Kings Blog and Q&A

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

February 29, 2008
Lue to Denver?

With the buyout of Tyronn Lue official, the word from around the Kings is that he's headed to Denver.
Even if this wasn't the Kings player so many expected to help the Nuggets in their push for the playoffs (see Ron Artest), Lue can certainly help in the Mile High City. Anthony Carter is the starter as it is, with rookie Taurean Green the lone backup because Chucky Atkins' back hernia has kept him out since early January. - Sam Amick

February 29, 2008
Weekly Web Watch

DALLAS - The Kings blog took a hit today, so long as the buyout of Tyronn Lue goes through as expected.
You see in the two weeks since Lue joined the team, I can't count how many media/coaching types have told me how good of a guy Lue is, how funny he is, how great of a quote he is. Surely, he would've filled up this space with some enjoyable content. Feel like I never knew ya, Tyronn, but we're going to keep looking for entertainment in other places nonetheless. From the web this week, in reverse order chronologically...

MAD MAVS

Three hours until tipoff between the Kings and Mavericks. And if Dallas' 24-3 home record wasn't intimidating enough, how about the fact that they just lost to their cross-state rivals (Spurs, not Rockets) and had a bit of controversy in the process. You think they won't be motivated to get back on track? Cue doomsday music...

MARTIN DEBATE ENSUES

By the time my piece on Kevin Martin came out today, I was the tempered one in the bunch when it came to discussing the shooting guard's struggles.

* Mike Moreau of Hoopsworld penned a scathing article on how Kings coach Reggie Theus is using Martin. In in the interest of full disclosure (which you can find at the bottom of the story), Moreau has worked with Martin at the Pro Training Center in Bradenton Fla. and is associates with Kevin's personal coach, David Thorpe.

* David Berri at Wages of Wins takes the story even further, making it much more personal along the way in a breakdown of Martin vs. Theus as players.

FREE AGENT BREAKDOWN

With the Feb. 21 trade deadline behind us, look ahead to this summer's free agent market.
This breakdown from ESPN's Chad Ford (ESPN Insider only for access) is only slightly more comprehensive than the one Ron Artest dictated from memory on Sunday at Orlando. Asked about possibly becoming a free agent, Artest rattled off the names of the league's biggest names who could be looking for big paydays with the sort of ease that made it obvious this had been heavy on the mind of both him and his agent, Mark Stevens.
Their latest stance, of course, is that Artest is "not likely" to opt out. And after peeking at the guys who will also be fighting for the minimal dollars out there, it's probably the wise move.
For those who don't have Insider, here's a list of some of the names.

Early Termination Option candidates (have the right to terminate their contract after this season): Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Shawn Marion, Baron Davis, Jermain OíNeal, Allen Iverson, Corey Maggette, Artest.

Restricted free agents: Emeka Okafor, Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, Jose Calderon, Luol Deng, Andris Biedrins, Monta Ellis, Josh Childress, Ben Gordon, Nenad Krstic.

Unrestricted free agents (a much less-impressive list that I shortened): Antawn Jamison, Kurt Thomas, Mickael Pietrus.

OF MAYORS AND DANCERS...

Proving that context truly is everything, a mayor in Arlington, Ore. was recalled because of a "racy" photo of herself. Meanwhile, the Kings dancers who are paid to look sexy and whose own controversial photos were far racier than those of this public servant will go on without much, if any, reprimand. I'm not weighing in on either matter here, just found it interesting.

NBA'S BEST FROM WEDNESDAY

Because it has one Kings clip (sort of) and because Linas Kleiza makes it in here, too, check out the best from the league from Wednesday's games. Before you do, though, it should be noted that Denver is 1-3 since not trading for Ron Artest. Kleiza, the third-year small forward who the Nuggets didn't want to give up in the deal, has scored a combined 23 points in three games since the deadline on 10 for 26 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds. He missed one game with an ankle injury.

- Sam Amick

February 29, 2008
Tyronn Lue to be bought out

DALLAS - The agent for Tyronn Lue said the Kings are close to buying him out of his expiring contract.
Read story here. - Sam Amick

February 28, 2008
"Reef" ripple effect

EAST POINT, Ga. - Shareef Abdur-Rahim wears a suit instead of a jersey these days, following his Kings teammates at home and on the road while the right knee that's been operated on twice since June keeps him away from the game he loves.
But make no mistake. "Reef" is still making an impact.
The "Reef House" is an afterschool safe haven for kids on the outskirts of Atlanta, a labor of love where Abdur-Rahim has poured his resources and his soul into using his hoops career to have a positive influence. The facility that sits on Washington Road near the airport is in the neighborhood where he grew up, from his elementary school and junior high days that came before he found fame at Wheeler High School in Marietta some 30 minutes away.
As the Kings headed from Atlanta to Dallas for Friday's night against the Mavericks, I stayed behind to check out the site which had long drawn my interest. It was part of the reason he won a Trumpet Award on Jan. 13, becoming one of an esteemed class of African-Ameican winners that included actress Halle Berry, actor Danny Glover and rapper-actor Chris "Ludacris" Bridges.

Reef House.jpg

But when I rang the doorbell on the "Reef House," it was less about big names than it was big hearts. Abdur-Rahim's sister, Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim, certainly fit that bill. She is one of 11 Abdur-Rahim siblings, and so close in age to Shareef that she can't remember how close (a year or a year and a half, she says). Her 31-year-old brother by the way, isn't the only athlete in the family, as she ran track while attending Cal just like her brother had. He, of course, had slightly greater athletic fame, having been dubbed "The Future" for his talents that were just that promising.
Now though, Qaadirah is the executive director of the "Future Foundation," where the only gameplans are the ones which involve helping kids develop in a healthy and happy manner. There are two facilties, one which offers free programs of varying kinds to elementary and junior high-aged kids and another some five minutes away which services high school students.
As could be expected, there are rooms to study and rooms to play (with an XBox, if you choose, or head outside to the basketball court). But there are also rooms to talk about life, Qaadirah said, whether it's a chat on how to treat your parents with respect or the importance of staying out of trouble.
"We like to think that this is a lot more than a daycare service," Qaadirah said. "This is where kids are growing up right before our eyes and we offer them support."
Which is what their own parents did, of course. Their father, William, was the Imam (preacher) of a large congregation in Atlanta while also working long hours as an operations manager for a freight company. Their mother's name is Aminah. When Abdur-Rahim was 6, they opened a private Islamic school in Atlanta that eventually taught children from the first grade to the eighth grade. The lessons continue.
"Reef built this facility from the ground up with his own money," Qaadira said. "A lot of his money initially supported the foundation. Now we have over a million dollars in grant money. His funding still serves as a strong financial support for the foundation as well."
It began in 2004.
"It started with fourth and fifth graders," she continued. "Now theyíre all in the 7th, 8th, 9th grade. Initially we were just going to service fourth and fifth graders, but Shareef came back and said, ĎWell if we just service fourth and fifth graders whatís going to happen when they go to sixth and seventh grade?"
So what happened, of course, was expansion. And while the Kings' schedule of back-to-back games in Miami and Atlanta didn't lend enough free time for Shareef to pay a visit on this trip, he has certainly done more than attach his name to this project.
"He always comes back to our back-to-school rally," Qaadira said. "He knows the kids by name. There are 12 (original kids) from 2004. Itís been exciting to see them grow." - Sam Amick

February 27, 2008
Ron-Ron and his rose-colored glasses

ATLANTA - Friday's coverage will hit on the plummeting playoff picture and the struggles of Kevin Martin. In other words, nothing real rosy to read about for Kings fans.
So in a half-hearted attempt (isn't that only fitting considering the way the Kings have played lately?) to offer something positive, I decided to pick a positive topic. Before we get there, it should be known who sparked this idea of ultra-optimism. None other than Ron Artest, who gave this take about his team's third straight loss.
"It's going to get better," he said. "It's going to get better. We needed to lose three in a row. It was a good thing for us because we were on a roll. We've got to get brought back down to earth and we'll start going hard again. It was good for us, the best thing that could happen right now."
OK, OK, OK, I'll get on with the power of positivity.
Beno Udrih was phenomenal tonight. He scored (25 points on 11 of 19 shooting). He dished (eight assists). He valued the ball (one turnover). He went toe to toe with the player who is gone largely because of him and surely made Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie feel good about the possible future ahead at that position.

PGs

Udrih, to review, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. And for all the talk of how trading Mike Bibby to Atlanta was to clear salary cap space (which it was) or to remove a core piece in attempt to let the young guys come along (which it also was), it can't be overstated how much Udrih factored in as well. If they didn't trade Bibby, it would have guaranteed Beno would have bided his time - mostly on the bench - in these last few months before signing elsewhere. But now he's in audition mode, one in which he was in bad need of a pick-me-up performance. Udrih had a combined six points in the losses to Orlando and Miami on 3 of 13 shooting while dishing out a combined nine assists.

GAME NOTES

* There are some nights when you could probably write a game story in one sentence. Tonight, this probably would've worked: The Kings blew it at the free throw line and fell 123-117 to Atlanta on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
Not much of a read, sure, but the Kings did blow this game by missing 12 of 35 free throws.

* Bibby could be really good for the Hawks if he keeps this up. By this, I don't just mean the obvious production, but he penetrated and looked for his teammates more than I'd seen him do in years.
He finished at the rim when the defense didn't come to help, whipped bullet passes to the perimeter when they did and added in a couple threes for good measure. The locals were buzzing afterward, with Hawks beat writer Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal Constitution noting afterward that these fans have seen either rookies or lesser-name veterans for years now. This is new territory, and Bibby has a real chance to put himself back in the national spotlight.
"I think when you make the playoffs youíre already on the national scene," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said before the game. "If your team struggles to get in the playoffs, youíre forgotten about. Iím sure (Bibby) is looking at our situation as (the fact that) we're a younger team and maybe he can be the guy to jumpstart us and get us over the top....Heís still got to learn our system, learn the players heíll play with each night on the floor. Thereís an adjustment period."
And it just entered the next stage.

* Breaking the promise to stay positive, chew on this as Friday's game at Dallas nears and threatens to leave the Kings with a 1-4 record on this trip. The Mavericks are 24-3 at home, having averaged 8.1 more points per game on the home court than they have on the road (103.5 to 95.4).

COMMENT BOX RE-OPENS!

Just when we were starting to get some momentum with the comments on the blog, our system had a meltdown and they were taken down for about a week. But alas they're back, just waiting for your feedback. Like I said before, I will read them and - when inspired - react to interesting things that are being said. - Sam Amick

February 26, 2008
Can't beat the Heat

MIAMI - I don't see this working. I just don't.
The youth movement, combined with the playoff push, combined with the integration of the Atlanta trade pieces, combined with keeping the core happy and the role players from getting restless. Something's got to give. And right now, it's the Kings' record.
From two games under .500 to the current four, they slid when the to-do list just got too long. Ten Kings had played by halftime, and that was before Shelden Williams had even seen the floor to get his work in. That's telling in and of itself, as the new forward is seen as a fairly important project at the moment.
Kings coach Reggie Theus has an unenviable position. And while his moves in the Orlando loss had everything to do with the outcome, this one was on his players. Their lack of energy reeked of the "South Beach effect," with Ole' defense from nearly the entire lot and half-hearted attempts to get back in transition. (Kudos to the reader who corrected me in the comments section - the only wreaking was the havoc wreaked by of the Heat. And by the way, if you haven't noticed, the comments are finally working again).
Kings rookie center Spencer Hawes did a nice job, scoring a career-high 16 mainly by finishing his dunks and burying the jumper no one ever doubted he had. But therein lies the quandary, as anything that takes Brad Miller off the floor like this did (he played 22 minutes) doesn't help the end game. And it's not as if Hawes - even at his best - can offer more defensively than Miller, who struggled to keep pace with the running Heat or elevate alongside so many alley-oops.
Theus said that Hawes was the only one who really showed up, then later went out of his way to add forward Mikki Moore to that list. Otherwise? Not a one. And now, it's not only the tail end of a back-to-back but a revenge game of sorts against an Atlanta team that is 1-4 since the Mike Bibby trade and badly in need of a win to crawl closer to eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The way the Kings are playing, they just might get it. - Sam Amick

