Kings Blog and Q&A

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

January 31, 2008
Q & A time! (Trades, giving Mikki a hand and finding a four)

You've got Q's, I've got A's. And away we go...

Question: When are we going to get a power foward that can clog up the hole, block shots and rebound? It seems like that is the most obvious thing in the past three seasons that we need but instead we keep getting guys that don't fit the build!! - DJ G, Atlanta, Ga.

Answer: They're looking, and have been for quite a while. The list of power forwards I've heard rumors about the Kings wondering how to get is long, from names like Memphis' Pau Gasol to Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge to Cleveland's Drew Gooden. Actually making that happen, obviously, is another thing entirely.
And while the latest trade talks are with Denver regarding Ron Artest, I'm starting to hear that Nene is unlikely to be part of any deal with the Nuggets. In general, though, the Kings have the same complaint of their four spot as the fans do.

Question: If you had to make a prediction on what (Kings basketball president) Geoff Petrie is doing, would you think he'd prefer to deal Artest or Bibby?
- Ed, Rocklin, Maryland

Answer: It may be less about what Petrie wants than it is about what is more realistic. Artest is attractive to some teams because you can use him as a hired gun for a few months. He's already made it clear that he'll opt out of his contract this summer, meaning you can bring him in for the remainder of his $7.4 million salary and decide later if you want him around long-term. Bibby, though, comes with that bigger contract ($13.5 this season, $14.5 next) that is harder to move.
If you would've asked me a few weeks ago, though, I would've said Bibby was the priority. It appears to have changed, though.

Question: Will C-Webb and Nelson get along this time? - Steve Padilla, North Highlands, Calif.

Answer: I'm going to say yes based on good, old-fashioned maturity. There's no way both men haven't changed enough to pull off a healthier relationship this time around. As Nellie said to our Ailene Voisin, he and C-Webb are looking to right their past wrongs by enjoying it this time around.

Question: Hi Sam, have you heard anyone around the Kings' practice facility commenting on the repeated inability of Mikki Moore to be able to catch nice assists from other Kings players during games? I know he leads the NBA in fouls committed, but his continual mishandling of passes in the paint account for 10 to 20 percent of the Kings 20-plus turnovers per game. If a reasonably accurate pass is bobbled and lost by Moore doesn't that amount to a turnover by the player who passed it? - Dwight McKenna, Mission Viejo, Calif.

Answer: You're right about that last fact, Dwight, which is too bad for the guy sharing the rock. And, yes, folks around Kings land are well aware of Mikki's butter fingers. He was terrible in that department early on, then improved quite a bit for a good month or so and has struggled a bit recently again. The assumption, of course, is that he got so used to taking perfect passes from Jason Kidd in New Jersey that he just can't get used to these mere mortals.

Question: When do you suppose John Salmon will get the recognition from Reggie Theus that he deserves. Even Jerry Renolds says he deserves more recognition as a defender. I notice when John is coming off the floor during a game and passes by Reggie on his way to the bench, there is no word of praise or pat on the "po-po" like with the rest, especially Francisco Garcia. - June Vance, Folsom, Calif.

Answer: I'm not sure I can even offer an opinion because I have such a tough time reading John. In the locker room and away from the floor, he is nothing short of a super human being. But it seems at times like his body language on the floor might even throw his teammates or Theus off.
The dynamic between John and Garcia has always been unfortunate for both parties, as they are really fighting for the same role. Both can fill the role well, but trying to pull off this 1-2 punch act off the bench rarely works. And you're not the first one to think Theus favors Garcia because of their history at Louisville. It's to Garcia's credit that he's had such a nice year, quieting some of the critics in the locker room who started claiming favoritism.

Question: Would a trade involving Mike Bibby and Kenny Thomas for Cleveland's Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes be possible since both teams are looking to move both players? - Ken McCormick, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Answer: Yeah, you could make that work financially and you're right that both teams want to move both players. The thing now is that Cleveland's Anderson Varejao is out until after the All-Star break with an ankle sprain, so Gooden may be off-limits for now. The Kings certainly would love to get Varejao - who was considered off-limits when the Bibby talks came so close last February - and I wonder if maybe Cavs GM Danny Ferry would reconsider that notion now if it meant he could add some firepower with a player like Bibby. - Sam Amick

January 31, 2008
Ron-Ron's end near?

First things first, there's this: Geoff Petrie still has to be satisfied.
Any deal involving Ron Artest - and all signs point to trade talks heating up - has to come with enough to make Petrie want to pull the trigger. He can still hold out, perhaps holding onto Artest until season's end and trying to do a sign-and-trade in the summer as a way of getting something back. And even if that didn't happen, you get $7.4 million off the cap and move forward. Not ideal, but neither are some of the offers he's heard for Artest in the past.
While I spent quite a bit of time wondering in print about Nene being part of an Artest-to-Denver deal, there are other pieces there too. There's the expiring contract of bruiser Eduardo Najera ($4.95 million), the revived and likely unattainable center Marcus Camby ($10 million this season and signed through 2010), and young talents like small forward Linas Kleiza ($1.01 million this season, team option for 2008-09 at $1.82 million).
Artest to Denver fits for another reason, too, that being the notion that he would be best suited in an environment with an established coach and surrounded by big-time stars. That was much of the reason Pat Riley has pondered the idea in Miami, where Shaq and D-Wade could create quite the trio with Artest. And it works in Denver, too, where coach George Karl has had a smooth run since getting the once-difficult Allen Iverson and worked past so many Carmelo Anthony moments.
The biggest difference here is that Miami (9-35, last place in the East) is a lost cause while Denver (27-18, 7th place in the West) could badly use another potent piece to ensure playoff position.
Artest's teammates didn't know what to think about his statements to the Bee's Marty Mac about not seeing a long-term future in Sacramento. Swingman Francisco Garcia was nothing short of shocked to hear what Artest had to say.
"Thatís my man," he said. "He brings so much to the table for us. Heís a great player. I donít know whatís going on behind closed doors, (but) if he leaves, itís going to be tough because heís also a great friend. But we understand that itís a business. People go, people come."
Garcia and center Brad Miller were asked if Artest's moments of frustration that have been frequent of late were hurting the team, or if his teammates have grown to live with those occasional outbursts.
"I think everybody got used to it," he said. "Heís just so competitive, just wants to win. Sometimes people get mad at him, but he just wants to win."
Miller, who laughed at the notion that he's the resident Ron-Ron expert because of their prior experience together in Indiana, said he still never knows what to expect from Artest.
"You canít read him," he said. "You never know what heís going to say one day. Thereís no reading Ron. Thatís for sure."
Petrie wouldn't share the exact details of his two recent conversations with Artest, although it seemed clear that it involved the probability that he'll be discussed in trades in the coming days and weeks.
"Iím not going to go into the details of what we talked about necessarily, but Iíve always been very straight forward with Ron and thatís the way it is with anyone," he said. - Sam Amick

January 28, 2008
C-Webb help the Warriors?

So Marty Mac was onto something after all when he got word that Warriors coach Don Nelson was hanging at C-Webb's restaurant.
His scoop of sorts got the Chris Webber-to-Golden-State rumor going, and now nearly every interested news outlet in the country has someone telling them Webber will likely sign with the Warriors tomorrow.
Now it's time to see if Buzz Braman is right.
Buzz is a well-respected personal hoops coach - and a former NBA assistant - who has been known to help players with their shot and post game, among other things. One of his most high-profile clients for years now has been Webber himself.
I spoke with Buzz recently for a story about how he has been working with Kings forward Kenny Thomas , and distinctly remember him taking a few moments to talk about Webber in the context of Thomas.
The similarity was that both men are filthy rich, with every American right to simply wake up each morning in their bed full of Benjamins and laugh until nightfall comes. But at the end of the day, they are basketball players who want to play ball as long as they can.
Braman was lauding Webber for his work done in the last few months while getting his body in tip-top shape. We'll see for ourselves soon enough, but Braman insisted that Webber is in great shape and his game will be at a high level. Webber's agent, Aaron Goodwin, told me the same thing recently. The Warriors, of course, are the ones who'd better hope he helps more than he hurts here.
Personally, I just can't see how Webber takes these guys to a new level. I get that the bench is short and in need of bigs, but the Warriors just might be the fastest team in the league and Webber - at this stage of his career - is among the slowest. When he signed with Detroit last season, that made sense on paper (which is all we can deal with at this point). His passing could help in their halfcourt offense, and so on. These two teams couldn't be any different.
There is this, though: the Warriors need anyone who can grab a rebound. Andris Biedrins can't grab 26 every night like he did against the Knicks on Sunday, and Webber showed he can still hit the glass while averaging 9.9 in his last full season in Philadelphia (2005-06).
All things considered, it's a heck of a storyline. Will Webber and his old Nellie nemesis end their reunion in tragedy or triumph? Good hoops theatre, if nothing else.

