Kings Blog and Q&A

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

July 31, 2008
Mid-day report

Simmer down Kings fans (and Kings themselves, for that matter). I'm told the agreed-on deal sending Ron Artest to Houston is stil in place, that Houston hasn't been scared off by their first trip to the Ron-Ron circus.
So too says the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen in this piece. As for the venom spewed my way this morning, I'll say only that it's predictable in every way. Killing the messenger is no new practice. And for the umpteenth time, writers don't write headlines in the paper (or on online stories). We do write headlines in the blog posts, though.

MILLER TO CHICAGO?

The Brad Miller-to-Chicago rumor started with a Bulls blogger here, and was subsequently written about in today's edition of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald here.
Here's what I know on this situation...

I was told yesterday by a source close to the Kings that basketball president Geoff Petrie has not spoken with Bulls GM John Paxson about Brad Miller. Now I don't think that means Paxson couldn't have called asking about Miller, but it seems the consensus is that Brad's time to be dealt is much more likely to be next summer.
Spencer Hawes has made significant strides, but they want to keep Brad around to help with the transition and knowing full well that Miller could elicit better offers next summer because of his then-expiring deal ($12.2 million). Now the disclaimer here is this: if the Kings could grab a Joakim Noah now (who Petrie has been very high on and wanted to draft last summer) and maybe even a pick, then maybe they expedite the process. Especially with the Artest watch seemingly coming near an end, mark the Bulls down as someone to watch in the Miller sweepstakes.
According to a league source, the Bulls have interest in Miller (and many others) and are shopping forward Andres Nocioni (four years, $29 million left with team option for the 2012-13 at $7.5 million) and point guard Kirk Hinrich (five seasons left for combined $44.5 million). They appear very motivated to do a deal of some kind now that the Luol Deng situation has been resolved. - Sam Amick

July 30, 2008
A late night buffet

In true Ron-Ron (or is that Bill-Bill?) fashion, he didn't take long to change his stance in the latest mini-drama.
After our conversation this afternoon in which he was clearly not thrilled with the comments made by Yao Ming, he went on with KHTK's Carmichael Dave this evening and reported that the issue has been resolved.

Among the relevant revelations...

* Artest said Yao called to clear up the matter and proclaimed himself "a Yao Ming soldier babyyyyyy!."

* He admitted that Yao's comments regarding the brawl "hit me in the soft spot when I read that."

* He said he's even considering a trip to China support Yao with Team China, then quickly made it clear that he is rooting for Team USA for the gold.

* Asked if there was anything he would change about his time in Sacramento, Artest said he would have found a way to convince the Kings to re-sign Rick Adelman.
"I wish I would have know that Rick was leaving, because I would've intercepted that phone call with a missile from Korea," he said with a laugh. "I'd be like, 'Hold on, let's work it out.'"

July 30, 2008
Does Houston have a problem? Artest responds to Yao comments

A seemingly hesitant and wary Yao Ming discussed the agreed-on Ron Artest trade to Houston with the Houston Chronicle's Fran Blinebury in this story. A few hours later, I caught up with the small forward by phone.
In what could be perceived as a second potential problem in this pairing, Artest - who will be a free agent after next season - says he wants to know sooner rather than later if the Rockets will commit to him long-term. I'm not sure yet if this could be enough to scare the Rockets out of the deal, but it certainly isn't the start they were looking for. Keep in mind, there is nothing legally binding about this trade yet.

Here is the Q&A in its entirety. (Questions in italics and answers below)

It's good to catch you finally. How you feeling about this?

I think being that third option I can be more effective. I think I could have the best season of my career as a third option because they can't double or triple team me anymore.

We've still got to make sure there's still a commitment. That's the main thing, is to make sure there's still a commitment. When I speak to the powers-that-be of the Houston Rockets organization, we're going to find out how much they really want me there. We'll find out. I'm still waiting to find out if this is just a trade or if this is like a long-term commitment type thing. I haven't spoken to anybody yet. I'm still waiting.

You don't technically have any say (in the trade), but if you decided you didn't want to go there then they might think twice about this.

If they want me, I'm going. If they want me, and they're committed to Ron Artest, I'm gone. I don't have nothing to prove. I've been in the league going on 10 years. My first few years weren't as good as my last few years and my last seven years have been really consistent, so if they want me I'm gone and even if they don't want me, I still love Tracy McGrady. Every time I see him, he's always competitive, always shows love, and he always competes. I can't wait to play with Tracy McGrady, and I can't wait to play with Shane Battier and the rest of the guys like Rafer Alston. I just can't wait.

I've got to ask you - you didn't mention Yao and I'm sure you've heard of some of the stuff he said back in China. Did that catch you off guard?

This is Tracy and Yao's team, you know. I'm not going to take it personal. I understand what Yao said, but I'm still ghetto. That's not going to change. I'm never going to change my culture. Yao has played with a lot of black players, but I don't think he's ever played with a black player that really represents his culture as much as I represent my culture. Once Yao Ming gets to know me, he'll understand what I'm about. Sometimes it's hard to get to know Ron Artest because I'm so down to earth to a fault. But once Yao Ming gets to know me, he'll understand what I'm about and that I'm a pretty intelligent basketball player. I know how to adapt. And all I have to do is play defense anyways, so I can't wait.
But really, he doesn't have to talk to me because to me I'm going. But if Yao Ming needs to talk to his general manager and talk to Tracy, then if they want me, I am going.

They obviously want you for this year, but what if they told you it's nothing more than this year and let's see how it goes after that.

I already made my stance on that. I don't think you have to repeat that. Everybody knows I made my stance on what type of player I am and who I think I am.

I know you're excited to play with Rick, but are leaving with any bitter feelings with the Kings or fired up to join up with him?

I'm just excited to be reunited with Rick Adelman. I don't care about anything else. If Rick Adelman has Yao Ming, they win championships without even thinking about me. I don't even want people to think that because the Houston Rockets are acquiring Ron Artest, then that's the reason they'll get over the hump. They would've been over the hump if Yao Ming hadn't gone down. They were having a great season.
I'll come off the bench, I don't care. Let Shane start, and bring me off as a sixth man or seventh man. I would love to come off the bench in Houston. It doesn't even matter.

You threw me off with your comments about Yao, and now I'm wondering if you have any plans of throwing this thing off. Are you definitely going there?

It's up to Yao Ming. It's up to Yao Ming. Tracy McGrady called me. I was playing basketball when I heard about it...This is great. This is great for me.

So what do you do now with the Yao thing? Do you just wait to talk to them and go from there?

I've got to do what I've got to do, but I'm just so happy to be in the Houston Rockets' picture frame. I can't wait to be putting on that jersey and be standing next to Yao Ming. I can't wait. I guess once Yao Ming approves it, I'll be a Houston Rocket.

I know you can't read his mind, but did you feel like he was trying to send a statement to the organization with his comments?

I'm not on his team yet, and he has a team that played well this year. Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets, they don't need a Ron Artest. I'd be a great addition, but it's not like they needed a Ron Artest. I understand where he's coming from. But like I said, whatever Yao Ming wants to do baby, whatever Yao Ming wants to do. It's up to big fella because it's not my team.

It's his team, it's him and Tracy's team. But when I come in there, I'm definitely going to play my game and play to win. I'm definitely going to play with my ghetto and my hood roots. I'm going to play hard, and I'm going to play just like my culture taught me how to play.

Is that it? Is it a cultural thing?

No, it's not a cultural thing. I think Yao Ming is a great guy. He's a great face for the NBA, him and LeBron (James). Yao Ming is a different type of person where he's not from a ghetto in America, so he doesn't understand how someone from the ghetto really acts. And I'm like one of the most ghetto-ist guys in the NBA.

He probably reads all the headlines and doesn't understand. He automatically believes all the propaganda. He probably should've called me first. But at the same time, it's Yao Ming's team. If he tells me to jump off the building, I'll jump off the building.

Whatever Yao Ming wants me to do, I'll be there. Whatever Tracy McGrady tells me to do, that's how it's going to go down. Ultimately, whatever Rick Adelman tells me to do is exactly what I'm going to do.

It's been three or four years since the brawl. You surprised he went there (with his comments)?

I understand. I guess we're the same age, but he's looked at differently and he was raised differently....Yao Ming was raised differently. But definitely he shouldn't believe in the propaganda. You've also got to understand. I totally, totally represent my culture. So if you go back to the brawl, that's a culture issue right there. Somebody was disrespecting me, so he's got to understand where I'm coming from. People that know me know that Ron Artest never changed.

Like I said, I'm going to still stay true to myself and still stay true to my roots. Everybody knows that I'd give all the money in the world to play for Rick Adelman, so it is what it is and if they accept me on their team then I'll be on their team.

Tracy is known as an elite scorer but not so much for his defense. You going to teach him a few things?

All Tracy has to do is go score and I'm shutting (opponents) down. You score, Yao Ming in the post, I don't have to get doubled the whole game anymore in the post. When Yao Ming gets tired, I'll get on the block and give somebody some work. When they're ready to take Shane back over, I'll step back. I shot 38 percent from three last year. I don't have no problem with taking five or six threes a game. Just spotting up and playing defense.
I don't have a problem with stars not playing defense. That's great. That's right up my alley. I'm probably the only dude in the NBA who practices defense in the summer. That's right up my alley.
I'm real excited. I was a little bit thrown off by the whole Yao Ming thing. I called my dad, and my dad said, 'Ron don't worry about it.' I said, alright let's go. - Sam Amick

July 30, 2008
Greene already a King

Trades can fall through. Nothing is final until pen hits paper, which in this case won't be until Aug. 14. However, it appears Donte Greene's agency already sees him in Sacramento.
Blue Entertainment Sports Television (BEST), which represents Greene, updated the rookie forward's team affiliation to the Sacramento Kings.

July 30, 2008
The Ron Artest trade in reverse

We know the ending. Ron Artest to the Rockets for Bobby Jackson, Donte Greene and a No. 1, with minor pieces to be added for financial purposes, a deal that will become official Aug. 14 when the calendar cooperates and the holdup of a salary-cap technicality expires.

In retrospect, Houston was a very logical Artest destination. I had thought so for the last week or so, but could not nail anything down. The Rockets were one of the few teams that fit the unique set of circumstances that would prompt someone to undertake the challenge of the Tour de Ron, so no great surprise.

It makes so much sense in the end. It's like that backwards episode on "Seinfeld." Start with the outcome and fit the pieces together that led everyone to this point and it becomes easy to see the Rockets at the finish line.

One reason they would not have been an obvious fit, and it's a big one: position need. The Rockets were more than covered at small forward with Shane Battier, a much better complementary fit for the Tracy McGrady / Yao Ming foundation. Battier keeps the ball moving, does not disrupt, and last season was easily rated a better defender.

Otherwise, a match.

The standings. The team that takes on Artest has to be a team pushing to make something happen now. The risk is too great. A young club ramping up for 2010 or '11, a fringe playoff possibility, an owner content to float around No. 8 in either conference and make money -- they don't give up a first-round pick this year (Greene) and next for a guy who could bolt in 11 months as a free agent and is wildly unpredictable no matter the contract status.

July 29, 2008
Artest (and his agent) excited to head for Houston

While Ron Artest's only known comment of the day was his comical tapdancing act on KHTK's Carmichael Dave show on Tuesday night in which he wouldn't specifically talk about the trade, his agent had no problem sharing his elation about the move.

"(The trade) helps put Ron in a situation to succeed, which is an honorable thing for the Maloofs and Geoff Petrie to do," Stevens said by phone late Tuesday night. "They will always be in our minds and our hearts. We'll never forget them for reestablishing Ron's career after the suspension and bringing him in. They could've put Ron in other situations, but they did what was best for Ron as a player."

Stevens said there's no reason to think this deal won't be finalized by Aug. 14, the first day on which Donte Greene can be traded (for specifics, click here).

"Of course you have physicals to be (completed), and you have the technicality of Donte being a draft pick," he said. "But I don't see any reason the deal shouldn't happen, that it shouldn't go through. All we can do is sit back and wait for that time to come."

On a side note, it should be fairly obvious by now that Stevens is still Artest's agent. For those who had been following this Ron Artest saga No. 221, the small forward said earlier this month that he would be his own agent and that Stevens was out. This came, of course, after Artest publicly fumed about his decision to not opt out of his contract by the June 30 deadline. The obvious conclusion was that he blamed Stevens for the perceived miscalculation. In any event, Stevens reports that he has survived yet another spin on the Artest roller coaster ride.

"In any situation, you're going to have disagreements, you're going to have misinterpretations, and you're going to have opinions," Stevens said. "But one part of this business is that you have to know the facts (regarding Artest's potential free agency), because that establishes who you are and what you bring to the circumstance."
"We have been together for years. He respects me, I respect him, and we agree to disagree. It won't be the first time and it won't be the last time. This happens in business. At the end of the day, I'm still his agent representing him and that's all matters. We're going to continue with the relationship we have." - Sam Amick

July 29, 2008
Pick the winner

When stories like the Ron Artest trade break, there's a newsroom full of stressed reporters and editors running around The Bee's sports department. However, there is one fun moment, sort of an icing on the cake for having to pull a double shift for breaking news.
And that is coming up with the main headline for the next day's paper. Here's my favorite five headline ideas that were considered for tomorrow's paper.
1. Houston, you have our problem.
2. He's a Rocket, man
3. Bye-bye Ron-Ron
4. Ron-Ron? Gone Gone.
5. Gone Artest
So, which headline won out? You'll have to wait to see.

July 29, 2008
Artest headed for Rockets

A source close to the Kings has confirmed a Houston Chronicle report that Ron Artest is headed for Houston. According to the source, the deal is well on its way to taking place and only a necessary waiting game stands in the way. A Rockets official told The Bee's Scott Howard-Cooper this evening that "It feels very done to me."