February 26, 2008
Lights, camera, action...(Yes, lights too)

MIAMI - We only have a few minutes here before tipoff. But for those who are curious, the lights are on inside American Airlines Arena.
The entire state went dim for a bit earlier today, when a nuclear plant shutdown caused outages up and down Florida. The only evidence I saw of it was the hotel room alarm clock that was flashing when I returned from spending most of the day outside.
That makes me different from Ron Artest, who spent most of the day inside when he missed shoot-a-round this morning because he wasn't feeling well. Of course his absence came with all the local jokes about "South Beach flu," that well-chronicled ailment that makes mornings rough for NBA players who - like the Kings - had an entire night free in Miami leading up to the game (two nights, actually).
Kings coach Reggie Theus reported that Artest is feeling better and will start, although I already had evidence of how Artest was feeling on my own. Long before the game, Artest bound onto the floor while the song "Proud Mary" was booming through the speakers (Tina Turner version). He burst out of the tunnel spinning, then danced around the floor busting a move.
"I do it all baby," Artest said near myself and Jerry Reynolds on the bench. "Offense, defense, dancing."
One quick final note: There's no one here! Seriously, the crowd has got to be less than 40 percent full. Not the scene it was a few years ago, for sure. Then again, you can't blame them. In 27 home games this season, the Heat fans have only gone home happy five times. - Sam Amick

February 25, 2008
Welcome to Miami

MIAMI - I wore shorts today for the first time in months, and have absolutely no problem rubbing that little factoid in at the start. From what my Sacto sources tell me, there's wind and rain back home where us Florida folks have sun and fun.
This place really is ridiculous, from the beaches that may as well be in Hawaii to the landscape of hotels, restaurants and nightlife that is on a level California doesn't have. All of which made me think of one poor sap: Shaq.
Phoenix is nice and all, but it's not Miami. Arizona just can't offer perks like Celebrity Island, the gorgeous plot of land where Shaq had placed his palace and passersby in cars and cigarette boats gawked at all his extravagance. It can't offer experiences like "Monster Shark" fishing, the ocean fishing get-up in the Biscayne Bay where Shaq's day of hauling in big game from the waters is part of their promotional materials. Just like the man himself, this place is larger than life.

Time will tell if the Suns - with Shaq's help - can provide a chance to sit on the top of the NBA mountain as the Heat did in 2006 (Phoenix is 1-2 since the trade with losses to the Lakers and Detroit and a win over Boston). Yet while the big fella is with his new squad trying to make it work, he hasn't completely left his old city behind.
As I made my way to the Heat's practice facility today at American Airlines Arena, I went through some of the office halls where there must have been at least a couple hundred pictures on the walls that had Shaq in them. The championship season is captured on every square inch of the inner offices, with my favorite the enormous shot of Shaq sitting at his locker after Miami won the crown. He's holding both of Pat Riley's hands as their connection is captured.
The outside of the building, though, is just a little different. A huge banner covers nearly all of one of the arena's sides and encourages fans to renew their season tickets. The picture is a puzzle-shaped collage of fan mug shots giving thumbs up - as in "I'm renewing even though these guys are 9-44!" If you look quickly, you might miss the fact that Dwyane Wade is one of the mug shots, although he's not smiling. And really, why would he be?
For a little perspective, here's a pic of the old banner that used to hang in that very same spot.

Shaq.jpg

***

ARTEST BEAT

It has to die down here at some point, but I'm starting to feel like Pedro Gomez.
You know, the ESPN guy whose actual beat was to cover Barry Bonds. That's how it's been lately with Ron Artest.
The material just kept coming at Sunday's Orlando game. Here's a few out of town looks at the man who left the media chuckling...

* John Denton of Florida Today throws a box of kudos at Reggie Theus with Artest material at the end. Despite what it says here, though, remember that the latest stance from the Artest camp is that he is "not likely" to opt out this summer.

* Tim Povtak of the Orlando Sentinel has a good read on Artest that isn't online yet (it was sent to me from the wires). But if you check here tomorrow, it should be there and I'll update this post as well.

WILL THEY BRING THE HEAT?

Theus was pleased with practice today. He called it "spirited" and there was definitely plenty of spirit left by the time I rolled in for a few brief discussions.
My interviews weren't nearly as long as the conversation between Theus and forward Shelden Williams, though. The coach and the new forward who was considered the lone piece for the future in the Atlanta trade were engaged what seemed to be a very specific conversation.
If I'm guessing, there was much talk of continued integration into the system and roles and expectations etc. It will be a process, but it's been a slow one so far. Williams has played a combined 27 minutes in four games, hitting 9 of 22 shots and grabbing seven rebounds. I'll try to flush that situation out in the next few days. - Sam Amick

February 24, 2008
Do the Kings have the Magic?

ORLANDO, Fla. - The word from coach Reggie Theus at this morning's shoot-a-round is that John Salmons (left thigh contusion) and Tyronn Lue (calf strain) aren't likely to play tonight.
And considering the way Francisco Garcia has been shooting and the way Salmons has been struggling, the Kings will get along. Speaking of Garcia, I had a lengthy note omitted from today's paper (not sure why yet) that I may as well post here as a pre-game read...

'CISCO SIZZLING

Itís been more than two weeks since the painful impact, when the knee of Utah point guard Ronnie Price found its way into Francisco Garciaís back and the crowd at Arco Arena watched with concern as the Kings swingman lay so still on the floor.
The injury that was dubbed a lower back strain gave Garcia an early headstart on the All-Star break, 10 days of rest in all that appears to have healed more than his injury. Apparently, it fixed his shot too.
The third-year player who has endured the constant fluctuation of his role to have a breakout season has hit 21 of 32 shots in the three games since his return while burying 15 of 21 three-pointers. Two 23-point outings and a 14-point night have lifted a bench that is somewhat deep but not all that consistent, the production aiding the current three-game winning streak heading into tonightís game at Orlando.
ďRight now, every time he shoots it you think itís going in,Ē Kings coach Reggie Theus said. ďThatís a comforting feeling.Ē
The timing of it all is welcome for him and the Kings, too, as Garciaís toughest stretch to date had been the one immediately preceding the current uprising.
It began with Charlotte on Jan. 30, a 12-minute outing in which he missed all four of his shots and two of three free throws to boot to finish with one point. It was enough for a temporary disappearance from Theusí rotation Ė six minutes two days later against New Orleans, 13 minutes against Chicago, and 23 minutes against Chicago as his shot mostly disappeared just as his playing time had. In the four-game stretch, Garcia was 4 of 18 from the field.
ďIn some ways, I thought his injury came at the perfect time,Ē Theus said. ďHe had a stretch of three or four games where he was playing horrible.Ē
Garcia said the back has given him no troubles since his return. The side benefit to it all, as it turns out, was the slowed pace that allowed him to study his team and his role within it from afar.
ďWhen I was at home watching the games, I realized how I was going to get open,Ē Garcia said. ďThat helped my game.Ē

***

Otherwise, the Orlando Sentinel says the Kings might have trouble scoring in tonight's game (3 p.m. tip Pacific time). They also had a well-done feature on Theus for today's paper. - Sam Amick

February 23, 2008
Q&As (Now a Saturday affair)

So as I keep telling you Kings faithful, there's a slow-moving attempt here to establish a schedule to this blogosphere. As it stands, we're looking at daily updates with a few standing elements along the way. Friday is 'Web Watch' day (look below), and I'm deeming Saturdays the Q&A day. This is being done because the alternative is the Q&A bin growing larger and larger and weeks going by until I get to them. I would also like to provide a weekly segment of original content, interviews and such that wouldn't normally find a home in the print edition of the newspaper (Exhibit A, this recent sitdown with David Thorpe). All of this is self-monitoring, really, for I operate best under a set schedule. Anyways, enough blabbing. This is a short version of Q&As, so I'll squeeze another one in early next week...

Question: So, Sam, is there any seller's remorse on the part of Kings' brass that they did not pry a first-round pick out of Atlanta, given that Bibby's presence does not automatically equal playoffs for the Hawks? Or is Shelden Williams supposed to be that pick? - Zack, Rome, Louisiana

Answer: The deal was what it was, and Atlanta's first round pick from this year already belonged to the Suns anyway.
Shelden Williams is definitely a big piece of it, but only one of the many. The Kings wanted to see Beno Udrih run the team again before he became a free agent this summer, wanted the young guys to have more minutes and the core guys to stop fighting over the ball (not in a personal sense - it was just the reality of the way styles didn't mesh between Bibby, Kevin Martin and Ron Artest). None of those things were going to happen with Bibby around. In the meantime, they likely saved $11 million with expiring deals and may have left the door open for Ron Artest's return (for a year as his choice, and the future thereafter up to them).

Question: If Ron was not traded, Does this mean:

A) They like Ron better than what was being offered?

B) Ron Ron is the Real Deal. He has what it takes?

C) Ron isn't worth anything and we are stuck with him hoping he opts out so we can use his money to get free agents than might not even be as good as Ron.?

D) The Kings are somehow in a better position if they wait till this summer in a sign and trade. Ron gets More money, and we get back what Artest is worth in return ? - faSTRman, Lincoln

Answer: It's definitely not option "C." There's some truth to "A" and "B," and "D" remains an option as well.

Question: I don't get why the Kings don't tell Ron they love him and make a long-term commitment to him. He's a great asset and seems to always maintain composure on the court. Why don't the Kings keep him? I really wish they would. Thank you for your time. Ė Michael, Roseville, Calif.

Answer: Everybody knows thereís a past there, and Artest continues to try and prove that the past is the past. Nonetheless, his style and history clearly scared off more than a few teams before the trade deadline that couldíve used his skills in the second half. But since his agent came out and said Artest ďisnít likelyĒ to opt out, you may eventually get your wish of seeing him here long term. And for the record, there has been much made about Artest not professing his joy of remaining with the Kings after the deadline. Our own Scott Howard-Cooper hit on it today, as did the Washington Post in this story. On the day Stevens came out with his client's stance on the matter, I e-mailed Artest to see if he had anything to add. His response, as I see it, should explain the borderline awkwardness with which he handled the queries about remaining with the Kings. He said he was taking Stevens' advice of not discussing the business of basketball and sticking to basketball itself.
"You have to call (Stevens)," Artest wrote. - Sam Amick

February 22, 2008
Weekly Web watch (Post trade-deadline edition)

This weekly edition of 'Web watch' will be a little more brief than usual, mainly because my typing fingers have grown weary. But it will be here in some form every Friday.

ARTEST AFTERMATH

* There was a time late Wednesday night when I began to wonder if the Kings would still trade Ron Artest to Denver even if they did include Linas Kleiza. He had just destroyed Atlanta at Arco Arena, and the offensive makeup that no longer included Mike Bibby seemed to show promise in what was the second game without him. And while only Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie really knows, Nuggets coach George Karl claims he's not sure the Kings were ready to let Artest go.

* Until Artest is wearing that Knicks jersey, the New York media will continue to track that angle. Marc Berman of the New York Post does so here.

* In the weeks leading up to the deadline, I'd always heard that Karl didn't want Artest and Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien did. The deciding vote, I started to assume, would be that of owner Stan Kroenke. But as it turns out - according to Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated - Karl's nay vote was enough to kill the deal.

* Travis Heath of Hoopsworld seems to be pretty well tapped in as it pertains to Denver. He breaks down the Artest non-deal and other Nuggets goings-on in this video.

* Not trade related, but Artest found his way into our news section today by donating to a good cause regarding dogs.

TRADES THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED

* Charley Rosen of FoxSports breaks down all the trades.

And because the majority of Kings fans couldn't spell 'Linas Kleiza,' let alone tell you about his game, take a peek at the man who was nearly a King.

- Sam Amick

February 21, 2008
The rest of Artest and more

So Ron Artest's agent says the small forward may not opt out this summer after all, and it sure didn't take long for fans to start wondering where this whole thing was heading.
Well, Geoff Petrie and Joe Maloof said today that you just can't predict the future, and I'm no different. But considering this is the start of another lengthy process to see if Artest will indeed be part of the long-term future, then consider the following stances of the involved parties. I pretty much summed up Petrie's thoughts in the actual story, so here are some leftovers from Joe Maloof and Artest's agent, Mark Stevens.

