Kings Blog and Q&A

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

June 30, 2008
Clippers court Beno in NYC

Keep an eye on the Clippers.
That's what I've been hearing for months now when the conversation turned to the impending free agency of Beno Udrih. And how.
So here's the latest: the Kings, as expected, made an offer to Udrih on Monday night. But as it turns out, it wasn't the only one. I just spoke with LA Times beat writer Jonathan Abrams, who is reporting for tomorrow's paper that Udrih met face to face with Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy in New York City to discuss their potential future together. That jives with all the chatter I've heard about how Dunleavy - who wanted Udrih a year ago but couldn't get owner Donald Sterling to fit the bill - is a huge fan of Udrih's. That's not it, though. Not even close.
Clippers forward Elton Brand unexpectedly opted out today, and his agent (David Falk) says the move was made with the intent to re-sign with the Clippers and allow the organization more free agency flexibility. Beno anyone? Yes and no.
It could also be Baron Davis, who shocked the NBA world tonight by opting out of his deal with Golden State. As one agent told me tonight in regards to Davis and his surprising move to leave $17.8 million on the table, "He must know something I don't know." And suddenly, Udrih is tops in the free agent point guard class no more.

* One last note for the reader dubbed 'cantjump' in the comments section of the previous post: No, Kenny Thomas did not opt out by his June 25 deadline. He has two years and approximately $17 million left on his contract, whether they play him next season and the next or not. - Sam Amick

June 30, 2008
Artest stays, but will Beno?

After a day in which the local media acted as if Ron Artest not opting out was the equivalent to Baron Davis signing with the Kings, the small forward has indeed remained.
The deadline came and went and Artest didn't bound into Geoff Petrie's office changing his mind, so he is still a King. Before we get on to the next order of business, I meant to plug KHTK's Carmichael Dave's show. He currently has his unofficial co-host (Artest) on the air . I'm told he will interview newest Kings draft pick Jason Thompson tonight and talk about his decision to stay.
As expected, Beno Udrih was contacted by the Kings just as the official beginning to free agency at 9 p.m. Pacific time on Monday. Per that situation, all signs point to the Kings offering a five-year, full midlevel offer (approximately $6 million per season) that Udrih will now ponder with his other possibilities. If I get any other feedback, I'll share ASAP. Check tomorrow's paper for thoughts from both Udrih's agent, Marc Cornstein, and the agent of secondary point guard possibility Chris Duhon. - Sam Amick

June 30, 2008
On Artest and 100-degree turns

Ron Artest will be unpredictable when he's 80 years old.
Or, if nothing else, he'll be perceived that way by the masses - myself included.
So while every conceivable sign other than Peter Vecsey's column point to his return, the actual part of it becoming official still wholeheartedly matters. That could happen at any point until 9 p.m. Pacific tonight, even though it (probably, most likely, bet most of my mortgage) won't.
His agent, Mark Stevens, has consisently said it's 99 percent for certain he'd be back, leaving the one percent just because that's his job. In my latest e-mail exchange with Artest, he didn't hold back from going all the way. (Short aside: this whole saga could have been eliminated if he had filed a written letter - which he hasn't - saying he was staying rather than wait for the deadline.)
"Yes, (Sacramento) is where I'm staying," he wrote on Thursday. "But I still think about all my critics. ... (There) will come to a time when I can go where I want, basically...It's a major turnaround. Everywhere I go, somebody or some fan wants me to play on their team - from San (Antonio) to Boston and even Detroit."
Speaking of turnarounds (of the 100-degree sort), I decided I have done a turnaround of my own. With the written word leaving room for interpretation and confusion, it now seems as if the turnaround he wrote of was less directly related to opting out. The point Artest was making, in the end, is that he's gone from a player so many teams were afraid to touch because of his soiled name to a player whose value is on the serious rise. And he's right.
Artest will be highly coveted via trade this summer and perhaps this season, because he still plays top-notch defense and can score and has put some distance between himself and all serious controversy. Always unpredictable, but insanely talented too.


* Speaking of his ever-improving reputation, Artest has a new web home that is one of the more slick and smart sites I've seen -
From a PR standpoint, it goes the wise route of highlighting the many positive attributes of Artest and his different charity involvements. The opening page has Artest's new PETA mantra - "Have the balls to spay or neuter your dog." The links include one for XCel University, Artest's new program in which he'll focus on helping at-risk, impoverished kids find a way to get to college. The reality from an NBA standpoint, of course, is that teams will see this sort of continuing image makeover and feel a little better about trying to make a play for him. - Sam Amick

June 30, 2008
Two words: White Chocolate

From Sacramento and Miami and every surreal place in between comes the reality that the Kings and representatives of Jason Williams, if not Williams himself, will probably be talking within a few days to explore the possibility of his return to the Kings as a free agent.

The Kings are prohibited from contact with free agents and any public comments until the market opens tonight at 9 Pacific time. Aware that Williams is an exposed nerve of a topic around Sacramento, and that it could send the wrong message to Beno Udrih, the Kings are hesitant to discuss the scenario even off-the-record.

But it has a chance of happening. Not a great chance, for a few reasons that have nothing to do with the past, but an actual chance. It's real.

As always with J-Will and his first NBA home, there will be strong reaction from outside the organization on why it would be an exciting reunion and why it would be the worst of all possible moves for a team that just doesn't need the hassles. Take the emotion out of it and this is what you've got.

  • The Kings still like the idea of having Udrih back. They thought, with good reason, that he worked very well and, without as much good reason, that he can repeat that showing for the next several years. But they also understand that getting into a bidding war for a career backup before 2007-08 is an invitation for trouble. Seriously, an average of nearly $7 million a season for Beno Udrih?
June 29, 2008
LeBron James may get to play with Ryan Anderson

Everything the New Jersey Nets do is scrutinized as part of the great plan to build the roster of tomorrow while clearing cap space for the summer of 2010. LeBron James just happens to be on schedule to become a free agent then, the team is hoping to have a new arena in Brooklyn around then, and rapper Jay-Z is a friend and Nets minority owner.

That's what made Thursday meaningful for the entire league and not just El Dorado Hills. New Jersey selected Ryan Anderson, the former Oak Ridge High star, at No. 21 in a great moment for the Sacramento region, but in the big picture as one of the last acts of a very busy day that helped set the Nets up for the future.

They cleared cap space by trading Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, mostly because Jefferson is on the books until 2011 and Simmons until (ding, ding, ding) 2010. They addressed both obvious position needs by landing young, promising center Brook Lopez in the lottery and young, promising power forward Yi in the trade. They even opened LeBron's position by dealing small forward Jefferson, though that was more coincidence than anything because moving a big salary meant either Jefferson or Vince Carter and the Bucks wanted a small forward who defends and not a shooting guard with a brutal contract.

In the worst-case scenario, the Nets don't get LeBron after all the maneuvering to date and in the future. But they still have one of the better young nucleuses in the league (Devin Harris, Yi, Lopez, a little bit of Josh Boone and Sean Williams) and, in a couple summers, an armored car full of money to back up to someone's front door. It's not like they were going places in 2008-09 anyway -- if you finish 26 games behind Philadelphia, game over.

In the best-case scenario, the Nets get James and take over the world. Not only that, they get him at the expense of an East competitor, the Cavaliers, and over heated bidding by the Knicks in a neighborhood turf war. New Jersey management will be building in the city at the time and hoping the arena will be close to completion, planning to reduce the interest gap with older brother living in Madison Square Garden and New Jersey management will have Jay-Z.

June 28, 2008
Ewings on a roll ...

During a chat earlier today with the father of Kings second-round draft pick Patrick Ewing, Jr., I got a kick out of teasing Patrick Ewing - the Hall of Fame center - about the fact that his son is a much more engaging interview than he ever was during his early years in the league. Ewing, who is a delightful man, immediately cracked up ... and wholeheartedly agreed. For the longest time, he was just very uncomfortable conducting interviews in anything other than small, informal media gatherings.
That all seemed to change, though, during his travels with the original Dream Team in 1992. He became increasingly less guarded, and began to open up around everyone, colleagues, coaches and media members alike. Not that he had much choice. He was surrounded by quipsters and pranksters, foremost among them Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone, and often the target of the verbal darts because of his easy nature and playful, gentle spirit.
Covering that team for the Atlanta Constitution during that summer of 1992 was a blast. Though we all cranked out the copy, it never felt like work. The training camp was held in La Jolla, the qualifying tournament in Portland, followed by another week-long training session in Monte Carlo before heading to the Games in Barcelona. Only about six or seven American journalists (mostly longtime NBA scribes) accompanied the team for the duration, and in Monte Carlo, we all stayed at the same swanky seaside hotel. The access there was absolutely incredible. You were always bumping into the players or coaches in the lobby, in the restaurants, in the bars, in the casino ...
If Bird wasn't grousing about the $8 cost of a beer, Barkley was regaling us with stories about dinner with Prince Rainier and Prince Albert, or longtime friends Ewing and Chris Mullin were working out in the fitness center or sitting by the pool. Once, while strolling through the casino to people watch - I grew up in Las Vegas and hate gambling - I happened upon Karl Malone. He admitted to being overwhelmed by the sudden attention and said that, basically, for the first time in his NBA career, he was starting to receive numerous endorsement opportunities.
While Ewing and I were reminiscing Saturday about the good time of '92, I was reminded that I actually met his son - who must have been about eight years old - at the pool in Monte Carlo. I also shared a shuttle with Patrick's nephew, Tony, from the Nice airport to the hotel.
"Now I'm starting to feel old," Ewing chuckled.
Like several of his former Olympic teammates, he confessed, he is also on a diet.

Great expectations ...
While Kings officials think Ewing, Jr., the later of their two second-round selections, could make the roster as a defensive specialist, they seem even higher on point guard Sean Singletary, who was drafted one spot earlier. Among other things, he has huge hands, a la John Stockton.

Loyalty matters
Further evidence that Ewing is an exceedingly loyal guy. His son is represented by David Falk, the agent the former Knicks star (and No.1 overall draft choice in 1984) made famous.

June 28, 2008
Is Francisco Garcia the eventual answer at point guard?

Probably not. But he's the best the Kings have at the moment -- even if it's not exactly a high standard -- and may turn out to be one of the better options once the roster is set for October, so it's a possibility.

Coach Reggie Theus said as much today, that he'd rather play Garcia at shooting guard and small forward but that more Garcia at the point has to at least be considered.

It would have been on the table anyway with second-round pick Sean Singletary the only natural at the position. Garcia's development there the second half of last season becomes another momentum shove for the idea.

The Kings have to like the opportunities for creating mismatches with 6-7 Garcia and 6-7 Kevin Martin in the backcourt. The obvious drawback: there would be payback on defense and Sac is bad enough there without Garcia in a transition period.

If the Kings re-sign Beno Udrih, which may not happen, trade for a new true PG or grab Udrih's replacement from the same free-agent market, the Garcia-as-starter theory becomes moot. Until then, it's in play on some level.