***

Kudos to the Kings marketing department for making the most of an exciting win at Seattle on Sunday night.
After watching this promo on the team's web site, you can't help but want to head on out to the old gas tank that is Arco Arena. We'll see if it's enough to help their attendance ranking of 25th in the league (13,854 average).

***

Those Kings fans not enjoying the 19-24 record and perhaps turning their focus to Sunday's Super Bowl in Phoenix should check out Bill Bradley's on-site blog.
With eight blog posts in two days, our sports editor is clearly putting at least one of his beat writers to shame. - Sam Amick

January 28, 2008
Not quite a Sonic boom, but still a win

SEATTLE - Brad Miller needs to buy Kevin Martin dinner.
The big man joked after the Kings' 103-101 win at Seattle on Sunday that he and his teammates were "glad not to be the Indiana Pacers tonight." The Pacers, to review, helped Miami end its league-long 15-game losing streak on Saturday. But the Kings were as close as a team can be to falling in this one, and a loss would have pointed straight to Miller's moment of frustration with 43.1 seconds left.
Miller had been battling with Sonics center Kurt Thomas all night. And when Thomas forced a turnover by mugging Miller in the paint after he had retrieved his own missed five-footer, Miller had one of his infamous lapses where he shoved Thomas aggressively and sent him to the line. His two free throws brought Seattle within two.
Of course that's when Martin began his game-saving stretch with an alley-oop tip off the inbounds pass from Ron Artest that came - of course - with Thomas hanging on him and just one second on the shot clock. Martin finished the outing with his 14-footer that helped the Kings avert what would've been a complete disaster of a loss.
The hysterical part about the Miller-Thomas battle was how these guys could appear on the verge of going to blows only to be smiling moments later. Even after Thomas was shoved by Miller, the two were grinning about it just seconds later on the other end. As Miller said later, that's all part of being a veteran in this league.
"Thatís just a couple of old farts having a good time," he said of himself and Thomas. "Weíve both got the same dirty tricks. He knows heís fouling, and Iím fouling too. Just two old guys having fun."
I caught Thomas on his way out of KeyArena later that night, then couldn't help but to relay Miller's "old farts" sentiment.
"That's it," Thomas said with a laugh. "Brad's a good man, a good man."

***

* The alley-oop play to Martin was apparently in the bag of tricks all season long, but it just hadn't been used.
Martin joked on television afterward that he had always told Theus it wouldn't work. Theus, meanwhile, said he took some solace in knowing the Sonics wouldn't see it coming.
"Itís a play that I had in college (at New Mexico State)," Theus said. "I hadnít run that play, so I knew it wasnít in their (scouting report). Kevin just made a phenomenal, athletic play. Mikki Moore was actually open on the slip, too. But thereís no doubt about it - Kevin Martin made that play work."

* The Kings won on the road against a Western Conference opponent for the first time. They are 1-10 now.

* Mike Bibby is playing with a sprained right pinkie finger, although Bibby said he's fine. He wore tape on the finger against the Sonics, hitting 5 of 11 for 13 points.

* As was the case on Friday in Utah, Ron Artest wasn't sure if he could play until later in the day of a game.
Artest indicated at shoot-a-round that he couldn't play because of soreness in his right knee and foot, but wound up starting come tipoff time. He had 10 points (3 of 10 shooting), six assists, six rebounds, and two steals in 31 minutes. And, no, he wasn't anywhere near as theatrical as he was against the Jazz (which, by the way, was captured here by someone who reflects the sentiment of so many Jazz fans that night).
When it came to crowd interaction, forward Mikki Moore was, if nothing else, the most comedic of the bunch. When a fan yelled at Moore to "stop whining" about calls, Moore said in a semi-soft tone, "Hey Santa Clause, shut up." The fan, of course, had a white beard and mustache.

January 26, 2008
Ar-Testing the limits

SALT LAKE CITY - They're talking about the Kings again, and not in the way that makes the Maloofs want to wave that purple flag with pride.
Ron Artest's outlandish act in the Kings' loss isn't a good thing for this team in any way, even if point guard Mike Bibby said afterward that "he was fighting for all of us." I'd like to think I've learned not to overreact to the way Artest is - "Ron being Ron," as you hear so often - but this was impossible to ignore and enough to leave the locals searching for all the old adjectives Artest has tried so hard to get away from.
"Crazy" (courtesy of Utah point guard Deron Williams - as quoted here)
"Whacko" (a headline in the Deseret Morning News).
"Meltdown" (Salt Lake Tribune game story).
And I'm not even going to touch on some of the adjectives the hecklers had for him.
In my report, there just wasn't enough room to touch on everything Artest did on the floor - including the fact he had 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting and eight rebounds. He also ripped a ball from a fan sitting in the front row at EnergySolutions Arena as he went to inbound the ball. He never made contact with the fan but grabbed the ball with a flying-elbow motion that made everyone watching nervous. He pounded his chest so incessantly that any NFL officials watching on televisions went reaching for their whistles for an unsportsmanlike call. He yelled in harmless fashion at the the crowd, with some of his actual words of choice as pointless as "Basketball!" The local media thought Artest pushed the limits with coach Jerry Sloan, the old-schooler who apparently was pounding his own chest during a timeout as a way of asking the officiating crew if it planned to stop the Hulk gesture. Sloan, like everyone else in attendance, soon learned that the only way to stop Ron on this night was by kicking him out of town early. To look at Artest's last hurrah before he was ejected and his exit from the arena while, ironically, giving high-fives to Jazz fans, enjoy this pic.

Ron.jpg
Credit - Douglas C. Pizac, Associated Press

***

A few tidbits that didn't make print...

* Bibby made a trip to the trainer's room at some point, apparently to have his right pinkie finger checked. He had it in ice after the game, but is believed to be fine.

* Kings coach Reggie Theus wasnít the only one forced to adjust to Artestís uncertainty about playing.
Forward Kenny Thomas was placed on the inactive list before Friday's game, but not before, according to Thomas, he was told by trainer Pete Youngman that he was still active. Then he was told he was inactive, again told he was active before getting the official news. Because the final word came so late, Thomas said he didnít bring league-approved attire to the arena and couldnít sit on the teamís bench. He did make an appearance in the media room before the game, though, dining on pasta and chicken in his game warm-ups.

- Sam Amick

January 25, 2008
A rough start before the start

THE FINAL WORD - AND FINAL UPDATE

YET ANOTHER BLOG UPDATE: Just got official word that Mikki Moore was, in fact, tending to his fiance', who had complications related to the miscarriage and had to attend a local hospital.

ANOTHER BLOG UPDATE: Mikki Moore is officially on the Kings bench with 8:50 left in the second quarter.
He's greeted warmly by Spencer Hawes and Beno Udrih, just before Ron Artest gives him a barrel hug from behind and Quincy Douby offers a hug as well. Considering Moore recently underwent a difficult experience when his fiance' had a miscarriage and Moore told me she was coming with him on this trip, it's safe to say it's related.
They have set up an exercise bike in the nearby tunnel for Moore to get him warm. He enters play for the first time wtih 3:49 left in the second quarter.

BLOG UPDATE: Kings forward Mikki Moore arrived late in the first quarter and should join his teammates soon. He was late to the game for personal reasons, although more should be known after the game.