The Kings will receive Bobby Jackson, a first-round draft pick next season, recent first-round draft pick/6-foot-10 small forward Donte Greene out of Syracuse and cash considerations. The trade, however, can not be finalized until Aug. 14 because that is the earliest date on which Greene can be traded.

According to a second source close to the Kings, second-round draft picks Sean Singletary and Patrick Ewing Jr. could be sent to Houston as a means to keep the Kings under the luxury tax. Both players have partially guaranteed contracts that aren't fully guaranteed until the beginning of the regular season. That element of the deal, however, could be handled with different pieces as well. Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie had this to say in a statement.
"We've had some very positive discussions with Houston involving Ron, but no trade is imminent at this time," Petrie said .

Reached by phone at 6 p.m. Pacific time, Jackson said he had just been told of the likely trade.

"I got wind of it, but it's not done yet," said Jackson, the point guard who was a fan favorite with the Kings from 2000 to 2005. "It's a possibility. I don't know yet."
Greene was taken by Memphis with the 28th pick, then traded to Houston on draft night as part of a three-team deal also involving Portland. He was the second leading scorer in Las Vegas summer league earlier this month, averaging 22.6 points in five games and capping his coming out party with a 22-point outing against the Kings in a finale win on July 20.

As for the numbers, Jackson is set to earn $6.09 million in the final year of his contract and Greene will make $971,160 in the first of his two guaranteed years. Artest will earn $7.4 million in the final season of his deal. - Sam Amick

July 29, 2008
Hello? Referees' union? Anyone home?

Another bruising day for the NBA and its referees. Tim Donaghy finally got sentenced, following delay after delay as the league thought and hoped it would have been past this moment months ago, and the whole mess returned to the tip of the news cycle. Only the Green Bay Packers are happy.

Donaghy, facing the possibility of 33 months in prison, just got 15 from a judge in New York. The lawyer types will break down the tape and offer the legal analysis.

The basketball analysis:

*At least Donaghy knows his stretch. The NBA is still looking at the possibility of life in public-perception jail.

*Today is a welcome development for the league at least in that it allows another healing step. Top execs had decided to wait for sentencing to release the internal investigation by a former member of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's office, hoping that self-described "comprehensive review of the league's rules, policies, and procedures relating to gambling and its officiating program" might gather new information until the very end. This is that end, with a measure of closure on this important portion.

*And, the National Basketball Referees Assn. has been quiet through all this.

Strangely, uncomfortably, noticeably quiet.

July 25, 2008
It's official

The Kings signed Bobby Brown today after agreeing in principle with the point guard earlier this week.
"We're really excited to be able to sign Bobby Brown," said Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie. "He matured as a player in Europe last season and had an exceptional summer league in Las Vegas. It gives us some additional depth and athleticism at the point. I think he'll be a great complement to the rest of our roster as we go into training camp. We're all looking forward to watching him play."
The Kings did not release the terms of the deal, but for loyal readers of this blog, you already know the details. Sam Amick previously reported it's a two-year deal at the league minimum ($442,114) with a player option in the second season, as confirmed by a source close to the Kings.

July 25, 2008
Mail Bonding: the Artest trade, the new West, and more

It's been a torrential four or five weeks -- the buildup to the draft, the draft itself, free agency, speculation on the future of Ron Artest, summer league. At last, a chance to step back and get to some letters. Artest, not surprisingly, generated most of the feedback. The consensus based on my In Box is that 95-99 percent of readers just want him gone already, 80-85 want him traded with accompanying regret of losing a talented player, and 60 percent are willing to cash in an IRA to buy a couple gallons of gas and drive him to the airport if that'll get a deal done.


Long time reader, first time I'm sending an e-mail though. I've been waiting for you to weigh in on [the possibility of the Lakers pressing for Shelden Williams and Quincy Douby instead of Kenny Thomas in a Ron Artest-Lamar Odom deal] a little bit more. Can you expand at all on "this version that will undoubtedly be discussed between the teams, if it hasn't been already"? Is this from the Kings camp or is it something that you expect the Lakers to counter with since K9 isn't a desirable contract? It looks like you believe the Lakers would accept this deal -- how about the Kings? Do the pro's outweigh the cons? Also, if Josh Howard becomes available, who is more desirable ... Howard or Odom?

-- David, St. Louis

I'm sure the Lakers would prefer to avoid Thomas' contract. The Kings are the ones who would love to attach it to an Artest deal --- if you want Artest and his workable salary, you have to take Thomas at a bad salary. That sort of thing.

I can not say with certainty the Lakers would accept the deal if it's Artest, Williams and Douby because they are intrigued by the possibility of an Andrew Bynum-Pau Gasol-Odom front line. They never got to see it last season because of Bynum's knee injury, and that unit would have amazing potential. So, it's not a certainty they would accept the non-Thomas version. They are down big men and may decide against the deal no matter what.

But if the Lakers do move forward, Artest / Williams / Douby would have to be more appealing than Artest / Thomas. If the Lakers dig in their heels and say they won't do any deal that includes Thomas, the Kings would have a tough call. It's possible they have other options out there that we're not aware of. Maybe they feel like they can do Artest / Thomas with someone. But to pass on the chance to get a talented small forward in trade for Artest would be hard. It's not the perfect outcome for the Kings, but it's a positive one and possibly the best they'll get considering the number of teams that have no interest in a spin on the Artest roller-coaster.

July 24, 2008
Is this for real?

While several NBA observers are suggesting Josh Childress' defection from the Atlanta Hawks to Olympiakos, one of the two major clubs in Athens, is a precursor of more to come - with more NBA-caliber starters splitting for bigger money overseas - I am not convinced.


After the brawl

I didn't catch the replays of the brawl involving the Detroit Shock and L.A. Sparks until late Tuesday night, but my initial reaction after watching the incident several times is that Plenette Pierson instigated the whole ugly incident, and should be punished accordingly. From the replays on ESPN, which broadcast the game, it was unclear exactly what happened between Detroit assistant Rick Mahorn and Sparks center Lisa Leslie. And while Leslie has accused the massive Mahorn of pushing her to the court, I am going to rely on the courtside viewpoints of the ESPN broadcast crew, especially Doris Burke, who says that everyone in her broadcast crew felt Mahorn was trying to separate players and play the peacemaker. Sometimes, you just have to be there ...
As for Burke, who is one of the nicest, most knowledgeable people in the game, she is fast emerging as the best female analyst in the business. One of the things I like about her - and I feel the same way about the Monarchs' Kara Lawson, who works for ESPN and the Kings - is that she isn't intimidated by anybody. She says what she thinks, doesn't broadcast to keep everybody happy. I wish there were more women in the industry like Burke ... and Lawson.


What might have been

New Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, who is among the many USA Basketball officials who select players for the national teams, excused himself from a conversation with me yesterday at the Team USA media session to offer a few words to Robin Lopez. The "other" Lopez twin is on the Select team, otherwise known as the scrubs and up-and-coming NBA players auditioning for future roster spots. Dawkins could be heard telling Lopez that he played well, and that he expected the former Cardinal to enjoy a long NBA career.
When the two were finished talking, I asked Dawkins if he allowed himself to wonder how much more appealing his 2008-09 roster would be if the twins had returned for a junior year. "All the time," Dawkins replied, laughing.


No more boundaries

NBA types have long assisted the Olympic efforts of other nations, most notably Donnie Nelson's long association with Lithuania's teams, dating to the 1992 Barcelona Games. This year, of course, Chris Kaman is playing for Germany and Becky Hammon is on the roster for Russia. Yet earlier today at the Team USA practice in Las Vegas - looking at the clock, it was yesterday - I gave Toronto Raptors assistant Jay Triano an especially hard time. One of the assistants working with P.J. Carlesimo's staff with the Select team, Jay is a Canadian, a very close friend of Steve Nash, and just happens to be the former Canadian Olympic coach (2000). Now, he's helping out the Americans?
Well, why not? Triano, who guided the Canadian national team from 1999-2004, will work as a commentator for the CBC at the Beijing Games. Guess he'll know what he's talking about when the Americans recapture the gold. Seriously, I don't see anyone beating them this time, though this team is not nearly as imposing as the 1992 Dream Team or the 2003 national team that dominated the qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico. That roster would have won the gold in Athens, no question. Everyone seems to forget that, among Larry Brown's 2003 squad, only Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson stuck with the program. Everyone else bailed for various reasons, mostly fearing terrorism in Athens.

July 23, 2008
Music, Maloofs and leaving Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS - One of the disadvantages of having lived here is that whenever I come back here for work or pleasure, I stay with close friends or relatives instead of booking a room on The Strip. Thus, I miss out on the Vegas "experience," which to be honest, never really appealed. Still, once in a while ...
While having lunch with Joe and Gavin Maloof earlier today at the poolside restaurant in the Palms Place condominium tower, Paul Stanley of KISS suddenly appeared on the deck. He was in the midst of receiving a tour of the property from the always industrious George Maloof - who might have been the only male in town wearing a long-sleeved shirt. (The temp was only about, oh, 105 degrees or so). Stanley, who recently purchased one of the condos, eventually walked over and introduced himself. He made small talk with Joe and Gavin for a few minutes, and he was very, very nice - and very normal looking. Imagine that!

Still growing
After spending about two hours listening to Joe and Gavin engage in their usual hyperbole about Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes, rookie Jason Thompson, etc. - and they still insist Quincy Douby is going to be a star - I took a short stroll around the premises. In all honesty, I wondered why I had stayed away so long. (Most of my journalism colleagues who come here to cover a variety of assignments stay at the Palms). The place is three times the size of what I remembered. The last time I was here, I don't even think the second tower was under construction. Interestingly, the Palms was pretty busy compared with what I encountered at the Wynn last night. I hooked up for dinner with some USA Basketball officials at Steve Wynn's place, and I was struck by how empty the casino floor and the restaurants appeared. By contrast, one of our dining partners had just left the Palms, and said the casino was hopping.
Wonder what their secret is ...

Eager for a vacation
Martin, who has one more practice with the Select Team that has been training with the U.S. Olympic team here at Valley High, says he's ready for a vacation. The plan is to return to Sacramento for a few days, conduct a clinic in his hometown of Zanesville, Ohio, then head to Tahiti. "Then it will be six weeks of working hard and getting ready for the season," the Kings guard said after Wednesday's session.

Helping his cause
It remains to be seen, of course, whether Martin will ever get serious consideration for a roster spot on an Olympic team, but he continues to receive encouraging reviews from those inside the gym. (Practices are closed to media). Don Casey, one of P.J. Carlesimo's assistants on the Select Team, said Martin has improved with each practice. "Where did he go to school?" asked Casey, a former head coach with the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and at Temple University. "He really shot the ball well, and he has been able to get his shot off more effectively as we go along. I like him a lot. Plus, he listens. He wants to learn, and that's always a good sign."

July 23, 2008
Kings agree in principle with point guard Bobby Brown

The Kings have come to terms with point guard Bobby Brown, a point guard out of Cal State Fullerton who played with New Orleans in the recent Las Vegas summer league.

It's a guaranteed two-year deal at the league minimum ($442,114) with a player option in the second season, as confirmed by a source close to the Kings. Brown's signing should be official by tomorrow and will be a clear sign the Kings will hold an open tryout of sorts for their backup point guard position. Second-round draft pick Sean Singletary (Virginia) also hopes to land the job of relieving Beno Udrih.

A 6-foot-2, 23-year-old who went undrafted last summer and played in Berlin last season, Brown was impressive enough at summer league that there was buzz he could become the backup to Hornets point guard Chris Paul after averaging 15.2 points and 6.3 assists. ESPN's Marc Stein, a Fullerton grad himself, raved about Brown after summer league and swears it had nothing to do with their shared alma mater. Sam Amick

July 23, 2008
The Shaun Livingston predicament

10:20 a.m. update: Josh Childress took the three-year deal to play for Greek team Olympiakos. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the contract is worth "far more than the $20 million initially reported," although no exact figures are offered. The Hawks will retain Childress' NBA rights as a restricted free agent, meaning he cannot be traded without first signing in the old country, and the Stanford product reportedly can escape from the contract in Greece after each season.

This is the remaining free-agent decision that really intrigues me, although Josh Childress jumping to Greece is good also because it's such a drastic, unique twist and because it involves the Hawks, the team with his NBA rights, and the Hawks are never far from some front-office pratfall.

Shaun Livingston is the outcome worth tracking through a prism of great promise lost, severe injury, and the risk of banking on pure potential vs. the possible major payoff at the other end of the investment.

The background: Livingston was the point guard of the future for the Clippers and one of the bright prospects of the entire league. Other clubs loved him as well. The No. 4 pick in the 2004 draft out of high school, a talented ballhandler at 6-7 with defensive skills and an improving shot (41.4 percent as a rookie to 42.7 to 46.3 in his third season while 21 years old). Then came Feb. 26, 2007, against the Bobcats at Staples Center and the gruesome knee injury that changed everything.

It was horrible to watch on TV. It was the basketball version of Joe Theismann mangling his leg on camera.

Livingston hasn't played since. That's how severe the injury was and still is, even for someone considered a hard worker willing to put in the time in rehab. The Clippers, understandably, did not give him a qualifying offer at $5.8 million for 2008-09, a decision that would have been unimaginable a year and a half earlier. Instead, in the actual world neither side wanted, the Clips have been trying to fill the hole at point guard ever since and Livingston became an unrestricted free agent.

July 23, 2008
Could Ron-Ron be King of the Palace?