June 28, 2008
Vegas a trip worth making

Spencer Hawes may have been enough on his own, at least for the most ardent of Kings fans.
The Purple Politician will be at Las Vegas summer league again showing off whatever new skills he's been honing in these offseason months, with his progress so directly tied to the forward movement of the franchise itself. But there's more. Much more.
Quincy Douby, Shelden Williams, Jason Thompson, Sean Singletary, Patrick Ewing Jr. will take part as well, with Kevin Martin likely to be watching from the sidelines as he awaits his time with the Olympic select team that comes directly after summer league. Beyond the Kings, it's 21 teams in all and six of the recent top 10 draft picks expected to take part (Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo, Danilo Gallinari, Eric Gordon, Joe Alexander, D.J. Augustin).
As I've said before, summer league is a must-see for the fanatical types. Games are played in UNLV's Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center, and the scene is a who's who of NBA types that you can't get anywhere else. GMs, coaches, scouts and veteran players are mixed among the fans, with the floors filled all day long while the action around the action never stops either.
Free agent deals are discussed by GMs and agents up in the bleachers. Fans have little problem grabbing an autograph or a picture after their respective favorites are off the clock. A good time had by all. Anyhow, anyone looking to go should lock up that flight soon since the first tipoff is July 11. The schedule was recently released (click here for the entire sked), with the Kings set to play five games. For ticket info, go here.

July 12 - Kings vs. Raptors, 1 p.m.
July 15 - Kings vs. Blazers, 7 p.m.
July 16 - Kings vs. Mavericks, 3 p.m.
July 18 - Kings vs. Warriors, 7 p.m.
July 20 - Kings vs. Rockets, 5:30 p.m.

* Schedule subject to change - Sam Amick

June 27, 2008
Meet the newest Kings

The Kings will hold a rally at Arden Fair Mall on Saturday to introduce the team's three draft picks to fans. The free event will be in front of Nordstrom at 3 p.m.
So, here's your opportunity to ask Jason Thompson where Rider is (tip: bring a map of New Jersey). Or, you can grab a pen and mark your height against Patrick Ewing Jr. (I'm guessing I'll be just above his belly button.)
At 6-feet, Sean Singletary will be on hand to make sure no one leaves with an inferiority complex.

June 27, 2008
Why this power forward and why a year ago matters

Mystery solved. Jason Thompson, power forward, Rider, the safer bet to become a good player over the project that may turn out to be really good, if the potential of matchstick Anthony Randolph ever catches up to his reality in about two seasons and 50 pounds.

It wasn't a straight Thompson-over-Randolph call Thursday night -- once point guards D.J. Augustin and Jerryd Bayless were off the board, the soft Kings had to go big and Thompson was the clear preference over some mix of Roy Hibbert, Kosta Koufos and Randolph. But the contrasts are impossible to avoid heading to the future, especially since Thompson and Randolph are both power forwards while Hibbert and Kostas are centers and at that stage it becomes Spencer Hawes' problem.

The Kings went for the practical over the possible, feeling they'll get a surer ride back to prominence with Thompson and his production on the boards to address a gaping hole, his age (22 next month, compared to 19 next month for Randolph) and experience (four years in college, compared to one for Randolph). There's some adjustment for one season with LSU in the Southeastern Conference vs. four in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference -- Canisius, Fairfield, Iona, Loyola, Manhattan, Marist, Niagara, St. Peter's and Siena along with Rider -- but nothing changes the fact that Sacramento needed a physical presence much more than the versatile offensive game of Randolph.

If Randolph turns out to be Lamar Odom with focus and Thompson is a career backup and proven reach at 12, Geoff Petrie will have a problem. Until then, Petrie has a body of work in the draft that buys the benefit of the doubt. (If Kevin McHale, Elgin Baylor or Michael Jordan make the same pick at the same spot, they're getting trashed today).

June 26, 2008
Final thoughts on draft night...

I'm somewhat surprised at how quickly I bought into the Kings' selection of Rider forward Jason Thompson at No. 12, but we'll obviously learn more in the coming months.

As for non-hoops impressions, the 21-year-old came off very well in his phone interview with the media. After one question, he even dropped an "I beg your pardon." So, Kings fans, rest assured that he at least has manners.

For those looking to continue reading up on the youngster, check out this comprehensive look from Draftexpress.

For the visual types, the always-faithful YouTube...

No. 12 pick - Rider forward Jason Thompson

Before we get to the video, we interrupt this broadcast for the draft night opinion of the Kings' resident chief of the youth movement. Shooting guard Kevin Martin was ecstatic with the Thompson pick on Thursday. I polled him only because I was told he saw Thompson work out and was very impressed.

"(Thompson) was the best player we could have got and needed," Martin wrote via cell phone. "(I'm) very excited we were able to get him and was very impressed watching him workout!!!"

And, yes, those were his exclamation points.

A bit of context for the below interview which took place after a workout in Utah: the Old Spice Classic he talks about was in November, when Thompson outplayed Michael Beasley (Kansas State, picked No. 2 by Miami) and J.J. Hickson (North Carolina State, picked No. 19 overall by Cleveland) and turned some serious heads.

No. 42 pick - Virginia point guard Sean Singletary

No. 43 pick - Georgetown forward Patrick Ewing Jr.

- Sam Amick

June 26, 2008
Kings take PG Sean Singletary and F Patrick Ewing Jr. in second round

I'm cranking here for the story for the paper, but here's a peek at the Kings' No. 42 pick Sean Singletary out of Virginia - and a quick video. At No. 43, they took forward Patrick Ewing Jr., the son of the great Patrick Ewing. New Kings' big man's coach, anyone? - Sam Amick

June 26, 2008
Kings take Jason Thompson with No. 12 pick (ongoing thread)

The Kings opted to add physicality to their frontcourt in Thursday's draft, taking Rider power forward Jason Thompson with the No. 12 pick.

The 6-foot-11, 250-pounder averaged 20.4 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in his senior season. He was seen by many as a late first-round pick, and certainly behind the likes of LSU's Anthony Randolph. But while the biggest question about the 6-foot-10, 18-year-old was in regards to his lean frame (197 pounds), Thompson has no such deficiency.

The 21-year-old who was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's Player of the Year could certainly help a Kings team that was 29th in the league in rebounding (40.1 per game). He is also lauded for his passing skills, making him only the latest good-passing big man to be taken by Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie. It marked the second straight season they've picked a center, as Thompson will join 7-footer Spencer Hawes after he was picked tenth overall last June out of Washington.


* Petrie put out a quick statement about Thompson, although the media won't speak with him directly until after the second round.

"He is a 6-11 power forward with some three skills who averages 20 points, 12 rebounds, three assists per game and is a tremendous all-around player for a big guy. What really impressed us was his ability to dribble the ball, pass the ball and run the floor with his size. We think again that he will be a multi-dimensional type player for us. It gives us another young big to go along with Spencer (Hawes), as we try to move along further to try to improve the team."

* For a good read on the newest King, click here.

* Who said Rider isn't big-time? Thompson has his own web site -

* Nice Reggie Theus plug from the one and only Dick Vitale on the ESPN broadcast.

"Get a contract extension baby," he yelled after breaking down Thompson 's skills.

The Kings coach, to review, has one guaranteed season left on his contract and a team option for the 2009-10 campaign that he'll have to earn.

As for Thompson, Vitale hollered, "Potential, potential, potential baby!"

* We just spoke to Thompson on a conference call, and I'll provide some of that in a bit. But the more entertaining conversation with Thompson was the one that happened when he called back.

After speaking with a Kings rep about which jersey number he would wear, Thompson - who wore No. 1 in college - kept swinging and missing with every pick. No. 1 is retired in honor of Nate Archibald, and there were probably four "nopes" after that. So for the moment, he settled on No. 34, which would be his press conference number but could certainly be changed later.

Then minutes later, Thompson called back with another pick - "Is this the Kings?" he said when I answered the media room phone.

"Yeah, is this Jason?" I answered.

"Yeah, it is," he continued. "I wanted to know - is (No.) 15 gone?"

Since I knew the answer, I figured I'd settle the matter rather than go looking for the Kings PR man Darrin May.

"Yeah, that's John Salmons' number," I said.

"Oh, okay," he said. "Thanks."


* I spoke with Theus a bit ago about Thompson, and he offered some good insight. In its entirety...

"He did a great job in the workouts. We saw him work out three times, one in Oakland and two times in our building (in Sacramento). From a skill level, he does a lot of the things that we need.
He averaged around 12 rebounds a game in college, which means as much as anything that he has a nose for the ball. He has great hands and goes and gets the rebounds if they're out of his general area. We always talk about being able to score around the basket. He has the ability to score around the basket.
The fact that he grew slowly (from 5-foot-11 when he started high school, 6-6 as a junior playing center and 6-8 when he left Lenape high school in Mt. Laurel, N.J.), he handles the ball for a big guy extremely well which means that after he can rebound the ball he can also become a ballhandler on the break.
He runs the floor really well, and just gives us some size and athleticism around the basket, which we really need. The biggest factor is that he really showed those skills for us when we worked him out.
We're always talking about next year and someone who can come in and help us. He also was one of the few guys in the draft we thought was NBA-ready. Obviously he's going to get better. Defensively, he has to get better. That was the biggest thing that I saw and we saw as a staff in the workouts is that he just didn't have a clear grasp of the defense around the basket. Obviously we feel that his footwork and his athleticism will allow him to do that with some work, but he has to get better in that area. Just real happy. He was the big we were looking for.
He's got potential. He's got quickness, he's got strength and he's got size, and he doesn't mind mixing it up. He was an offensive-minded guy in school, played in a place where he probably could get away with cheating on defense because of his size and the conference that he played in. He never was really challenged in that way."

* Thompson's 12.1 rebounds per game as a senior was second in the nation.

* Thompson spent some time with Chris Webber when he came out to Sacramento for workouts, and even dined at his restaurant. C-Webb, Thompson said, even provided a few gift cards for his Center Court in Natomas. Maybe that was the deal-maker...

* I'll keep adding to this post, so keep checking back for more info. - Sam Amick

June 26, 2008
The final moments of maneuvering

There is at least slight shifting at the top of the draft and, in the one with real potential meaning for the Kings, the chance for more.

Milwaukee has traded Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons to New Jersey for Richard Jefferson, a move that gives the Bucks a two-deep of Jefferson and Desmond Mason at small forward and little need to select Joe Alexander at No. 8. The intrigue is whether they are aiming for a new power forward in a few minutes when any at that pick would seem to be a reach or whether they will be content with the returning Charlie Villanueva and pick another position.

If it's power forward, Anthony Randolph comes into the picture, as long as it's a very vertical picture. Randolph is 6-10 and about 200 pounds, so he'll need to bulk up a lot, in addition to being what many teams estimate to be a couple years away from measurable contribution.

If it's another position, the Bucks could hope for Eric Gordon to play behind Michael Redd for the moment and have a successor in place to allow them to deal Redd.

Meanwhile, ESPN reported that the Clippers and SuperSonics had a deal in place that would allow L.A. to jump three spots to No. 4 and while Seattle would get a future first-round pick for its troubles. Then ESPN reported wasn't set.

The trickle-down could cause a shift in point-guard selections by both or either team, to be followed by what the Bobcats (No. 9) and Pacers (11) do with their needs in question. The Kings await their decisions.

June 26, 2008
As Artest Turns: Ron-Ron staying?

The other part of the Artest e-mail (read below) included a request to call his agent, Mark Stevens. After doing so, this latest update took a turn that you all could have certainly seen coming. It went back the other way, of course. For all you fans who have taken the "let me know on June 30" approach, please ignore...

"They (teams) are coming after him, but at the end of the day, people make comments all the time, reporters like yourself," Stevens said. "But like I've said, the Maloofs have been good to Ron and to us and we want to try to do the same to them."

Any chance the agent and the athlete don't see eye to eye at the moment?

"We have a good working relationship; we see eye to eye," he said. "He knows that I have his best interests and I'll never not have his best interests."

So you're still planning for him to stay in a Kings uniform?

"As of right now, yes sir," he said.