MARK STEVENS (Artest's agent)

On the general approach even if Artest does opt out...

Whether itís one summer or two summers (until Artest is a free agent), Ron still has to play for a contract because thatís the name of the business. Now of course if we can enter into a negotiating process with Sacramento this summer and we can both agree on a contract, it would be favorable because itís security. Why would we wait an extra year to be put in the same situation that weíre in that same summer? If we can get something done, and itís favorable and itís honest, then of course weíd look to do it.

On the level of Artest's desire to remain with the Kings long term...

Ron is a Sacramento King. They took the risk on him in making the trade (from Indiana). That has gone a long way with Ron and myself. Ron is a loyalist. He appreciates the chance they took on him to help build his career back, and that will never be forgotten.

JOE MALOOF

On his present-day view of Artest...

With the exception of one or two problems, heís been tremendous in our community. Heís given back. He spends a lot of time with kids. People like him. They genuinely like him. He has a nice following.
I think heís had some pretty good years with us now. He knows the (Maloof) family, knows the city. I think he feels more and more comfortable. We want what's best for him, for his family, if it's good for the organization. I think basically, his future depends on him, what he does. - Sam Amick

***

A FEW LAST NUGGETS (Because no Nuggets of any other kind came around these parts today:)

* Petrie on the fact that he didn't do any deals: "There wasnít anything to consider doing. (The fans) donít want to see anybody do something that doesnít make any sense. Right?"

* Justin Williams update: The former Kings big man who was cut on Saturday because of the Mike Bibby trade has apparently left many fans behind, as so many of you continue to wonder why they let him go. And while I referenced that in this post, there is an update of sorts on where he might land.
Keep on eye on Atlanta (which had him in the original Bibby trade proposal) and Cleveland (which may have to use coach Mike Brown as a small forward after their blockbuster deal at the deadline).

* Coverage note: Bizarre as it may be, we'll have Scott Howard-Cooper covering the game in Charlotte and I'll pick up the road trip from Orlando on. And once we finally move past this trade talk, we'll actually start chatting about the new guys from Atlanta and how they're looking. - Sam Amick

February 21, 2008
Agent: Artest 'not likely' to opt out

In lieu of more musings, how about some actual reporting.
Ron Artest's agent had quite a lot to say about his client's possible future in Sacramento after the small forward wasn't traded today. Read here.
Unfortunately, the only forum for you folks to give your take will be below the story itself, as the blog's commenting software is having a few issues at the moment and is down. - Sam Amick

February 21, 2008
The deadline nears

(12:04 p.m.)
Nothing. Nothing big. Nothing small. The trade deadline has come and gone, and Kings PA announcer Scott Moak will not have to learn any new names other than the ones who came to Sacramento in the Saturday deal with Atlanta. But hey, I've got the next best thing! There are some former Kings on the move. I'm taking a breather, but I'll be back later to offer some final thoughts.

(11:46 a.m.)
No call from Denver. Might still be a small deal for a Tyronn Lue type or maybe one of the other new guys from Atlanta. Ron Artest will be on this team tomorrow.

(11:10 a.m.)
Phoenix is not in play for Artest, which I said before but not in such certain terms. That's just not taking place. And the Nuggets still haven't called either.

(11:02 a.m.)
One hour to go, and a source close to the Kings tells me Denver hasn't come back the Kings' way yet.
There have been other offers for Artest (not sure who) but nothing of real substance. As for the Phoenix chatter, ESPN's Chad Ford claims the Suns have interest, although I'm told they haven't expressed it to the Kings. And even if they were willing to give up the trade exception (read below), they may be reluctant to give up the first round pick from Atlanta that may very well end up in the lottery with the way the Hawks have played after the Mike Bibby trade.

(10:05 a.m.)
As a quick addition to the prior post, there are indications that - at the very least - the power struggle within Denver's front office continues. And with the vast majority now saying owner Stan Kroenke will have the deciding vote, consider this passage from the story from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!
"Kleiza isn't just a player for Denver, but part of the ownership's family. Stan Kroenke has known Kleiza since his days at Missouri, when he was a teammate and close friend of Kroenke's son, Josh. The Nuggets traded for Kleiza, a 6-foot-8 Lithuanian, on draft day in 2005 and watched him develop into a terrific young player.
'There's a feeling from ownership that, ĎHey, we've helped turn this kid into a player, so how can we let him go'" an Eastern Conference executive said."

(9:50 a.m.)
Chirp, chirp, chirp...
It really is quiet on both ends, I'm told. And for what it's worth, the Kings folks left a pretty clear message on their way out last night that they really didn't think Artest would be moved today. ESPN's Ric Bucher just said on TV that he is hearing that Denver may have softened on giving up Linas Kleiza, to which my Denver source quickly retorts, "Don't count on it."
While the waiting continues, let's hit on a few conversation topics for a moment.

* Artest to the Suns? Let us speculate - As a reader noted below, Phoenix has an $8 million trade exception and Atlanta's first-round pick that they could offer for Artest. And while I'm not aware of any current conversations between the two clubs, that would make some sense on both ends.
Phoenix lost most of its perimeter defense when they sent Shawn Marion to Miami, and Artest would not only add to the Suns' mix but he'd be a nice insurance policy of sorts talent-wise just in case Shaq gets hurt. The reason I'm told it likely wouldn't happen, at least in part, is because the trade that sent Kurt Thomas from Phoenix to Seattle in the summer and brought back the trade exception meant Thomas' salary came off the Suns' books. By acquiring Artest, they would be taking a serious luxury tax hit.
If the Kings did this deal, it would break down like this: they would get Artest's salary off the books (only because they're already over the salary cap) and have a chance to add a young piece with the draft pick. Then this summer, they could use the exception to make a move for someone in Artest's salary range, at which point that salary would be added on. Teams have one year to use an exception, which - according to NBA salary cap expert Larry Coon - is also referred to as a non-simultaneous trade.
From poking around a bit on the Kings-Suns front, however, there's no reason to believe it's taking place.

* Artest certainly not to the Spurs - The buzz about Artest going to San Antonio was something to behold yesterday, as the word was coming from within the Spurs organization and - in hindsight - was either leaked with some sort of motive or came from overzealous folks within the reigning champs' house who were hoping to spark a move for him. Who knows?
A similar version of the same package that was allegedly offered to the Kings (although that didn't happen) was sent to Seattle for Kurt Thomas. The Kings were quick to shoot the Spurs rumor down, which pokes holes in the theory that they were hoping to raise the stakes on those dealings by leaking this story. That most definitely was not the case.

(7:38 a.m.)
Poker face? This was more like walking away from the table, then hinting on your way out the door that maybe, just maybe, you'll return.
And when you do that, you never know if your hand will still be there when come back.
The Kings and Denver never spoke on Thursday, with the Nuggets clearly not concerned about losing Ron Artest to any other suitors and deciding to push this situation until trade deadline day. With the cutoff time at noon, there remains a possibility that the Nuggets relent on including Linas Kleiza and land Artest. If not, then they're bounced from the table altogether. Even if that leaves the Kings with no one to play with.
The Kings aren't trading Artest without Kleiza. It's just not happening. And especially not with the way Artest is playing. In nine games this month, Artest has averaged 24.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 48 percent from three-point range (12 of 25).
On a lesser note, it seems likely the Kings may do a smaller deal today. It will most likely involve new point guard Tyronn Lue, who is an attractive backup option for a handful of teams and may give them a trade exception or maybe a second-round draft pick in return. The Kings, to review, have three point guards in contract years between Lue, Anthony Johnson, and Beno Udrih, so that would shock no one. I'll provide updates until the noon trade deadline, so don't go anywhere... - Sam Amick

February 20, 2008
Artest staying...for now

(7:52 p.m.)
Pardon the prolonged absence there. Just got done chatting with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie about a myriad of things. Among them, obviously, was how his day of potential dealings went.
His status report: "Might be time to turn the volume down," he said.
As in the volume of trade talk that has surrounded Ron Artest, and more specificially his situation as it pertains to Denver. There was talk from Petrie of a price of admission and how sometimes people just choose not to pay. The point, of course, was that Artest's price has not changed. If the Nuggets want him, they must give up Linas Kleiza in the deal.
It does not appear that the Kings have anything else of larger substance in the works, though I wouldn't be surprised if a role player is shipped out by tomorrow. All that being said, this is still a staring contest. If Denver blinks come morn, then the deal will get done.

(3:56 p.m.)
Let the staring contest begin.
The Kings and Denver are at a non-communicative standstill, but there may be some reason to believe the Nuggets are considering giving up Kleiza.
Not to simplify the matter, but I can safely say Denver has looked at possible acquisitions in this light from the beginning. Jason Kidd was the most talented guy available, and Ron Artest was the second. End of story.
And now that it doesn't appear as if Denver will land Memphis' Mike Miller, that could be leverage of sorts for the Kings. Remember, there's really no reason to give in now. Just wait for the other side to blink until the deadline draws even closer. Twenty hours and counting...

Quick sidenote: San Antonio is busy using Francisco Elson and Brent Barry to other ends. They landed Kurt Thomas.

Kleiza.jpg

The man himself

(2:49 p.m.)
Someone within the Spurs organization is steering folks astray, as it now seems as if that situation may not exist. It never made sense as it was, and wasn't anything close to a deal the Kings would consider. All is quiet at the moment, and my Denver source says if the Nuggets had relented on Linas Kleiza then the deal would be done.

(12:22 p.m.)
The Spurs may be nearing a deal for Artest, although it's also believed Denver may finally be willing to give up Linas Kleiza. Of course, my flight from Portland to Sacramento is at this very moment, so we'll see where things stand when I land.

(10:40 a.m.):
Add San Antonio to the list of teams that will try to steal Ron Artest.
I don't see Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie biting, but I'm told that the Spurs will (or maybe have) offer the expiring contracts of Francisco Elson and Brent Barry (combined $8.54 million) for Artest. A draft pick would likely be available, too, but this would seem to be yet another low-ball offer as the Kings see it. But if it did happen and Ron was united with the team he demolished in the playoffs two years ago? Oooweee. The rich would be filthy rich...

***

(8:24 a.m.)
Things change quickly when the trade deadline is fast approaching, but the consensus from this morning is that Ron Artest isn't going anywhere.
According to several league sources, the Kings had recent talks with Denver and Houston pertaining to the small forward. And for now, the discussions have left both teams leaning against making a move for Artest. The formula is the same in both scenarios, with the Kings looking for a combination of expiring contracts, draft picks and - insert snag here - young talent.
And while it's been well chronicled that the Nuggets are reluctant to give up third-year small forward Linas Kleiza, it appears the Rockets don't want to hand over their young talent either. Rookie point guard Aaron Brooks is a player the Kings wanted to draft and would love to trade for, but Houston is - for the moment - unwilling to include him on any deal. There was a call made to the Rockets weeks ago, and they only seem to have returned it in the last week. That's what led to this speculation on my part, but then the power of success came into play.
Houston has won 18 of its last 21 games, leading the Rockets to deduce that change just isn't necessary. The same goes for the Nuggets, who broke Boston's 16-game undefeated streak against Western Conference last night and have won seven of nine games.
For all the talk of where coach George Karl and vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien are on dealing for Artest (Warkentien for, Karl against), the final word from the Mile High City may come from owner Stan Kroenke. He was at the Pepsi Center last night, and is said to have walked away without any inclination to acquire Artest if it meant giving up Kleiza.
It should be noted that Warkentien, more than all the others, isn't averse to putting together a cast of characters dripping with controversy. This is the same guy who built the infamous "Jail Blazers" teams of the 1990s, and he came up alongside famed and equally-infamous UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. It's the overlooked fact among those people who think it'd be insane to couple Artest with Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. For now, though, Artest doesn't appear on his way toward a new situation of any kind. - Sam Amick

February 20, 2008
Artest speaks, and speaks, and speaks...

PORTLAND, Ore. - I expected the reserved Ron-Ron, the one who'd offered no comments about all the trade talk the day before and who no one could blame for hitting the mute button until he was either traded or the deadline had passed.
Or not...
Ron Artest was candid and content after the Kings' win at Portland on Tuesday, hitting on everything from his daughter's health matters to his present and future. And because fatigue has the laptop monitor growing fuzzier by the minute, I'm going to simply dump the conversation for your absorbing pleasure here. And if for no other reason, then consider this: With less than two days to the noon Thursday trade deadline, it remains very likely he won't be speaking as a member of the Kings for that much longer.