SALT LAKE CITY - So as if playing a Utah team that's won eight of its last 10 games isn't challenge enough, the Kings weren't sure what players they had at their disposal until this afternoon.
Small forward Ron Artest didn't take part in morning shoot-a-round and was complaining of soreness to his right knee and right foot, but informed the coaching staff 75 minutes before tipoff that he could go. And now forward Mikki Moore isn't even here, having missed the game for personal reasons. As for the Jazz? Fully healthy, and up 12-8 at the moment in the first quarter. - Sam Amick

January 24, 2008
Salt Lake's hotspot

SALT LAKE CITY - When NBA players talk about cities they like visiting for nightlife purposes, this one is either at the bottom of the list or near it.
The complaint? Not enough hotspots.
Crazy talk, I tell ya.
There's a hotspot that's providing some serious entertainment from my hotel window as we speak: a four-alarm fire that has all the locals talking. Now ironically, the blaze that has been going since last night just across the street from the local Marriott (read more here) burned down a nightclub in the process.

fire.jpg

It's still going strong a day later, with the damage extensive and the smoke billowing into the already-salty sky. Now that it's dark, you can see the glow of the blaze breathing from the first of three floors. Most of the destruction took place in an abandoned building, and they're now in the process of swinging the ol' wrecking ball against the old brick structure and scrapping the whole site. I wasn't the only one enjoying the show, either, as a walk in the snow-filled area revealed four firemen who had set up lawn chairs in an alleyway to watch the rubble fall.

SPEAKING OF NIGHTLIFE...ARTEST PUNK'D BY PAPARAZZI

On the contrary, Los Angeles is supposed to be one of the best cities to have a good time - unless you're Ron Artest on Wednesday night.
A TMZ video has been making the rounds that shows Artest, Justin Williams, and Quincy Douby having a hard time getting into a club. For what it's worth Ron, I would've let you in if it were my club, especially after the hilarious line you dropped in the video about being a beat writer produced by the always-entertaining Elie Seckbach on Wednesday night at the Staples Center. If you want a bit more on Artest's Paparazzi moment, read the bottom item on these Kings notes. - Sam Amick

January 19, 2008
"Bet your house" on Artest opting out

INDIANAPOLIS - Although it was assumed by most that Kings small forward Ron Artest would choose to become a free agent after this season, he said for the first time on Saturday that he would likely exercise the early termination option in his contract just as expected.
"You know, I guess everybody assumes (he's goint to opt out)," he said. "If youíre going to bet your house on it, then bet that Iím going to opt out. But that time will come later. Weíll see what happens."
Artest is earning $7.4 million this season and would earn the same salary next season if he didn't opt out. - Sam Amick

January 19, 2008
Bent, but not broken, by Artest

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Something was different.
This, of course, was the same old Ron Artest, the guy who so often cracked last season in fits of competitive frustration that could hurt the Kings on and off the floor (see locker room rants and horrific shooting nights). But his foot-stomping act not only stopped short of unfolding into a full-on reckless Riverdance, but Artest provided a serious spark in this most-unexpected of wins. A spark, mind you, not a full-on explosion.
The difference? Well, Artest deserves some credit. He certainly appears to have matured in the last year, recognizing his own downfalls and looking to fix them. But as Artest noted, things have changed around him, too.
"Thatís why itís good to have guys like Brad (Miller) and guys like Mikki Moore on the team," Artest said afterward. "If you were the only vet, then nobody can really talk to you. They canít really justify wrong from right. Youíll think youíre doing something right, and theyíll be like ĎNo, that was wrong.í"
Because truth be told, a coach alone can't contain the man (Rick Adelman fed him, handling the situation like he did his offenses - with finesse that led to the sort of success that makes Ron happy). Just ask Eric Musselman, the former Kings coach who - behind the scenes - so often cited Artest's erratic behavior an obstacle he just couldn't overcome. Or Reggie Theus, who continues to work through these sort of issues with a deal-with-it-and-move-on approach that has mostly worked.
There was still some destructive behavior, with Artest breaking off offensive plays at an even higher rate than normal and launching a few ill-advised looks in shooting 5 of 13. But all in all, it went all the way from disaster averted to energy inserted, with Artest and his incredible ability to compete spreading from end to end on the Kings bench. It's a fine line to walk, to be sure, and Artest knows it. Artest said that he had a conversation with Moore earlier this season about fighting that very battle.
"I told Mikki earlier in the season, said ĎMikki, I got a little emotional today. Iíve got to hold that in,í" he said. "And Mikki said, ĎNo, let that (garble) out, and I said ĎAlright.í"
For translation's sake, "garble" was, quite literally, "blu blu blee blee bla bla bla bla." And what he means is the unfiltered moments like the one in the first quarter on Friday night, although there were a few more 'Fs' involved in the garble he spewed at Theus.
Among media folks, the game brought up the age-old question of how many teams will be willing to make a long-term commitment to Artest because of his, shall we say, quirkiness. And while that won't be known for some time, let it be known that - as super-blogger Tom Ziller of sactownroyalty.com pointed out recently - Artest sang Sacramento praises that had to make you wonder if he actually does want to stay in Sacramento. Or, of course, he could be savvy enough to include as many teams as possible in his "potential suitors" file so as to drive up his price. As is always the case with Artest, only the shadow knows.
"The weatherís beautiful in Sacramento," said Artest, who also told the Detroit Free Press he wouldn't rule out becoming a Piston. "The team Iím playing with is good. With Kevin Martin, it's a great opportunity to play with an up and coming star. Heís capable of carrying us to a championship, along with myself and other players also. Iím in a great opportunity right now in Sacramento."

HECKLER'S DELIGHT (AND A HEADACHE)

A morning flight is coming too quick to do this justice, but I officially decided that the hecklers in Detroit are by far the best in the league.
Now honestly, I can't believe I'm saying that. They killed my ear drums, frustrated my senses and had me giving the security guard puppy eyes as a pathetic plea for him to help bring down the decibels.
But that being said, there was some classic humor there. And the best part? The loud-mouthed lady in the front row just so happened to be the glamorous gal who sang that night's National Anthem with so much poise and grace.

Among the best material...

From the black-haired white guy with the gold-chain necklace who I'm told is an attorney (and I hope he doesn't read this because it will only encourage him)

To Ron Artest as he checks in for the first time in the first quarter:
Heckler: "Why aren't you starting Ron? You're not even a starter anymore?"
Ron: "You want me to tell you?"
Heckler: "You're not even a starter!"
Ron: "You won't stop talking so I can tell you!"

The answer never came, but the lady heckler heckled the man for not being harder on Artest, to which he replied, "ďDid you see how he beat those people last time?Ē

***

Next target: Reggie Theus

"You know, Reggie, youíre wasting your real talents. Youíve got a look, Reggie. You could be famous. You should be an actor."

To the few who cheered for Artest

"By the way, youíre listening to the four women who bought Ron Artest rap albums."