Comical aside

Per Sactownroyalty, a Kings fan in Korea offers a hysterical spin (or a 100-degree turn, rather) on Artest's e-mail reference.

"I made a 100 degree turnaround." By my calculations, If he was heading north he's now on his way to the Warriors. ;p

by Kfan in Korea on Jun 26, 2008 1:32 PM PDT - Sam Amick

June 26, 2008
Artest gone?

In an e-mail to the Bee just minutes ago, Kings small forward Ron Artest indicated he may indeed opt out of his contract before the Monday deadline and become a free agent.
Asked about a NY Post column in which Peter Vecsey said Artest would be opting out, Artest had the following to say.
"I never knew so many teams would be coming after me," he wrote. "All I can say is I made a hundred degree turnaround."
Of course he may have meant a 180-degree turnaround, but you get the idea. As I mentioned on the Rise Guys this morning, Artest opting out can't be that shocking to anyone who knows him well. While he would most certainly make more money by becoming a free agent next summer, his name is hot at the moment and numerous championship-caliber teams appear to see him as their missing piece. If there is one player in the league who would be willing to lose money for the chance to go deep in the playoffs and get a ring, it's Artest. For all his complexities and his penchant to distract, he is a beast of a competitor who truly wants to win. Stay tuned for more throughout the day. - Sam Amick

June 26, 2008
Petrie and the draft: He's still got it. Wait, he never lost it

There have been bad free-agent deals, bad coaching searches and, big picture, bad seasons, but the Geoff Petrie Draft Record remains very good and that's the issue of the day.

Petrie and the Kings are hours away from their toughest draft call with the most on the line since Jason Williams in 1998. Even if the 2007 selection at No. 10 was two spots higher than tonight's trap door, and therefore theoretically requiring a bigger payoff, they wanted a center or power forward and had good reason to feel one would be there. Bigs went 6, 8, 9, 10 and Spencer Hawes ended up in Sac. All very logical and clean.

There's no such cushion with No. 12 in '08.

The position need is point guard and there should have been a direct path to at least the option of Texas smurf D.J. Augustin once the Pacers agreed to acquire T.J. Ford from the Raptors, a deal that can not become official until July 9 because of salary-cap technicalities. But Indy is not instantly steering away from Augustin. Plus, Charlotte, at No. 9, will consider a point.

The Kings also need a physical power forward -- they're road kill on the boards now and can't get to a special place in the future without an enforcer next to Hawes, to compensate for his lack of muscle and defense. The possible solution is Marreese Speights of Florida.

June 26, 2008
D-Day arrives

The Kings are hoping, and it's not baseless hope either.

There are indications, however unreliable or unpredictable, that a player worthy of excitement among both fans and front office will drop their way today. That's the potential beauty of this draft if you're Sacramento, the fact that all the uncertainty could wind up working in their favor. No less than Jerryd Bayless, Danilo Gallinari, or D.J. Augustin could fall as far as No. 12 this afternoon. In years past, the predictability meant you could strike certain names from the wish list going in. Not now.

As for the oft-ignored second round, the recent buzz about the Kings liking Mike Taylor with their No. 42 pick is legit. They liked him in the workout here on June 9 and even invited him back for a second interview. And while Taylor couldn't make it back for logistical reasons, he could be a quality pick in light of their point guard void.

For quick background on Taylor, he's the 6-foot-2, 165 pound 22-year-old who is about to become the first NBA Developmental League player to be drafted. After spending two seasons playing in community college, he was kicked out of Iowa State after one season for academic reasons. He then joined the Iowa Stampede of the D-League and averaged 14.5 points. Taylor - who trains in Sacramento with Guss Armstead -- raised his stock with a strong showing in the Orlando predraft camp in late May.

Speaking of the point guard problem, Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie hit on it in our conversation yesterday and sounded like a man with no doubts he'll fix it one way or another.

"Our point guard situation is going to get resolved in some combination of the draft, free agency or trading, so we'll see where it goes," he said. "It's a position right now that we have to fill or re-fill or however you want to go about looking at it. We've just got to approach that as pragmatically as you can."

Keep checking back later today for more draft offerings from our blogging crew...

- Sam Amick

June 26, 2008
Trades add to the confusion

Two developments during the past 12 hours have made the order of today's NBA Draft selection even more interesting, particularly as it pertains to the Kings. First, the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors reportedly agreed to a trade that would send Pacers center Jermaine O'Neal to the Raps in a deal for point guard T.J. Ford.
Though reports out of Indianapolis suggest the Pacers still plan to draft diminutive point guard D.J. Augustin at No.11, one spot ahead of the Kings, I have to believe that Kings personnel director Jerry Reynolds is leaning on his longtime buddy (and fellow French Lick native) Larry Bird for some kind of arrangement that would leave the Texas star available for the Kings. From what I'm hearing, the Kings execs are unanimous: if availalble, they absolutely want Augustin. Additionally, it makes little sense for the Pacers to acquire Ford and then draft Augustin, while Jamal Tinsley is already is on the roster as a backup. And given Tinsley's off-court problems, who wants to trade for him?

Bird on the prowl

So why would the Pacers swap O'Neal for Ford? In essence, this is a trade of oft-injured players who could actually help their new teams if they were able to remain healthy. I would be most concerned about O'Neal. Though he regards himself as an elite forward/center - and based on sheer talent, he will receive no argument here - recurring injuries have left executives talking about him in terms of "potential." And frankly, at this point in his career, he is who he is - a graceful 6-11 veteran who can score in the post, convert the mid-range jumper, rebound and defend, but who has not done so consistently for several seasons. I'd be wary of the gimpy knee/injury factor, particularly given O'Neal's bloated salary ($22 and $23 million, respectively). While Ford's history of neck injuries is of concern, the remaining three years of his contract are not nearly as onerous.

Riley's concern is noteworthy
Just a hunch here, but knowing Pat Riley since his days as a Lakers assistant, if the Miami Heat president is having reservations about drafting Michael Beasley at No.2 because of "maturity" issues, my sense is that Riley has done a complete background check and doesn't like what he's hearing. While NBA teams are no longer able to subject players to the the type of extensive psychological testing they were in the 1980s and 1990s - the agents becoming increasingly protective of their clients during pre-draft preparations - Riley comes from an organization (Lakers) known for doing its homework. He wants players who commit to the cause, who eat, breathe, sleep and basically live for basketball. I'm just saying ... he has good instincts.

June 25, 2008
Martin to play on Olympic select team

With the Kings unsure they can find a player of any real significance with Thursday's No. 12 pick, the player they picked 26th overall in 2004 continues to shine.
According to a league source, Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin has been asked to play on USA Basketball's select team. The team is seen by some as the next crop of up-and-comers on the national team scene, its immediate charge to scrimmage and practice against the national team in Las Vegas from July 21-24 as they prepare for the Olympics in Bejing this summer. Impress at that stage, however, and a player could be strongly considered for the 2010 World Championships in Turkey and the 2012 Olympics in London. Boston center Kendrick Perkins, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Minnesota forward Al Jefferson have also been asked to take part on the select team.
USA Basketball announced its team on Monday, a star-studded roster that includes Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd, Dwyane Wade, and Deron Williams.
Martin will be taking on lesser competition earlier in the month, as he is holding a basketball camp for boys and girls ages 7 to 17 years old at Capital Christian High School in Sacramento from July 14-17. For more information, go to (I'll also update with a phone number soon, hopefully).. - Sam Amick

June 25, 2008
Trying to read Petrie's mind

After spending almost two hours with Geoff Petrie in his office earlier in the week, I came away convinced that he is determined to bolster his frontline with the No.12 draft pick unless D.J. Augustin or Danilo Gallinari slip and become available. That doesn't appear likely. No one believes the diminutive Augustin will get past Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers at No. 11. Petrie's thought process (or so we think) goes something like this: By adding size and length to the frontcourt in this draft, it affords some flexibility for next summer's proceedings, when the Kings could very well entertain trade offers for Brad Miller as he approaches the last year of his contract.

One other thought ....
Anyone who has spent time with Petrie can attest to the fact that he is a neat freak. His house is meticulous. And while I wouldn't describe his office as messy, it sure looked like someone (even a neatnik) had been logging long hours on the premises. There isn't a couch in the room, though, so I don't suspect he slept on the premises.

June 25, 2008
Draft tidbits

Thanks to Scott Howard-Cooper for doing the heavy lifting on the blog recently, but I'm back from a short respite to pull my weight.
With one day left until decision day, here's some more background info to consider as the clock continues to tick.

* The Kings may never wind up picking twelfth, as they are considering trading the pick to possibly get two picks late in the first round.
That's the hope, anyway, just as they wouldn't mind moving up a few spots to all but guarantee that the likes of D.J. Augustin would be there. It's safe to say they're not thrilled about their current spot.

The prospect of the Kings possibly moving up or down is not a new one, but I'm being told it's more likely this year than most. The thinking, in general, is that picking No. 12 means they're just out of reach of the players they want most (Augustin, Jerryd Bayless, Danilo Gallinari, Joe Alexander) and could bolster the youth movement by getting two first-rounders. You may give up a bit on the quality of talent, but the quantity is preferred.

If they stand pat, Anthony Randolph remains a likely selection based on everything I've heard. The fact that Randolph wouldn't work out for the Kings is irrelevant in terms of whether or not they'd pick him. If Randolph is gone, Roy Hibbert could - contrary to all mock drafts - be the guy at No. 12 as well.

* As I alluded to in today's piece, keep an eye on the Clippers in the draft.

They pick seventh overall and will be looking to fill their point guard vacancy. Shaun Livingston is about to become an unrestricted free agent and is no longer the point guard of the future, but the Clippers will certainly come shopping for Beno Udrih if they can't land a top-tier PG in the draft. If Donald Sterling is willing to go above the midlevel for Beno, then he'll be in a Clipper uniform. New York is also said to be interested in Udrih, as well as Dallas.

When I spoke yesterday to Udrih's agent, Marc Cornstein, he made an interesting analogy in reference to hs client's outlook on the Kings. While Udrih and Cornstein have professed their appreciation for the chance the Kings gave them last season, I asked how much that would actually come into play when it was negotiation time on July 1.
"You might be appreciative to the Sacramento Bee for the opportunity they provided for you," Cornstein said. "Maybe it's your dream job and everything you were hoping for. Now maybe the New York Times comes in, or wherever, and offers you 50 percent more - doubles your salary, triples your salary, three more years, whatever it is. I don't think that makes you disloyal (if you leave). There is a reality that comes into this also, and I think everyone on both sides of the fence realizes that."

Valid point.

* If the Kings partake in a significant draft day trade, the likes of John Salmons or possibly even Francisco Garcia could be the ones dangled as bait. - Sam Amick

June 25, 2008
Where Ron Artest won't be traded this week, why a Raptors- Pacers trade is meaningful to the Kings, and other draft notes

T-minus 32 hours to the draft, and:

*Ron Artest almost certainly will not be a Warrior anytime soon.

It would not ordinarily rate as news, since a lot of teams will take a pass on partnering with Artest, except that Golden State was one of the actual and interesting potential Kings trade partners. Basketball boss Chris Mullin is a big fan, the Warriors have a $9.9-million trade exception that allows them the rarity of acquiring a player without sending a matching salary in return, and the Warriors have a need for Artest-like defense and post presence on offense.

It's a tough sell in other ways -- nothing clogs Nellieball like a guy dribbling... dribbling... holding the ball... dribbling... -- but Artest also delivers a lot of what the Ws are missing. There won't many better fits available if they're going for a big push in 2008-09, what could be the final season with Baron Davis and Don Nelson, with the added benefit of cap flexibility with Artest expected to become a free agent next summer.

