifted once Theus feels he can trust his new squad. But it's tough to argue with the meaning behind the message.
The Kings went 13-28 on the road last season, tied for the fifth worst road record in the league. Maybe this isn't such a bad idea. - Sam Amick

October 2, 2007
Rough start for Hawes (and media day madness)

Before the endless funny stuff at media day, there's the less-than-lighthearted news that rookie Spencer Hawes is having knee trouble (since I just spoiled tomorrow's Kings notes, then check out which other big man will be sitting out). The Kings rookie and No. 10 draft pick out of Washington tweaked his left knee doing conditioning last Thursday, had an MRI on Friday and won't be practicing on Tuesday. As for the long-term recovery outlook, more should be known in coming days but the MRI was inconclusive.
It's far from Greg Oden staring at microfracture surgery, but it's enough to have folks within the organization holding their breath for more info. Numerous folks told me he was hobbling pretty badly, although I missed him and didn't witness it with my own eyes.
Now as for the circus that is media day, there were plenty of shenanigans to be had. Among the many was Ron Artest adding to his eclectic history of personal footwear. The slim and strong small forward (dropped 14 pounds to 246 and is ripped) hit the practice facility floor in low-top Chuck Taylors. They were black and not nearly as zany as the painted-on hi-tops from his Jan., 2006 Kings debut in Boston View image
or some of his other offerings, but worth a chuckle nonetheless.
Adding to the unorthodox feel, the Maloofs showed up with a terrier in tow (or some sort of tiny yapper dog) that became the first to truly run the floor under Reggie Theus' reign. Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie was sporting a new goatee he says could be "here today, gone tomorrow," which is the opposite of a much talked-about Theus portrait.
Kudos to Channel 13 "Sports Show" producer Jason Maloney for bringing comedy to the affair. On his own, Maloney is comedic as a Chris Farley look-a-like , but he had a golden idea to bring an old-school Theus picture to get player reaction. This isn't just any picture, but a Coach Bill Fuller meets Baywatch sort of look that had guys in stitches.
"Please tell me that's not Reggie," Kevin Martin said when shown. "He looks like Rick Fox."
(Blog update: this wasn't the first time that picture was poked fun at)
For a more up to date look at the new guy and his thoughts on this season, check out this video from a recent Bee photoshoot.
Speaking of Martin, the fourth-year shooting guard took plenty of business from his teammates for his new five-year, $55 million extension and raised status. As he wandered into the facility, he found towels laid down as a red carpet of sorts to his locker. Asked who gave him the hardest time about his recent riches, he pointed to Mike Bibby.
"That's all I heard for the first five minutes," Martin said. "It was the normals - the Mikes, the Mikes again, then the Mikes again.
"(But) I know what the expectations are, and I put a lot of pressure on myself. You could say it's a little different (this year), but it's just all basketball."
As a bit of a teaser, camp invite Rashid Byrd is an interesting story who I'll talk more about later this week in the paper. Among other things, the 7-foot-1 big man is a former And1 player who was known as "Seven and Sum Change." Judging by this clip, he should be called "Seven and Sum Change and a Whole Lot of Hops." Not quite as clever, though.
(Blog update: Here's the piece and a disturbing look at the new Will Ferrell movie Byrd is in)
- Sam Amick



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