As I alluded to the other day here, I was told the one and only Detroit Pistons are considering a move for Ron Artest.
The one-and-only status, of course, comes because they're the one and only team you'd think would never touch the mercurial small forward in light of the context. But if Charles Barkley can beat another living, breathing human being in a foot race (even if it was just Dick Bavetta), well, then, impossible can happen.
Sure enough, a second source close to the Pistons has indicated Detroit is pondering a trade for Ron-Ron. I'm not sure of the opinions of the Pistons' powers-that-be - namely team president Joe Dumars and owner Bill Davidson - but it says plenty that the chatter surrounding the mere idea is spreading around them. And Dumars, for the record, may be glad this is getting out, since he reportedly is tired of fans thinking he's sitting on his hands.
The piece that gets it done here is Tayshaun Prince, and the Pistons - according to ESPN's Chris Broussard - have already considered other moves that include their stars. A Kings source tells me they have not called Sacramento, and I wouldn't be shocked if no one else had recently either. I'm told it's quiet enough that Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie is heading out for a vacation, which means we have something in common.
I'm checking out for a few days on this end as well, and will chime in upon return. - Sam Amick

July 22, 2008
WNBA fight night

Three days after Shelden Williams accompanied his fiance, Candace Parker, to the ESPY Awards, it looks as if she could have used an escort to the Palace of Auburn Hills. Parker was one of three players and an assistant coach ejected from Tuesday night's WNBA game featuring the Los Angeles Sparks and Detroit Shock after a brawl broke out on the floor.
While the footage I've seen doesn't rival "Malice at the Palace," the scuffle does involve a familiar face. Shock assistant coach Rick Mahorn was one of the four ejected tonight. According to media reports, Mahorn tried to restrain Sparks star Lisa Leslie, causing her to fall to the court. That prompted another Sparks player, DeLisha Milton-Jones, to punch Mahorn in the back.
Mahorn became involved in the 2004 Pistons-Pacers fight while working as a Detroit broadcaster after he went into the crowd to try to pull Ron Artest away from fans.
Following the Sparks' 84-81 win tonight, Shock coach Bill Laimbeer defended Mahorn.
"Rick Mahorn is known as a peacemaker, from even the brawl we had here with Indiana," Laimbeer told media. "He went out there to get people off the pile and to get people to stop the confrontation. That's who he is, that's what he does."

Here's a shaky video I found on YouTube. There is hilarious commentary at the 3:06 mark that's worth watching.

July 22, 2008
The interesting roads traveled ...

LAS VEGAS - In the waning moments of today's media availability session with Team USA and members of the Select Team working out here this week, the conversation turned political. Sort of. Several of the numerous college and NBA types assisting the national program have spent considerable time scouting in basketball-rich Serbia, and accordingly, were more than mildly interested to learn about the capture of accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic.
The leader of the Bosnian Serb forces during the height of the Balkan conflict in the 1990s has been accused of masterminding the massacre of approximately 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. He is said to have eluded authorities partly because of his various disguises, but reportedly was captured near Belgrade, which means he probably wasn't apprehended far from the two hotels where the NBA types stay during their visits. (This also brought back memories for those of us who traveled to Belgrade for a pre-Olympic tournament 2004. In one of those hotels - the Intercontinental - that are within a few hundred yards of each other, the former paramilitary leader known as "Arkan" was assassinated while seated in the lobby area. The front desk employees say visitors frequently ask about the exact spot where Arkan - Zeljko Raznatovic - was ambushed, and they oblige, of course. According to what we were told, Arkan was surprised by gunmen coming down an escalator in the back and through the revolving door in the front.)
Anyway, one of the more interesting recollections was offered by Detroit Pistons international scouting director Tony Ronzone. The Oakland native, who also has worked for the Dallas Mavericks and played and coached overseas, recalled how he sneaked into Serbia (flouting UN sanctions) on a scouting mission right about the time the massacre took place. "I took a little jump plane into Montenegro, and some guy met me on the runway," Ronzone related. "He walked me to the other plane and said 'Don't say anything.' I'm not crazy. We landed and I got my bags, then they checked me into the Hyatt (in Belgrade). I paid the guy some money. They told me, 'Don't go anywhere.' But I'm sitting there, thinking, 'I'm not going to stay in my room the whole time.' "
As the story continues ... Ronzone managed to find his way to some of the area's gyms.

Basketball's mutual admiration society
Well, so much for that Kings-Lakers rivalry. On Monday, Kevin Martin speaks glowingly of Kobe Bryant. On Tuesday, the Lakers star returns the praise. "Kevin's one of my favorite players," said Bryant, while icing his knees after the workout. Asked whether he noticed any improvement in Martin's ability to create off the dribble, the Lakers guard replied, "Um, he can get to where he needs to go. Bringing it up, he has some trouble. But from the wing, he can get to where he needs to go. He'll get better."
Jokingly, Bryant added, "Actually, I think he's horrible. Put that in the Sacramento paper. Sac should trade him to us for two second-round picks. How about that? Might as well stay on a roll. While we're at it, trade Dirk Nowitzki for a third-round pick. How about that?"

The first misstep
LeBron James became the week's first casualty when he landed on Kevin Durant's foot during a scrimmage and sprained his right ankle. The injury is being listed as "mild," and though it's still early, the coaches didn't seem overly concerned. "We'll find out more tomorrow," said Mike Krzyzewski. "I don't think it's anything, but obviously, we'll look and know more tomorrow."

July 22, 2008
NBA dreaming

David Johnson's phone rang at 7 this morning. His longtime girlfriend, Jessica Raumer, picked up the call, squeaking out a half-awake hello.
"Is someone sleeping?" the voice inquired. "This is Larry Bird."
If only every morning began this way for Johnson, a 2001 Davis High School graduate who refuses to give up his NBA dreams. Johnson was vaulted from obscurity earlier this month after he made the Kings' summer league roster, albeit for a short stint. He was let go after the team trimmed its roster from 18 to 14 on July 11 following two practices in Sacramento.
"A lot of doors are opening," Johnson said this afternoon. "I've gotten a call back from Don Nelson and Larry Bird woke us up this morning."
Johnson, 25, said he hears a familiar sentiment from NBA bigwigs.
"They will keep me in mind," Johnson said. "That's great. Before this, no one would keep me in mind."
A full-length feature on Johnson is in the works. In the meantime, he has a Web site that should be up Wednesday afternoon.

July 22, 2008
The training continues

LAS VEGAS - While it can be (and is) debated whether Mike Krzyzewski made a mistake by going with small lineups and playing center Brad Miller only sparingly at the 2006 World Championships in Japan, the Kings center is well thought of by USA Basketball officials. Besides the fact Miller refused to gripe about his limited playing minutes while the national team lost to Greece and only came away with the bronze medal, USAB types still appreciate the fact that Miller agreed to play for the 1998 Worlds team that finished a surprising third in Athens.
For those who might have forgotten, that was the year that Patrick Ewing led an NBA player boycott of the tournament because of the labor impasse that led to the first work stoppage in league history. The 1998-99 season was shortened and didn't begin until February.
Miller - who was not drafted and briefly flirted with playing overseas - was among the collegians and CBA players who participated. Rudy Tomjanovich somehow directed the hastily-assembled squad to the bronze medal and earned himself the head coaching job for the 2000 Sydney Games.
While waiting for Krzyzewski to open up the closed practice currently under way at Valley High, one of the USA officials asked about Miller's recent suspension, and added, "He's still one of our favorite guys."

Why play here?
As mentioned in of my previous blogs, members of the USA squad and the Select Team have been scrimmaging at one of the area's older high schools instead of, say, the more comfortable surroundings at UNLV. The problem is one of timing: four AAU tournaments are ongoing, and UNLV's facilities were booked for the annual high schools a long time ago. Valley was selected because it has a regulation 94-foot court and a separate practice court a few steps away.

A former coach weighs in
Krzyzewski, who coached Shelden Williams at Duke, said he was glad to hear reports out of UNLV indicating that the Kings power forward performed well during the NBA Summer League that recently ended. The former Atlanta Hawks first-round (and shocking No. 5) selection seemed much more receptive to doing the dirty work around the basket - scrapping for rebounds, scoring off putbacks - instead of relying so heavily on low -post moves. The muscular Williams is too slow to consistently score against NBA frontlines, especially when the defense collapses, and has a tendency to spin into crowds of defenders.
"I think he can succeed in the league," Coach K said, "if he embraces the things that he can do well."

July 22, 2008
The Jason Thompson reality check

His summer league was revealing and generated more buzz than that of many previous Kings picks, probably because few people from Sacramento had watched Rider games on TV. There was a newness to Jason Thompson that didn't exist with Spencer Hawes from Washington and the Pac-10, and certainly an interest level that didn't accompany the first glance of the 2006 pick from another New Jersey mid-major, Quincy Douby of Rutgers. All understandable -- Hawes was a known and Douby was a No. 19 pick joining a backcourt of Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin.

Thompson jumped out because he is new and because he is unique. Power forward frame with some intriguing aspects of a small forward game, the way he can take a defensive board and push the ball upcourt himself or get a power forward on the perimeter and take him off the dribble. Plus, he will score from the block. All good.

Now why you should dial down the immediate expectations.

Defense. It's a problem. That doesn't make Thompson different than most rookies, and won't make him different from a lot of players of any experience level, but it does make him a reserve. Mikki Moore is still better defensively, by a considerable gap, and so Mikki Moore is still the starting power forward, also probably by a wide margin. Maybe the distance closes in training camp, when Thompson will have the chance to go against Moore.

Rebounding. Just as executives and coaches from other teams discount Thompson as a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Metro Atlantic Conference, they dismiss 12.1 boards a game in 2007-08 as a number that will not translate to the NBA.

July 21, 2008
Glad he's here

LAS VEGAS - Before returning to Sacramento on Sunday night, Geoff Petrie said he was delighted Kevin Martin had accepted an invitation to join the Select Team that is training with the U.S. Olympic squad for the next few days, for obvious reasons. "I think he's starting to be recognized as an All-Star caliber type player, and it's an honor for him," said the Kings basketball president, "and to be able to compete against the best players in the league, and with the best players, it can only be good for him."
(Yes, Petrie has a soft spot for his young star, who was drafted with the No. 26 pick in 2004 but has emerged as one of the league's most efficient and prolific scorers.)
Martin, by the way, said he has gained 10 pounds of muscle, mostly in his upper arms. He says he weighs 190 pounds. "I lost weight during the season," he added. "I finished the year at 180, but you can't believe how much better it feels when you're out there with this added strength."

What exactly is a Select Team?
Eventually, USAB officials need to come up with a better name, but in the interim, the Select Team consists of NBA players who were not named to the Olympic team, but are willing to play the role of "scrubs" and practice against their brethren headed overseas. The roster usually consists of younger NBA players and remains fluid everyone officially convenes. Hence, the late addition of Portland Trail Blazer rookie Jerryd Bayless. This is also the group of players who, when not trying to score against Kobe Bryant and his teammates, basically audition for future USA squads.
Anyway, while catching the final minute of Monday's practice session and speaking privately with Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski, I was reminded of the original 1992 Dream Team's scrimmages in La Jolla, and how Kings rookie (and Select Team member) Bobby Hurley left Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, among others, marveling at his playmaking abilities and predicting a terrific NBA future. Because of the auto accident that almost claimed Hurley's life, we never got a chance to see whether the Hall of Famers were right.

More musings from Valley High school
* Kevin Love, another late addition to the scrubs, sat out practice with a sore Achilles. He is coming off an excellent NBA Summer League showing, though he sat out the last game with the injury.
* From what I am hearing, rookie O.J. Mayo was the most impressive of the non-Olympians, and surprise, surprise, Kobe Bryant distinguished himself among the Beijing-bound players.
* Team USA (and all-around great guy) Nate McMillan, also known as the former heart, soul and face of the Sonics franchise, never moved his family to Portland when he became Blazers head coach. Like Seattle native Spencer Hawes, McMillan is really bummed about the organization's relocation to Oklahoma City. "I am going to miss those road trips to Seattle to see my family," said McMillan. "It will be strange when winter comes and there's no basketball up there."
* USAB patriarch Jerry Colangelo, the former Phoenix Suns owner/executive, spent several minutes chatting with me about his famous ex-point guard - Sacramento mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson. KJ's old boss asked the date of the runoff, and said he followed the primary results closely. He also said he was among the NBA types contributing to KJ's campaign.
* Martin is a quick study, but he jokingly acknowledged that he could use a refresher course on his Olympic history. He started talking about the '92 squad that was showcased by Bird, Magic, Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley, and slipped Reggie Miller's name in there. "Reggie wasn't on that team?" Martin replied, when told that the former Pacers star was on the '96 squad. "Oh, I thought he was." Barely missing a beat, he noted, "But they won all their games by 30 points or more, and they went undefeated, so they were still a Dream Team."

July 21, 2008
Final, final thoughts from summer league

A few things that I failed to mention before I go dark for a few days...

Miller regaining health

For all the talk of Brad Miller the person in his recent Q&A, there were a few revelations about Miller the player that weren't hit on.

After we discussed his five-game suspension and the reasons behind it, we talked about his health. Miller, to review, missed the last seven games of last season due to a stress fracture in his lower left leg and a bone chip in his right elbow that eventually required arthroscopic surgery.

Miller said he wasn't able to do a push-up until approximately a month ago and that he is about to gear up his training regimen. He spent the last few days of summer league working out with Kings strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro, and will continue the work in Sacramento. And while his starting center job may be in Hawes' hands for the first five games, Miller didn't talk like a player ready to give it up so soon thereafter.

"I'll just start working out with Shippy (Shapiro), then head out to Sacramento and beat Spencer's (butt) in body fat (count)," Miller said with a laugh. "With the elbow, I wasn't able to lift as much as I wanted to. That's why I wanted to come out (to Vegas)...I want to make sure I get (the elbow) right and get the strength back."