That's the backstory. The pertinent detail of the moment is that the timing is really bad.

Because Artest has a clause that allows him to become a free agent, he can not be traded until he either notifies the Kings in writing he is keeping the existing deal or does nothing and keeps the contract simply by letting the deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Monday pass. Until then, he has the potential to be a free agent on July 1 and therefore is ineligible to be dealt.

The Warriors deadline for using the trade exception: 11:59 p.m. on Monday. So it will not realistically happen.

June 24, 2008
Mock draft: June 24 morning edition
Trade talks are going from preliminary discussion to serious negotiations with the draft about 54 hours away and private workouts continue, so this is all very fluid. Some teams may bring potential picks in the day of the draft, either for a second audition or because the player's stock is dropping or rising and he wants to earn a particular spot.

For now:

1. Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose
Chicago still has an obvious need for a post presence like Michael Beasley, but questions about Beasley's attitude tip the Bulls back to the dynamic point guard and allow them to try and land a big man by putting Kirk Hinrich on the trade block. The suggested lure of Rose as a hometown pick is far down on the list of factors. They took Eddy Curry from the 'burbs in 2001, then got hammered about it for years.
2. Miami Heat
Michael Beasley
Kansas State
The Heat, with an urgency for a point guard, would love the Bulls to take Beasley in a surprise. If it doesn't happen, the consolation prize for Miami is a 19-year-old package of strength and athleticism who has an offensive game to score from inside or out.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
O.J. Mayo
Brook Lopez, a center, is the obvious position fit. Mayo, though, has far greater star potential. On upside, it's not even close.
June 23, 2008
Draft preview: Pacific Division

Wednesday: Southwest Division.
Thursday: Atlantic Division.
Friday: Northwest Division.
Saturday: Southeast Division.
Sunday: Central Division.
Today: Pacific Division.

Los Angeles Lakers (57-25 in 2007-08)

Pick: 58.

They're gladly out of the first round -- the selection went to the Grizzlies as part of the trade to acquire Pau Gasol. Pick well spent.

Phoenix Suns (55-27)

Picks: 15, 48.

No contender, and the Suns have to still consider themselves a contender, is picking as high, thanks to a deferred payment from the Joe Johnson sign-and-trade with Atlanta in 2005. Three years later, Phoenix gets the first-round Hawks selection.

The Suns are positioned nicely to address the glaring deficiency on the boards, with the likely opportunity to choose among several big men. After talking about focusing more on defense, they can do something about it. Robin Lopez is a possibility to backup Shaquille O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire, a pick that would delight the Stanford power forward / center.

June 23, 2008
The Kings, the second round and the chance it'll mean something

Maybe the Kings, wanting to avoid the congestion of potentially developing three rookies while also investing minutes in the progress of second-year man Spencer Hawes, don't get an immediate return from both second-round picks as their disposal Thursday. Maybe they deal one for a future second rounder in a deferral often used by others, maybe they take someone who stays overseas in 2008-09, maybe they package No. 42 and 43 and trade into the end of the first round in a move that allows the other team to avoid a guaranteed contract.

(The other, extremely uneventful possibility for attrition by opening night: one or both of the selections get cut / get to know the end of the bench / get an expense-paid tour of the D-League. Second-rounders aren't generally the cause of troublesome congestion.)

But it's at least intriguing this time. The Kings haven't taken a turn in the second round since 2004 (Ricky Minard) and haven't gotten so much as a minimal return from the land of the non-guaranteed contract since 2000 (Jabari Smith). Added statistical twist: players who were not drafted at all (Brad Miller, Mikki Moore) have a far greater presence on the roster than anyone who's gone between 31 and 60.

It gets interesting if 42 and 43, and perhaps another spare part, trades the Kings into late in the first round. Then, the two years of guaranteed contract make the commitment to the selection tangible.

June 22, 2008
Draft preview: Central Division

Wednesday: Southwest Division.
Thursday: Atlantic Division.
Friday: Northwest Division.
Saturday: Southeast Division.
Today: Central Division.
Monday: Pacific Division.

Detroit Pistons (59-23 in 2007-08)

Picks: 29, 59.

The promise of change from frustrated personnel boss Joe Dumars won't come via the draft if the Pistons stay at 29. The logical call is for an infusion of young legs at the power positions for a roster that started a pair of 33 year olds, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess. Even if Detroit defended and rebounded at a high rate, age will soon become a factor.

Cleveland Cavaliers (45-37)

Pick: 19.

They had the scoring champion, LeBron James, and still finished 24th in offense and 28th in shooting. Re-working the perimeter players around James -- Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West -- needs particular attention.

Center does not, worth remembering as the Cavs pick in the middle of what could be a run on the position. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is 33, but also just had the most rebounds for the best-rebounding team in the league while increasing his scoring average from 2006-07.

June 21, 2008
Draft preview: Southeast Division

Wednesday: Southwest Division.
Thursday: Atlantic Division.
Friday: Northwest Division.
Today: Southeast Division.
Sunday: Central Division.
Monday: Pacific Division.

If expectations become reality and the Bulls take Derrick Rose first overall, Pat Riley can get Michael Beasley at No. 2 and then begin the real maneuvering.

Riley, the Heat president, has done well to stir the waters, likely drawing trade offers from teams wanting to move into the spot and undoubtedly not minding the rumors that he prefers O.J. Mayo at that spot anyway. Of course he likes all that in the mix. Riles loves feeling like the master psychologist pushing everyone else's buttons.

The tangible impact is that if Miami does take Beasley as the consolation prize, it creates the aftershocks that could result in other meaningful moves before summer is over. Beasley as the new power forward allows Riley to shop Udonis Haslem, no star but good enough to get interest. Or Riley could get more in return for Shawn Marion, who isn't likely to opt out of his contract, by investing much less money to re-sign Dorell Wright as the small forward than it will take to give Marion an extension in a year.

Either way, the Heat has options, and that in itself is an improvement.

June 20, 2008
Draft preview: Northwest Division

Wednesday: Southwest Division
Thursday: Atlantic Division
Today: Northwest Division
Saturday: Southeast Division
Sunday: Central Division
Monday: Pacific Division

It's a strange world when the team that went .500 and missed the playoffs is the one most playing with house money, certainly among division rivals, probably within the Western Conference and possibly throughout the entire league. The Trail Blazers: not your basic lottery team.

They're more like your basic stocked team. Whether the Blazers feel as good once they actually reach the future remains to be seen, but they are already expected to add two impact rookies, Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez, and that doesn't even count the chip of picking 13th.

Portland could trade the pick for a veteran, wanting the influence of experience, or it could use the selection for depth. Or it could use the selection and get another one later in the first round, the way deep-pockets owner Paul Allen green-lighted buying one last season. That turned into Fernandez, who was left in Spain and made major strides to where he would be going much higher in this draft.

June 19, 2008
Second take

Inside sources are telling me the Kings will workout six prospects Friday, including Nevada's JaVale McGee and Ohio State center Kosta Koufos.
OK, OK, my inside source is a Kings press release, which was e-mailed late Thursday night. Nonetheless, here is what we know:

WHO: Guard Kevin Bell (5-10, 165, Fresno State), small forward Malik Hairston (6-6, 200, Oregon), center Kosta Koufos (7-0, 250, Ohio State), center JaVale McGee (7-1, 240, Nevada), point guard Sean Singletary (6-0, 180, Virginia) and small forward Deron Washington (6-7, 205, Virginia Tech).

WHAT: Media will be allowed to view the first 30 minutes of the workouts and will be given access to players after.

WHEN: Friday at 11 a.m.

NOTE: Check The Sacramento Bee on Saturday for your inside scoop.

June 19, 2008
Draft preview: Atlantic Division

Wednesday: Southwest Division.
Today: Atlantic Division.
Friday: Northwest Division.
Saturday: Southeast Division.
Sunday: Central Division.
Monday: Pacific Division.

Boston Celtics (66-16 in 2007-08)

Picks: 30, 60

Needs? Who cares. The Celtics just got the only thing they really needed.

Since the hangover will likely clear within the next week, at least within the front office, Boston could use depth at point guard, since that was 38-year-old Sam Cassell getting 12.6 minutes a game in the playoffs as the backup. The last pick in the first round puts the Celtics in Mario Chalmers/Kyle Weaver territory.

Toronto Raptors (41-41)

Pick: 17

They finished 20th in rebounding and started Rasho Nesterovic 39 times and played him 20.9 minutes a game in all, so getting a big man to ride shotgun to Chris Bosh is a logical direction. The Raptors are right in the range of what should be a run on centers and physical power forwards: Robin Lopez, JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos, Marreese Speights, Roy Hibbert probably not far behind.

June 19, 2008
Going green

Watching on TV today, it looked like a great day for a parade. Sunny, high 60s / low 70s, 100-percent chance of confetti.

No one in downtown Boston seemed much interested in the basketball messages the Celtics had just delivered and confirmed. Understandable. It was about the moment, not the big picture.

For 29 other teams, it should be about the messages.

*You do not need a great point guard to win a championship.

Chris Paul emerged as a major difference maker and drove the Hornets to new levels of success and now the Bulls appear to be aiming for Derrick Rose with the No. 1 pick in the draft in a week, but a team just won't the title with a point guard as its third-best player at best.

June 18, 2008
What next for the Lakers? Telephone call for Ron Artest

We're still almost two weeks away from knowing the parameters of how it would have to happen, let alone if it could happen. Ron Artest has a June 30 deadline to declare himself a free agent or play the final season of his contract at $7.4 million, with Sam Amick most recently reporting that all signs point to Artest staying in the current deal.

This much, though, is a certainty:

Kobe Bryant loves the idea of teaming with Artest and the Lakers have already privately considered taking a turn in the Ron-Ron funhouse.

Those details would have been meaningful enough to put any Kings-Artest-Lakers talk on the radar anyway. Then came flighty Vladimir Radmanovic averaging eight points as the starting small forward in the Finals and losing his shooting touch in two of the four rounds, Luke Walton having his minutes cut by the series until he was barely in the rotation against the Celtics, and Trevor Ariza as a surprising non-factor in the championship series as the supposed defensive specialist while Paul Pierce punished every other attempted matchup. It was very possible Phil Jackson was just as desperate for offense, and scoring isn't Ariza's game.

That small forward was an obvious problem, and not just in the playoffs, may mean nothing as the Lakers review the season, console themselves with having a big, talented lineup set for October, and realize this is no time to do anything as drastic as taking on Artest. Or they may conclude that a front line of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom is great on paper but that the Artest energy and toughness is greatly needed. Either conclusion is realistic after being out-rebounded in the playoffs and out-hearted in the Finals.

June 18, 2008
Draft preview: Southwest Division

The countdown begins in advance of the 60 picks on June 26.

Today: Southwest Division.
Thursday: Atlantic Division.
Friday: Northwest Division.
Saturday: Southeast Division.
Sunday: Central Division.
Monday: Pacific Division.

New Orleans Hornets (56-26 in 2007-08)

Pick: 27.

They already have many of the important pieces in place for a championship run, and there's little chance a selection so late in the first round will make a dramatic impact right away. But depth is always important and the Hornets started Morris Peterson (just shot 41.7 percent and will be 31 when camp opens) at shooting guard.

Maybe Julian Wright, the lottery pick last year, is in the line of succession, but he tracks as more of a small forward behind Peja Stojakovic or in the event Stojakovic's back problems returns. The Hornets can go wing or hope to develop a third big man behind David West and Tyson Chandler.