There were so many more. But alas, I did actually have to take notes on the game and not the games outside the game. Bibby clearly heard them all night (and how could you not?), no doubt hearing the one line about how he "should've stayed on the IR (inactive list), and you're on my fantasy team!" Mike had the last word, though, looking their way after the win was over. Of course, the woman just couldn't stop, saying "Enjoy being under .500! You're not going to the playoffs." Just like the home team, she couldn't finish strong. - Sam Amick

January 18, 2008
Martin out again? (No, he's not)

UPDATE: Come in off the ledge Kings fans. Martin's finger is not broken and he's about to return to action.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Just when things were looking up for the Kings as they came back on Detroit on Friday, the injury bug has bit yet again.
Shooting guard Kevin Martin left the game in the second quarter after hurting his left middle finger and has gone in for X-Rays. He had 16 points on 5 of 6 shooting before leaving with Kings up 50-42. It's unclear so far if he'll return to the game. - Sam Amick

January 17, 2008
Hockey, hoops and taking the "I" out of "Kings"

DETROIT - The Kings need to go to a hockey game.
That's the conclusion I came to on Thursday night, after the thrilling overtime affair between Detroit and Vancouver at Joe Louis Arena was over and the differences between the NHL and the NBA were so glaringly obvious.
First, though, I never noticed the many similarities between hoops and hockey, from the ball/puck movement that is so vital to offensive production to the value of transition defense and the importance of limiting turnovers that open the door to playing on your heels - whether that's in tennies or skates. Angles and sheer physics, especially, are the end-all, be-all on the ice and - at least among the NBA's more effective teams - the court as well. It's obvious what are good shots and what aren't, with high-percentage looks preferred but certain players able to bury attempts in the net from long range. And defense of the toughest kind, clearly, is not optional.
But one major difference got me thinking about where the Kings could benefit: the ego-factor. With hockey guys, you may as well not have names on the backs of the jerseys. Sure, there are Sidney Crosbys out there, and the Steve Yzermans of yesteryear and Wayne Gretzkys, Mark Messiers and on and on. But for the most part, the cheesy line about the name on the front of the jersey mattering more than the name on the back seems to actually fit. That's not so much the case on the hardwood, where my sense is that most players around the league only completely buy in to the team concept if there's a high likelihood of collective success. Anything remotely resembling a lack of hope, and each player's vision becomes about their own big picture and what's next in their individual career.
This topic of all-for-one-and-one-for-all was discussed after the Kings loss at Toronto on Wednesday, where the return of Mike Bibby and Ron Artest brought back the same old question of whether this group can have chemistry as a unit.
Despite the loss, the message coming out of the locker room was the right tone in terms of what it will take to work. But in a culture that is so geared toward the star-driven NBA system, walking the walk after talking the talk will be tougher.
"Everybody has to give a little to gain a little for the team," Kevin Martin said. "Weíve just got to keep on working with these adjustments. Some guys have got to give up minutes, and some guys have got to give up shots. That might be best for the team, but we just have to do that."
Martin was asked if he felt everyone in the locker room was thinking that way.
"I think we are," he said. "Today is new for everybody. Guys have different mindsets, so itís one of those periods for everybody."
Bibby, who cared little about his stellar invidual outing in light of the loss, said the "hard-headed" personalities of the Kings' core players involved here makes it a tricky mix.
"We're all guys who feel like we can do it," Bibby said.
As in do it alone, not in any sort of collective arm-in-arm kind of manner. Problem is, it just doesn't work that way. Without chemistry, these guys go nowhere. With it, they could be interesting.
And clearly, it's time for the Kings to head to a Sharks game when they get home.

***

Not only is the NHL not the sport I cover, it's not even close to the top of my personal favorites list. Thus, it came as no surprise that I was able to run into the coach of the one of the league's premier teams and not have the slighest clue who he was.
Instructed by a security guard to head down a hallway and take a left, I veered right when a door just looked like the entrance to the locker room for postgame interviews. Lo and behold, it was the VIP room where Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and his cohorts were chatting about their big win.
I received a look not all that different from this one... (from Babcock in the back, not wingman Aaron Downey and his "Do you smell what The Rock is cookin'?!" stare)

Babcock.jpg

...at which point Babcock grinned and instructed the security guard to show me the way once again.
While apologizing for a second time on my way out, the guard tells me that Babcock "just bit my (butt) for letting you go in there." Whoops...

Random thoughts from a new kind of locker room...

* Someone needs to hang a few hundred of those little tree air fresheners in here. Either that or my synapses are recanting those long-ago days of high school football.

* When the Red Wings win, they rock (insert band name here) on the jukebox?

A. Kid Rock (because, of course, he's the unofficial mayor of Motor City)

B. The Zambonis (yes, it's an actual band)

C. Coldplay (Get it?)

D. Soulja Boy (Could the NBA and NHL have something in common?)

The answer: Aha! It actually is Coldplay, although I can't remember which song.


* Speaking of Hasek, the legendary Red Wings goalie is about to turn 43 and he looks every bit his age.

Hasek.jpg


Can't say I ever imagined being part of a media scrum in which the star of the night had more gray hairs than the coach. Clearly, though, he's still going strong.

* Downey is now my first favorite NHL player.
While getting a closer look at the action from a front-row seat at center ice, Downey pummeled an unexpecting Canucks player and provided the sort of moment that makes people say that hockey is best enjoyed live. Nearly $20 in beer that belonged to the folks next to me was nearly wasted upon impact (for the record, that's two beers), but they managed to see the trainwreck coming and grab the brews off the rail before the collision.

* Sat next to a couple that couldn't have been nicer or more pure Michiganer.
Husband and wife both worked at GM, both hated Michael Moore and urged me to skip out on tonight's Pistons-Kings game to hit tonight's North American International Auto Show. I forgot to ask their take on local boy Chris Webber.
- Sam Amick

January 16, 2008
A full roster, ey?

TORONTO - A full roster, ey? Well, not entirely. Shareef Abdur-Rahim remains on the shelf, but the Kings are otherwise healthy and in wait-and-see mode as they debut the new group tonight at Toronto.
A trip to this morning's shoot-a-round confirms that Mike Bibby and Ron Artest will, in fact, be playing, and coach Reggie Theus reiterated that the starting lineup of Beno Udrih, John Salmons, Francisco Garcia, Mikki Moore and Brad Miller will remain. It's in all of their favor that the Raptors will be playing the tail end of a road-home back to back, having lost at Detroit on Tuesday night. Maybe the fatigue factor will help slow Toronto forward Chris Bosh down, as the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week has been on tear lately.

MAKING AMENDS

I'm blaming the travel factor for what was a rough day at the office yesterday, as today's story on what may lie ahead is in need of a correction.
Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao's deal is for three years and $17 million, not the five years and $32 million I reported. And who doesn't remember that? To review, going shorter with his deal after the holdout was the long-awaited compromise that will allow him to try for the truly big bucks again a few years from now. - Sam Amick

January 15, 2008
A Maloofian Paradise

When it comes to bosses checking in, this was the right kind of visit.
Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof made an appearance in the Kings locker room after Monday night's thriller at Arco, regaining his breath long enough to share his thanks with the team and express his gratitude for a job well done. Of course this came after Gavin made everyone in the building wonder if this was the 2004 playoffs all over again (Kings over Mavs in five games in first round). Gavin stormed the floor after the furious finish, staying long enough to make his way onto SportsCenter and eventually heading for the locker room.
"They have a passion for this game," Kings coach Reggie Theus said.
To say the least.

A few quick thoughts before hitting the road tomorrow...

* Theus was among the masses heaping praise upon Martin for his 39-point outing off the bench, having watched his shooting guard hit 14 of 16 shots and nine of 11 free throws. Of course, this brought Martin's two-game total to 64 points on 21 of 25 shooting (84 percent) in a combined 57 minutes while hitting 19 of 21 free throws.
"It doesn't happen very often," Theus said when asked if he could remember a player exploding like this when coming off an injury. "He's playing like a gazelle right now. His quickness, his jumping - he's feeling good.
"The thing I like about what Kevin's doing for us right now is he's laying it all out. He's blowing it all out, and then when he gets tired he looks over and we get him out of the game."
But only if you have to, of course.