On the game...

We played hard to the point where it hurt to run, and thatís how weíre supposed to play ever game. It should hurt. You should feel some fatigue in your legs. We played 48 minutes tonight.
Right now weíre thinking playoffs and championship. We just donít want to be a rollover type team, so weíre making a push for something special this year. And weíre not out (of the playoff hunt) until we say weíre out.

On how he's feeling overall...

My daughter had the illness (cancer on her kidney). I hurt my elbow. That affected my play. And now that everything is great, Iím able to go out there and play ball. Iím having a pretty good season, but nowhere near where Iím supposed to be. Things happen for a reason, and God puts you in situations for a reason.

On how his four-year-old daughter, Diamond, is doing after having surgery on Feb. 12 to remove the cancerous tumor...

She's doing great. Doing great. They actually removed the tumor when we were in Memphis. She had surgery the same day we played. (The tumor) was the size of a softball and they took it out. It was the size of a softball. Thank God. Thank God. Sheís walking. It's a thousand pounds, a million pounds off my shoulders. Ainít nothing to be upset about. Great news.

On the trade rumors...

I read the Internet, because I like to read. I try not to run from anything. Anything in your life youíre dealing with, youíve got to face it at some point in time. I read everything.
(Being discussed in trade rumors) is just great news. When I was young, I always wanted to be in the papers. Iíve got to thank God for my name being in the paper.
Like I tell people, if youíre not in the rumor mill then people are forgetting about you. Thereís a lot of people who canít get traded. There are people who actually want me. Iíve got to thank God for that, got to be grateful for that. Thereís a lot of things I couldíve been doing with my life. Iím playing ball, and I got a chance to get traded. Thatís beautiful.

Considering Artest has already made it clear he will opt out of his contract this summer, he was asked if he's all that concerned about where he is for the next few months knowing his future will be wide open come summertime...

(The Kings) gave me a big opportunity here, a chance to turn my career around. (Artest and his agent) asked (Kings basketball president) Geoff (Petrie) what was he thinking (a few weeks ago)? And he didnít know yet, so I asked my agent if I could get traded somewhere.
So we spoke, and nothing happened yet, but you never know. Maybe they want me here, I donít know. I donít know if they want me here. We asked. Weíll see what happens. At the end of the day, Iím still with a class-A organization and weíre trying to make the playoffs.

On whether this team just had too many players with a scorer's mentality and whether the Mike Bibby trade could help the offensive flow...

Itís hard. Then youíve got the stud Kevin (Martin). Youíve got to see what pieces fit around Kevin Martin, and Iím trying to be that piece to fit around Kevin Martin. Itís hard, because Kevinís an up and coming 20-point scorer.
Kevinís still learning. Everybodyís trying to get numbers. Itís hard. Itís hard. - Sam Amick

February 19, 2008
Let the "second half" begin

BLOG UPDATE: It's not quite the Ron Artest speculation some of you were hoping for, but I can say the Brad Miller rumor out of Orlando has no legs. From what I'm told, he hasn't been shopped at all.

PORTLAND - The All-Star break is often looked at as the halfway point of the season, but that's not the case by a longshot.
So with 31 games out of 82 left, welcome to the 62.2 percent point Kings fans!
The Kings can only hope the home stretch goes a little smoother than its beginning. The team didn't even leave Sacramento for tonight's game in Portland until late this morning because of mechanical problems with their charter plane, making for one long day as they'll fly home after the game as well.
As for the four new Kings and their status, Shelden Williams, Tyronn Lue, Anthony Johnson and Lorenzen Wright will all be available for debut action. I would expect Williams to get some significant time down low, but it sounds like Beno Udrih - rightfully so - will take up most of the minutes at the point guard spot.
On the trade front, I don't see any Ron Artest deal happening today. The deadline, for those who forgot, is Thursday at noon Pacific time. If Kings-Blazers isn't intriguing enough for you, then keep an eye on the Denver-Boston game in the Mile High City (6 p.m. tipoff Pacific time).
It's the Nuggets' final game before the deadline, and the unofficial point at which they can no longer stand still while staring at that fork in the road that is their future. On its own, it's worth watching (for those who have NBA League pass, anyway) because Kevin Garnett may return from injury and the Celtics' 16-0 record against the Western Conference is just incredible.
I continue to hear rumblings about other teams pushing for Artest, but won't share them until I can really confirm. Keep coming here for updates (and speak up, too, people - get those comments going! Geesh). - Sam Amick

February 18, 2008
Bibby back on Wednesday

BLOG UPDATE: Contrary to what was written below, the four new Kings may play Tuesday at Portland. It's a possibility at this point, but I should know more after tonight's practice. Because players are still returning from the All-Star break, the team is holding an evening practice before leaving for Portland.

***

If this writing thing just doesn't work out, I think I may have a future in promotions.
And who knows, maybe I'll just sell out and get hired on with the Kings to raise their 25th ranked attendance. OK, here goes...

"Come out to Arco Arena on Wednesday night, where the one and only Mike Bibby will play with the Atlanta Hawks at Arco Arena! There are only 12,000-plus tickets sold already. And the crazy part is that we (remember, this is the Kings talking) have only sold some 300 additional tickets since the trade went down on Saturday. So please, come welcome the four new Kings and show some gratitude to one of your favorite old Kings out at the old gas tank. To get tickets, the local paper was even nice enough to include a link on the right side of this page to our web site, and they have also recommended a number of other interesting basketball-related web sites you should check out."

Whoops - got a plug within a plug there.
If it wasn't so darn unethical, I'd half expect a check from the Kings for that kind of promo. Nonetheless, it is nothing short of absurd that the schedule fell in this way. And considering the Kings didn't promote the first regular season return of Peja Stojakovic recently, I figured I'd aid their cause.
What's more, it's looking like that will be the debut of Shelden Williams, Tyronn Lue, Anthony Johnson and Lorenzen Wright as well, as they aren't expected to be cleared of physicals and ready to play in Tuesday night's game at Portland. - Sam Amick

February 17, 2008
The week that was (Bibby fallout and more trade chatter)

So much for an All-Star "break."
A week that began with the increasingly annoying dancer story ended with the sort of trade that certainly required a full working day.
Now from the comfort of a recliner on a lazy Sunday, I'll try to answer a few of the most popular questions coming my way after Mike Bibby was sent to Atlanta for four players...

Bibby.jpg

Question: Does Bibby being traded have any effect on the Kings' thinking in regards to possibly moving Ron Artest?

Answer: I don't think so, other than the fact that they now have different pieces they could move (after they pass physicals). This wasn't about getting Bibby and Artest away from each other, as that storyline was always overblown. They'd still be reluctant to take on big contracts that go beyond next year unless it's a player of enough significance that he who would fit into the long-term. Cheap young talent with huge upside and draft picks remain attractive.

Question: Why did the Kings cut Justin Williams and Dahntay Jones?

Answer: With the league's roster limit of 15 players and the pre-trade roster at 14 players, they had to cut two guys to get from 17 to 15.
It's as simple as that, and the fact that they were the cheapest options to pay off ($1,489,279 combined) who simply didn't play that often after the roster returned to near-health.

Question: Why would they let a young talent like Justin Williams go?

Answer: First of all, he wasn't a draft pick and just never seemed to earn the confidence of the coaching staff or the organization at large. As he showed in the Wednesday loss at Houston, he could always hit the boards (he had 12 in 23 minutes). Last season, Williams' rebound-per-48-minute mark was an impressive 16.5. This year, it was 19.5.
The other note of interest here is that I was told Williams was originally part of the Atlanta deal. The Kings would have received Salim Stoudamire (expiring contract for $783,000) in return and Williams would've been in a better setting, except for one hitch. Because he had signed a one-year deal for the minimum, he had the same right to block a trade that Devean George has. And because of the way that stipulation blocked the Dallas-New Jersey deal for Jason Kidd, there was fear of a repeat occurence in this trade. Eventually, Williams and Stoudamire were removed from the table because of it.

Question: Is there any chance Williams or Jones are re-signed this season?

Answer: It's not likely. It would be unwise to cut the new Kings just to make room for Williams and Jones to come back because of their contracts. The expiring deals of new Kings Tyronn Lue, Anthony Johnson and Lorenzen Wright are worth a combined $9.6 million, and those pieces could certainly be used in a deal before the Feb. 21 trade deadline once they pass their physicals (expected by Tuesday). On credentials alone, the veterans have it all over Williams and Jones as well.

And none of them, most certainly, can play the game like Bibby...

KINGS FANS, WELCOME SHELDEN WILLIAMS...

Just last week, Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a nice piece on new Kings forward Shelden Williams, from his inability to fulfill expectations so far to his love-life with Tennessee hoops star Candace Parker.

ARTEST WATCH

* Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer shoots down buzz that Ron Artest could be headed to Philadelphia.

* Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post cites a source close to Artest who believes Ron will be with the Kings after the trade deadline.

* Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News discusses the sort of postseason-less finish the Nuggets want to avoid. They have one game left before the trade deadline (vs. Boston at home on Tuesday) and continue to ponder their plight and the potential pieces that could improve it. - Sam Amick

February 16, 2008
Petrie unplugged

BLOG UPDATE: I added a segment at the bottom that related to a rumor that swirled on Saturday.

With Saturday's trade that sent Mike Bibby to Atlanta and brought four players the Kings' way, I chatted with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie about the deal.

On the trade as a whole...

It's another step in a new direction. I think we got some different potential parts of things that help us. You have a chance to have another young big (in Shelden Williams) who was a fifth pick in the draft and hasnít had a chance to have an opportunity yet. You get some veteran point guards there (in Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue), some experience, and weíll see what happens down the road and how they integrate.

On Williams' potential...

He had a great, great, college career (at Duke). He was extremely well-coached. Weíre hoping he becomes part of a younger frontcourt we can go forward with on some level, but he hasnít played enough yet. He hasnít had a great opportunity, and hopefully this will be his chance to move forward.
Whatever shows up on the court will show up on the court over some period of time. We havenít had a fifth pick in the draft since Iíve been here (Williams was drafted fifth overall in 2006).

On how the three expiring contracts of Lue, Johnson and Lorenzen Wright could help clear salary cap space this summer...

Thereís the potential for like $11 million in savings, but I donít want to say thatís written in stone and thatís what weíre going to do. Thatís throwing those guys under the bus right away. Lue and Anthony Johnson, in particular, have been proven backup point guards. Right now, other than Quincy (Douby), we donít have a point guard under contract for next year.
We have the last 31 games here to see what something different looks like. It puts Beno (Udrih) back out there the way he was before Mike got hurt, and weíll go from there.

On how long the deal with Atlanta had been in the works...

There was sort of a general conversation a few weeks ago that didnít go anywhere. It started to get a little more momentum here the last couple days. Late last night, it came to a more solid understanding.

On his conversation with Bibby...

It was good. Weíve talked periodically along the way. Thereís always a little bit of nostalgia when you trade somebody whoís been somewhere a long time, and who contributed to and participated in some exciting moments.
Weíre appreciative of what heís done, and I think he enjoyed everything we did for him here too. I hope it works for him and I hope it works for us.
Their team, the way it is, (the Hawks) have some younger active guys there. There's Joe Johnson, who can handle (the ball as a point guard) where Mike doesnít always have to be the primary ballhandler and could play off him some. It could work.

David Aldridge reported on TNT during Saturday's All-Star game coverage that the Kings were involved in three-team talks that would have sent Ron Artest to Denver, Brad Miller to Indiana and brought Jermaine O'Neal to Sacramento. Another version of the rumor popped up soon thereafter that had Denver forward Nene headed to Indiana instead of Miller. Either way, Petrie shot it down.

I donít know anything about that. Iíve talked to Denver periodically over the last month or so, but thereís nothing like that floating out there that I know of.

Are you pursuing O'Neal?
Not today. (Yesterday, he was asked kiddingly?) Not yesterday. I donít know anything about that.