June 17, 2008
The Lakers in the Finals: Where Humiliation Happens

Nothing could properly describe what the Celtics just did to the Lakers, tonight and most of the very eventful series.

Throttle. Abuse. Tattoo. Dominate. Flog. Donaghy.

Beaten L.A. Beaten L.A.

The ultimate perspective is that it will be remembered as one of the greatest moments in the history of a franchise that has had more great moments than any other in the NBA. The Celtics won the championship, won it at home after the Patriots and Red Sox did not, denied Phil Jackson the chance to pass their own Red Auerbach for most coaching titles, and bloodied their long-time rival so bad that the Lakers on the spot went from a season of great gains to facing real questions about the personality of a roster turned heartless when it mattered most.

The Lakers got embarrassed by the colossal Game 4 collapse.

The Lakers got embarrassed by the Game 6, series-ending, 39-point loss.

Losing a competitive series would have been disappointing, but at least understandable. Boston had the best record in the regular season by seven games (over Detroit), even if it appeared vulnerable in wobbly showings early in the playoffs, the homecourt advantage in a postseason where that has meant so much, and the best defense. And defense wins titles.

June 17, 2008
Don't want to say ... saw this coming!

Even though I watched the clinching game of the NBA Finals back home in Sacramento, it was a foregone conclusion after Game 5 that this series was over. After covering the three games at the Staples Center, it became pretty apparent to me that the Lakers were not going to overcome a 3-1 deficit, much less force a seventh game. Their victory Sunday was nothing more than a tease. They simply weren't the better team. They blew another big lead, repeatedly were beat to loose balls and long rebounds, and benefitted from the absence of Celtics Kendrick Perkins (shoulder), the inexperience and sore ankle of Rajon Rondo, as well as Ray Allen's distraction because of his son's sudden illness. Plus, their bench was horribly outplayed, mostly by James Posey and Eddie House. Ultimately, the deciding factors were these: the Celtics' lineup featured three prolific scorers and their defense was stifling.
Given that the NBA is so trend-oriented, I will be curious to see the extent to which the Celtics' defensive domination influences draft selections, trades and free agent signings. Just a hunch: yes. it will.

The transformation of Paul Pierce

Watching Pierce's impressive performance during the three games in his hometown L.A., I couldn't help but recall that he was the convenient scapegoat for the USA's sixth-place finish at the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis. On the court, the Celtics guard/forward was easily the USA's best player, but there grumblings behind the scenes that Pierce was too much of an individualist. In fact, the rap on him in Boston all these years was that he had a tendency to drive one-on-three, and lose the ball in the process.
Denver coach George Karl happened to be in the media dining room before Game 4 at Staples Center - he was there because his son Koby is on the Lakers reserve list - and I asked him about the World Games. He praised Pierce's maturity, and said that he and Baron Davis "went off on their own" during the World Games.
As a result, Pierce wasn't even considered for the 2004 Olympic team, and his apparent lack of interest in playing on subsequent squads eliminated him from consideration for the Beijing Games. Hmmm. But after his Finals MVP performance - including his 10 assists in the series clincher - Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski might regret not knocking on his door. Pierce was all about winning ...

Other NBA Finals thoughts and observations:

* A few weeks ago, Miami Heat president Pat Riley told my colleague Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe that he "would love James Posey in the playoffs." The esteemed Ryan - known as "The Commish" around the NBA because of his encyclopedic memory and decades-long chronicling of hte Celtics - related Riley's remarks during dinner last week. Posey, an excellent defender and deep shooter on the Heat's championship team two years ago, was terrific again last night. His length bothered Kobe Bryant, and he was lethal from the corners.
* Eddie House is a testament to persistence. After playing for eight teams in eight years, he wins a ring. Nice. I'm sure he'll have some interesting stories to share with brother-in-law Mike Bibby.
* Throughout the playoffs, it's been pretty well established that Kevin Garnett is not the dominant player he was even two years ago. Though he's only 32, you have to rememember that he has been in the league since he was 19 years old. But his performance last night was emblematic of his career. He always plays with tremendous passion and intensity.
* Watching Phil Jackson hobble down the back corridors of Staples Center the other day, limping noticeably and walking with a cane (he has had two hip replacements the past few years), it's hard to imagine him coaching much longer.
* How badly did the Lakers miss injured center Andrew Bynum? The young center immediately improves their interior defense, rebounding and shotblocking, and enables the slow-footed Pau Gasol to move to power forward. Gotta feel for Kobe ...


June 17, 2008
Mock draft: Follow the bouncing Brook

Of all the people sliding up and down the draft board, the most unlikely candidate for greased feet would ordinarily be the lone proven center guaranteed a spot in the lottery. Yet there's Brook Lopez of Fresno and Stanford, and maybe Minnesota, or maybe Memphis, or maybe New Jersey.

He doesn't project as a superstar-in-waiting, and that's a problem at the top of the draft. Teams want a major payoff in those spots, not a complementary player, and some will go for the gamble of the prospect with greater upside than settle for the solid contributor. Russell Westbrook of UCLA has obvious holes -- point guard with little experience running an offense -- but he is exciting and has the potential to become a dynamic difference maker on both ends.

Lopez will score, is a 7-footer with a sturdy frame and scouts see his ceiling as somewhere around 16 points a game from the post and out on the perimeter. That's all good. But he's the only safe pick at center, a position very hard to fill, and that still isn't good enough to generate measurable buzz from his workouts.

June 16, 2008
Disappearing Act, Scene II

I just got a call from NBA spokesman Mike Bass, who had seen a previous post here on the missing YouTube clips from Game 6 of the 2002 Kings-Lakers Western Conference finals. Bass wanted to get something straight.
"The NBA had nothing to do with any footage being taken down," Bass said.
The Web chatter over the missing clips spread quickly through discussion threads and posts, with examples here , here and here. Several sites pasted my blog post under headlines such as "NBA removes all YouTube clips from Game 6." Obvioulsy, I can't make that leap, although I do think it's an odd development to the Game 6 saga.
YouTube previously declined to comment.

June 16, 2008
The SuperSonics trial starts: It's not about the city

Seattle is great. Great scenery, great mix of local spirit and international influences, great list of worldwide corporations, great restaurants, great sporting scene. You want the best college-football experience in the Pac-10, you go to Husky Stadium, watch the boats ferry fans across Union Bay and dock alongside the facility, and feel the atmosphere of the chilled Saturday afternoon. (The best of basketball: Mac Court in Eugene.)

That doesn't have to mean it deserves sympathy for losing the Sonics.

In the last 10 years, the oldest professional team in town, the only team to win a title in a major sport, has averaged 15,595 fans and broken the top 20 in attendance twice. It finished in the top half of the league once, 1998-99. There have been playoff teams, different ownership groups, different coaches, a division title, and through it all little support.

But now there's an outcry the team may leave?

June 16, 2008
Kings draft party

* UPDATE - Geoff Petrie will not be watching the draft at Arco Arena, as I originally stated below. He will be inside the "war room" at the Kings practice facility and will address fans on the KingsVision board shortly after the team makes its selection.

Kings fans are invited to watch the NBA draft live at Arco Arena on June 26 with and hear from Geoff Petrie and a Kings player. The ESPN telecast will be played on the KingsVision board, which will be lowered 15 feet for the free event, which begins at 3:30 p.m. Petrie is scheduled to speak shortly after the Kings select a player with the 12th pick in the first round. The Kings also have the 42nd and 43rd picks in the second round.

Both parking and admission are free. Fans must RSVP through to print tickets.

The full press release follows.

June 16, 2008
DeMarcus Nelson may not want to get drafted

Coming attractions: Today is the deadline for underclassmen to commit to the June 26 draft or return to school, the latest moment of clarity that will provide teams the final list of who's in and who's out. (Ryan Anderson, from Cal and Oak Ridge High is using the entire clock, as he planned. ) The updated mock draft, covering the first round, will be posted after.

Afternoon update: Anderson announced he will stay in the draft.

It may not be good for his confidence and it certainly wouldn't be an encouraging sign of how general managers rate his chance of making the NBA, but DeMarcus Nelson might be better off going undrafted than being picked in the late-40s or the 50s, what at the moment appears to be his best-case scenario.

Being selected is a nice ego bump. It might be worth a slight edge because the team would have a greater investment in the pick working out, though even slight might be overselling the value. Selections late in the second round are mostly loose change, so no front office will give the coach a hard stare for wanting to keep a little-known free agent over choice 50something. If there's a difference in the guaranteed money to come to camp, it's likewise minimal.

Not being drafted gives Nelson everything else. The chance to pick his spot as a free agent, the opportunity to pick the team with the biggest opening in the backcourt, the chance to sift through the options that will come and plot his own course rather than be locked into the club that selects him. That flexibility is a big everything else.

And there will be options. The Sheldon High graduate, and via Duke as the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year, will get free-agent offers if he goes undrafted and almost certainly will be in summer league with someone and in a training camp. Scouts love his athleticism and toughness, and spending four years as an important part of a spotlight college program is a plus as an intangible.

June 15, 2008
Oh, now I get it ....

LOS ANGELES - Mystery solved. Immediately after the Lakers' unimpressive Game 5 victory over the Boston Celtics, I happened upon David Stern while he was waiting for his wife, Diane, outside the women's restroom in the back of Staples Center. As I was about to blurt out the obvious question - whether the Commissioner had any concerns about assigning Dick Bavetta because of the stress he must be experiencing from Tim Donaghy's unfounded allegations - one of my colleagues beat me to it.
Stern explained that Bavetta was "next up on the wheel," referring to the playoff rotation for the referees. He then added that he never considered replacing the longtime ref - who was one of the officials who worked the controversial Kings-Lakers Game 6 - because of Donaghy's claims that two of the refs that night (Bavetta, Bob Delaney, Ted Bernhardt) "conspired" to influence the outcome and extend the series per the league's desires.
I have to agree with Stern on this. Bavetta's a big boy. He has to deal with this sooner or later. It would have been terribly unfair to remove him from the rotation because of a convicted felon's claims or reports that the FBI inquired about him last summer.

June 15, 2008
On the spot

LOS ANGELES - About 30 minutes ago, veteran referee Dick Bavetta strolled across the Staples Center court here at the NBA Finals, stopping briefly to make small talk with a few reporters. Bavetta - one of the three officials who worked the infamous Game 6 - drew tonight's assignment for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. And for obvious reasons, he looked pretty stressed, almost sheepish. Former referee Hue Hollins early last week said that the FBI inquired about Bavetta - and whether there were any indications he influenced the outcome of games - during their probe of the Tim Donaghy betting scandal.
Bavetta must feel like he's under the microscope. I don't know how he is going to officiate with a clear head tonight.
Still, that's what you do. You go to work.

What to believe?
Being down here when Donaghy's Game 6 allegations surfaced has enabled me to seek opinions from colleagues from other newspapers and cable outlets around the country, many of whom have covered the NBA for decades and were here for Game 6. The sentiment has been almost universal: (1) Game 6 was the worst officiated postseason game in decades; (2) that fourth-quarter was particularly ugly; (3) Bavetta, Bob Delaney and Ted Bernhardt just had terrible nights.
I haven't spoken with anyone (I would trust) who believes any of the three refs had an agenda or were involved in some sort of league-inspired conspiracy to extend the series. I will say it again and again. Unless Donaghy and his attorneys provide some serious evidence, I'm not buying the conspiracy theories. Among other things, David Stern is much too smart and has too much integrity to place his sport in that type of jeopardy.