* Dahntay Jones may not have slept a wink on Monday night if the Mavs had pulled off the comeback.
The Kings guard known for his defensive prowess had a tough finish on that end, beginning with the Devin Harris three-pointer from the left corner that tied it 115-115 wtih 38.2 seconds to go. The timing was the torturous part, as the previous possesion included a Francisco Garcia steal that led to a John Salmons layup on the break and a three-point lead as the Kings appeared to be ripping this game from the Mavs' grasps.
Then out of the timeout, an all-alone Harris took the inbounds pass and buried the three. Jones said he and Kevin Martin got mixed up on a rotation.
Then on the next possesion, Jones got beat by Jason Terry on a drive to the right, fouling him on the way up in a three-point play that gave Dallas its first lead since the second quarter.
All was well in the end, though, with Jones able to focus on more pleasant memories. Like that block on Brandon Bass early in the second quarter, perhaps?
Picture two NASA shuttles lifting off and one clipping the other on the way up to the stars and you've got it just about right. Jones and Bass launched at the same time, with Jones shoving the ball straight down Bass' neck.
And from his latest highlight-reel moment to a lighter take, there was Jones and coach Reggie Theus chatting in the locker room afterward about how they'd corraborated for peace midway through the fourth.
Jones fouled Harris hard on his way to the rim, and Jones said Harris balled his fists up as if something ugly was coming. Jones responded with a nose-to-nose hello and some choice words, and both players were assessed tecnhicals. Now here's the funny part.
While Harris was about to shoot his first free throw, Theus motioned to Jones that he should apologize to Harris. Sure enough, Jones did so willingly, leaning over before his second attempt to offer a mea culpa. It was, you can be sure, more about politics with the officials more than anything else, but it's nothing I've seen before either. Harris probably hadn't, either, which would explain the blank stare on his face as he ignored the gesture and shot away. - Sam Amick

January 14, 2008
Webber nearly back, too

The difference between Bryan May and I in our recent outings at Chris Webber's restaurant?
He had a microphone in his hand and I had, well, a Hefeweizen in mine.
The outstanding News10 anchor has a quality interview with Webber himself from Sunday in which he says he'll be playing again in two weeks after a looser timeline was set for the Bee's Scott Howard-Cooper in this recent update.
Coincidentally, I ran into Webber at his joint on Saturday night and was hearing more like seven to 10 days. A source close to Webber said the suitors are the Lakers, Detroit, Miami, Orlando and Toronto - with the Magic and Raptors considered longshots. Just speculation here, but among the top three of the Lakers, Pistons and Heat, my money was on the Lakers even before their frontline took a major hit. A decision has by no means already been made, however. Stay tuned on that.
Otherwise, I couldn't help but laugh in the May interview when Webber talks about adding soul food to his restaurant's menu because "the people" had asked for it. Sure enough, one of those people was the Bee's own Marty McNeal, who didn't take long to put in his own request when dining there for the the first time.
It was last year, as myself, Marty, and KHTK's Sean Cunningham ate there and Marty spent a few minutes browsing through the menu. When he was done, he pulled his cell phone out and promptly left a Marty Mac-style complaint on Webber's voicemail about the absence of soul food. Now, as Marty tells me, the specific request is for chitlins. We'll see what kind of pull he has when the new menu is released. - Sam Amick

January 14, 2008
Artest pushing for Wednesday return

The moment makes sense now.
Reggie Theus, as is noted in today's notes, inferred at Sunday's open practice that Mike Bibby and Ron Artest's return would be on the same day - Wednesday at Toronto. Of course, that was a full week before the short side of his expected recovery from right elbow surgery, so something didn't add up.
Anyway, after alluding yesterday that he would push to come back soon, the Bee's Melody Gutierrez stopped in at this morning's shoot-a-round and relays word that Ron is gunning for Wednesday. He practiced hard and shot with his right (shooting) arm and is determined to come back alongside Bibby. - Sam Amick

January 14, 2008
More As to your Qs

Question: I attended the open practice on Jan. 13. At one point (Kings coach) Reggie Theus quipped that he is paged whenever you are in the building. Do you take that as a compliment, a cause for concern, or none of the above? - Rob, Roseville, Calif.

Answer: Well considering he doesn't control my playing time, there's nothing to be concerned about. That was Reggie being Reggie, the showman who never met a microphone he didn't like. I had to correct his pronunciation later, telling him that it's a long A in A-mick, not Am-ick, like he said. And as for his beat writer GPS system, there's a can't-miss method in place already: look for the car that's grossly out of place in the player's parking lot and that means I'm there.
All in all, I thought he did a heck of a job with what was a tricky setup. While so many NBA coaches have been griping about being miked during games and in the locker rooms as is the new trend for TV, here's Theus willing to do this. He was able to entertain the 9,062 on hand and not go too far at the same time to call out certain players or get too personal with his comments.
Considering they were coming off a bad loss, though, you knew there would have to be some reference to bad play. And there was. When the Kings were running through one half-speed type drill, Theus - whose team gave up 23 turnovers in the Saturday loss to the Pacers - said, "This is about the only time they won't turn it over."
During a defensive drill, he discussed how the coaching staff breaks down the way in which they were beaten defensively after every game, and Theus shared the gory details.
"We got beat to the middle (down the lane on drives) 20 times," he said.
You couldn't beat this event, though. It was very cool to see folks enjoy the heck out of something for free.

Question: Which game will Kevin Martin be starting? And do you think once Mike Bibby comes back (on Wednesday) that he will be traded? What are the likely destinations? - Ronald G, Santo Domingo

Answer: Kevin's starting status is day by day, and Theus said on Sunday that he didn't have any plans to change the lineup for Monday's game against Dallas. And, yes, Mike could certainly be moved not long after he comes back. I could still see it happening quickly if Mike comes back and plays like his old self. As for suitors, Cleveland and Miami remain the most likely. And as for the recent buzz that if the Kings demand the Cavs take Kenny Thomas in a Bibby deal, then it wouldn't go down, that would shock no one. It all comes down to how badly Cavs GM Danny Ferry wants Mike, although he could certainly be putting his franchise in even worse salary cap hell by taking on too much just to get a hired gun like Bibby.

Question: What do you see the Kings doing this offseason in free agency and the draft? It looks like they are in dying need of a good power forward. - Glenn, Sacramento

Answer: I can't even get close to answering that one Glenn. You're a few chess moves ahead of yourself. You're spot on, though, in the sense that they want to upgrade the power forward spot. That's a major priority for the near future.

Question: There has been much talk about Bibby and Martin having to earn their spots back in the lineup. My observation is that their replacements haven't exactly earned their way into the lineup, other than being healthy when the others got hurt. Okay, John Salmons and Beno Udrih have played well, but not necessarily better than Bibby or Martin -- I think that Bibby was playing great in the preseason before he got hurt, and Martin was a top five scorer before he got hurt. What's your take on this issue? - Spencer Wong, Sacramento

Answer: It's not all that rare for even big name guys to make their returns as reserves before re-entering the starting lineup soon thereafter. And to me, the players themselves shouldn't even worry about Theus' musings on how he'll handle the situation until the situation itself unfolds. The nature of the injuries, as Theus has noted, definitely plays a factor. In Martin's case, the groin injury meant he fell a bit ouf of game shape and was pretty winded after logging 28 minutes in his first game back.
LeBron James came in off the bench on Dec. 11 after missing five games with a finger injury and played 23 minutes. And ironically, that was his first career non-start just like Bibby is expected to have his first one on Wednesday. Entering the season, James and Bibby were among three active players to have played at least 300 games and started them all (James' streak was 332, Bibby's is 675). In a few days, Carmelo Anthony (337) will be all alone in that category, although Tim Duncan is close (776 starts in 777 games).

Question: Could you give a summary of the trading rules. I understand that the trading deadline coming up is February 21. After that when can trades be made? And then do all trades have to be completed before the start of the next regular season games? - Joel, Uher, Calif.

Answer: The only restricted period becomes from the Feb. 21 deadline to the end of the regular season. At that point, teams that are out of the playoffs can trade amongst each other. Obviously, once the postseason ends then it's all fair game again until the next deadline.

Question: Has there been conjecture about an Artest/Shareef (Abdur-Rahim)/(Kenny) Thomas trade to New York for Stephon Marbury with David Lee and/or a first round pick? This would free-up $21 million after next season. It would also allow the Kings to trade Bibby to Miami for Udonis Haslem, Jason Williams and a draft pick reducing salaries by $9 million after this season. When Kevin Martin's new contract kicks-in next year, the Kings will have to pay a luxury tax. Marbury, Martin, Salmons, Haslem, Miller starting with Beno, Francisco Garcia and Mikki Moore/Lee off the bench is solid and the picks and cap room after 2008-09 facilitate a major improvement in the roster. - H Cardinal, Carmichael, Calif.