I'll have more in tomorrow's paper, including an update on the Ron Artest-to-Denver situation and a few comments from Udrih on how this affects his situation and possible future with the Kings. - Sam Amick

February 16, 2008
Let the rebuilding begin

BLOG UPDATE: It's official. All the reported particulars were confirmed by the Kings in a press release, and it turns out Dahntay Jones and Justin Williams are the casualties of the deal as they were waived.

***

After all the talk of rebuilding, the Kings are actually doing it.
The deal that will send Mike Bibby to Atlanta is all about building for the future, from the approximately $11 million they may save by acquiring three expiring contracts to the acquisition of Shelden Williams.
The Duke product hasn't blown anyone in the league away, but he still comes with the fact that he was a No. 5 pick and a contract that gives the Kings all control as it pertains to his future. He has one year left on his deal at $3.3 million, and a team option for 2009-10 ($4.3 million). In essence, the Kings can either let him walk after that or sign him as a part of what they're trying to do, as they always say, "going forward." I haven't crunched all the numbers yet, but this certainly opens up possibilities in regards to the free agent market this summer as well.
The trade should be official in a few hours, and I'm told they will also receive a second round draft pick for this June in addition to the four players. The next question is how the roster shakes out, as the Kings will now have to waive two players to get to the league limit of 15.
Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution breaks it down here.
- Sam Amick

February 16, 2008
Bibby to Atlanta - a la Marty Mac

According to the Bee's Marty McNeal, Mike Bibby's days in Sacramento appear to be nearing and end, and he may have a new beginning in Atlanta.

February 16, 2008
Bibby to Atlanta?

Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution hints very hard today that the Hawks have something big in the works, and it's sounding more and more like it could involve Kings point guard Mike Bibby.
The Hawks have been badly in need of a point guard for some time, and their roster is full of the sort of expiring contracts that could actually get close enough to Bibby's $13.5 million salary ($14.5 million next season) to make a deal work. Among them is small forward Josh Smith, who will be a restricted free agent seeking a huge deal and would fit in quite nicely if Ron Artest is gone this summer. What's more, there has always been a healthy communication between Kings vice president of basketball operations Wayne Cooper (who handles a good amount of trade talks) and Hawks GM Billy Knight. I've got to think a draft pick would be involved here, too. Stay tuned.

ON THE OTHER TRADE FRONT

I've tried my darndest on this forum to say why Artest in Denver just makes sense. But it just might have a little more impact now that Carmelo Anthony himself is campaigning for the move just like he did two years ago. - Sam Amick

February 15, 2008
Weekly Web Watch

The latest in a weekly segment, here's the best of the web this week as I see it (or at least what I came across that made me stop in my digital tracks)

WOULD SOMEBODY CLOSE THE DANCER-GATE...PLEASE?!

Because it's timely and because this paper is certainly not immune to criticism: One mega fan speaks for many in response to today's coverage of what I dubbed the 'Dancer Debacle,' while others debate the topic at kingsfans.com and even have a poll going (although you folks need to feel free to leave your opinions on our new comment feature here, too:). For those who haven't seen it, here's today's front page story and here's a blog post I had two days prior.

IHATE THE IROY CAMPAIGN BECAUSE ITHINK BARON DAVIS GOT IHOSED

First of all, enjoy this weekend's All-Star festivities that begin with the rookie challenge and youth jam tonight. For the fourth straight year, no Kings players will take part in any part of the festivities, but there's still plenty to enjoy. I'll be doing so from my couch, as we have the one and only Scott Howard-Cooper reporting from the Bayou.
Now what irks me is that Golden State's Baron Davis may as well be watching the event in just the same sort of disconnected fashion. And as if it's not bad enough that he didn't get voted onto the team and Portland's Brandon Roy did, I was late catching on to this promotional campaign pushing Roy that makes the whole thing even worse. IPods for everyone if Roy gets in the game! Lame on so many levels.
As for the snub, the common belief is that Davis' reputation and lack of friends among the voting coaches in the Western Conference - combined with the pristine reputation of the talented Roy - made for a snub that was nothing short of personal. On merit alone, though, Davis has the better numbers, the greater impact, the team with the better record and no less of a storyline as it pertains to his team's success.

SHOULD WE START A SPREWELL CHARITY FUND?

In the who-could've-seen-this-coming? category, it turns out Latrell Sprewell was - in a sense - concerned about having enough millions to feed his family when he made the infamous comment back in 2004. Look what happened to him this week.

PIETRUS SAYS 'GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!!'

Ron Artest says the Kings would be better off without him, which many considered a round-a-bout way of asking for a trade.
But Golden State's Mickael Pietrus? He shows us the not-so-subtle approaching, deciding to just go ahead and say it, and say it, and say it, and say it...

SHAQ ATTACK!

Shaq will always win in a war of words. As a matter of fact, I've decided I may have to find at least one Shaq clip a week and make him a standing element within this feature. This time, it was Bill Walton questioning Shaquille O'Neal's work ethic and honesty regarding a hip injury that kept him out while in Miami. Now with Phoenix, of course, Shaq doesn't take kindly to the criticism from his colleague.

February 14, 2008
Tick, tock, tick, tock... (and blog comments introduced)

One week and counting until the trade deadline.
And from this corner of the NBA world, I still see Denver as the most likely destination for Ron Artest.
Sure, the Nuggets have won six of their last eight, but they can't think for a minute that they're ready to take on the new-look Lakers or the soon-to-be-supped up Dallas Mavericks (folks I talked to today still expect the Jason Kidd deal to eventually go through). They still need help, and Artest showed them on Wednesday night just how much he could provide. Meanwhile among other known potential destinations, it sounds like New York is just going to wait to try and sign Artest in the offseason and I just can't see a scenario in which Golden State actually makes a move for him (Nor, for the record, can the San Jose Mercury's Tim Kawakami in this fine post).
Talk about showcasing a player? I can't read minds, and surely Kings coach Reggie Theus took the right road by continually going to Artest when he was hot late on Wednesday night against Houston. But not only did he score 30 points on 11 of 18 shooting, he held Tracy McGrady to 3 of 12 shooting and 10 points. Dominating on both ends, and much of the reason he's still talked about as one of the best two-way players in the game today. Former Kings coach Rick Adelman, who could use a roster addition himself, even walked away surprised and impressed.

Ron 2.jpg

I spoke to Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie today about a season analysis story, and asked him about the trade front near the end of our conversation. Things heating up, Kings' boss man?
"Uh, on the backburner," he said quietly. "No one's getting traded today."
If it is indeed Denver on the stove, then don't forget that Linas Kleiza is - in my estimation - the key to the deal. He's a young small forward with big upside, and - as Hoopsworld's Travis Heath argues here - he could hold up any potential deal altogether.

***

COMMENT AWAY!: After much deliberation and software installation, we are now accepting comments on the blog.
As with the rest of this forum, it'll be a work in progress. But please, feel free to give your opinion, rip my opinion (or maybe agree occasionally), and engage in the sort of Kings chatter that you can't get anywhere else. I will still answer Q&As sporadically, but may find myself responding to comments on the blog as well. - Sam Amick

February 13, 2008
Dancer debacle

WARNING: The content discussed in this blog post may be inappropriate for minors.

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dancers.jpg

They look so happy.
That's the worst part about Dancer-gate.
Whether the Kings dance team is in the Monarchs locker room sipping on Prolly champagne or finding new and exciting ways to use team-issued candy canes, they're just having such a good time.
At least they were. Now? Not so much.

Oh, where to begin...
How about Monday night, when I was first informed that numerous members of the Kings dance team had popped up on the sort of web site you don't tell your mother about - withleather.com (which I later found out was actually scooped by donchavez.com). Fourteen pictures in all, and all of them enough to make Mama Maloof squirm in her courtside seat.
Half-naked shots on their personal time. Shots with alcohol on the Arco Arena premises. Shots they never imagined would become available for public consumption.
The backstory here is that one of the dancers put the pictures on an online photo album that was somehow discovered. And in the two days since word started spreading, there has been a Monday night mention on KHTK's Carmichael Dave show and a growing buzz on the web that includes the mega-site Yahoo!.
From chatting with folks in Kings land, they've been cleaning up the mess for two days now, holding meetings on the subject and - when prompted on Wednesday - releasing a statement regarding the issue.
Here's the e-mail from vice president of business communications, Mitch Germann, with a title reading "Sacramento Kings Statement Regarding Dance Team Photos"...
"The photos of Sacramento Kings Dance Team members circulating on the Internet were published without the knowledge or permission of the Dance Team members or the Sacramento Kings, and they do not adhere to the principles and values of the Sacramento Kings organization."
Asked if there would be any disciplinary measures levied against the dancers, Germann wrote, "We handle all Team Member personnel issues internally."
I spoke with Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof this afternoon, too, having called him for a story on the actual team. At the end of the conversation, I asked about his stance on D-Gate.
"Well we obviously don't condone that type of behavior, but we're going to actually take this matter internally," he said. "We'll deal with it internally."
For the record, I'm guessing the pictures could be more than a year old considering a couple of the dancers aren't around anymore and the holiday theme shots were probably from 2006. Most of the women in the pictures remain, though.
The controlled media world was also put on alert, I'm told, with phone calls about the dancers to all Kings-operated radio programs on KHTK quickly dumped. Carmichael Dave's show, The Rise Guys and Mike Lamb constitute the only weekday local programming not beholden to the organization.
There may be more backtracking on the way, too, as there was a Kings.com behind-the-scenes with the dancers feature in the works that I'm guessing never sees the light of day. And if anyone employed by the Kings is happy about anything, it's the timing in relation to the schedule. With just one home game between now and March 2, the dancers can stay out of sight for a while.
Of course as I see it, it's quite the conundrum as to whether any of this matters. On the one hand, these gals don't wear all that much to begin with when they're performing. They are paid by the Maloofs, who have their party boy image that comes with the Sin City connection and run the most risquť hotel in all of Vegas. On a certain level, they were already selling sex. This just takes it to a new level. The alcohol is where it becomes problematic, and mostly because it's on the actual job site.
Now if they would just go ahead and trade somebody, we'd really have something to talk about. - Sam Amick

February 12, 2008
You feel the breeze?

Trade winds aren't exactly blowing, but the talk is brewing.
ESPN's Chris Sheridan talks Ron Artest in a story today, and he's spot on. I'm unsure if the Knicks have actually presented the Kings with the Eddy Curry/Jerome James for Artest/Kenny Thomas deal, but - according to a source close to the Knicks I spoke with last week - it's certainly what the Knicks folks have in mind as the latest way to acquire Artest. It would be a rough day on the Kings' PR front if they did that deal as it pertains to James, considering it was his one-hit wonder playoff performance against the Kings in 2005 while with Seattle that landed him all that cash.
As for Denver, it's far from certain that the Kings want Nene, for reasons varying from his health concerns (testicular cancer) to his contract ($8.84 million this season and a deal that goes through 2011 with a player option for the 2011-12 campaign). At the same time, getting Eduardo Najera's expiring deal doesn't mean all that much considering Artest has said he'll opt out this summer and his money would come off the books anyway. Getting third-year small forward Linas Kleiza and draft picks - which the Kings are seeking in all talks - are the key here.
As for other possibilities, a dark, dark, darkhorse is Houston. I say that only on intrigue alone - Artest with former Kings coach Rick Adelman again, not to mention Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming and a pairing with Bonzi Wells that worked so well during the 2006 playoff run?!

Bash brothers

The Rockets are on the playoff bubble, although they've won 11 of their last 12 games. To my knowledge, the two teams have not spoken. As for what the Kings would want, I can tell you that they are very high on Rockets rookie point guard Aaron Brooks out of Oregon. How high? There was some internal talk in June about shocking the NBA world and drafting Brooks at the No. 10 spot. He was taken 26th overall by the Rockets.
One trade that I'd have to think would make Geoff Petrie do back flips: Artest for Brooks, the expiring contract of Steve Francis ($2.4 million) and rookie forward Luis Scola ($2.9 million and signed through 2010).

SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT

Videos on our web site are a work in progress, and there was significant progress today. Check out the story on Kings equipment manager Rob Pimental , and be sure to watch the mini-documentary on his job you can find halfway down the page. Fabulous work by the Bee's John Parker. - Sam Amick

February 11, 2008
Are you Mile High?