Summer League slideshow

Our esteemed photographer Jose Luis Villegas spent a few days in Vegas and didn't stop at taking shots for the paper itself. He put together quite a slideshow of the session. Enjoy...

VIEW SLIDESHOW HERE

Relive the experience

* For complete stats on the Kings players during the five games, click here.

* To find box scores and even video highlights of all of the games, click here.

- Sam Amick

July 21, 2008
Final thoughts from Vegas (sort of), and Artest update

ELK GROVE - So I'm not actually on the scene anymore, having flown home from Vegas with most of the Kings' support staff last night.

The Southwest flight included basketball president Geoff Petrie, assistant hoops prez Wayne Cooper, coach Reggie Theus and a group of some 15 other Kings folks from there. There were even super fans on board, three gents who make an annual trip out to summer league and seemed to have a phenomenal time.

All in all, the front office folks seemed very pleased with the overall play of the youngsters. As Petrie had said going in, there were "potentially six roster players" at the session. Aside from the thigh injury to Patrick Ewing Jr. that kept him out of two games and hobbling throughout, every player in that bunch drew mostly-positive reviews. And in the case of Jason Thompson, he showed much more than that.

Near the end of the fifth and final Kings game on Sunday night, my colleague Ailene Voisin asked longtime media man David Aldridge what he thought of the Kings' first round draft pick. Like so many others during the week, Aldridge said he was very impressed.

* For those keeping track, I'm told Thompson was given the full 120 percent of his rookie scale deal by the Kings.

That means he's on the books for $1,893,840 in the first of his two guaranteed seasons. And he's making his money already.

July 21, 2008
The red-flag past and uncertain future of Beno Udrih

Beno Udrih is a huge story for the Kings this season. Huge on the court because he's the starting point guard, huge off the court because they're into him for $32.7 million over five seasons, huge because of his past and what it means for the present.

Pressure and expectations were never his thing. Let's put it that way. And now he's got pressure and expectations.

Udrih has gone from the underdog success story of 2007-08 (traded from San Antonio to Minnesota for a second-round pick in October, waived by the Timberwolves the same day, signed on the cheap by the Kings) to a guy whose positive contributions will no longer be found money, the way they were while filling in for the injured Mike Bibby and eventually replacing the traded Bibby. They're necessary.

We know Udrih's timing is perfect -- 12.8 points a game and 46.4 percent from the field, just before hitting a free-agent market that included few starting point guards as the Kings stared at a roster without any point guards. Even better for him, it was as an unrestricted free agent, so Sacramento would not be able to hang back with the comfort of knowing it could match any offer. The negotiations had to be aggressive.

What no one knows is whether Udrih is the player who needed a change of scenery to find his stride and now is ready to be a consistent, tough leader on the court or a one-hit wonder with many more bad times than good in three previous shrinking seasons with the Spurs.

July 20, 2008
The Maloofs hear from Brad Miller

LAS VEGAS - Kings co-owner Joe Maloof said that Brad Miller "apologized profusely" for violating the league's substance abuse policy and promised to have another solid season.
"We have to believe him," said Maloof. "A year ago, he said he would come in and give us a great year, and he kept his word. Some of his comments the other day ... I think he really opened some eyes. He came clean. I expect him to be there for us again this year. With the way Spencer (Hawes) is playing, and from what it looks like Jason (Thompson) can give us, if Brad plays well, maybe we can surprise some people this year. We're young, but we're getting there.''

A little baseball history for basketball fans
The men's U.S. Olympic basketball team gathered earlier today in preparation for the week-long, final preparation before the trip to Beijing. But so much for the accommodations. While the Olympic and Select teams (other NBA players enlisted for the workouts) are housed in a five-star hotel, the practices will be held at Valley High School, one of the area's older campuses. The reason is simple: Valley is one of few schools with the regulation 94-foot court.
In terms of sports, the Vikings are best known for producing future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux and his older brother, Mike.

The grunt work
Former NBA journeyman Haywoode Workman is attempting to become only the third ex-player to join the league's officiating staff. Bernie Fryer and Leon Wood are the only two former players to make the, ah, leap.
Workman, who officiated the Kings-Rockets game, has been involved with the NBDL and the Summer League for five years.
If you can believe it, Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson flirted with the possibility of becoming a referee after his playing career ended, but wisely came to his senses. Hard to imagine Nellie running the baselines at this pace ...

Seen and heard
* Kings media relations assistant Darryl Arata approached Maloof before the Kings-Rockets game and said, "No Q (Quincy Douby) today. He's got food poisoning." Then, in another example of his terrific sense of humor, Arata added with a grin, "Don't worry. He didn't eat at the Palms."
* Hawes, who admittedly still is bummed about his hometown Seattle SuperSonics relocating to Oklahoma City, lists former Sonics owner (and struggling Starbucks mogul) Howard Schultz as the biggest villain in the matter. "Schultz, absolutely," said Hawes. "It's like my Dad said. People in Seattle won't really feel the loss until the season starts and there's no team to follow. Really, in the winter, when its's cold, and there's nothing to do. That's when it will really hit that they're gone."
* Milwaukee Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, the former Indiana University head coach who was released by the school because of repeated NCAA recruiting improprieties, is looking forward to teaching and coaching without concerning himself with home visits and sales jobs. "It's just basketball," said Sampson, who joins an impressive staff that includes head coach Scott Skiles and assistants Jim Boylan, Lionel Hollins - for former NBA head coaches - and longtime CBA and NBDL coach Joe Wolf. Before the scandal at IU, Sampson was among the core group of coaches consistently involved with USA Basketball's increasingly active international work.
* My Fab Five (rookies) from Vegas, in no particular order: Jerryd Bayless, Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Donte Greene and Jason Thompson.
* For those familiar with the old, old, old Las Vegas entertainment scene, comedian Sammy Shore sat with Joe Maloof for the Kings-Rockets game. During one timeout, Shore, who has to be somewhere in his 80s, stood up and started dancing. He wasn't too bad, actually.

July 20, 2008
Another Nothern California(-area) coaching search

LAS VEGAS - David Kahn, the owner of Reno's expansion NBDL team, has been attending the NBA Summer League the past few days to evaluate some of his future players, but mostly, to find a new head coach. Former Charlotte Bobcats coach Sam Vincent originally accepted the job, but changed his mind after the news conference already had been scheduled. Vincent, who was fired by the Bobcats after one season, had a year remaining on his contract, so he can be a little selective.
As for the new coach ... because the Reno franchise will be affiliated with the Kings, the plan is to hire someone whose offensive and defensive schemes are compatible with those favored by Reggie Theus. "If the Kings send down Sean Singletary or Patrick Ewing Jr., for example," said Kahn, "our coach would work with them on specific things the Kings believe they need help with.
The fact that Kahn has been friends with Geoff Petrie for more than 20 years suggests the potential for a close connection between the franchises. An Oregon native, Kahn is a former sportswriter for the Portland Oregonian who earned his law degree from NYU, worked for the NBA legal firm in Manhattan before for a few years, and later became Donnie Walsh's special assistant with the Indiana Pacers.

Building a beauty
Whether or not the NBDL evolves into the type of minor-league system NBA types hope, Kahn already has made a nice name for himself within the industry. Yes, he was a decent sportswriter; he was even more creative when it came to Conseco Fieldhouse, still the jewel of NBA arenas. This was his baby, everything from the original (and unique) concept, to the financing mechanisms, to the political and promotional matters.
"It wasn't really our idea," said Kahn, laughing. "We stole it from baseball. Baseball had been building these kinds of structures (that retain unique, old style facades) for a number of years. We asked the question, 'Why not put basketball in a place where the game really matters and shows an appreciation of its history?' It was a baseball idea we made relevant to basketball."
"When I look at Sacramento, any new arena should be relevant to the local community. It has to be about their history - it doesn't have to be about basketball - but I suspect something featuring the gold rush. Just pick a concept or a theme that makes the people that live there feel that it's their place. It should be about Sacramento, about the state capital, about the region's history. It should be a place where, if you picked it up and placed it somewhere else, it wouldn't work ... Obviously it's got to have some connection to sports, and, yes, obviously the Kings will be the driving force with 41 home dates. But they truly do need a better facility for family shows, other sporting events. People sometimes forget that these facilities are shared not just by people who are basketball fans, (but those) who go to concerts, other events. I'm sure there are people who have been to Conseco who have never even been to a Pacers game.

The next season
The NBDL is targeting Thanksgiving week for its 2008-09 season opener


July 20, 2008
A very Vegas night

LAS VEGAS - Three days.

That's the average Joe's threshold for Sin City, whether you're coming here for a bachelor party or getaway or just so happen to be en route to nowhere. My count? The seventh and final day.

At least the Northern California air I left behind was a convenient primer for the endless smoke-filled casinos.

But while the city comes with its downfalls, nights like tonight are what I enjoy most about this place. In what has been a semi-annual affair during NBA summer league, I managed to break away from the hoops long enough to experience an event that is so very, very Vegas. Three years ago, it was the World Series of Poker and local card stud Aaron Kanter's surprising run. This time, it was James Irvin of Citrus Heights and his chance to shock the mixed martial arts world.

July 19, 2008
About those pre-draft musings ...

LAS VEGAS - It's always great to hear what general managers, scouts and coaches have to say about the NBA draft ... after the fact. These guys all lie. These guys had it right all along, of course. But while the Kings supposedly "surprised" the experts by selecting Jason Thompson so early (with the No.12 pick), the former Rider standout has been quietly amassing admirers.
More than a few general managers and scouts approached me today and spoke glowingly of Thompson. One Eastern Conference GM, whose office is located within the same area code as Thompson's alma mater, described the 6-foot-11 rookie as "smooth, efficient, and knows how to play." He further insisted that most of his peers projected that Thompson would be taken between 12-18.
Like I said. All these guys lie, anyway.

Only in Las Vegas ... or maybe Europe
While walking into the Thomas & Mack Center earlier today, I actually saw someone take a last drag on a cigarette, and then, without extinguishing the flame, toss it into a plastic garbage can. Being from California (OK, via New York and Las Vegas), I was dutifully appalled. And conscientious. I peered into the garbage can and made sure the cigarette had been doused by the sodas and assorted dead pizza, fast food, etc.

No sign of the mentor
Reggie Theus had hoped to get together with Jerry Tarkanian, but said his former UNLV coach was spending time in San Diego. "Tark's not crazy," quipped Theus, who was the most talented prep star successfully recruited by Tarkanian. "He knows where to go to get out of this heat."
After driving around in the 110-plus temps these past few days, I vow to never again whine about the Sacramento climate.

July 19, 2008
Summer in the (desert) city ...

LAS VEGAS - After covering the league for so long, I've been able to watch the transition from fathers to sons, and I have to admit, it can be pretty entertaining. For example: Patrick Ewing slipped into the Cox Pavilion during the first quarter of the Kings' victory over the Warriors Friday night, and he was a pretty, um, involved parent. Seated directly behind the bench, he chatted on his cell phone during timeouts and dead ball situations, but he watched the game closely whenever his son, Patrick, Jr., was on the court.
At one point, when the Kings' second-round draft choice committed one of his five fouls, the elder Ewing moaned, "Come on, son!"
The younger Ewing - who has struggled throughout the NBA Summer League - has been hobbled since being kicked in the thigh. The Hall of Fame center, of course, was quick to point this out.

Not the best of odds
Former Sheldon High star DeMarcus Nelson, who is trying to earn an invitation to the Warriors' training camp, is impressing with his defense and intensity, but his shaky outside shooting isn't enhancing his prospects. He converted 5-of-8 field goals against the Kings, but he missed badly on two of his three free throw attempts, the ball angling well to the left side of the rim.
If nothing else, the undersized shooting guard can take comfort in the fact that supposed slick-shooter Marco Belinelli was a miserable 1-for-10.

Which Northern California rookie earns top billing?
While the Kings entertained the idea of drafting 19-year-old Anthony Randolph, a gangly, 6-foot-10 small forward, before selecting power forward Jason Thompson, theirs could be an interesting rivalry. Randolph is a spectacular athlete, as he demonstrated with one particularly impressive follow dunk Friday night, and with his slinky build, is almost a clone of second-year forward Brandon Wright.
But Thompson appears to be the more polished player, and at least for a night, he came up a winner. He scored the deciding field goal with 17 seconds remaining, to go with his 20 points, 10 rebounds and blocked shot.

Getting out there
Though obviously embarrassed by his recently-announced suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, Brad Miller isn't hiding out. Accompanied by his longtime companion Abby Robinson and the couple's 18-month-old daughter, Anniston, the Kings center sat in the stands for the Kings-Warriors' game. Anniston, by the way, loves the mascots ...

This is what happens when a game breaks out
There is not much to recommend Cox Pavilion, the facility separated from the Thomas & Mack Center by some concrete and a couple of yards. The wiring and technical issues that drove journalists (and the NBA) crazy during the 2007 All-Star Game persist. The internet connections in the press room and in the building are, frankly, barely beyond primitive. But along with the fact that some of the games aren't at all bad - featuring the likes of Kevin Love, Jerryd Bayless, Spencer Hawes, D.J. Augustin, Thompson and Randolph to name a few - fans can actually watch and HEAR what's going on. The sound of sneakers on the hardwood. Players screeching after missing shots. Coaches barking out plays ...
It took me a few minutes to figure out what was so different. In so many arenas today - the San Antonio Spurs are among the worst, the Lakers surprisingly among the more subtle - the fan prompts are so loud, obnoxious and incessant that the game is an afterthought. Entertainment does not necessitate the damaging of eardrums. Duh! The cowbells were one thing. Raw emotion is one thing. This other stuff ... should be outlawed.
Fortunately, the Kings made a change in their game operations department before last season, and the decibel level and frequency of said nonsense have decreased. (Thank you, thank you, thank you!). Additionally, NBA Commissioner David Stern continues to apply pressure on his owners to cool it with the noise pollution.