Answer: Truthfully, I don't have the time to check all your work but I like where you're going for the most part. First off, I'm wondering if everything regarding New York is on hold again. Numerous league sources have informed me that embattled Knicks coach Isiah Thomas has been turning down decent deals left and right, meanwhile driving those around him in Knicks Land batty and, according to the New York Daily News, possibly pushing owner Joe Dolan to fire him. They have been dangling Jamal Crawford in discussions, but I'm told they still won't give up David Lee. That much is bad news for the Kings, who have shown an interest in Lee in the past and would certainly want him in any Artest deal.

Question: Do you think the Kings need to trade Bibby for a role player like (Cleveland's) Drew Gooden, and bits and pieces, just to get under the cap or should the Kings trade with a team that has an up and coming player to match with Kevin, Udrih and (Brad) Miller? I'm thinking David Lee, (Knicks) for Artest, or maybe (Phoenix's) Shawn Marion, for a combination of players? Do you think a three way deal might get done as well? - Ricardo Sierra, Cherry Valley, New York

Answer: Clearing cap space in the right way is far from nothing. And if done well, then any teams with money to spend in the 2009 offseason could be sitting pretty as the dollars are expected to be minimal on the free agent market and big-time talent could come cheaper than in recent years. Ideally, though, you're right about the type of player they'd love to get right now. One who comes cheaper and with upside galore like Lee is preferable, but just might not be possible. And, yes, a three-way deal may be the only way to go since so much of this two-team talk has obviously gone nowhere. - Sam Amick

January 11, 2008
Martin to play tomorrow

Kevin Martin has been cleared to play in Saturday's game against Indiana.
The Kings shooting guard said at Friday's practice that he expects to return from the Dec. 4 groin strain that has kept him out of the last 17 games.
"I think so," he said when asked if he'll play. "Itís just a matter of how I feel when I wake up (on Saturday)."
While Kings coach Reggie Theus has said Martin will come off the bench to start his return (as will Mike Bibby), Martin said last week that he no problem with the decision. Martin was asked if he was excited to hit the floor again.
"Hell yeah," he said. "Iíve been wanting to come back ever since the Chicago game (on Jan. 5). That was (the medical staff's) decision. They just cleared me last night. (Now) if I go out there and reinjure it, then itís nobodyís fault. Itís just an accident. We took enough time, and we did enough workouts."
Now, obviously, comes the question of how it will work out with Martin back in the lineup. - Sam Amick

January 11, 2008
John "Call me MJ" Salmons

It never fails.
A basketball player - heck, any pro athlete - plays through sickness and everyone's talking about the time Michael Jordan braved through a stomach virus to score 38 points and lift the Bulls over Utah in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals (for the record, KHTK's own Carmichael Dave made me think of it on the drive home).
And while it's certainly sacrilege to call on that reference considering this is the rebuilding Kings v. the 10-win Grizzlies in January, John Salmons' ability to overcome his sickness in Thursday night's win was no small physical feat. He was sent home by trainer Pete Youngman, which tells you plenty since all involved were certainly aware that the Kings were down three starters already. There were antibiotics and fevers and the whole bit, yet there was Salmons bringing these guys back from the dead in the fourth quarter in which he scored 11 of his 28 points.
He nearly did it alone late in the game, but he merely salvaged the efforts of others that came before then...

* Who would've thought Brad Miller would have enough rim-shakers to compile his own dunking mix-clip this season?
The big man whose quickness may be at an all-time personal high went on the attack in the third quarter, driving around Hakim Warrick and throwing down a right-hander over Grizzlies center Darko Milicic to cut Memphis' lead to three. Then, of course, he thought he was Sam Cassell for a moment and couldn't help but offer a below the belt gesture that Gollum, err, Cassell has done for years.

Brad 2

And sure enough, it didn't take long for the YouTube nation to show him some respect - here it is.
His performance was certainly, shall we say, gutsy, with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The 10-of-10 output from the free throw line, especially, helped ensure the Kings weren't the ones losing this game at the charity stripe (Pau Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. wish they could say the same).

* Just when close games were close to becoming Issue No. 1 facing this team, they've won two straight games by four points or less. Before downing Orlando and Memphis, the Kings were 1-7 in games decided by four or less. And while they certainly needed a few breaks against the Griz, execution was there on offense and there were just enough defensive stops.
Pulling games out late has been the problem, not competing. Consider this: among the league's 12 teams with losing records, the Kings' point differential of negative 2.8 is the third best overall and by far the most respectable among the Western Conference losers.


* It was only fitting that Francisco Garcia's game-winning three-pointer came after Salmons managed to avoid a turnover - albeit barely.
The Kings finally fixed their turnover problem for a night, finishing with in what was their lowest turnover total since they had five on Dec. 1 against Houston. It was the fourth lowest total of the season. Not so shockingly, they are 4-0 in those games.

* Surviving without three starters is one thing, but one glance at the bench production shows why it's a tough act to maintain.
The Kings had 12 bench points (led by six from Quincy Douby), tying their third-lowest reserves total of the season. Then again, having four starters (Salmons, Garcia, Miller and Beno Udrih) score 20-plus helped.
As Theus confirmed on Thursday, he's looking to bring Kevin Martin and Mike Bibby in off the bench when they return. What happens thereafter is a complete mystery. While the bench certainly looks deep on paper once the health returns, that's no guarantee the likes of Garcia, Salmons etc. will maintain their groove when their roles change. A good problem to have, certainly, but it may be the the most intriguing coaching challenge of Theus' young courtside career.

* Apparently, former Grizzlies guard Dahntay Jones was a little too anxious to pester his former teammates. He fouled out in nine minutes of play, even if official Ed Mallloy didn't know it. After making the call that ended Jones' evening, Malloy asked Theus if Jones - who was hovering near the Kings bench on the floor - was still in the game or not during a break in the action.
"He fouled out," Theus yelled. "If you were paying attention, you'd know that."

* I noticed a comment on the Kings game story about how we should share more than just a few photos of last night's action. You're in luck "aprakash," as our hard-working photographers have been producing quality slideshows off of every home game. Check it out (it's at the top of the Kings page).


Quick sidenote: Ironically, Salmons was the last NBA player to ever guard Jordan. It was during Salmons' rookie season in Philadelphia, where the Sixers downed Washington 107-87 on April 16, 2003 and Jordan had 15 points and nearly that many standing ovations in his finale.
Salmons talked about it recently, saying how he was in awe of being in Jordan's presence and the magnitude of the moment. With the way Salmons has been playing and persevering this season, even Jordan himself would have to be impressed with the way he's leading this pack.

Leading

- Sam Amick

January 10, 2008
Dunkin' Dahntay Jones

Go ahead. Call him a one-trick pony. You just might be the next thing Dahntay Jones is slamming through a rim.
The Kings guard with the thoroughbred physique featured in today's paper can do more than dunk. He defends like the late Johnnie Cochran, gets to the rim whenever he so chooses and certainly gets between the ears of opponents. Remember that Dec. 26 Boston game at Arco Arena, when it took him less than a minute to inspire a meltdown from Tony Allen? The Celtics guard gave Jones a two-handed push to the floor because, well, he couldn't get space any other way. Pressure defense can do that.
All that being said, I'm going to contradict the theme of today's story by providing the best of Dahntay's dunks on the worldwide web. This is why YouTube is so great, because rim-shakers like these should never be lost forever.

1. What a workout - While at Duke, Jones posterizes Nick Vander Laan on the University of Virginia's home floor then does push-ups while his back legs are still resting on the fallen foe. (Jones' dunk is part of a montage in this clip - look for the Duke No. 30)

2. Yao-zers! - Jones does the dunking deed over Yao Ming on Nov. 13, 2006, his highlight helping Memphis beat Houston for a rare Grizzlies win last season.

Quick sidenote: Jones and fellow physical freak Stromile Swift are good friends, and Jones' former Memphis teammate told me on Wednesday that they definitely have a try-to-top-that sort of relationship. Here's the proof.

3. Welcome to Sacramento slam - Four games into his time with the Kings, Jones adds to his repertoire on Dec. 15 at Washington.