It never ceases to amaze me how egos in media get out of control sometimes.
Today is one of those times.
A Denver TV man made a futile attempt to poke holes in the Ron-Artest-to-Denver coverage we've had recently. The "breaking news?"His Denver source says the two teams haven't spoken in the "10 to 14 days," as if it was reported otherwise.
Well, this was the last reference in the Bee story on the situation from Saturday's paper...
"Sources close to the Denver Nuggets said there remains a possibility of Artest joining Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony in the Mile High City after the two teams had discussions in recent weeks."
Of course, he didn't reference what was actually reported in any way (maybe he was too busy excitedly posting the 39-month-old picture of Artest in the Detroit brawl). And for the record, I first reported they were having discussions on Jan. 31 (and haven't reported any subsequent talks). Hmmm, the timeline seems to add up to me. His source also said the Nuggets would wait until the trade deadline neared to more seriously consider a move. Earth-shattering news as well.
Since anchorman Eric Goodman (who, by the way, is kind of a big deal)

Goodman.jpg Anchorman.jpg

decided to play in the mud, it should be noted that this is the same station that published a Q&A with Artest's agent, Mark Stevens, in which the name of Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie was misspelled. It was originally written as "Jeff" until they apparently changed it. As for where that situation stands, the Nuggets may have played well enough lately to inspire them to stand pat. They've won five of six games, with the only loss in overtime against Utah. They have back to back games against Miami and Orlando starting on Tuesday, then face Boston on Feb. 19 before the deadline comes. Hypothetically speaking, a slide during this time would have certainly played on their decision-making process. There is still some life to the scenario, but stay tuned. - Sam Amick

February 10, 2008
The week that was

Brad, Brad, Brad

It was a week full of conspiracy theories, chief among them the notion among some around the league that maybe former Lakers great/GM Jerry West had something to do with Memphis giving away Pau Gasol to Kobe & Co.
But in Sacramento, the king of conspiracy theories centered around Kings center Brad Miller. When Miller's incredible week of play came to a painful end because, well, he had decided to help with the dishes at home, plenty of Kings fans were suspicious.
Coach Reggie Theus even joked that Miller should've come up with a more flattering story than what amounted to, "I was fulfilling my 'Honey-do' list," but Miller said he opted for the truth instead. On Saturday, I finally pressed Miller to reveal the play by play of his accident, and he obliged.
Miller said he was washing a large butcher knife with one of those fuel-injection type of sponges where the soap oozes through the pores, scrubbing to get the last of the grime off the blade. Then, of course, it was as simple as slip, slice, and take a seat for the guy who was playing the best basketball of his career.

K-Mart open every other day

Kevin Martin had a Jekyll & Hyde week like never before.
In losses to Seattle and Golden State, the Kings shooting guard scored five and nine points on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively, hitting just 4 of 26 shots combined in those games. In wins over Chicago and Utah last Saturday and Friday, Martin averaged 26.5 points while hitting 17 of 27 shots.
Disclaimer: Research data taken from more than just the previous week in order to prove a point.

Cross(eyed)-talk among local media moguls

Legendary Kings radio play-by-play man Gary Gerould has missed a handful of games recently, some when he was battling pneumonia and others because of his duties as a race car commentator.
And while Jim Kozimor is a more-than-worthy fill-in, Gerould was sorely missed for more than the typical reasons on Friday at Arco Arena when the Cold War between Koz and Grant Napear heated up in his absence. During a segment dubbed "Cross talk" on the telecast, Grant and his TV running mate/Kings director of player personnel Jerry Reynolds chat with the radio side. Typically, Koz and Grant - who some say haven't spoken unless they absolutely had to in eight years - bend over backwards to avoid conversing during the segment. This time, though, Koz asked Grant a question directly, with Grant remaining silent while Jerry quickly picked up the chatter and the answer after the brief awkward moment. Koz, who broke out laughing as the awkward meter kept rising, ended the segment with a generic parting comment. When he switched back to the radio side, he said, "I'd like to thank Jerry Reynolds for the Crosstalk tonight."
As Theus always says, every locker room has its issues.

Subplot worth mentioning: For those of you who remember seeing that "Crosstalk" but remember nothing about the discourse because you may have been distracted, you're excused.
Two attractive women sitting front row at the game and directly behind Kozimor were being extremely friendly with one another in the background of the shot.

- Sam Amick

February 9, 2008
Garcia out until All-Star break

OAKLAND - As expected, Kings swingman Francisco Garcia did not make the trip to tonight's game against the Warriors because of his lower back strain.
Garcia is expected to miss the last two games before the All-Star break and possibly return at Portland on Feb. 19. - Sam Amick

February 9, 2008
All that Jazz

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A few nuggets from the Kings' win over Utah on Friday night...

* Considering this was the first Kings-Jazz meeting since that antics-filled night in Salt Lake City on Jan. 25, there was a bit of buzz about Ron Artest seeing Matt Harpring again.
And while the two didn't mix it up nearly as much as before, I was told that some of the Jazz players were reliving Round One of their tussle in the visitor's locker room before the game. A small group gathered around the television to watch the tape of the fourth quarter and all of Artest's theatrics, supposedly laughing pretty hard while doing it.

* Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin were alike in that neither player played the fourth quarter, but both situations appeared entirely different.
While Martin had provided all 27 of his points through three quarters and continued to sit when Quincy Douby exploded in the fourth, Bibby had another quiet night and was benched in favor of Beno Udrih.
Kings coach Reggie Theus said his moves were defensive-minded, that he wanted something different on that end down the stretch. Small forward Ron Artest made a good comparison, saying the way in which the bench finished the game (including John Salmons and his 13 points) was like the win at Detroit on Jan. 18.

* Dahntay Jones and Justin Williams have a new nickname for Douby: Master Splinter.
After Douby's late explosion and season-high 15 points, his teammates were comparing him to the martial arts master from the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics/cartoons. I'm not entirely sure of the context, but it was comical nonetheless. Douby smiled when they kept calling him "Splinter," then shot back, "You guys are my Ninja Turtles."

* Kings swingman Francisco Garcia - who took a knee to the back from former Kings guard Ronnie Price - was supposedly in a good amount of pain long after the game.
Garcia isn't expected to join the team to Oakland today, as the bus ride isn't exactly what the doctor ordered for such an ailment. And as a side note, bad form from Kings fans who booed Price. He was a fan favorite and a class act while here, and it was surprising how quickly the Kings faithful lumped him in with the other hated Jazz players.

* There are reasons aplenty to think Artest in Denver would be a good fit, but I'll opt for this rationale in light of yesterday's Practice-gate (read story first).
He'd be joining Allen Iverson, who knows a thing or two about veterans taking a day off when they need a day off.

And speaking of Artest and his unknown future? His agent, Mark Stevens, spoke up about the trade rumors yesterday. Let the posturing begin.
- Sam Amick

February 8, 2008
Web Watch, part deux

A quick note from this morning's shoot-a-round before we get to the online goodies: point guard Beno Udrih is still sluggish from the virus that kept him out of Wednesday's game and Thursday's practice but said he'll play tonight against Utah. He participated in shoot-a-round. And once again, Kings center Brad Miller said he will play after missing one game due to the cut on his right index finger.

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Better late than never, the as-promised Web Watch. In what is an ongoing revamping of the Kings blog, this feature will appear every Friday to provide a smorgasbord of comical, interesting, off-beat happenings around the NBA in the previous week.

DEEEEETROIT BAAASSKKEETTBBALLL!

So someone noticed how outlandish the Pistons pregame introductions are, and gaffled (I love that word) an entire trailer full of pyrotechnics intended for the big show before tipoff at the Palace. I can personally attest to the fact that the fire portion of the theatrics is insane, enough to make you pat down your shirt to make sure no embers fell your way.
Check out the show for yourself.

SMOOTH-TALKIN' REGGIE THEUS

It's no secret that most Kings fans have fallen for the resident first-year coach, and this clip gives you good idea why.
He runs into a Kings fan at an event and agrees to give a shout-out to the class of this teacher. It's the same sort of presence and charisma he showed at the open practice on Jan. 13, when Theus was miked while directing his team and did so in an entertaining fashion.

PREDRAG LIVES!

As the Kings themselves learned recently, Peja Stojakovic is back.
The former Kings sharpshooter is over the back problems that kept him out for most of last season in New Orleans and is burying long-range looks again. But the Hornets' double-overtime win over the pre-Shaq Phoenix Suns on Wednesday was Peja at his best, finishing with 26 points on 12 of 19 shooting and - here's the surprising part - coming up big in the clutch.
Just for kicks, those of you who still can't past 2002 in your minds can relive the days when Peja did that in a purple jersey here.

SPEAKING OF SHAQ...

If punchlines were worth points, it's Phoenix with the Larry O'Brien bust in its hands at the end so long as Shaq is the one telling the jokes.
While being introduced as the Suns center for the first time, Shaq showed once again how he should do stand-up when his basketball days are over (Courtesy of ESPN's Truehoop).
Below is another old-school example of his humor, although I found the funny in the clip where most of you will not.

And just for historical reference, here's the dunk Shaq was speaking of.

E-MUSS LIVES

Former Kings coach Eric Musselman has no reason to stay in the public eye, what with his $5 million salary spread over two years paid by his old employer.
But slowly but surely, he's been on the radar more recently. I'm told he's interested in numerous college jobs, but he stopped by Western Illinois to evaluate their team in early January, then made an appearance on the Jim Rome show this week to talk to the media mogul who he's been close with for years. Since the archived interview comes with the $49.95 annual fee, we'll let Tom Ziller of Sactownroyalty share the segment with you.

February 7, 2008
Miller to play tomorrow

Brad Miller said at today's practice that he expects to play tomorrow night against Utah.
The Kings center missed Wednesday's loss to Seattle after receiving nine stitches on his right index finger washing dishes in his home on Sunday. Point guard Beno Udrih did not practice (illness), and small forward Ron Artest - according to the team's official word - also did not practice because of sore knees and feet. Coach Reggie Theus, however, said Artest did practice in the beginning of the session and left practice early because of the soreness. - Sam Amick

February 7, 2008
A Q&A with Kevin Martin's personal coach

Kevin Martin's personal coach, David Thorpe, was at Arco Arena on Wednesday night.
It was a rare appearance that just so happened to coincide with the Kings shooting guard hitting 1 of 10 shots and mustering just five points in what was easily his worst game of the season.
So, I asked Martin in joking fashion afterward, was Thorpe the bad luck charm?
"He's been here plenty of nights when I've played well," Martin shot back.
He's done more than that, though. Thorpe - who heads the Pro Training Center in Bradenton, Fla. and is also an ESPN.com analyst - has been with Martin since the virtual beginning, back at Western Carolina college when so few knew what Martin would become. He's worked with him for six years (which is loosely-referenced here) and knows his game like no other. Thorpe, who was in town to analyze Seattle rookie Kevin Durant for ESPN and can be read here, was nice enough to sit down for a lengthy chat about his client. With no space limits on the World Wide Web, it's the rare Q&A that is published in its entirety for the most hardcore of hoops fanatics.

Question: Itís been well-chronicled by myself and others around the country how much you and Kevin work together during the off-season, but what are you looking to help with during a mid-season visit like this?

Answer: Probably not so much on this trip, but Ė in general Ė one of the things Kevin likes me to do is really give him direct analysis on his play, literally on a shot by shot basis. Yesterday at lunch, Kevin said, ĎI know I took a couple shots in the last game that you didnít love.í And he was wrong, actually. I only didnít like one of his shots. He did a left hand, one-dribble, top of the key three that heís going to make about twice in his career. And itís a stupid shot. He shouldnít shoot it. But he wants that.
I think he feels like his coaches here do such a great job with everything, but theyíve got to worry about a lot of guys. Theyíre probably not going to criticize every single play, but Kevin loves that. He wants direct feedback.
Iím here talking about the quality of the shots heís getting, how hard heís working to get better shots. One of the things Kevin wants to be is a better playmaker, so Iíll watch games and look for opportunities where I think he could maybe do a better job of being an all-around playmaker, especially when defenses orient towards him more.
We talk a lot about defensive intensity, how to play better defense, and heís as open to criticism as any player Iíve coached in 20 years.

Question: The numbers speak for themselves this year. But as a guy who knows his game inside and out and knows him as a person inside and out, break this year down a little bit for me.