Kareem's tutelage
Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is the Laker's big man's coach, has been working with Pau Gasol, trying to get the lanky forward/center to better establish his "core." Kareem wants Gasol to utilize the strength in his hips, ostensibly to keep him from being pushed around so much

June 14, 2008
Williams looking for fresh start

Forward Shelden Williams admitted his tenure so far with the Kings has been frustrating. But the soft-spoken forward said he is looking forward to a clean slate with the start of next season.
The most difficult part of last season?
"Not knowing what was going to happen," said Williams, who was in Sacramento on Saturday to watch his fiance Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks take on the Monarchs at Arco Arena.
"Whether I had a good game or not, I had the same results so it was up and down like that," he said.
The second-year player out of Duke averaged 5.2 points in 12.9 minutes with the Kings last season. Most of his playing time with the Kings came after April when the Kings heavily relied on their bench. Williams said he is focusing his summer workouts to improve his overall game in hopes of starting out fresh next season.
"I have to keep the same mindset and hopefully things will go different," said Williams, who isn't one to elaborate and is generally regarded among media as a tough interview because of his quiet nature.
He is living in Los Angeles with Parker. The pair will move to Sacramento when the WNBA season ends and the Kings open training camp.

June 14, 2008
The pressure on Kobe ...

LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant is starting to sound like he anticipates an avalanche of critcism if, as expected, the Lakers lost this series. And while Celtics coach Doc Rivers defended Bryant as the the most "unfairly" criticized player in the league, the old debate - when to involve teammates, when to take over a game - is becoming a recurring theme.
Longtime Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons repeatedly referred to a need for "balance" in the offense, and specifically noted his club's 18-point first-half lead in Game Four. "Kobe didn't score a point in that half," said Clemons, "but we moved the ball and got everybody involved."
As one humorous aside a few minutes later, Bryant said he recovered from Thursday's bruising defeat by reading Harry Potter to his daughters.
"They just wanted me to read to them," he said, "and I swear it was awesome. He (Potter) had more problems dealing with the media and the Celtics."

June 14, 2008
Ron back on

Kings small forward Ron Artest will juggle radio and TV spots again for the Monarchs, adding tonight's game to his growing media resume. In his last appearance on Monarchs TV and radio, Artest admitted the tasks were "much harder than I thought."
He'll likely feel much more comfortable after several recent appearences on the Carmichael Dave show on KHTK.
Several teammates will join Artest at the Monarchs' 7 p.m. game against the Los Angeles Sparks at Arco Arena. Francisco Garcia, Kevin Martin and Shelden Williams are all scheduled to attend the game, which will feature a Dads and Daughters theme.
Williams will be playing second fiddle to his fiance Candace Parker of Tennessee Vols fame. Parker, who atteneded a Kings game shortly after she was drafted into the WNBA, is averaging 16.9 points for the Sparks.

June 13, 2008
Striving for perspective

LOS ANGELES - After Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers addressed members of the media during Friday's interview sessions - both coaches gave their players the day off - several of us engaged in what proved to be an eerily prescient conversation before leaving the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo.
Longtime Atlanta Hawks media director Arthur Triche, who is most well-liked and efficient people in the business, was talking about how his ongoing bout with cancer has taught him "not to sweat the small stuff." Triche, who recently underwent a second surgery and chemotherapy at M.D. Anderson in Houston, says that when someone wants to argue these days, he simply walks away. Only in his 40s, Triche added that, "I don't take the losses nearly as hard as I used to."
At about this point, two league publicists walked over, caught the end of Triche's comments, then mentioned something like, "Yeah, just look at Tim Russert." They then relayed the news of the brilliant CNBC political analyst's passing hours earlier.
As word spread, everyone stood around in shock. Several of the journalists knew Russert personally. One had just hung out with him at a hotel pool about a month ago. But we all wondered whether the constant deadline pressure inherent in the industry contributed (or caused) his heart attack.

Not looking so good, either ....
Jackson has had both hips replaced within the past few years, but he still looks like he's in tremendous pain when he walks. Never graceful to begin with, his gait is awkward, more like a limp than a stroll. The other day I chatted with him as we walked out of the loading docks at Staples Center, and he walked deliberately, with a cane.
How many more years can Our Friend Phil keep this up? The flights, the hotel beds, the pressure, and the frenetic schedule take a toll. And Jackson has had significant physical issues since his playing days with the New York Knicks.

Painful, poignant memories
If the Celtics clinch the series Sunday, Rivers is going to be an emotional wreck. Within the past 13 months, he has experienced the following: been exorciated by Celtics fans, who urged Danny Ainge to find another coach; lost his father to cancer during the regular season; guided a roster with strong-willed veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to within a victory of a title.
When someone asked Doc if he had spent any time ruminating about his close relationship with his father, the Celtics coach completely choked up. After a long pause, he finally said, "That's a tough one for me to talk about."

Motivating Kobe
Pierce asked to defend Kobe in the second half of Game 4, but apparently, that wasn't what was on Kobe's mind early Friday. According to Jackson, who spoke briefly with his players before sending them home, his star was more intrigued by Garnett's post-game comments. (I mentioned them in my blog last night).
In essence, Garnett suggested that the Lakers generally play "team ball" during the first two periods, and "second half is usually, Kobe takes over games. It just looks like they wanted to get the ball to Kobe and sort of let him finish it off ... It didn't really look cohesive."
Jackson didn't elaborate, but you get the picture.

June 13, 2008
Happy anniversary. Not you, Mavericks

The implications of that June 13, 2006, night in Miami are much clearer and more meaningful now than the one-year benchmark, and it was historic in the first place: the Heat, already trailing 2-0 in the Finals, came from 13 points down with 6:34 remaining in the final quarter to beat the Mavericks 98-96 in the moment that will forever be remembered as the start of the rally all the way to the title.

But it took the past four months of 2008 to give Game 3 a new perspective and important historical context.

It's better than Miami originally thought and worse than the Dallas originally endured. No surprise. The only unimaginable notion for the Mavericks is that two years ago tonight may not have been the bottom - that indignity was possibly saved for the '07 first-round face plant against the Warriors. (The Finals is the ultimate in importance and so it should be the ultimate in high and lows, but ask people in 10 years about the classic Mavs collapse and most will probably recall the Golden State series first.)

There is no debate, though, that Game 3 in 2006 was the jump-start to the history changing, careers changing and, most of all, reputations changing.

*Pat Riley

Without title: Fading coaching superstar hanging on too long.

June 12, 2008
The shocker in Staples ...

LOS ANGELES - To say that the Lakers were stunned by the manner of their defeat tonight would be a major understatement. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Celtics - contrary to the pre-Finals projections - are the superior team. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are creating too many matchup problems, their defensive tenacity is exceptional, and on nights like tonight, when their subs spread the floor, they are very difficult to defeat.
The Lakers just aren't getting consistent enough scoring from their second and third options, and those defensive breakdowns tonight were crippling. (see the Ray Allen-Sasha Vujacic sequence).
I thought Kevin Garnett had a very interesting observation. He suggested the Lakers blew their huge lead partly because they began relying too much on Kobe Bryant. "If you've paid attention to them at all," said Garnett, "usually the first half is team ball, second half is usually when Kobe takes over the games. They weren' t nearly as aggressive as they were in the first half. It just looks like they wanted to get the ball to Kobe and let him sort of finish it off. It didn't really look cohesive."

Good news for the Celtics
The stats indicate that, for the Celtics to lose this best-of-seven series after claiming a 3-1 lead, it would take a collapse of epic proportions. The team leading 3-1 has claimed the championship every time.
But you would never know the C's were this close to another title based on Danny Ainge's demeanor. The Celtics' general manager calmly strolled the hallway outside the visitors locker room after the game, pausing to chat with reporters. It's hard to believe that, a year ago, his team was rebuilding and his longime star Paul Pierce increasingly restless. that's one of the unique aspects of the NBA. Once in a while, a franchise is transformed almost over night. Or in this case, in one offseason.

June 12, 2008
Kings release workout info for Friday

Sacramento media will be given a treat Friday as the Kings hold an open workout with a high profile list of prospects. Among them are Russell Westbrook (6-3, PG, UCLA), Joe Alexander (6-8, SF, West Virginia), Darrell Arthur (6-10, PF, Kansas), Ty Lawson (5-11, PG, North Carolina), Nicolas Batum (6-8, SF, Le Mans, France) and Othello Hunter (6-8, PF, Ohio State).
We will have more coverage tomorrow after talking to the potential draft picks.

June 12, 2008
More from Staples ...

LOS ANGELES - I just finished a conversation with Joe Maloof, who was at the Palms in Las Vegas, and among other things, he is as curious as everyone else about what David Stern plans to say.
Joe admitted that he had been dodging the media the past few days - mostly to avoid saying something imprudent, which he has been known to do - but decided to speak out after being barraged by e-mails and phone calls. And, in typical Joe Maloof fashion, he became increasingly animated as the conversation continued. (Ok, I keep pushing to gain a truer sense of his feelings.)
Clearly, he still believes the Kings were robbed and is still angry about the outcome. But he repeatedly labeled any potential manipulation as "implausible, impossible." Coming from an owner who runs a business in Las Vegas, it sounded pretty convincing. One thing that was pretty funny: He couldn't resist a dig at Phil Jackson, the coach he tried to hire at the end of 2005-06 season, one might recall. Well. If you can't beat them, hire them, right?

A few quick pre-game thoughts
Jackson, who is never shy about tweaking his players, defended Pau Gasol against suggestions that his starting center was, well, soft. "I think that would be the reputation Pau came to us with," said the Lakers coach, "but he's constantly risen to the occasion in every series we've gone through this year. The last game (three) obviously was not a great game for him, but we believe that he's going to have another real good game for us. I won't touch the soft (stuff), though."

Rondo set to go
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was listed in the starting lineup, but coach Doc Rivers planned to keep a close watch on his mobility. Rondo's best asset is his quickness, and if he is hampered by his sore ankle, Rivers says he will go back to Eddie House, the one-time Kings guard who happens to be Mike Bibby's brother-in-law.

June 12, 2008
Maloofs speak

Joe and Gavin Maloof have been quiet since Tim Donaghy's allegations thrust the Kings into the center of the "Big Fix" controversy. While media outlets across the country tried to gauge the outrage of Kings fans, the typically candid Maloofs remained mum. Now, through a statement, the Kings owners say they were disappointed with officiating during Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals, but in no way believe Donaghy's claims.

Here is the official statement from Joe and Gavin Maloof:

"We have received numerous e-mails and phone calls from fans who are very upset by recent news reports regarding Game 6 of the 2002 Kings-Lakers playoff series. We believe we have the best fans in the NBA and are so grateful for their continued passion and support.
We certainly didn't like all the calls in that Game 6 and were extremely disappointed with the outcome. However, we have been associated with the NBA for many years and feel in no way that the League was conspiring for the Kings to lose.
That 2002 Kings team was a memorable collection of players that won 61 games and captured the hearts and minds of fans throughout the world with their entertaining, innovative and successful style of team play. Looking ahead, we remain focused on bringing another championship-caliber team to Sacramento."

Check Friday's edition of The Sacramento Bee for more.

June 12, 2008
The chatter continues ...

LOS ANGELES - The referee scandal and the discussion Kings-Lakers and Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals continues unabated. Here at the Staples Center, journalists continue approaching and asking what it actually looked like to those of us who were here in the building that night.
As I continue to say, as strange as the officiating must have seemed on television, it was even more bizarre for those who were present - on and off the court.
Journeyman guard Damon Jones, who is providing analysis throughout the series for, wandered over and reminded me that he was on the team that year. (Jones, who has a year remaining on his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, has played for so many clubs, it's hard to keep track).
"That game was so tough," he said, shaking his head. "I don't know. I don't know. We all felt the same way."