And just to mix it up, this clip shows that having hops can help defensively too. - Sam Amick

January 8, 2008
Shoot-a-round update

Kings coach Reggie Theus said this morning that swingman John Salmons (twisted left ankle) and center Brad Miller (cold) will play tonight against Orlando. Shooting guard Kevin Martin (strained groin) and point guard Mike Bibby (left thumb surgery), of course, will not. - Sam Amick

January 7, 2008
Van Gundy unplugged

Time heals all wounds. For me, anyway.
I saw Stan Van Gundy today for the first time since that day in early June, when a six-hour stakeout with News10's sports crew of Bryan May and Ryan Yamamoto ended with the almost-Kings coach blowing me off in the lobby of the Embassy Suites. No hard feelings. In fact, I was reminded why - at least on surface impressions and limited dealings - he can be such a likable guy.
As for the Kings? I'm thinking Stan the Man didn't get any Christmas cards from the Petries or the Maloofs after the way they were used en route to him getting the Orlando job. Maybe next year, though, as Van Gundy was at least honest enough to admit he could've handled the situation better in expressing his public regrets
And in the name of giving Van Gundy the microphone in full since he was good enough to discuss the matter with me, here's another part of his explanation that was fit to print but wouldn't fit in print.

On why he waited until his Magic contract was signed and faxed back to the Magic to tell Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie about that situation:

"My concern was I didnít want to give Geoff and the front office here the impression that I didnít want to come here. Then I could see the Orlando thing falling through because of not getting a release from Miami and then having the people here saying, ĎBoy it doesnít sound like he wants to be here.í Thatís why I chose not to tell them until the thing was done. Just because I made that decision doesnít mean that I necessarily feel great about everyting. In my mind, I guess I handled it the way I thought was the best, maybe the only way to handle it, but I still didnít feel great about it."

Van Gundy repeated what the Kings had said at the time, that the considerable amount of time and money they'd spent courting him in the coaching search process warranted more honesty than they were given:

"I spent a lot of time with (Petrie) in the process. I met with him and (vice president of basketball operations) Wayne (Cooper) for three hours (in Sacramento), had a long interview with Geoff and Wayne and the Maloofs (in Las Vegas), had the plane ride back out here (from Florida on the day he took the Orlando job). Even in Vegas, we watched the (Cleveland) Cavs win the Eastern Conference (championship) that night, so I spent a lot of time with them, liked them and respected them and the whole thing. If it was a one-time, one-hour interview I might have felt differently. I like them a lot, respect them a great deal. I canít say that itís one of the happiest chapters in my life, the way I handled that."

I asked Stan about the fact that he doesn't employ an agent. There were plenty around the league who thought having an agent - as most coaches do - may have helped the situation, as Van Gundy was left doing a lot of the dirty work agents get paid to do. The Kinko's chapter alone, in which he and his wife were faxing a contract rather than house hunting like the Kings thought, was a PR disaster the likes of which could have been solved by having representation:

"Iíve never had an agent. I donít know that it wouldíve changed much. I think Iíll always handle it like that. I donít want to be able to lay it off on the agent. If people here are unhappy with the way I handled it, I understand it, and I couldnít even argue with them, but thatís my responsibility. I donít want to be one of those guys who can say, ĎOh, thatís my agent.í Thatís BS. Iím the one who made the decisions. I made the job decision, made the decision on how to handle it, and Iíll take the blame for it."

As an interesting subplot, I was told that Van Gundy's wife, Kim, spoke to Miami team president and coach Pat Riley and had much to do with his compromising of the compensation demands. And while Van Gundy said that wasn't the case, he said she had a significant indirect influence on the situation. And to be fair in closing, this wasn't a Billy Donovan repeat. Van Gundy never signed anything, never - that I know of - made any sort of verbal promise to take the job. There were insinuations and assumptions and plenty of withheld information, to be sure, but there are plenty of people who are of the opinion that this was a classic case of, 'It's business, not personal.'
Certainly, though, Van Gundy didn't make any friends through this little saga. Even before coming to Sacramento, he had turned down an offer from Indiana (after house-hunting there, too) and proceeded to upset some folks within the Pacers organization by going public with the fact that he was offered and thereby relegating future coach Jim O'Brien to second-choice status. It was the same situation in Sacramento, although Kings coach Reggie Theus clearly could care less about being Plan B. Theus said he's thanked Van Gundy and Donovan for the parts they played in his being hired by the Kings.

"I donít remember where I was, but I did thank (Van Gundy) for taking the job," Theus said. "I sent a message through (Louisville) coach (Rick) Pitino (to Donovan). I always said that in a crazy way, this job was created for me in a sense. It didnít look like it was going to be my job."

Theus was asked if it bothered him knowing the Kings had opted for someone else first.

"I was OK with it, because I knew I had done everything I could do and that it was actually up to Geoff and the Maloofs to say ĎThis is what Reggie brings to the table and this is what this guy brings to the table and this is the way weíre going to go.í" Theus said. "It was comfortable (for the Kings to choose Van Gundy) because the guy had been coaching, with Stan having that experience. I knew that the other parts of who I am as a personality would be good for this situation. I know how the fans are, know how itís the only game in town, knew it was something that would work just in terms of my personality." - Sam Amick

January 7, 2008
Kings home again (and hurt again)

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Mike Bibby said Jan. 16 remains the return date, despite Kings coach Reggie Theus wondering if his point guard could return earlier.

Tidbits from practice today...
* John Salmons will be a gametime decision against Orlando on Tuesday, as he turned his left ankle and didn't practice on Monday. It's injuries like these (and the countless others) that explain why Kings assistant Randy Brown was needed in the scrimmage. Kenny Natt, Chuck Person, Jason Hamm etc. be on alert.
Kings center Brad Miller also didn't practice because of a flu bug, but he should be ready to play tomorrow.

* Mike Bibby is one of the "top five" most laid-back individuals "in the world" and didn't appreciate an Akron Beacon-Journal story that insinuated otherwise.
As part of the latest analysis of the Bibby-to-Cleveland storyline that still remains, Cavaliers beat writer Brian Windhorst had a throwaway line about Bibby being a problem in the locker room.
Truth be told, I've never heard that from his teammates. Even the drawn out Mike Bibby vs. Ron Artest buzz of last season was - in my estimation - always about basketball and style of play more than it was anything of a personal nature. He is most definitely an instigator, but only in a class clown sort of way. And as Bibby noted, he simply stays away from those teammates who are too sensitive to take it. Besides, the peaceful one - that being John Salmons - is always talking about Bibby's positive presence. And coming from a guy who is all about the spiritual side of life, that's saying something.
As for Bibby trade talk, I can absolutely see him still winding up in Cleveland.
The need remains for the Cavs and the decision-maker (Cleveland GM Danny Ferry) clearly wants Bibby badly. What's more, Drew Gooden makes sense again as a piece back after that notion seemed unlikely with the Kings' offseason signing of Mikki Moore.
Back then, the Kings had too many bigs who took up too much playing time in Moore, Kenny Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim (not to mention Justin Williams and Spencer Hawes) to even think about Gooden. Now, obviously, only one of the bunch is playing a substantial role and the other two could very likely wind up leaving town in a deal of their own (if not as part of a Bibby deal).
Other than Gooden, the Cavs could give the Kings cap space sooner with Ira Newble's deal ($3.4 million, expiring this summer) and have other contracts (Eric Snow, Donyell Marshall) whose deals expire next summer and would be even more attractive if the Cavs took one of the Kings' undesirable deals in return. And in a perfect Geoff Petrie world, he holds out until the Feb. 21 trade deadline while watching the Cavs continue to lose games without Bibby, thereby limiting Bibby's ability to turn the team around and getting a first round draft pick in the deal that's all that much higher because of it. Evil, I know.

* As we speak, err, blog, your almost-Kings-coach - none other than Stan Van Gundy - is inside Arco Arena practicing just like so many thought he'd do this season with the Kings. Of course, he's here with his Magic team after opting for sunny Florida and a roster with more bright spots over the summer. More on that reunion in tomorrow's paper. - Sam Amick

January 2, 2008
The As to your Qs

It's been awhile since I did the Q&A thing, so let's get to it...