Welcome back, Beno
A high-ranking Clippers executive told me that while the club offered Beno Udrih the full five-year, mid-level exception at 12:01 on July 1, the Kings point guard asked for an opt-out clause in the final year. Clips coach Mike Dunleavy said he would get back to Beno on that one. But before they could respond - and while Elton Brand reportedly was still promising to return AND deliver Baron Davis - Udrih contacted Geoff Petrie and said he was accepting the Kings' five-year deal.

Just a thought
In light of Miller's suspension for smoking pot, I can't imagine Petrie actually re-signing Jason Williams, recent conversations notwithstanding. By the time Williams was traded to the Grizzlies for Mike Bibby, Kings officials and coaches had so tired of JWill's antics (including his own suspension for smoking dope and his racist rantings in Oakland), they couldn't wait to get rid of him.

July 18, 2008
The first peek

LAS VEGAS - I sort of feel like I'm a little late to the party here, because while first-round draft choice Jason Thompson was working out for the Kings in Sacramento prior to the NBA Draft, I was covering to the NBA Finals. On Friday at the Cox Pavilion - on the campus of my alma mater, I might add - I finally got a chance to see the rookie play.
These are my quick first impressions:
* He goes after the ball. As promised, he isn't shy about attacking the basket or muscilng for rebounds, and perhaps most impressively, he persists. If he fails to gather the rebound the first time, he swats at the ball, uses his body to dislodge and antagonize opponents, affording himself another opportunity to gain control.
* He doesn't have the lean, prototypical NBA physique (think of a lanky Greek god), but he has long arms, and he will be more physically imposing when he drops some body fat and adds tone.
* He definitely has skills, and a feel for the game. He runs the floor, possesses post moves, and in general, has a pretty sophisticated repertoire. The longer you watch him, the more he grows on you. I can see why Geoff Petrie and his staff liked him so much.
* He has big - I mean, huge - feet. He also runs in a deceptive heels-first motion, which makes him seem anything but athletic. But he is quicker and more agile than he initially appears. As for those feet: he says he wears a Size 20 sneaker - only about two sizes smaller than Shaq.
Overall, I see the potential. He also is very smart and chatty, a la teammate Spencer Hawes, and seems like a terrific kid. The Kings might be on to something with these two. The NBA can't have enough personalities ...

July 18, 2008
The importance of a Lakers-Warriors decision on the Kings

The news came in tonight. The Lakers decided not to match the offer sheet the Warriors gave Ronny Turiaf. The backup power forward / center goes to Golden State for $17 million over four seasons.

It matters to the Kings because the Lakers lost a big man who played about 19 minutes a game last season, an important reserve off the bench, and reduces the chances L.A. would deal Lamar Odom to get a small forward, Ron Artest. That's not a certainty and Mitch Kupchak could have another move in the works to add stability inside. But no way around it for now: a Lakers-Kings deal just became less likely.

With Turiaf gone, the Lakers have five players 6-10 or taller. One of those, Vladimir Radmanovic, is a soft, flighty small forward. Another, Chris Mihm, played 59, zero and 23 games the last three seasons, mostly because of injuries. That leaves three real options for inside play: Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Odom.

Plus, Bynum is coming off a knee operation that cost him the second half of the regular season and the entire playoffs, an injury more severe than the Lakers first expected, making them even more vulnerable. If Bynum does not come back well or has additional setbacks and Odom is not there, there's potential for real problems.

So it's especially tough to part with Odom now, a big risk that would leave the Lakers exposed if they made the trade with the Kings. Again, L.A. will make some move and beef up no matter what, but it won't get anyone as good as Odom.

Without Bynum, Gasol is the center, Mihm is his wobbly backup and Odom is the power forward. With Bynum, he's the center, Gasol is the power forward and Odom is the small forward.

July 18, 2008
The other Lakers-Kings trade that would work

This is the potential compromise. Kenny Thomas out, Shelden Williams and Quincy Douby in. No difference to the Kings in lineup impact, big difference to the Lakers in money.

It's still Ron Artest for Lamar Odom at the bottom line, except the salary-cap ballast has changed and the Lakers, in this version that will undoubtedly be discussed between the teams, if it hasn't been already, get away from Thomas and his $17.3375 million due the next two seasons. For a team paying the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, as L.A. is, that's actually a $34.675-million hit for Thomas. You can see the hesitation.

Williams is on the books for $3.4 million in 2008-09 and Douby for $1.43, along with Artest's $7.4 to match up under the cap rules to Odom's $14.15 million. Nearly 5 mil combined for a power forward that never plays and a guard that never plays is a bad thing. But Williams and Douby have guaranteed money next season only while Thomas is down for two more and, specifically, $8.775 million in the second one. That's the key.

Taking Artest, Williams and Douby, the Lakers are bringing on $12.23 million ($24.46 including the luxury tax) for 2008-09 and nothing after. Total commitment: $24.46 million.

Taking Artest and Thomas, the Lakers are bringing on $16 million ($32 mil) for 2008-09 and $8.775 ($17.55 mil). Total commitment: $49.55.

Obviously a massive difference.

July 18, 2008
Jason Williams still a possibility?

LAS VEGAS - So I'm not quite sure yet whether this post belongs in the "breaking news" category or the "get real!" bin, but it's intriguing either way.

Could Jason Williams still be a possibility for the Kings? His agent says yes.

While wandering around UNLV's Cox Pavilion on Thursday, I ran into Dan Tobin. Without much prodding whatsoever, the agent for the former Kings player who is an unrestricted free agent indicated that he continues to talk with the Kings about a White Chocolate return.

Admittedly, I didn't approach Tobin to discuss this topic and was rather surprised at the revelation first put forth here by Scott Howard-Cooper. More on the specifics on how this could work after the Q&A...

July 17, 2008
Brad Miller Q&A

Brad.jpg
Photo by the Bee's Jose Luis Villegas
Kings center Brad Miller hands his 18-month-old daughter, Anniston, to her mother and Miller's longtime girlfriend, Abby Robinson, while at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas on Thursday

LAS VEGAS - I just spoke with a candid and remorseful Brad Miller about his recent suspension.
After failing a drug test for a third time due to marijuana use, Miller will miss the first five games of this coming season and lose approximately $693,000 of his $11.3 million salary. Miller - who came into town yesterday to see the Kings summer league team in action - confirmed that the failed test took place near the end of the Kings' regular season.
We caught up by phone this afternoon while he was watching his toddler daughter, Anniston, back in his condo at the Palms.

Q: Brad, you knew this was coming. But what was your reaction when the news came out?

A: I just want to try and take advantage of all of the resources. As soon as I get back to Sac, I have to go and talk to a doctor and stuff, just try and take advantage of that. Obviously, I know I'm an idiot for putting myself in this situation. Sometimes things have to get really bad before I fix things in my life, and that's (how) it's been my whole life.
Telling mom and grandma wasn't a great conversation to have, obviously. It was pretty tough trying to take the high road.
Take the high road in terms of trying to take advantage of people and resources they make you have to do and help me get through it. All the stress gets to you, and this is one way to take my mind off of everything. I'll look for something different. I don't like sleeping pills - that's my biggest problem. Whether it's some sort of vitamin or something that can help as well. I want to talk to them and find some help. That's one of the main things I'm going to do when I get back to Sacramento.

Q: Is the stress and helping you sleep your main reasons for using it?

A: It's tough to sleep, you know. And you know, the people who might think I'm a bad guy for this. I'm not a bad guy. I'm still me. It's just one thing I thought would help. It obviously wasn't the right thing to do, but it was helpful to my mental state. I have normal Brad and the when-I-get-on-that-court Brad. It's a battle all the time to get that balance between the two. People meet me, and they're like, 'Man, you're not laid back.' Well that's because you never met me off the court. We'll see how they can help and make it easier. One goal is to come back in even better shape than last year. That's what I've got to do right now. No. 1 and No. 2 goals are to get the health and come back and have another hell of a year.

July 17, 2008
Five days, 21 teams, little sleep. All because of work, of course

I came, I saw, I gambled and had great meals worked nonstop.

Back home after a Vegas run for summer league, the closest thing there is to an NBA convention. Most of the GM types are there along with most coaches, many of the best young players, the occasional established vet watching from the stands or the bench, and the rare curiosity of some once-upon-a-time auditioning to get back in the league or catch the attention of an overseas scout. There was a Robert Traylor sighting with the Cavaliers this time, for example. Not that it was a tough sighting. Man-made structures visible from space: the Great Wall, the Pyramids, Tractor Traylor.

Some teams showed with pretty legit rosters because they have a heavy influence of youth. The Grizzlies with O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Darrell Arthur as three potential starters of the regular season. The Warriors with three first-rounders from the last two years -- Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli and Anthony Randolph.

Some barely showed at all. The Spurs don't figure to have anyone on the July team in the rotation come November. At least they had a full contingent, though. The Lakers not only didn't have any major prospects (Coby Karl, second-round pick Joe Crawford and Davon Jefferson were the headliners), they didn't bother to put an assistant coach on the bench or the No. 1 chair for games. The staff was from their D-League team.

Either way, it's a great time, in a gym rat sort of way. Games start at 1 p.m. on most days and go until about 10 p.m., sometimes two at a time in the Thomas & Mack Center and the adjoining Cox Pavilion. Lots to see, lots to hear.

Including:

*Baron Davis got even a sweeter deal from the Clippers than five years and $65 million. He also got an early-termination clause for the summer of 2012, just as Elton Brand would have received as part of the contract he turned down to go to Philadelphia.

July 17, 2008
Summer league reflections

Jason Thompson has drawn comparisons to Karl Malone and Sean Singletary was deemed by his coach as the most impressive Kings player of them all so far.

As summer league starts go, in other words, it could be worse.

Thompson, the forward out of Rider who was picked twelfth overall, runs the floor so well that an unknown member of the Utah coaching staff told the Kings he hadn't seen a big man go end-to-end like that since the Mailman himself. And Thompson does more than just get to his spots, too. He finishes.

Great hands, good hoops IQ in terms of finding his spot and going to work, obvious offensive skill and more than enough athleticism to put an exciting exclamation point on whatever move he chose from the arsenal. He did just that in the Kings' second game, when his three-point play (a finesse floater from 10 feet or so followed by a clutch free throw) in overtime gave the Kings a win over Portland. I've yet to key on what he's doing on the defensive end, so more on that later. Overall, though, the consensus that he's NBA ready is being confirmed in the minds of the Kings coaching staff.

July 16, 2008
Ron-Ron talk heats up (and for once, he's not the one talking)

LAS VEGAS - There was a blog post that is lost forever, 500-plus words of summer league reflections that disappeared due to technical difficulties.
No matter. There's Ron Artest chatter to get back to anyways.
According to a source close to Dallas, the Mavs have offered Brandon Bass and Jerry Stackhouse for the Kings small forward. The chatter was first reported by Hoopsworld here, but I've independently confirmed the pieces in the offer. Stackhouse has a contract that's almost identical to Artest's ($7.4 million, expiring for Artest; $7 million expiring for Stackhouse), and Bass is a young beast of a big man who comes at the bargain price of $826,269 (also expiring). I can't even come close to seeing Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie doing this deal, not unless Josh Howard is involved.
And from what I'm told, that's not going to happen. As the Mavs see it, the perceived risk of taking Artest is acceptable so long as the price of getting him is Bass and Stackhouse. Lose Howard to get Artest, though, and the gamble is too great. As is always the case, though, things could change.
As far as the continuing frontrunners in the Artest sweepstakes, I've been told by a source close to the Lakers that there are no ongoing discussions. The next relevant date remains Friday, when the Lakers' deadline to match Ronny Turiaf's offer sheet passes. It's at that point the Lakers may decide to take on Kenny Thomas to fill Turiaf's old role or quite possibly engage a third team in the deal so as to avoid his contract. As for whether the Lakers have offered Lamar Odom, that hasn't officially happened but I'm told he is absolutely available. - Sam Amick

July 16, 2008
The Abdur-Rahim quandary

There will be no shoving here, not even any mild nudging.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim will recover or not recover on his terms, because he has a contract but also because he has the Kings' respect. He continues to work toward a comeback this season, with Sunday's participation in a summer league practice a step in the right direction. Just how many steps he can take without stumbling, however, becomes the question from here on out.

I caught up with Abdur-Rahim by phone while he was in the Las Vegas airport on his way out of town. Here are the parts of the interview not included in today's story...

"For the most part, (recovery) has been steady. (On Sunday), I was able to get out there and practice with them and go up and down. It's just to keep working and see how things progress and how the knee responds to the workload that's expected of us.
There's been some, I guess you'd say, bumps in the road here and there. Not hiccups. I've been able to adjust to them and keep going. It's the same process and see how much I progress and how much I can do."

On the possibility of retirement...

"I haven't really thought about it like that. I think at the end of the day with some thing like this, it'll make the decision for you. I would love to be able to do whatever I do on my terms. If not, I guess it's one of those things - anyone's body is only going to let you do what it's going to let you do. That's the thing. I haven't really mentally started adjusting to it and thinking like that. I guess my body, it will let me know."

On the maddening ambiguity of his knee condition...

"(It's) old age Wear and tear. I'm 31, but it's the wear and tear of playing as many years as I've played. You can never predict things like that. Some guys have had trouble like this later in their career than I've had it, and some have had it much earlier.
So you can't predict these things. My thing is to gear in and try to give myself the best possible opportunity to be healthy and get back on the court and do what I love doing and contribute to the team.
"Right now, it'd be working myself toward training camp, to get myself ready for training camp. I think the difference from this summer to last summer was that I was kind of coming off of rehab (last summer) and not knowing what I could do. This year, I'll have a better understanding of exactly what I can do. I know what I want to do. It's just a matter of what my body will allow me to do. Basically, that's what it is."