Answer: Outside of the groin injury, I would say itís gone as scripted. We got together a lot this summer on the court, talked even more on the phone about the kind of year he wanted to have and making the impact everywhere. In some cases, I think he has a lot of room to improve on in regards to leadership. Leadership is defined as breathing spirit into the hearts and minds of others, and I think Kevinís done an OK job of doing that but he can do much better.
Itís not just about what he does on the court that we have to look at, but we expect growth in all areas. Heís far from his peak athletically. Heís far from his peak as a basketball player, so you can expect general improvement. One thing that Iíve always stressed with Kevin Ė like I do with every player I coach, whether itís NBA or European pros Ė is you should get better at everything. Thatís what you should expect out of yourself. You should be a better rebounder, a better passer, a better ballhandler, a smarter player. This is what you should do. Itís no different than me wanting my accountant to be sharper every year and I want my gardener to be better every year. If youíre a pro, youíre a pro. You get better. Youíve got to be a better writer, Sam. Iíve got to be a better analyst. Why should a player be any different? Until your body starts breaking down, and you can literally canít physically do the things to make you better, then itís up to you to continue to get better. Thatís your job.

Question: He spoke publicly recently about how he has no problem admitting he wants the ball, that he wants a significant role. He hit the game-winning shot against Seattle, and to me Ė in general Ė thereís a demeanor about him that wasnít there a couple of years ago. Have you seen fairly significant strides and a new chapter in his career even in the last couple of weeks?

Answer: Actually, no. I think itís more of an acceptance from his teammates. Iíve known Kevin six years, and heís always wanted the shot. Heís never had a problem being ĎThe Man.í In college, he had no choice but to be ĎThe Maní for (Western Carolina) to be even mildly competitive. I think that he was very cognizant of the star power when he first got here. This was a great program with a lot of great players. Why would Kevin come in here and think any different than what he did? Each year, heís improved as a player and his numbers and production have gone up. There has to be a recognition, equally, from both he and his teammates of shot selection late in game and responsibilities. Weíre here tonight watching Seattle play. And you know, Sam, that thereís some thoughts going on because their rookie (Durant) is taking an inordinate amount of shots for a rookie Ė no matter what pick he was Ė and veterans have a problem with that. Whether itís right or wrong, itís reality.
So I think Kevinís evolution has gone about as expected when you consider that he wasnít picked No. 1 like LeBron James, or No. 5 like Dwyane Wade. Heís got to wait his turn and earn his spot, and I think heís done exactly that.

Question: Are you beyond the stage of shaking your head at the notion that this kid from Western Carolina has reached this level in the league?

Answer: Every once in a while, he and I laugh at what the heck has gone on in both of our lives, really. I was a relatively anonymous Ė outside of my area Ė basketball coach who decided to get back into skill development, and things have gone a little crazy for me. He was a skinny dude from Zanesville (Ohio) whoís now one of the best players in the world. But most of the time, Iím not surprised by it.
After the Seattle game, for example, he had that tip-in. Well, he and I do tip drills. And literally, 90-plus percent of my workouts always start with tip drills. Itís just something I do no matter what position you play. I think itís important to be able to tip the ball in. You never know when youíre going to need to tip the ball in, but youíre not going to be able to do it unless you practice. I texted him after the game and said, ĎNow you understand why we do the tip drills every day in the summer time.í He wrote back and said, ĎI thought about that as soon as I did it.í So itís pretty rare that Iím surprised, but every once in a while I think about what has happened and it makes me smile.

Question: Efficiency is such a huge part of his game and a growing trend in the league. Earlier (on Wednesday), you were talking to one of your clients about the (baseball) book (Moneyball). How aware is he, when heís on that floor, of the overall picture of shot selection, efficiency and really making the most of every single possession?

Answer: I think that, really, it may be the most overlooked aspect of a playerís game and itís something that we really stress at my Pro Training Center. Thatís just making basketball plays, making the smart play, and the smart play isnít necessarily what looks like the best play or what feels like the best play. Itís also, ĎWhat do the odds suggest? What do the statistics suggest?í If someoneís open at the three-point line on the left side, and someoneís open inside on the right side Ė maybe at the 10-foot mark Ė and the guy on the right side is a very poor offensive player and the guy on the left side is a 45 percent three-point shooter, youíve got to make the pass to the guy on the left even though the guy on the right might be more open. Thatís all part of it. Shot selection directly ties to your percentages. If you take bad shots Ė no matter how good of a shooter you are Ė your numbers are going to go down.
I hope that itís engrained in Kevin, especially since weíve been talking about it for six years. No one wants to watch a chucker play, especially the fans who come in and pay a lot of money and want to see a winner. Itís hard to win when youíre chucking shots, so I hope that never changes.
It doesnít mean he wonít take a bad shot every once in a while because of confidence, but Kevin can balance that and make sure heís taking good shots and making good plays.

Question: Is that ever a balancing act of making sure (the player) is keeping that on your mind but not getting obsessed by it. I feel like some players might do that Ė like itís the third quarter and you look at your box score and youíre 7 of 15 and youíre upset because youíre below the 50 percent mark. There have been games, even with Kevin, where it seemed like Ė while thatís always going to be on his mind Ė heís in a flow. And if he misses a few shots, then youíve got to just play. Is that something you guys ever talk about?

Answer: Oh sure. I think thatís a great point Sam. I said to him a year ago to forget about shooting 50 percent from the field if you want to score 20 points a game. Itís just not happening with two-guards in the NBA. Defenses are too good, youíre forced to take shots at the end of the shot clock. I think heís helped a little bit by his talented teammates. The reality is that he doesnít have to take a ton of bad shots late in the clock because heís got guys like Ron (Artest) and Mike (Bibby) and Brad (Miller) and John (Salmons), even (Francisco Garcia). These guys arenít afraid to shoot the ball late in the clock either. I think thatís where Kevinís numbers are slightly inflated is because of that.
Whether you scored 28, 29, 30 points a game Ė which clearly heís capable of Ė youíll probably take a few more bad shots and the percentage points will probably drop a little bit more. I think the balance is pretty good. I think heís very comfortable in that role of being the guy whoís trying to take good shots instead of being the guy whoís just trying to get points.

Question: If you had to pick one or two guys who his game compares to style-wise, who are they?

Answer: Statistically speaking, I think Reggie Miller and Reggie Lewis Ė the tragic situation with the guy who died in Boston. If you study their stats, I think theyíre the most similar to Kevinís game historically. Sean Elliott is a guy who historically had a game thatís similar to Kevinís. But thereís a uniqueness to Kevin. Reggie Miller is one of the best three-point shooterís in basketball history at any level. Kevin doesnít deserve that title yet, but heís obviously a terrific shooter. Iím not sure Reggie was quite as good as Kevin at getting to the free throw line and the slashing game, but he also played under different rules. Kevin benefits more than Reggie did.
I think Reggie Miller is a guy who played a long, long time, was able to adapt his game as his body changed, and was always a threat. He always took care of himself. I think Kevin could play until heís 40 years old if he continues to improve his shot and his overall basketball IQ and take care of his body.

Question: Do you see him as an All-Star caliber player or a possible MVP type player? Is he Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen?

Answer: In terms of MVP, I think heís much more likely to get MVP of a championship series than he is MVP of the league. The way the league is, the guys who win the MVPs are going to be high usage guys. And I think Kevin is someone whoís never going to be a real high usage guy because heís too efficient. Heís just going to make the right play, get other people involved and play off of people Ė passing and cutting, which heís obviously one of the best in the league at that.
So I donít think I would ever see him as an MVP unless he played for a team that really had no other offensive weapons and he scored 30 a night, which I think he could do.
As for Jordan or Pippen, heís not going to be the greatest player of all time, but Pippen was Top 50 of the century. I donít know if Kevin will ever get there, but itís certainly a worthwhile goal.
I think that he likes playing with these guys. Whether itís Spencer (Hawes) here who develops or Beno (Udrih) or Mike (Bibby) gets his groove back and becomes a key guy. Kevin is obviously an All-Star caliber player. So is Brad Miller, now that heís playing this way. If they got another guy in the backcourt who really demands a lot of attention and all of a sudden Kevinís game goes up another notch. - Sam Amick

February 6, 2008
Miller out tonight (UPDATE: Udrih out, too)

UPDATE: While Kings coach Reggie Theus said he gave serious thought to starting Spencer Hawes in Brad Miller's absence, he opted for the small lineup (Bibby, Martin, Salmons, Artest, Moore) because it was less of an adjustment.
Also, the Kings are without point guard Beno Udrih due to illness.

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Brad Miller's dishwashing debacle will cost him at least one game.
The Kings center who cut his right index finger doing dishes on Sunday and required nine stitches is not expected to play tonight against Seattle. The Bee's Melody Gutierrez passed word from this morning's shoot-a-round, which also came with the news that Quincy Douby isn't back yet from handling his personal problems back in New York. Douby may be there tonight, though.
Kings coach Reggie Theus said he is considering starting Spencer Hawes, though nothing is official yet. - Sam Amick

February 6, 2008
Wild, wild West

During a Monday taping of the Comcast Insider show with Mike Lamb, fellow guest/former player/Kings director of player development Fat Lever was breaking down the ins and outs of the Western Conference.
He referred to it as "the wild, wild, West," prompting Lamb to joke that I should steal the line for some of my own material. So here goes...
How would I refer to the Western Conference? The wild, wacky, what-are-they-thinking? West.
Whoops. Fingers slipped there. Just had to find some other way of describing the series of unfortunate events that have taken place in the West in these last few days.
In reverse order, there's the Shaq to Phoenix trade that boggles my mind. It's not just that the Suns are currently atop the Western Conference standings with a 34-14 mark, or that they've averaged 59 wins in the last three seasons. It's that they would jump off this cliff of the unknown as it pertains to their style of play. Run-and-gun Suns? More like run and gimp now. At least for O'Neals part.
With the timeless disclaimer that I have no problem being proven wrong, I am of the mind that O'Neal is beyond having a Brad Miller-like resurgence. The big fella may have had a harder time beating official Dick Bavetta in a footrace than Charles Barkley. There may be one way he can keep up, although it would require him filling two starting spots and the other going to his trusty steed.
Even with Steve Nash setting him up, I don't see him taking the Suns to a better place than they are now. In general, I'm stunned that Phoenix gave up on its exciting core so soon.
Then again, maybe they were afraid of being known as the Kings of this era, that team that played at a championship level and could routinely beat the best of the best but never won a title. I'm going on record as saying it won't happen though.
The lesser head-scratcher in the West is this: Chris Webber is starting for the Warriors? I've come around a bit on the prospects of Webber helping Golden State, mainly because - as coach Don Nelson explained - he runs a four-man fastbreak and they badly needed a big man to balance the offense when the three-balls aren't falling and the fast-paced style is out of sync. But starting him right away, when you've won nine of 12 games and caught up to the rest in the West to be in playoff position?
If things go south quickly, Nellie will have put unnecessary pressure on himself if he winds up having to take Webber out of the lineup. If he had brought him off the bench and things continue to go well, he could easily tell Webber that's the best route because, well, it's working. But if the Warriors play poorly, then fingers will inevitably point to Webber and that road just doesn't lead anywhere good.
The Lakers still look brilliant for getting Pau Gasol, especially after his purple-and-gold debut on Tuesday. Other than that, though, the West isn't just wild. It's a little crazy, too.
. - Sam Amick

February 5, 2008
Ron Artest moving on....at least mentally

When the rooster crows on Feb. 22, Ron Artest could still be in a Kings uniform.
But the Kings small forward isn't so sure, talking like a guy who has either been told he'll be traded (which I don't think is the case) or a guy who wants to be traded.
My take is that it's a little trickier than that. I think Ron started moving on in his head when his sense was that the Kings didn't want him long-term. And considering his recent conversations with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie included some version of, "Well, Ron, the trade deadline's coming and something could happen.." then it seems fairly obvious that that was enough for Artest to start looking to a future without him at Arco Arena.
And once he did that, it seems Ron has been carrying some amount of guilt for how his presence hinders John Salmons and Francisco Garcia. He is sincere when he says how much he likes his teammates and wants them to succeed. As he sees it, it's time for them to become the future in Sacramento.
Yesterday at practice, Ron went out of his way to speak his piece. I approached Ron to ask him about Reggie Theus, told him I wanted to write about the first-year coach and the job he'd done this season. Next thing I know, he's going straight to "They'd be better without me; He (meaning Theus) would be better without me."
It reminded me of Artest's trade demand from Indiana only in this sense: when Ron wants to speak up, he'll speak up. When that story was broken by the Indianapolis Star's Pacers beat writer Mike Wells, he took all sorts of grief from inside the organization and out for allegedly stirring the pot, as if he tried to get Artest to say he wanted out. The truth, as told to me by Wells? Artest came his way, letting him know they needed to talk on the record and knowing full well what he was doing. This might be a different version of that scenario, with Ron's strong stance that it's in the Kings' best interests to trade him - for their sake, not his. And still, that doesn't guarantee he'll be gone on Feb. 22. - Sam Amick

February 4, 2008
Good Brad Miller news and bad Brad Miller news

KINGS CENTER NAMED PLAYER OF WEEK...