The Staples experience ....

With all the distractions created by the referee situation, I forgot to blog about the amazing development ongoing outside Staples Center. The last time I was here on assignment, probably about two years, the area across 11th Street consisted of two massive parking lots. But when I drove down Adams the other afternoon before Game 3, I almost missed the turn. I felt like I was in a different country. Those surface parking lots have been supplanted by the glitzy Nokia Theatre and entertainment plaza, with an ESPN zone, restaurants and other entertainment venues under construction.
Frankly, the change is simply stunning. Having worked at the old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, which was located a few blocks away during the 1980s, I never would have envisioned the extent of the transformation. I guess I should visit more often, huh?

Stern to speak
This should be interesting. An NBA publicist just came into the media work room and informed us that David Stern will hold a press conference at 5:45. I can't say I'm surprised. We've all been waiting to hear more from the Commissioner.

June 12, 2008
Disappearing act

Not that Kings fans needed more fuel for their conspiracy fire, but there is a rather odd development to the Game 6 controversy. Several of my colleagues say they've previously viewed video clips on YouTube of each game from the infamous 2002 Western Conference playoff series between the Kings and Lakers.
But as of today, clips of Game 6 are missing. All the other games are there. You can watch highlights of Kobe Bryant scoring 30 points in Game 1 and the clips from the deciding overtime in Game 7 remain. Another NBA blogger also picked up on the missing clips.
Where did Game 6 go? YouTube won't say. Their official response to my question was as dry as they come.
"We do not comment on individual videos or video sets," a spokesperson said.
And so the conspiracy continues.

June 12, 2008
Game 4 preview: The Celtics are beating the Lakers and the Kings

Rajon Rondo isn't shooting well, has a history of not shooting well and may never shoot well. It's the obvious drawback to an offensive game that otherwise is developing and an area that will absolutely need to get better if he has any hope of making defenses play him on the perimeter. The Lakers have mostly been backing off and playing him to drive.

But of all the things that could have gone wrong for the Celtics since the start of the season, Rondo was at the top of the list, and of all the things that have gone right, he's a headliner there too: nine assists and nine points a game as a 22 year old in the Finals against solid defender Derek Fisher and 10.3 points and 6.9 assists against just 1.9 turnovers in all as a second-year player in the postseason for the first time.

Not bad for the guy who arrived at training camp as the intersection between Boston success and failure, inexperienced and suddenly merely responsible for properly getting the ball to Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

It resonates all the way to Sacramento. The Kings passed on Rondo in the 2006 draft to take Quincy Douby and because, two years later, the Kings' point-guard situation remains unresolved and Douby is an undersized shooting guard who can't crack the rotation. Reggie Theus doesn't even play him at the point anymore.

June 12, 2008
What's wrong with this picture?

Martin 4.jpg - Monica Fiala

You figure it out yet?
Let me assist. That guy in the No. 6 jersey is Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin, who played in the Sacramento Professional Developmental League game at Capital Christian on Wednesday night and didn't disappoint. That guy in the stands, meanwhile, was one of 30 or so fans on hand who watched the fun affair. And therein lies the problem.
In the same vein of Ron Artest doing late-night radio stints for free, big-time NBA players just don't do this sort of thing. Yet despite the word of Martin's appearance being confirmed more than a day in advance, the crowd was pathetically sparse. As a reminder, this is $7 ticket fun (free for kids 12 and under) with plenty of talent on hand and at least six rim-shaking dunks in the first game I'd seen this summer.

June 11, 2008
And now, for some basketball

LOS ANGELES - In a fluke of convenient scheduling, the Lakers and Celtics practiced today at the Staples Center, scene of all things relating to NBA referees, Kings, Games 6, etc., and occasionally, even a little basketball: The Sparks are preparing to tip off against the Detroit Shock, so I'll be able to get my first glimpse of WNBA rookie sensation Candace Parker. The former Tennessee star will make her Arco Arena debut against the Monarchs on Saturday, and from everything I'm hearing, she might already be the best player in the league.
Parker's college exploits were enough to lure longtime Boston Globe columnist and ESPN contributor Bob Ryan to the game. That, and a nudge from Shock coach Bill Laimbeer. Ryan bumped into Laimbeer during a golf outing in Detroit a few weeks ago, and said the former Pistons center asked why he hadn't checked out the women's pro league. I will be curious to hear Ryan's perspective. A former Celtics beat writer, he remains the authority on all things green.

June 11, 2008
The NBA has a problem, and it's not Tim Donaghy

So now we know his plan. Throw rocks at David Stern's house, over and over and over, and maybe hit a window.

For all Donaghy's obvious shortcomings, stupidity is apparently not among them. The one-time ref who dragged his own life into a freefall of career and financial wreckage has decided to fight back against the NBA -- the victim -- by leveling firestorm charges in the middle of the Finals and crashing the showcase event to draw attention for his accusations.

They don't have to be true. It's the NBA and it's charges of "manipulation," and that's enough to set off fire alarms. Stern opened his umbrella on Dealey Plaza and the fix was in.

Donaghy can't prove his claim that referees involved told him at the time they would make sure the Lakers got to a Game 7 in the 2002 conference finals and no one can prove Donaghy is a liar on this count. That a lot of people instantly believed him, about a month before sentencing on felonies, says everything about the perception problem facing the NBA.

This has always been the baffling part. There have been historically bad moments for umpires in the major-league playoffs and game officials in the NFL and college football, where gambling is more part of the culture, yet it's the NBA that gets pelted by conspiracy claims.

June 10, 2008
Just another night in Staples ...

LOS ANGELES - So much for covering another routine game at the NBA Finals. Word of the Tim Donaghy's allegations reached the Staples Center midway Tuesday afternoon, and from that point in, the entire evening had a strange, almost surreal feel.

Reporters hung near the entrances awaiting the arrival of David Stern and former Kings backup Scot Pollard, one of the the two centers who fouled out in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals. (Pollard lasted a whopping 11 minutes). Stern spoke only briefly with reporters, but managed to level a few timely blows at his former disgraced referee.

"The only concern I have is that when a letter gets filed on behalf of a convicted felon, my concern is that the news media run with it as a major blockbuster series of allegations, when in fact, this guy is dancing as fast as he can to throw as much against the wall so his sentence won't be as hard, put more at risk," said the NBA Commissioner. "(But) pretty much he's a singing, cooperating witness who's trying to get as light a sentence as he can."

Pollard, the one-time Kings quipster and current Celtics reserve who is recovering from ankle injuries and won't play during the series, was deadly serious this time. He leaned against a wall outside the visitors locker room for quite a while before the game, talking with clusters reporters as they approached. He seems very conflicted about the developments. He still believes the Kings were ripped off, especially with the series of phantom calls in the fourth quarter, but sounds hopeful that Donagy's spouting turns out to be unsubstantiated.

Yet this is pretty funny. His worst memory from that series wasn't Game 6 or even the blown opportunity in Game 7.

You can probably guess what comes next.

The Robert Horry shot lives on.

Finally off the couch

Hall of Famer Bill Walton - who describes himself these days as the father of Luke - was able to watch his son play in person Tuesday for the first time in months. The senior Walton, an NBA analyst for ESPN, has been sidelined the past few months with back and hip injuries. But he was mobile enough to make the drive from his home in San Diego earlier Tuesday with his wife, Lori.

While he was chatting with a few of us, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar approached and asked how his UCLA heir was feeling. "Good," Walton replied, as two of the greatest centers in league history bumped knuckles.

The Staples crowd was pretty impressive last night for sure: In an area outside the media dining tent, the following NBA luminaries lingered: Walton, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, along with the venerable Jack Ramsay, who has been battling cancer, but looks much healthier than he has in a long time. Former Kings rival (and aspiring actor) Rick Fox also ambled past, and said he was working on a new television series about a football coach.

Keeping up with KJ

Before he was enveloped by a throng of reporters asking for his insight on Kings-Lakers, Donaghy, and all things related to the series, Magic asked what was happening with his former Phoenix Suns rival Kevin Johnson. Magic said he heard KJ was headed for a runoff with Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, and said he might hold another fundraiser for the challenger.

Magic certainly seems to like politicians. Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides runs his foundation. The former Lakers great (and minority owner) expects Angelides to attend Game 4 on Thursday.

June 10, 2008
Martin to play in two Sacramento games this week

When I wrote a Kevin Martin piece last November chronicling how the Kings shooting guard hadn't let fame change him, the headline that was written by a member of our top-notch copy desk was perfect.

"The Same Ol' Kev"

Almost a year later, the message still fits.

Martin returned to Sacramento this week from his annual offseason tour, one that has stayed the same even as his salary has changed, He spent ample time in Zanesville, Ohio, once again playing in the 3-on-3 Gus Macker tournament and pleasing his hometown fans. Per his routine, he headed for Florida to work with trainer David Thorpe at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

And now, Martin has confirmed with me that he will be playing in Wednesday's SPDL game at Capital Christian High School (tipoff 7 p.m.). Then on Friday, he'll take part in the sixth annual Maddbacker Charity Celebrity Basketball Game at Arco Arena.

The 6th Annual Maddbacker Charity Basketball Game

As Marty Mac noted today, former Elk Grove High and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Adrian Ross puts the event together that has quite the list of celebs on board. In addition to Martin, there's Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry, former Sacramento State and Grant High super-dunker Jameel Pugh, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof coaching and an appearance from recovering Ron Artest (wrist surgery).

* Speaking of Artest, the limits of newspaper print meant today's story on his radio career left out tons of hysterical commentary from the Kings small forward. As a reminder, go here to hear more and I'll provide reminders that he's coming on when I'm given word.

* Stay tuned for more draft workout info later in the week. - Sam Amick

June 10, 2008
Who's left standing when the music stops

Headhunting season on coaches closed with a flurry Monday: the Suns hired Terry Porter (no surprise), the Pistons hired Michael Curry (mild surprise - he was being groomed for a promotion, but a title hopeful putting a rookie in charge on the sideline is still a very gutsy move) and the Bulls reportedly decided on Vinny Del Negro (big surprise).

That leaves zero openings and one big reality check for Avery Johnson, who might have understood being passed over for Mike D'Antoni in New York but now has to consider the statement in getting little or no interest from Phoenix, Detroit or Chicago, teams that need to win now and still mostly preferred the unknown. Porter at least had two seasons with the Bucks, but that was a good 2003-04 (41-41) and a bad 2004-05 with a mass of injuries (30-52), hardly a resume that allows him to step into a Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire/ Shaquille O'Neal locker room with instant juice.

Atlanta may still have a vacancy. Mike Woodson would ordinarily be riding the wave of the Hawks getting to the playoffs for a change and the scaring the Celtics in the first round, except new GM Rick Sund, hired May 28, has been noncommittal about standing by Woodson.

For now, though, all the jobs are finally filled. And a very interesting list of candidates remains for when the blood letting starts next season, updated with the latest in the annual summer shuffling.

June 9, 2008
Back to L.A.

LOS ANGELES - Not that I needed any reminders that I was traveling to L.A. to cover the middle games of the NBA Finals, but while walking toward baggage claim in the Southwest Airlines concourse at LAX earlier this afternoon, I noticed a commotion near Gate 3. Insatiably curious by nature - as are most journalists - I wandered over and saw Jerry West standing behind a table, making small talk with fans and posing for photos with the Larry O'Brien trophy. As I later learned, the Lakers icon was at LAX to "welcome" the championship series trophy from Boston, per the league's ongoing promotion with the airlines.