On handling the frustration...

"I think last year, I was really frustrated. I think over the summer, being away from it, I'm more at ease. But last year I got really, really frustrated at times.
It's not like I ever tore anything, like I tore my knee up or something like that. That's the most frustrating thing. It's like, 'What exactly did I do to get to this point other than run up and down the court the last 20 years of my life? It's been one of those things that sprung on me all of a sudden., all at once. Our body tells us all in different stages. It's kind of like that.

On how he felt on Sunday...

"Yesterday was the most I've done. I've been on the court doing a lot of drills running and stuff three times a week. I try to do something five times a week. It's hit and miss sometimes. I won't lie. I've had a few hiccups here and there, but nothing where I've had to stop all together and not be able to do anything."

On the ultimate goal of the situation...
"I want to be able to get back on the court and contribute. I don't want the uncertainty of 'Can I go, can I not?' I think that's where I was last year. It's frustrating for me...
I want to know regardless of whatever it is, that I can go on that day. - Sam Amick

July 16, 2008
The Kings just fell into last place

In Las Vegas for summer league

Now the Clippers roster is basically set, after being recipients of something else's front-office bungling for a change, and the Kings roster is basically set until further notice, with the possibility of a Ron Artest trade covering the sky as rumbling gray clouds but hardly a certainty before training camp. The Warriors remain TBA.

The Pacific Division standings on July 16: the Kings are in the basement.

It shouldn't matter -- they're rightly pointed to the long-distance returns, as in taking extra hits in the name of developing young players. But it will look bad anyway if it happens for real. It will look bad in the standings and it will look bad on the coaching resume of Reggie Theus.

The fourth-place Kings were 15 games better than the last-place Clippers last season, and now that margin is gone. The Nuggets saw to that Tuesday with a salary dump for the ages: Marcus Camby to L.A. for the right to flop second-round picks in 2010, if the L.A. pick is better. If not, no pick and one of the best defensive big men in the league will have been swapped for absolutely nothing.

Denver's move was for cap relief, just as it went for the cash the day before the draft and sold the No. 20 pick to the Bobcats. The Nuggets probably got $2-3 million and avoided the guaranteed contract. Ownership, reportedly paying $13.5 million in luxury tax for a team that bombed in the playoffs, wanted to start bailing water, so there went the chance to get better through the draft and there went Camby.

Here at summer league, news of the deal with the Clippers was greeted with looks of bewilderment and amazement. Wanting, or needing, to move Camby without taking salary back, OK. Bad basketball move, of course, but every executive camped out for hours inside the two facilities at UNLV knows the reality that fiscal decisions sometimes have to rule the moment.

July 15, 2008
Ron Artest isn't the only one who needs a long look in the mirror

In Las Vegas for summer league


Great diplo-speak in the paper today from Joe Maloof regarding Ron Artest: "He has to balance the way he acts. He's got to control his emotions a little better. You've got to try and keep your cool a little bit. Take a deep breath and quit flying off the handle with comments that don't make sense. I hate to say it that way, but that's how I feel. It doesn't make sense to me."

Screaming "Put a lid on it!" with veins bulging from the neck and forehead rarely comes across as tactful.

Good for Joe. One of the best and worst thing about the Maloofs as Kings owners is that they're fans and often lead with their emotions, and so they're as frustrated by the waves of nuttiness as you.

But here's what they won't say, with any tone:

It's their fault too.

Not just Joe or Gavin or Mama Maloof, as Artest calls Colleen, the family matriarch. Anyone in the organization that had a hand in trading for him. Anyone in the organization that has not seen to it that Artest has not been traded away. Anyone in the organization that has let him get away with it for the two years, 5 months and 19 days in the interim. Not that you're counting.

July 13, 2008
Artest saga goes on (and on and on...)

From no comments to no shortage of comments, Ron Artest vented to the NBA nation once again over the weekend.
The Kings small forward who was in Las Vegas to watch summer league continued to lament his decision to not opt out in an e-mail exchange with ESPN's Marc Stein. While many of Artest's sentiments qualify as elaboration on previous statements, he indicated that he will be representing himself as an agent. That was news to his actual agent, Mark Stevens, who said on Sunday night that he still represents Artest.
"I haven't heard anything about that," Stevens said by phone. "I don't know anything about it."
Asked about his reaction if it proved to be true, he said, "I don't respond to 'ifs.'"
Artest also made it clear to Stein that he is all for a trade to the Lakers, and all indications on my end continue to show that it's a real possibility. Lamar Odom is, according to my sources, indeed available should the Kings want him and the Ronny Turiaf situation still plays a part here. Stein, who surely must have cloned himself with how he covers the league, weighs in on that element here. Yahoo!'s Johnny Ludden, who was on hand courtside at summer league for Artest's 'no comment' session on Saturday, has a beat on the situation as always in this piece .
Off to Vegas in the early morning... - Sam Amick

July 13, 2008
The intriguing Sean Singletary, the smooth Jason Thompson, and other Game 1 observations

With the Kings in Las Vegas


Again: Game 1. Of summer league.

There were worthwhile developments / sightings / impressions, though, that can transcend from a Saturday afternoon against the Raptors of Coleman Collins, Deji Akindele and Hassan Adams into the potentially meaningful.

*The court presence of Sean Singletary, the rookie point guard from Virginia, will almost certainly translate.

He's still 6-0 and he's still the No. 42 pick, a strong gauge that most teams don't expect him to have much of an NBA impact, but the composure and ability to rescue possessions were obvious. That's four years in the Atlantic Coast Conference for you.

Singletary got into the lane with ease Saturday. That won't be as simple vs. the real teams he'll see come November. But even in the instances where he appeared to over-penetrate into tall traffic, he was invariably able to kick the ball out to an open man, even when that King was out of position in a typical summer-league mistake. A drive down the middle that once looked out of control became salvageable because the point guard was in total control.

*Spencer Hawes looked fluid and moved better than most any time that comes to mind from last season.

It's an important development even at this ridiculously early stage because mobility was an issue during the rookie campaign greatly hindered by preseason knee surgery. Hawes joined the lineup Nov. 10 and within two weeks played 20 minutes, but the left leg didn't really regain full strength until at least the All-Star break in mid-February and maybe even well into March. The difference between the Hawes before the operation and the Hawes of the next several months was obvious.

July 12, 2008
The Ron Artest update: I am Alex Trebek

With the Kings in Las Vegas....

It's not just you. I'm over the whole Ron Artest thing too. But he was in the stands today for the Kings' summer-league opener, as were Kevin Martin, Beno Udrih and Shareef Abdur-Rahim in different locations, and I couldn't resist a visit. The whole train-off-a-cliff thing.

Artest was in great spirits in what obviously has been a time of great professional conflict: he has sounded his disappointment over not becoming a free agent, he has said (again) he does not see a long future in Sacramento, yada, yada, yada. But he had fun with the questions, smiling at the banter.

Maybe his non-answer answers tell you a lot. A player not being able to say he wants to be with a team should mean something. Or maybe, as you know, it's just Ron being Ron and he'll change his mind soon enough, if it hasn't happened already, and there's no point in getting wound up in his latest inability to commit to the Kings.

The transcripts:

Question: What are your thoughts in your future with the Kings?

July 12, 2008
Vegas run!

Live from courtside at Cox Pavilion....

The summer league at UNLV, at Thomas & Mack Center and the adjacent Cox Pavilion, opens today for the Kings, although eight others started Friday. Twenty-one teams, 10 days, 53 games, dozens of first-round picks from 2008 and '07, and countless other young hopefuls trying to earn at least an invitation to training camp. The six-team Orlando summer league began Monday. Another session, also with six clubs, will be in Salt Lake City for the July 18-25 session that will include some of the Vegas entrants.

In that case, the perfect summer-league primer: the best young teams in the league.

This is all spec, of course, but it's also very relevant in Sacramento, with the Kings finally merging into rebuilding mode in a slow reaction that has left them behind several teams in a race to the future.

These are not the best rosters or a prediction of 2008-09 finishes. It is a ranking of the top talent blocs 25 or younger on opening night, an age chosen because 22 or 23 discounts too many players in the early stages of development and because 27 usually means the players has been around five-six-seven years. If that is not deep into their prime, it's also not young.

It comes with the slight complication of a few free agents, where noted, but very few of those are expected to move. Maybe Josh Smith or Josh Childress because everyone knows Hawks management is so dysfunctional that it's possible to sign away well-regarded talent that other clubs would retain in a similar situation. Otherwise, Andre Igoudala will likely be back in Philly, Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins in Golden State, and Luol Deng and Ben Gordon in Chicago. If either depart the Bulls, it will be by a sign-and-trade.

But, for now:

July 12, 2008
Artest watch continues

I have no update as yet on the one-sided Lakers-Kings talks reported on Thursday, but keep an eye on Ronny Turiaf's situation while the waiting game continues.

The Lakers forward has accepted a four-year, $17 million offer sheet from Golden State and the Lakers have seven days to match it. It seems inconceivable that they will and it's to the Kings' advantage if they don't.

If they are to convince the Lakers to take back forward Kenny Thomas in a deal in which Artest would be LA-bound and Lamar Odom would come to Sacramento, they need Turiaf to head for the Bay Area. The Lakers are already near the luxury tax and not looking to go any further, and they may buy into the logic that Thomas - who turns 31 on July 25 - could provide quality defensive-minded minutes off the bench just like Turiaf did.

With the chance to get out of Sacramento and his invisible existence, Thomas may even do a few dances courtside like the jovial Turiaf has been known for. Thomas is owed approximately $18 over the next two seasons, so the lump sum is about equal with Turiaf's offer sheet (albeit in two less seasons). It's the price of doing business if they want to acquire the underpaid Artest ($7.4 million).

Meanwhile, the many who can't envision a Lakers-Kings blockbuster trade of any kind have a valid point. It would go against the NBA grain, but it should be said that any and all theories that the Maloofs simply wouldn't let it happen couldn't be further from the truth. They will pull the trigger if they get what they want.

If not, they'll hope to make something happen with someone else. Among the teams I've been told to keep a serious eye on in the Artest sweepstakes: Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, San Antonio and maybe even Charlotte. I often wonder about Toronto as well, but have yet to hear anything substantial on that front.

* As a quick sidenote, Artest continues to routinely go on the air with KHTK's Carmichael Dave.
The latest from the Ron-Ron show: he's decided to change his name. OK, so technically he wants to go by his middle name of William. The thinking? Since Ron Artest is back to getting so much negative media coverage, maybe going by Bill - as he requested to be called - could give him a fresh start. Never a dull moment... - Sam Amick

July 12, 2008
Thompson ready for debut

He was a broadcasting major at Rider University. So, yeah, Jason Thompson knows a bit about the art of the sound byte.

Sure enough, the Kings' rookie forward out of Rider University was ready with one on Friday when asked about the summer league experience that awaits him in Las Vegas.

"They have the saying that what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas," he began with a smile, "but hopefully when I play well it's not going to stay in Vegas."

He's right about that. Word will spread whether he dominates or flops, neither of which would mean all that much in the grand scheme. Still, the projecting won't stop once it starts.

For now, Thompson said his first three days in a Kings uniform went better than he'd expected. He engaged in a spirited back-and-forth with Spencer Hawes at the Kings' practice facility on Friday when the duo went at each other on both ends and seemed to break even.

"I actually think I'm doing better than I thought I was going to do," Thompson said. "You're not going to come in here and say, 'Oh I'm going to dominate.' It's my first NBA experience. I've played against better guys in the country, other NBA players, but it's different when you're on a team and settled and have a contract."

Hawes said he's eager to learn Thompson's game, knowing full well they are the Kings' hoped-for frontline of the future.

"I'll just try and get a read off of what he likes to do, where he's comfortable catching the ball, where he likes to play out of and just try to play off that," Hawes said. "The only way you can do that is through repetition and experience with somebody."

For those looking to watch Thompson in action against Toronto today at 1 p.m., you can go to NBATV or a webcast that can be found here. - Sam Amick

July 11, 2008
Off to Vegas...

It's been a while since Rob Pimental packed up for a road trip, but there he was in all his organizational glory on Friday afternoon at the Kings practice facility.
The Kings' equipment manager was loading a bus that would eventually take the team's 15 summer league players to a plane bound for summer league in Las Vegas, where only four are assured they'll play on from there and the rest are ready to show they belong. Spencer Hawes, Quincy Douby, Shelden Williams, and Jason Thompson being the certainties and the rest beyond Sean Singletary and Patrick Ewing Jr. qualifying as the longest of longshots, the group begins live action tomorrow at 1 p.m. against Toronto at UNLV. The schedule from there...

Tuesday - Kings vs. Blazers, 7 p.m.
Wednesday - Kings vs. Mavericks, 3 p.m.
July 18 - Kings vs. Warriors, 7 p.m.
July 20 - Kings vs. Rockets, 5:30 p.m.