Question: Do you think that there is a good chance that (Mike) Bibby will be traded due to the strong performance of Beno Udrih? If so, what teams have shown interest in Bibby or is his salary a problem? - Bob

Answer: Bibby's been on the block for some time, but only as the means to an end in Geoff Petrie's mind. It appears the Kings GM wants Bibby and/or Ron Artest to provide the building blocks for rebuilding by trading them - i.e. draft picks, expiring contracts and young talent. Udrih's play, in my estimation, only strengthens the possibility that Bibby will be gone by the February trade deadline since his continued presence would be an obstacle to resigning Beno (who is a free agent this summer).

Question: There are teams around the country that accelerate healing of their injured players with hyperbaric clincs, but not the Kings. I manage one such clinic here in Sacramento where we get requests for Sacramento-based team members of the New Jersey Nets and others, and there's another one at Mercy Hospital. Do you think the Kings will start to consider (this treatment) anytime soon? - Michael Greenhalgh, Sacramento

Answer: I haven't the slighest idea, but they should be willing to try anything these days with all the problems going on. I say throw Bibby, Kevin Martin and Artest in the chamber together with a witch doctor and don't let 'em out until morning! By the way, it's fans like you Michael who inspired a recent story on this sort of thing.

Question: Why does Kenny Thomas get any floor time? He's pretty much useless in my opinion while a guy like Justin Williams rots on the bench. Williams could provide help with rebounding and shot blocking. Williams can average a rebound per minute while KT usually averages a turnover per minute. Any reason (Kings coach Reggie) Theus doesn't play Williams other than KT is a veteran? Someone should ask Theus point blank (hint hint:) - Jon, Antioch

Answer: For right or for wrong, it's obvious that the only young big who's going to get any time off that bench is Spencer Hawes. And I have found it odd that Justin doesn't even get sporadic minutes. While I haven't asked Theus point blank why he opts for Justin over Kenny, I do remember asking him why he (and Petrie) opted for Justin over Darryl Watkins (who was waived). His answer was bizarre, saying that Watkins had more upside but that having Justin on the team was just a better fit for all the guys.

Question: I am not a Kenny Thomas fan per se, but I have noticed that he is now somewhat of a third option after starting early this season and last. What is going on there and are there any talks of trading he and, if possible, Shareef Abdur-Rahim? - Kevin Hoffarth, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Answer: Kenny hasn't been able to win Petrie over since he arrived here via the Chris Webber trade, as the organization has tried to trade him away numerous times since. That being said, Mikki Moore wasn't brought here to sit and so it should shock no one that he's starting.
As Kenny himself likes to say, it is what it is. Now that setup isn't favorable by any means for a veteran player who has had some quality years, so you can bet your Kings season tickets that Kenny and his agent have tried to find a way into greener pastures. The same goes for Shareef, who wasn't playing any more healthy than he is now that he's hurt. Obviously, nothing has come to fruition yet, but it doesn't mean all involved aren't trying. In truth, I've been hearing about almost-deals for both those guys for quite some time but have yet to get a press release saying they were traded.

Question: How is Kevin Martin's recovery from the groin injury coming along? Have they set a date for his return, yet? - Brent Koerper, Hammond, Wisc.

Answer: As Theus revealed at the game tonight, Martin is eyeing the Jan. 8 home game against Orlando for a possible return. The team's medical staff may see things differently, but he's definitely getting close to coming back.

Question: Am I the only one convinced that Mike Bibby's return won't help the Kings much in the win column and in fact it will actually curtail Beno's production?
Let me just cut to the chase: Just trade Mike Bibby along with Quincy Douby for Drew Gooden, Eric Snow and a #1 pick. - Ed, Washington D.C.

Answer: Who's to say the Cavs don't finish strong this season, meaning the pick is a late first-rounder? At this point, I'd be more inclined go after Miami's picks, as they'll probably be higher (although the question there is whether Miami has given up on this season and entered its own rebuilding mode, thereby guarding those very picks they may have been willing to give up before).
Also, Gooden - to me - is an interesting one. He would definitely help the frontcourt, but he's not going to get you into the playoffs and, like Snow, his contract expires at the same time Mike's does. What happens then, when you've decided you want Gooden to be part of this new era and he wants $10 million a year? The word I got in February was that Petrie was the one not pulling the trigger on the Cleveland deal, and I can't blame him. It only makes sense that he'd be more interested in a David Lee (NY) type, who has the youth, talent and a contract more in line with the rebuilding process ($1.78 million in last year of contract next season, with qualifying offer for 2009-10)).
As far as the Bibby vs. Beno question, Theus has me curious to see how they operate with Beno at the point and Mike playing the two (to round it out, the lineup would have Martin at the three, Artest at the four and Brad Miller/Mikki Moore at the five).

OK, so I still have some catching up to do on questions but that's a good start.... - Sam Amick

January 2, 2008
Ron-Ron (who's out 3-4 weeks) in NYC

First things first, Ron Artest wound up having five bone chips surgically removed from his right elbow today and will be out three to four weeks. That certainly can't help his trade value for the immediate future.
Now on another note...
As I noted on the recent New Jersey stop, Ron Artest is a wanted man in his hometown. Not only from the Knicks, but from the local media that always gets him to say something.
It didn't take long on this trip (which Scott Howard-Cooper is making while I take a breather). There's already a New York Post story on how Ron says he can fix the Knicks, and a New York Daily News piece that hits on Artest trade possibilities and has Knicks coach Isiah Thomas saying he doesn't expect his club to make any moves before the February trade deadline. I even became part of the Big Apple rumor mill recently, doing an interview with old friend Max Dickstein (a Sacramento native and sports editor at AM New York). Click here for a peek

The Artest-to-the-Knicks chatter is just like the city with which most of the talk originates - it never sleeps. From everything I heard about the old talks between the Kings and Knicks, they always involved guys who the Kings weren't eager to get (Jared Jeffries) and never involved the guys they wouldn't mind having (David Lee or Nate Robinson). Renaldo Balkman has been offered in various deals as an alternative to Lee, but it's made no difference. Now not that it matters since the GMs will always be the ones making the deals, but I absolutely believe Ron would love playing in his hometown. He is a fan of Isiah Thomas from their Indiana days and remains strong in his support, and doesn't seem wary in the slighest bit about possibly joining the mess that has been made in the Untended Garden. If it doesn't happen via trade, though, I just don't see it happening. If Ron opts out this summer, the Knicks can only offer him the midlevel (approximately $6 million) and that would be a pay cut of about 20 percent at a time when he'd be looking to get a raise of at least that much. Until the future is known, don't expect this storyline to go away. - Sam Amick

January 2, 2008
The Maloofs in Hawaii paradise

Joe and Gavin Maloof are as passionate as they come in the realm of NBA team owners.
The Kings' two-headed piggy bank doesn't just cut checks and watch their investment from a distance like so many other franchise-funders, continuing to live and die with every win even through these down times and always craving a championship.
And while it won't likely rid them of the 2002 Western Conference Finals ulcer that remains, they surely drew satisfaction from the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. The game itself was nothing special, just a 41-10 blowout with Georgia rolling over the University of Hawaii in New Orleans. But the Warriors from the islands had shocked the college football world just by being there, entering with a 12-0 record and as one of just three teams from non Bowl Championship Series conferences to ever play in a BCS game. And while programs like Georgia typically have a recruiting budget of some $500,000 to find its talent, Hawaii did it with a recruiting budget of approximately $50,000.
Which is where the Maloofs come in.
Back in November, they matched the school's recruiting budget by donating $50,000 to the program's booster club. As Marty Mac noted in his latest column, the Maloofs deserve credit for being quite the charitable family. For their sake, it's unfortunate that perception is reality. But without question, these guys do far more than party in their Vegas Casino and dine on $6,000 Happy Meals. And who knows what Hawaii coach June Jones can make happen next season with the unexpected boon in his program's bank account? - Sam Amick



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