One of the security guard's told me that West already had been there for about 30 minutes before I arrived. (I saw him accommodate a few of the police officers who asked for a photo op toward the end of the session). At one point, the former Lakers great looked up and saw me standing behind the crowd, holding my computer roller bag and a stack of newspapers. He made eye contact and laughed. I called out to him, "Are they paying you extra for this?" He rolled his eyes ...

One of the things that always impressed me about West - who has long been known both for his accessibility with reporters and responding loudly when he doesn't like what he reads - is that he will do just about anything for his sport. He feels a genuine debt to the NBA for enabling him to enjoy what has turned out to be a pretty lavish lifestyle. I can recall three specific formal dinners where West, who was either the honoree or honoring one of his former Lakers teammates, broke down while talking about his career.

Phil's apparent memory issues

Longtime Kings fans will probably appreciate this: After the Celtics were awarded 38 free throws to the Lakers' 10 in Game 2 Sunday evening, Phil Jackson was quoted as follows: "I've never seen a game like that in all these years I've coached the Finals. Unbelieveable."

Now, while Game 6 of the memorable Kings-Lakers series in 2002 was only a conference finals, surely Phil hasn't forgotten? In the game that many of the NBA's longtime observers publicly and privately labeled a travesty - among them Sport Illustrated's Jack McCallum and Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, who were seated baseline at Staples Center - the Lakers shot 27 free throws IN THE FOURTH QUARTER to the Kings' 9. Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard both fouled out after receiving ticky tack calls in the fourth period.

Interestingly, the officiating crew that night included veteran referee Bob Delaney, who in yet another hilarious aside, was shown receiving an earful from Jackson during Sunday's game.

June 7, 2008
Draft odds and ends etc.

I received an e-mail today asking why we haven't had more coverage of the Kings' draft workout schedule, and this answer is simple. The Kings don't provide any information.

Whereas many teams around the league provide the media with comprehensive schedules of which players they're bringing in and hold interview sessions with the prospects and coaches, that's not the case here. Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie is, as we all know, more close to the vest than most and not a fan of that practice.

That being said, there are plenty of folks who hear about who's coming in so I'll get some of that info out to you all before long.

One player of note is DJ Augustin, the Texas point guard who the Kings would love to fall to No. 12. I was told yesterday that he's coming in soon, although I don't know the date. A potential second-rounder that they may have already worked out is JJ Hickson, a 6-foot-9 forward out of North Carolina State. Another intriguing prospect who will be worked out by the Kings is Mike Taylor, a 22-year-old point guard who played in the D-League last season. He had a great run at Orlando pre-draft camp, where he showed off his up-tempo game, reliable jumper and solid defense.

West Virginia small forward Joe Alexander also told the Sporting News that he would be working out with the Kings, which comes as no surprise. I'm told the Kings like Alexander's game quite a bit, with the major question as to whether he can hit the midrange shot consistently. I also found it interesting that the Kings were merely attending a group workout for Texas A&M big man DeAndre Jordan. You would think the Kings could get a private workout with Jordan, considering his stock has fallen a bit and he could certainly be there at No. 12. Eventually, I've got to think he actually comes to Sacramento.

* Another reminder that anyone with weekday evening free time and an unquenched thirst for top-notch hoops needs to head to Capital Christian High. The Sacramento Professional Developmental League is underway - more info can be found here.

* By way of Sactownroyalty, Cal grad and the most esteemed baller/blogger out there, Rod Benson, offers an entertaining interview with Ryan Anderson.

The Oak Ridge product and Cal star has been working out at St. Paul Baptist Church with trainer Guss Armstead while deciding whether to keep his name in the NBA draft. This workout at the incredible complex is essentially what I saw recently while working on this story about the Sac Pro League. Interview here.
Anderson also did a more formal interview with the media after working out in Toronto. Interview here.

* We are in the process of changing the blogosphere as it relates to the NBA and the Kings, with the ultimate plan for more folks to chime in and offer more insight and content. In the interim, I'll be chiming in occasionally here but Ailene Voisin is also offering some quality material in her domain.

* With the eternal disclaimer that plans can always change, we will publish a Ron Artest feature on Monday about his newfound radio career. Look out for that...

* And the final shameless - and not-at-all Kings related - plug: The Bee launched a fabulous new wine site that was a long time in the making. It's a wine connoisseurs' dream, and it can be found here.

- Sam Amick

June 4, 2008
Artest's agent speaks on his future

I spoke with Ron Artest's agent, Mark Stevens, on Saturday, but finally typed out his thoughts to post on the blog today.

While there are no definitive declarations as to whether Artest will or will not exercise his early termination option by the June 30 deadline, all indications continue to point to him staying in Sacramento for the 2008-09 season. In short, it sounds as if it's likely Artest won't opt out and will try his luck at free agency next summer. If that holds true, the Kings can do one of four things come July.

1) Offer an extension
2) Trade him
3) Sign and trade him, thereby allowing Artest to sign for a maximum of six years rather than the five-year max for free agents.
4) Do nothing, with Artest playing the year out and becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer.

And of course, Artest could decide at any point here that the uncertainty is killing him and he wants his free agency freedom now. As for Stevens, it's obvious he sees the free agent market as more viable for his client next summer. Having said in February that he sees Artest as a player worthy of a salary in the $13 million to $14 million range, he acknowledges that opting out now could very well mean taking a midlevel exception deal (approximately $6 million per season). What's more, he's hoping the Kings' track record of paying big to retain their stars holds true if Artest sticks around. Here's a Q&A format of our conversation...

Amick: In a perfect world, what are you hoping for here?

Stevens: Ron would love to get a wonderful contract in a perfect world that's lucrative and promising. However, we don't live in a perfect world so at the end of the day we'll go to the table and hopefully we'll agree to disagree.
He wants to be a King. If he is the best player on the team, he would like to be paid as the best player. That's just his position. But he's thankful to the Maloofs because they gave him an opportunity to help turn his career around. He's appreciative and loyal to that fact. That's why him opting out at this point is not even an option. He wants to first go to the table and see if he can get a deal done. He would love to be in Sacramento. He loves the fans in Sacramento. He would love to be in Sacramento.

Amick: Officially, you can't go to the table until July, by which time the deadline has come and gone. How do you handle that?

Stevens: It's a catch 22. We can't talk until July 1, but the opt out day is the 30th. Between now and the 30th, we will get a feel from each other if we're wanted. We just hope to see if we can work things out.

Amick: And what if the only guarantee you have is that he'll be paid $7.4 million next year and have no indication beyond that point?

Stevens: Ron is thankful to the Maloofs. It's their right to say $7.4 million is what we're prepared to pay you, and let's talk next summer. And if that is said, then that's the decision that Ron has to make - what does he want to do? If they say that, it's a decision him and his family have to make.

If you look at the market, there's only four teams, five teams maybe, that have the ability to pay him (what he is hoping to make). If he opts out, it's obvious we're looking at a midlevel exception deal (approximately $6 million per season). The good thing is, everybody knows where everybody's at. Ron fully understands that if he opts out, he runs the risk of Sacramento saying, 'OK, opt out, you can leave and we won't get nothing for you or we can do a sign and trade.' Or Ron runs the risk of knowing he's open to the free market and he might get midlevel exception. All the cards are definitely on the table...You have to make a decision and live with it.

Ron would hope that Sacramento sees him as their best player and pays him as their best player, but things can happen. That's a decision that I'll leave up to management and ownership.

Amick: What about the theory that another year of good numbers on the floor and no controversy off it could put you in a much better position next summer?

Stevens: Yes and no. A lot can happen in a year. A lot happened in this one year - his daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Based on a lot of incidents that have happened with Ron, he understands the importance of the moment in time and what must be done. Patience is a virtue, and the question we have to ask ourselves is this: if we wait a year, what teams are going to have the money then? What teams will want him? ...He could get hurt and be out for the year.

Amick: How do you see the market for next summer free-agency wise?

Stevens: How's it looking for next summer? There's maybe five or six teams (who could pay him what he's hoping to make), maybe two more different teams (compared to this summer) will be able to pay him. But again, you have to ask yourselves what direction the teams are trying to go in too. Just like Sacramento - what direction are they trying to go in?

Amick: Have you asked (Kings basketball president) Geoff (Petrie) directly if Ron's a guy he wants to have in purple for the next, say, five years?
Stevens: To be honest with you, I haven't asked Geoff that. If I was going to ask that question, I would ask that question directly to ownership.

Amick: Have you asked them?

Stevens: No I haven't.

Amick: Between the radio interviews and TV work Ron's done in town lately, he's putting himself out there so much that it's hard to think he has one foot out the door. Does that mean anything?

Stevens: In all fairness, Ron doesn't want to go nowhere. He's happy that he's in Sacramento, and he's hopeful that an agreement can be made (to stay) because he would like to be in Sacramento. He hopes that his openness and his honesty and how he interacts with the media and the fans, that everyone sees that he's making an honest attempt that he wants to be in Sacramento.

- Sam Amick

June 2, 2008
Person still in running for Bulls job

Kings assistant Chuck Person made his name as a player by mastering the long shot. If he lands the Chicago head coaching position, he'll be doing the same thing as a coach.

According to a source close to the Kings, the job is not yet Doug Collins' for the taking and the "The Rifleman" will interview with Bulls general manager John Paxson for a second time this week. In recent days, numerous reports had the job going to Collins, the former Bulls coach and TNT commentator who had said publicly an offer had not been made. Paxson, as it appears, isn't done deliberating.

Yet even if Collins lands the job, Person could be on a path to join the Bulls as a lead assistant and eventual successor. According to the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, Utah assistant Tyrone Corbin may be receiving a second interview as well.

Person, who has one year left on his contract with the Kings, interviewed with Paxson for the first time on May 23. He was also believed to be considered for the New York head coaching job before the Knicks hired Mike D'Antoni. Last summer, the former Indiana assistant interviewed for the Pacers head job before coming to Sacramento with Kings coach Reggie Theus.

June 1, 2008
Is Bobby there?

When it comes to modern day pro athletes, cell phones are about as permanent as team loyalties.

They change all the time.

So on Saturday afternoon, I put a call into Bobby Jackson to discuss the Sac Pro League that starts on Monday at Capital Christian High in Sacramento. (More info on that must-see event here) But the voice on the other end didn't sound anything like the former Kings player and current Houston guard. It was, I would find out, a young man named Ben.

Ben was nice enough to tell me that this was no longer Bobby's number, but I couldn't resist asking what it's like to have the old line of a guy who is as popular in NBA circles as he is among Kings fans. What's more, Jackson is a yapper in every sense, whether he's talking trash on the floor or chatting with friends, colleagues or family off it. As Ben explained, his new phone has opened a window into the world of an NBA player.

"I get text messages asking me to sign trading cards, and every time there's a basketball game I get a call or more text messages," said Ben, who is an IT manager at a construction company locally but didn't want to share his last name. "I don't mind it. I just tell people they've got the wrong number."

Some people, however, don't believe him.

"I've had people asking for money, saying like, 'Yeah, I owe somebody so much money and I'm broke and could you please send me some,'" he said. "I'll tell them they've got the wrong number and they won't believe me.

Ben said he's not a basketball fan, but he will occasionally watch the Kings and was well aware of who Jackson was. As for Bobby himself, I eventually tracked him down and had a laugh about the mixup.

"That's exactly why I changed my number," he said.

- Sam Amick

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