Just as requested, Kings center Brad Miller was named Player of the Week for the Western Conference by the NBA on Monday.
After Miller's 22-point, 20-rebound outing in Saturday's win over Chicago rounded out a week in which he averaged 22 points, 18.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals, and two blocks per game in the Kings' three wins, his teammates and coach Reggie Theus began an unofficial campaign for their teammate to win the POY honor. Miller hit the elusive 20-20 mark in two of the three games, becoming the first Kings player in the Sacramento era to achieve that feat. In franchise history, the last player to pull that off was Sam Lacey of the Cincinnati Royals on Jan. 8 and Jan. 14, 1971. The only players to go for 20-20 in the Sacramento era are Miller, Chris Webber (five times), Olden Polynice and LaSalle Thompson. The last Kings player to be named Player of the Week was shooting guard Kevin Martin (March 4, 2007).
The Eastern Conference selection was Orlando forward and former Kings player Hedo Turkoglu, who received the honor for the second straight week.

...BUT IS INJURED AS WELL

Miller is questionable for Wednesday's game against Seattle after receiving nine stitches in his right index finger on Sunday.
The accident, Miller said, took place when he was washing dishes after having a Super Bowl party at his home. He did not practice on Monday.- Sam Amick

February 4, 2008
The subplot of the subpar in the West

The losers need to start winning.
You Kings faithful want to see your team in the playoffs (and you may as well, since you're not going to see a top five - or maybe even top 10 - pick at this rate)? Then tell the bottom feeders of the Western Conference to pick it up, the Clipper-types or Memphis, Seattle and Minnesota. And if they don't? Even a furious Kings finish to this season could mean nothing more than an atta-boy and the same old scheduled ending date of April 15.
Now to be clear, any notion of playoff talk from the Kings should elicit immediate Jim Mora references. With two games left on this homestand (Seattle Wednesday and Utah Friday), they're better served doing what they're doing, which is focusing on .500 and maintaining a groove from there.
And the reason playoff talk remains far-fetched isn't just because the Western Conference is as strong as ever, it's because it is as weak as ever too. The Clippers, Memphis, Seattle and Minnesota all woke up Monday morning with 14 wins or less, a ridiculously low total considering it's early February (by comparison, only New York and Miami in the East had 14 or less). Rocket science statement of the day: all those losses are wins for someone else. Thus, you have this this reality in the standings: teams like Portland (27-19) and Houston (27-20) sitting in ninth and 10th place, respectively, while the Kings (22-24) are 11th.
Now the Kings can only hope the loser lot follows the Timberwolves' lead, as Minnesota has finally figured things out recently and won five of their last seven games - including a win over eighth place Golden State. Seattle has won three straight, too, with one coming against sixth place San Antonio. It's that sort of chipping away at the teams in playoff position that will help the Kings. It stops there, though, as Memphis has lost four of their last five games and will only get worse without Pau Gasol. The Clippers have lost five of their last six.
Now with the knowledge that there are 36 games left for all this to sort itself out, here's a look back at the records of the last 15 No. 8 seeds in the West. That saying about history repeating itself? The Kings can only hope this somehow turns out to be the 1996-97 campaign all over again.

2006-07: Golden State, 42-40
2005-06: Kings, 44-38
2004-05: Memphis, 45-37
2003-04: Denver, 43-39
2002-03: Phoenix, 44-38
2001-02: Utah, 44-38
2000-01: Minnesota, 47-35
1999-00: Kings, 44-38
1998-99: Seattle, 25-25
1997-98: Houston 41-41
1996-97: Clippers, 36-46 (three teams under .500 made it)
1995-96: Kings, 39-43
1994-95: Denver, 41-41
1993-94: Denver, 42-40
1992-93: Lakers, 39-43

- Sam Amick


February 2, 2008
Can they keep it up?

I ran into Geoff Petrie at the Sacramento airport on Jan. 23, when I was headed to Los Angeles for the Clippers game and the Kings basketball president was heading out on a scouting trip.
His team had just posted its first three-game winning streak of the season, and I said hello with a positive comment of "Wow, three in a row, huh?"
Always the measured man, Petrie countered with cautious optimism.
"We've seen these kind of resurgences before," he said.
Little did we know we'd seen it again so soon.
With their win over New Orleans on Friday night, the Kings have yet another three-game winning streak and a chance to take it further while having won nine of their last 13 games. Starting with tonight's game at Arco against Chicago, seven of their next nine opponents are currently out of playoff position. There are quality teams in there, to be sure, but it's far from a juggernaut schedule in those next three weeks.
As for tonight, Bulls guard Ben Gordon is a gametime decision (sprained right wrist) and Chicago is without forward Luol Deng (tendinitis in his left Achilles). The Kings will certainly be thinking about the last meeting, when a Ben Wallace free throw was the difference in a game the Kings should've won.

***

EL FLACO SIN MINUTOS (loose translation: 'Cisco can't get playing time)

Kings swingman Francisco Garcia was out of the mix for the first time all season on Friday, logging a season-low six minutes against New Orleans.
Garcia's previous season low was 12, a mark that he had tied in the Kings' previous game against Charlotte. He is averaging 27.5 minutes for the season.
This is the sort of scenario everyone saw coming when the Kings finally got healthy, as they simply have too many guys who could argue they should be playing but just not enough minutes to go around. Specifically, it seems nearly impossible to keep Garcia and John Salmons engaged and involved simultaneously for any length of time.
Yet Garcia has been playing very well for quite a while now, and keeping him out of the loop for too long could mess with his confidence. If this trend continues, I have to think coach Reggie Theus is opting for Salmons over Garcia as a way to keep his squad from becoming too much of a jumpshooting team.
While both players can slash and get to the rim, Salmons may be one of the best in the league at wiggling his way through defenders in the paint and has attempted an average of just 1.6 threes per game (seventh on the team). Meanwhile, Garcia's three-point game has been his best suit this season, as he's hitting a career-high 39.1 percent from beyond the arc.
But with an average of 3.6 threes attempted per game, he's also fourth in three-pointers attempted behind Kevin Martin, Mike Bibby and Ron Artest, meaning Theus could certainly be deciding that four long-range lookers is just too many. Garcia leads the team by a longshot in overall attempts (161 to Martin's 135), but that's obviously because he's the only one in the bunch who hasn't been injured or suspended.
Nonetheless, in the first seven games after Bibby and Artest returned from injury on Jan. 16, the Kings took an average of 21.4 threes per game. It was a pace that would have them ranked sixth in the league if it were their season-long total. In all, they're ranked 17th with an average of 17 three-point attempts per game.
And while the Kings hit a scorching 43.3 percent overall in that seven-game stretch, Theus has talked numerous times about his preference for attacking the rim and not relying on the outside game. It seems pretty obvious that - even on nights when the threes are falling - that approach makes him uneasy in every way.
All that being said, Theus thinks too highly of Garcia's game for this trend to keep up much longer. He might have to tell the third-year player to focus on the other parts of his game - finding easy looks on backcuts, going to the hole and diving and dishing like he can do so well. - Sam Amick

February 1, 2008
Peja returns (and the debut of 'Web watch')

God bless Google Alerts.
I woke up this morning to one on my phone, with a link to a generic wire preview of tonight's Kings-Hornets game. I almost dropped my coffee when I read this particular line that was left out of today's Bee coverage...
"New Orleans forward Peja Stojakovic will meet his former club in Sacramento for the first time since the Kings (20-24) traded him in the middle of the 2005-06 season."
What? Really?
Sure enough, it's true. After Peja was traded to Indiana in late January, 2006, the only remaining meeting against the Kings was in Indianapolis. Then last season, his back problems kept him off of the trip in which the Hornets played at Arco on Feb. 5. So more than two years later, Peja is back (although he had been back in the preseason).
At least I'm not the only one who didn't notice. The Kings marketing folks are pushing "Teacher Appreciation Night" as a way to sell tickets tonight, although they'd certainly get some more folks out there by tapping into Peja nostalgia.
He left an indelible mark on the franchise as the sweet-shooting marksman of their glory days, and left a few marks on the record book as well. He is the Sacramento-era leader in games played (518), with Mike Bibby the closest current Kings player at 469. He's second in the Sac era for points scored (9,498), second in minutes (17,723), sixth in rebounds (2,581), and - more to the point - first in three-pointers attempted (2,687) and made (1,070).
For his Kings days, that adds up to a 39.8 percent three-point shooting touch, one that's been revived this season in New Orleans. After playing just 13 games last season, Peja has already played 40 and is shooting a career-high 45.6 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 15.3 points for the 32-13 Hornets. He's tied with Charlotte's Jason Richardson for the league lead in threes averaged per game (2.8) and is third overall with 113 treys.
It says plenty about how much things have changed that Peja and Brad Miller were the last All-Star participants of any kind for the Kings. And just as they're about to be left out for the fourth straight year, enjoy this clip of Peja's shooting prowess on display at the 2004 three-point contest.

***

WEB WATCH
(Don't hold me to it, but I'm going to try and do this feature every Friday in which we pick some of the more entertaining hoops content from the web to share)

Living the sports fans dream

If there is a downside to covering sports for a living, it's that you have to work pretty hard to keep the fan in you alive. So many media folks get jaded quick, forgetting why it was that you pursued this sort of a career in the first place.
And then someone like Drew Cieszynski comes along to remind you.
This guy e-mailed me back in November, telling me and other writers around the country that he and his buddy were going to empty their bank accounts to do an NBA tour. And to be candid, I simply forgot to get back to him.
Nearly three months later, I came across his e-mail again and checked out the web site he had planned to use like a road diary of sorts. It's a ton of content but a fun look at what had to be a great experience. Kudos to the Kings community relations staff, which gave him all kinds of perks in his Sacramento stop and left him claiming Arco as his favorite place of them all. He even went to a Kings game I wasn't at - the Dec. 8 game at Denver that was covered by Ailene Voisin.
Enjoy it all right here. (The site's a little tricky, and you have to click on the '2007' link to see the first 13 arenas he went to).

Wardrobe malfunction

When Mikki Moore hit the floor in New Orleans for his Kings debut on Oct. 31, he forgot to take his warm-ups top off.
Cleveland's Donyell Marshall had the opposite problem yesterday, entering play without a jersey. And as if LeBron James' sprained ankle wasn't enough to deal with, he now has stitches to deal with after laughing hysterically at his teammate's mistake.

Come see CP3

If "Teacher Appreciation night" and Peja's return aren't enough to get you out to Arco tonight, then seeing Chris Paul in action just might be.
In honor of the third-year player's first All-Star berth, take a peek at these top 10 highlights from his rookie season and be reminded why his becoming an All-Star wasn't a matter of if, but when.

Trade talks...sort of

By way of sactownroyalty's Tom Ziller, a mock look at Geoff Petrie trying to make a trade happen. All in fun, people. Remember that. Here it is.

For the multi-taskers out there

I don't do any blogging during the actual games, but that's one of the many things Andrew Nicholson of Kings.com is all over. So for those who can watch the game, listen to Grant and Jerry commentate and comprehend what's on their computer screen at the same time?! This is for you. It's a light-hearted blow-by-blow of what's going on during each home game from the amiable young man who's always sitting on my right courtside. - Sam Amick



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