Scott Howard-Cooper will be on site to see the Jason Thompson debut and relay his first impressions, and I'll take over on Monday and stay through the end of the session. Ailene Voisin is tentatively scheduled to be at the latter part of summer league and into the Olympic training portion in Vegas soon thereafter (which, of course, includes Kevin Martin playing on the Olympic select team).
The Kings narrowed the summer league roster from 18 to 14 today, cutting Zabian Dowdell, David Johnson, Lawrence Roberts, and Darnell Jones. It was an extremely uneventful day when compared to the two that came before it.
There was very little talk of Brad Miller's suspension, except for a member of the media relaying a comical story I'd missed yesterday (while I had a day off). After Kings coach Reggie Theus had already addressed Miller's five-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy, said media member casually mentioned, "So, what do you think of all this smoke?" Not sure if it was a reference to the hazy weather or the Cheech and Chong type of puffs, the always-smooth Theus was left speechless for a moment. The summer league bunch may already be sneaking out from underneath the smoke, but it will take a bit longer for Miller. - Sam Amick

July 11, 2008
Moving on, moving forward

Listening to Lawrence Roberts talk about his basketball journey can lead you to believe he's much older than his 25 years. The Kings summer league forward has been featured in many major publications, from Sports Illustrated to The Sporting News. Each chronicled his journey from Baylor to Mississippi State.
Roberts was a star player at Baylor for two seasons when tragedy struck in the summer of 2003. His teammate, Patrick Dennehy, was killed. Another teammate was charged with the bizarre murder.
"It's a part of my career and something I went through," Roberts said after working out at the Kings practice facility. "It was a tough time."
Roberts transferred to Mississippi State, where he led the SEC in rebounding (11 rpg) and recorded the school's first-ever triple-double. He was selected 55th overall in the 2005 NBA draft by Seattle and traded to Memphis.
Roberts played two seasons with the Grizzlies during 2005-06 and 2006-07, averaging 3.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 87 games. He also spent time with the NBA Development League team the Arkansas RimRockers.
While with the Grizzlies, Roberts underwent knee surgery in 2006 to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee.
Last summer, Memphis renounced their rights to Roberts and he headed overseas on a two-year contract with Greek powerhouse Olympiacos. However, he said foot surgery ended his stay early.
An Olympiacos press release stated that Roberts "failed to meet the expectations of head coach Pini Gershon, who decided to cut him and search for another player."
His outlook remains positive, though.
"I can't control what the past brought, but it made me a better person," Roberts said. "I still love basketball. That's the main thing. I do it out of love. All the things I've faced with injuries, I just play hard and I'm trying to get on someone's team."

July 11, 2008
Spencer Hawes, this is your future calling

The reason for Brad Miller's five-game suspension will undoubtedly drift into a forever mystery. That's the secrecy of the anti-drug policy. The team is not informed what caused the discipline, the few people who do know have historically kept the silence like no other silence is kept in this loose-lips league, and Miller can disclose or not disclose without worry of the truth coming out. He can claim the discipline is for something as low grade as missing a required drug test and have great confidence that no one in position to know the truth will publicly confirm or call him a liar.

Then there are the certainties.

Miller is on the books for $10,743,056 next season, after losing $631,944 because of the suspension, to keep himself ready to play center for the Kings. And, Spencer Hawes is the only one who can come out of this looking good.

That's it. Not Miller and not an organization that takes another hit for the latest in what has become a pattern of missteps rather than a rare bad moment. Hawes.

He just became the starting center for the showcase of opening night and the four games that follow, plus whatever additional time coach Reggie Theus may give Miller to get in game condition. By then, it will have been about two weeks of practices only for Miller and there is a difference between game shape and practice shape.

Barring a giant closing of the gap that has been developing in the shroud of the offseason, Miller is still much better. There is no genuine race for the starting job.

July 10, 2008
An eventful Day 2

While Brad Miller dominated headlines today, the Kings were in full swing for Day 2 of summer league practice.
"We have had two really good days out here," said Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie. "I think having six potential roster players out here with the younger veteran players like Spencer (Hawes) and Shelden (Williams) and Quincy (Douby), it's been good for them. We will head (to Las Vegas) ready to play."
Meanwhile, Kings assistant coaches are looking forward to showcasing their own talents. Reggie Theus said his assistant coaches will rotate through coaching the summer league team during the five Las Vegas games. Chuck Person will coach the first two, taking on the Raptors on July 12 and Blazers on July 15. Rex Kalamian will take the reins July 16 against the Mavericks. Randy Brown will coach the Warriors game July 18 and Jason Hamm will handle the Rockets game July 20.
Last year, assistant Kenny Natt coached every game.
"I just think summer is an opportunity for assistant coaches to grow," Theus said. "And to get a chance to sit in that seat and spread themselves a little bit. I think that's important."

July 10, 2008
And the official statement

From Brad Miller: "I want to apologize to my family, teammates, fans and entire Kings organization. I made a mistake. It was an error in judgment and I'm very sorry. I regret it deeply. It's something I won't and can't take lightly. I hope to bounce back from this as a better person and I'm excited about the upcoming season."

July 10, 2008
Miller suspended

This just in from the NBA offices in New York:

The NBA announced today that Brad Miller of the Sacramento Kings has been suspended without pay for five games for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program. Miller's suspension will begin with the first game of the 2008-09 NBA regular season for which he is eligible and physically able to play.

We will have more in tomorrow's paper.

July 10, 2008
Welcome to Smokeytown ...

During the press conference Wednesday announcing Beno Udrih's formal re-signing with the Kings, his New York-based agents, Marc and Natasha Cornstein, revealed that this was their first trip to Sacramento. Great. Nice introduction. Looking toward downtown from Natomas, all anyone could see was an eerie silhouette of the skyline. This was at 2 p.m. I explained to the Cornsteins that, while our air is never great, it also is never this bad. Usually, you can at least see the trees. They promised to visit again during the season. One can only hope the fires are extinguished by then.
At least the Cornsteins were staying at a hotel close to Arco Arena. They were spared the further indignity of having to contend with the repair work on I-5. Have to say though, it's not as horrific as anticipated. C.C. Myers obviously knows what he's doing. Now, if only Arnold Schwarzenegger would ban fireworks and campfires within the state during the summer season ... well, never mind. Can't expect the governor to do anything that radical (and reasonable).
Then again. Why not? The bad air must be wreaking havoc on the outdoor recreational programs for area youngsters. I refuse to let my dog outside for extended breaks and am passionately encouraging my nephew's love of reading ...

Geoff Petrie's ordeal
From what I'm hearing - and, yes, he confirmed it - Geoff Petrie refused to return any phone calls inquiring about the Ron Artest availability between July 1-9, the period for players to declare for free agency and begin negotiating with teams. Petrie, who has a thing for following the rules, and never takes anything for granted, skipped town while waiting for Udrih's official signing. The Kings basketball president went to a Stevie Wonder concert in Reno on Friday, returned Saturday, then awakened at 6 a.m. Sunday to watch the Wimbledon singles final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadel.
A huge tennis fan, Petrie said he originally planned to watch some of the event live, and tape the remainder, became so transfixed that he watched the match in its entirety. Count him among those who rank the match as arguably the greatest singles event ever ...

Corey Maggette signing no surprise
After losing Baron Davis and failing to entice Elton Brand to northern California, I'm not at all surprised by the Warriors' aggressive pursuit of Corey Maggette. Among other things, Don Nelson has been an admirer since his days with the Dallas Mavericks. Had Maggette spurned the overtures, Ron Artest might have been next on the list.
As for why Petrie is so paranoid about free agency ... the Davis and Brand situations have something to do with it. Players, owners, agents can say anything - and often do - but nothing is official until the contracts are signed. Petrie was noticeably relieved during the press conference at Chris Webber's Center Court restaurant.

Looking ahead
I am looking forward to seeing first-round draft choice Jason Thompson for the first time during Thursday's workouts. And while you shouldn't ever read too much into this, it was interesting to hear that Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia are in town for the first week of summer league workouts. Their commitment to the organization is both apparent and refreshing.

July 9, 2008
And this was just Day 1

Cameras and microphones were lifted high and fixated on Jason Thompson.
So, how did Day 1 go for the Kings' first round selection?
"I was excited," said Thompson, who has proved poised and articulate in recent interviews. "I'm one of those guys who needs to get my feet wet to really establish myself. I get a lot of anxiety the day of."
If Thompson, with his guaranteed two-year contract, is nervous, the players around him must be on another level. Right?
"This is the best experience of my life," said David Johnson, a graduate of Davis High School.
Johnson remained wide-eyed and awe-stricken long after Wednesday's practice ended. Sure, he's dreaming of a chance to wear a Kings jersey after summer league, but he calls the entire experience a "win-win no matter what."
"I'm walking on clouds," said Johnson, who played for Napa Community College. "It's proving that anything can happen."
Johnson is willing to do anything to make the experience last as long as possible.
"I don't want to leave, I want to sleep right here on the hardwood," Johnson said.

July 9, 2008
An active Kings day (and night)

As offseason days go, the Kings have had a busy one thus far.
This morning, point guard Beno Udrih officially inked his five-year, $32.7 million deal with the Kings and the team held a press conference at C-Webb's Center Court this afternoon. They also signed second-round picks Sean Singletary and Patrick Ewing Jr. to contracts, although I don't know the terms as yet.
Lastly, summer league officially began at the team's practice facility in Sacramento and I'm currently watching the squad in action. They will hold practices here through Friday before heading for Las Vegas and Saturday's first game. No first impressions just yet from Jason Thompson (I'm writing while I watch), but he's doing a fine job of listening to summer league coach Chuck Person. As for Udrih, he made it known that he's taking his new contract very seriously.
He decided not to play for his Slovenian national team because he's more interested earning his money with the Kings. Udrih is heading to Vegas on Friday to get in shape while working with Kings strength coach Daniel Shapiro for five days.
"I want to get in the best shape for training camp so that when it comes we can start getting ready for the team," Udrih said. "(The contract) comes with a lot of responsibility. I feel that (responsibility), and I'm going to go try to get better and get in the best shape I can."
For fans looking to welcome their point guard back to Sacramento, he's doing two appearances this evening at the Best Buy stores in Sacramento and Roseville. For more info on that, click here. - Sam Amick

July 9, 2008
Live from the practice facility

There really isn't a better way to beat the heat than to sit in the dark air-conditioned media room overlooking the two courts at the Kings practice facility. With summer league practice under way right now, here are a few notes from the first two hours.

* The media have some of the best seats at the Kings practice facility. We sit behind a one-sided mirror facing the two courts. Why is that so great? Because many players are either not aware or don't care that we see them checking themselves out.

* Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia couldn't stay away. Both suited up and are periodically jumping in with the 18 players on the Las Vegas roster.

* Spencer Hawes missed the first day of practice in order to finish the accelerated classes he is taking at the University of Washington. He could be the first NBA player to use schoolwork as a legitimate excuse. Hawes is expected to arrive in Sacramento tonight.

* I was going to say Matt Walsh needs a hair cut, but that's been said for quite some time. Apparently, someone thinks his locks look good.

* Shelden Williams looks a few pounds lighter.

* The lone local connection out here is David Johnson, a former Davis High School product. He is by far the smallest guy out here. He's listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds. So far, Johnson doesn't appear to be included in many of the half court drills, which doesn't fair well for him if the Kings decide to trim their roster before leaving for Las Vegas.

* Marcus Malone, a 6-foot-5 guard out of Houston, is Karl Malone's cousin.

July 9, 2008
Salary cap numbers set

It was all estimates before this, but the league announced the offical salary cap figures late last night.

The new salary cap for the 2008-09 season is $58.680 million, and the luxury tax level is $71.150 million. The midlevel exception is $5.585 million.

Translation: Let the dealing begin.

The lifting of the eight-day, league-issued moratorium means free agent signings can begin and trades can resume. With the Kings expected to officially sign Beno Udrih today, the terms agreed to by the fifth-year point guard can be calculated to the very last penny. According to numerous team sources and sources close to Udrih, he will receive a five-year deal for the full midlevel exception. The finaly tally considering the eight percent raises every season: $32,764,966. Broken down year by year, it is as follows...

2008-09: $5,585,000
2009-10: $6,031,800
2010-11: $6,514,344
2011-12: $7,035,491.5
2012-13: $7,598,330.8

Assuming Udrih signs the dotted line as expected, the Kings' payroll will be approximately $70 million. As for future roster movement beyond second-round pick signings or summer league surprises, there is little to watch for from here on out other than a potential Ron Artest trade.

I've been told by numerous reliable people that it could happen quickly and that the Kings have already received calls from some of the expected pursuers of the small forward. The Lakers rang with no call back as yet from the Kings, and it appears the pieces in that possible deal have not changed. The Lakers are willing to offer forward Lamar Odom, but the question is whether they're willing to take on the contract of forward Kenny Thomas (two seasons, approximately $18 million left).

Of course, it has seemed before as if certain trades were inevitable and they either didn't happen or took months longer than expected, so who knows how this will play out. Odom works for the Kings in a number of ways, though, from his versatility that fits more with Geoff Petrie's offensive vision to the fact that his contract (for $14.5 million) is expiring. If the combo works, you try to lock Odom up next summer. If not, you have cap room earlier than expected and go from there. - Sam Amick

July 8, 2008
Thompson sighting and Garcia fighting

Jason Thompson smiled as he walked through Arco Arena tonight. He took in the atmosphere and caught a glimpse of what it will be like when he pulls on a Kings jersey and steps in front of Sacramento fans.
"The fans are really passionate," Thompson said during halftime of the Monarchs game against the Seattle Storm.
Indeed, they are. Which is why he laughed when asked if he has already signed a few autographs since the Kings drafted him almost two weeks ago. Apparently, he's had plenty of practice scribbling his name as of late.
Thompson, who is amiable and accommodating to reporters, returned to his courtside seat for the remainder of the game as Francisco Garcia jumped between chairs. Garcia eventually moved a few seats down and next to former Monarchs player La'Tangela Atkinson. Garcia, who is no stranger to Monarchs games, had many fans in the arena cracking up after he stood up and began to ardently protest a call intensely close to referee Tom Mauer.

July 8, 2008
Done deal

The Kings first round draft pick Jason Thompson is officially on the books. Thompson signed a multi-year contract Tuesday.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed, per team policy. However, according to the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, Thompson's salary for this season will range from $1,262,560 to $1,893,840, while the contract will include two years guaranteed, with team options for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 campaigns.

July 7, 2008
Kevin Martin basketball camp (amended)

A while back, I put out some info about Kevin Martin's basketball camp that was just a little off.
So to recap for all you young hoopsters, it's for boys and girls ages 7 to 17 years old at Capital Christian High School in Sacramento from July 14-17. For more information, call 916-286-3454. On a side note, Martin has his own site that will be launched soon (www.kmart23.com). Get those bookmarks ready... - Sam Amick

July 7, 2008
Artest issues statement

One week after expressing regret over his decision to not opt out of his contract, Kings small forward Ron Artest explained his frustration further in an e-mail sent to The Bee and ESPN this morning.
In its entirety...

"I made the comment about making a mistake on my opt out clause because I really did make a mistake. I had wrong info about extension options and it could have cost me a new deal. I was informed that the kings had me in their long term plans so that's why I decided to stay in contract. I just wanted to show loyalty. However when I spoke to the kings that was not an option and I grew frustrated with my decision immediately. I do apologize for being mistakenly frustrated with the kings. It was a mistake that I made and I will move on from. I dont know my future but I'm still a King Haters:)"
- Sam Amick
July 3, 2008
Ron Artest stays: This is good news for the Kings. No, really

You know the emotional obstacle course, his ability to keep even the Kings guessing on his availability for a game a few hours later, his incessant flip-flopping over wanting to be here / not wanting to be here / waking up with buyer's remorse over not opting out. Boy, do you know.

Two-and-a-half seasons is a long time on any ride with so many 100-degree turnarounds. But his decision Monday to stay in his contract rather than void the final season and become a free agent on the spot is a positive development for the Kings. Not bad news, either, for whatever pharmacy with massive amounts of meds to combat high blood pressure, sleepless nights and accelerating nervous ticks is closest to the Arco executives suites and coaching offices.

In other non-ulcer news:

*The Kings are back in control. They have nearly eight months, until the trade deadline in late-February, to decide whether Artest stays or goes and, in the event he gets an out-bound ticket, where. The possibility of losing him for nothing grows exponentially from there, but Geoff Petrie may still have the option of browsing through some deals, depending where Artest wants to go as a free agent in summer 2009.

July 3, 2008
The waiting game

Still looking to deal
While there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that Geoff Petrie intends to trade Ron Artest as soon as possible given Ron-Ron's recent outburst and dissatisfaction with his contract situation, don't expect anything to happen before the July 9th signing date. Petrie won't make a move until Beno Udrih formally rejoins the Kings. But that doesn't mean he hasn't compiled a trade wish-list or begun entertaining offers. The same teams that were intererested in Artest before he committed to the final year (and $7.4 million) of his contract continue to find him appealing, especially in light of his expiring contract. The Lakers, Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, among others, will be exchanging phone calls with in the near future.

Spencer learning quickly
One of my Kings sources told me late last night that Spencer Hawes was really upset - no surprise there - about the settlement that apparently will enable his hometown Sonics to move from Seattle to Oklahoma City. Hawes, a diehard Sonics fans, attended the Save Our Sonics rally two weeks ago at the downtown courthouse, dressed in a Gary Payton jersey. While we blue-state types might quibble about his Republican politics - the lad is the offspring of two unabashed liberals! - you have to love his passion.
Hawes, by the way, continues working toward his degree at the University of Washington. He currently is enrolled in accelerated classes.

July 2, 2008
Second draft for second round pick

Kings second round draftee Patrick Ewing Jr. may have been selected 43rd overall in the NBA draft last week, but the high flying forward was the Harlem Globetrotters top pick Wednesday.
In the Globetrotters' second annual player draft, the iconic exhibition team selected the offspring of a NBA legend. Ewing joins five other players drafted and invited to attend the Globetrotters' training camp in the fall as the team prepares for its 83rd consecutive season.
Also selected are 2008 State Farm College Slam Dunk Champion Sonny Weems of Arkansas, William Bullard of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tay Fisher of Siena, Longar Longar of Oklahoma and Donald Thomas of Auburn.
In the first player draft last year, the Globetrotters picked up Ant Atkinson, an All-American who won the Division II National Championship with Barton College.
Click here for brief bios of each player selected this year.

July 2, 2008
The Vegas players

The Kings have set their summer league roster for the upcoming trip to Las Vegas, where the team will play five games in nine days starting July 12. While Sam Amick has already blogged which Kings players will be there, here's the extended list of NBA hopefuls joining them at UNLV's Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center.

2008 NBA SUMMER LEAGUE SACRAMENTO KINGS ROSTER
No. / Player / Pos. / Ht./ Wt./ From /Yrs. Pro
8 / Quincy Douby / G / 6-3 / 175 / Rutgers / 2
16 / Zabian Dowdell / G / 6-3 / 190 / Virginia Tech / R
0 / Patrick Ewing Jr. / F / 6-8 / 240 / Georgetown / R
43 / Noel Felix / F / 6-9 / 225 / Fresno State / 1 (SEA, 05-06)
31 / Spencer Hawes / C / 7-0 / 245 / Washington / 1
20 / Justin Hawkins / F / 6-7 / 204 / New Mexico State / R
24 / David Johnson / G / 5-10 / 170 / Napa CC / R
18 / Darnell Jones / G / 6-4 / 210 / Mesa College / R
25 / Marcus Malone / G / 6-5 / 215 / Houston / R
10 / Bo McCalebb / G / 6-0 / 180 / New Orleans / R
41 /Juan Palacios / F / 6-8 /245 / Louisville / R
35 / Patrick Sanders / F / 6-6 / 205 / UC Irvine / R
7 / Sean Singletary / G / 6-0 / 185 / Virginia / R
34 / Jason Thompson / F / 6-11 / 250 / Rider / R
40 / Darian Townes / F-C / 6-10 / 250 / Arkansas / R
30 / Matt Walsh / F / 6-6 / 190/ Florida / R
22 / Shelden Williams / F / 6-9 / 250 / Duke / 2

*NOTE: If you aren't planning on making a trip to Vegas, you can watch all five games via webcast on NBA.com or catch three televised games on NBATV. For the schedule click "continue reading."

July 2, 2008
DeMarcus Nelson finds a home, for now

Former Sheldon High star DeMarcus Nelson has signed a free-agent deal to play with the Golden State Warriors in summer league in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

Nelson, undrafted after four seasons at Duke capped by being named Defensive Player of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, has a good chance to get an invitation to training camp. Up-tempo Golden State would be an obvious fit for the athletic combo guard.

The Warriors will play five games in Las Vegas from July 11-19 and then four in Salt Lake City from July 21-25. Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli, Anthony Randolph and Richard Hendrix are the other familiar names on the summer-league roster.

July 2, 2008
The Golden State Warriors are Andrei Kirilenko

Baron Davis is not a moody, drama-driven, injury-prone talent of a point guard living on the lunatic fringe, after all. He is a moody, drama-driven, injury-prone talent of a point guard who nailed it.

He read the market, listened to the right people, even when the truly right person probably was someone else's agent, and beat the system. In a league and in a summer when no one in their right mind would walk away from $17.8 million, Davis opted out of his Warriors contract and quickly agreed to a deal with the Clippers that will pay $65 million over five years.

Less money in the short term, a lot more in long-term security than perhaps would have been available as a free agent in 2009, immeasurable vindication. Wounded when Golden State refused to voluntarily give him an extension last offseason, Davis played his one card this time, opted out with the certainty of someone who had a clear idea of his next step, and put the pressure on the Warriors to deliver or else.

Welcome to "or else."

Davis, from a long interview in Oakland eight months ago, when asked about emotions of not getting the commitment from management in summer '07: "It hurt. It hurt. It hurt deep down inside. I can't say that it didn't hurt. But I guess it's the business of basketball. But I give my heart and my soul to this team and this organization. I leave it at that."

July 1, 2008
Artest explains why not opting out was a 'mistake'

The Ron Artest Show, as it had unofficially become on KHTK, took on a more serious tone on Tuesday night.
Just as he has for much of the summer, the Kings small forward went on the air to chat with superfit late-night radio man Carmichael Dave. Yet after having dubbed his decision not to opt out before the June 30 deadline a mistake in an e-mail to ESPN.com, Artest elaborated on the rationale behind his stance.
"I thought I made the best decision by not opting out, but it didn't really work in my favor," he said in the phone interview. "I'm just looking at all of the (players) who...at 12 o'clock midnight (on Monday night) where their teams and their organizations pretty much took care of them. I always put myself in that same class as the Chris Pauls, Kobes (Bryant), and whoever else is out there as the top players. Obviously my career has been a little bit different from everybody else's."
For the backstory on the Tuesday morning meeting that led to Artest's change of heart, read here and in tomorrow's paper. He said much of his frustration had everything to do with watching so many veterans opt out of their contracts and receive long-term deals on the free agent market. Paul is reportedly close to signing an extension with New Orleans.
"I made a mistake because right now, this day today, I could've been somewhere and had a long-term commitment from somebody," he said. "That was the only thing I was bummed out about. And the market was kind of low, kind of suspect.
"But when you see (the Clippers') Elton (Brand) and these guys opting out at 12 o'clock midnight and (Golden State's) Baron Davis (who is reportedly signing with the Clippers), I'm like 'I'm a total jerk' because I could've opted out and the market was actually better today than it was (yesterday)." - Sam Amick

July 1, 2008
Artest regrets not opting out

In an e-mail to ESPN.com, Ron Artest said he regrets not opting out of his contract by the June 30 deadline.
The backstory here involves a conference call the small forward had this morning with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie and Artest's agent, Mark Stevens. It appears that Artest was under the impression that there was a high likelihood the Kings would discuss his eventual signing to a long-term extension. But after numerous sources have said for months that such a move was highly unlikely, Artest and Stevens had continued to talk as if it was a strong possibility.
Petrie said in a phone interview minutes ago that he had a "candid" conversation with Artest but that "he wasn't too inclined to (say) much further than that."
Stevens, who was unaware of Artest's comments, said "I'm not even near a TV, so I can't even respond to something I haven't seen....Whatever his reasons for feeling that way is, well we'll just see. I'm not going to respond to it." - Sam Amick

July 1, 2008
What a turnaround, what a checklist, what a sense of success

What a six days of clarity. The hoped-for solution at power forward addressed in the draft on Thursday, the known solution at small forward locked in Monday, the semi-known solution at point guard basically finalized today, needing only the league-wide moratorium on signings to be lifted July 9 before the signing becomes official.

Boom, boom, boom. That's taking care of business. The actual choices are debatable, and Jason Thompson as the power forward of the future with the 12th pick in the draft and Beno Udrih re-signed at that kind of money to be the point guard are the definition of debatable. But the Kings had a plan, moved forward with certainty and finished the pressing roster business of the offseason in less than a week.

Not necessarily all the roster business of the offseason, of course. Ron Artest could still be traded. They may fish around for another point guard, since Sean Singletary is the backup at the moment and picks from the middle of the second round don't often step in and have an immediate impact, or swingman Francisco Garcia. They need to sort out the clutter at power forward -- no roster has room for Thompson, Mikki Moore, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Shelden Williams and Kenny Thomas.

But consider the needs a week ago and consider what has happened since.

Power forward. Addressed with a major investment, a first-round pick spent on Thompson.

Small forward. Did not so much address the issue as inherit the decision by Artest. The Kings had no role in his call to play the final season of his contract rather than become a free agent on the spot. But now they know they don't have to plug the spot.

July 1, 2008
Beno Udrih agrees to terms with Kings

The Kings' prolonged point guard problem was solved on Monday, when they agreed to terms with Beno Udrih.
According to numerous sources, Udrih received the full five-year deal for the entire midlevel exception (beginning at approximately $6 million in the first season with annual eight percent raises). The deal for the fifth-year point guard can officially be signed when the free agency moratorium lifts on July 9.
"It's good for everybody," said his agent, Marc Cornstein by phone from New York City. "They've expressed tremendous interest not just starting at 12:01 last night New York time but really from the get go.
"They took a chance on Beno when he was really kind of an outcast from San Antonio, and put him in a fantastic position and believed in him and gave him a chance to run their team. I think he's great for Sacramento, and I think Sacramento is great for him."
Leading into free agency, the Clippers were always seen as the most likely team to keep Udrih from the Kings. He he met with Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy in New York City on Monday night and was offered an identical five-year, full midlevel deal that had already been put forth by the Kings. It came down to the Kings and the Clippers, with New York, Miami and Cleveland showing strong interest but unwilling to offer a five-year deal.
"I met with Dunleavy and he made a good impression on me," Udrih said by phone. "I really appreciate him coming all the way here to talk to me and tell me how he sees me.
"But I talked to (the Kings) early this morning, like 10 o'clock (Pacific time) and then I talked to them and to my family and my close friends who have been around the league. Every minute I was leaning to Sacramento."
Yet Udrih's early morning call to Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie left his future uncertain, enough so that the Kings moved down their wish list of point guards in anticipation of Udrih declining. According to the agent for Chris Duhon, Kevin Bradbury, they contacted him just hours before Udrih called back with his final decision.
"I'd never been in this situation before, so I just had to think about it," Udrih explained. "I didn't want to say anything. I was just quiet and listened and tried to go through everything.
"Then I talked to my family and told them how I think and they all supported me. I called Marc and I was like, 'You know what, I see myself more in Sacramento.' It feels like home, seriously."

Keep checking back for more updates... - Sam Amick

July 1, 2008
The question of the day in Oakland, besides whether Baron Davis has lost his mind

12:34 p.m. update: Warriors beat writer Geoff Lepper had a story in the Contra Costa Times this morning confirming the possible change of thinking by Don Nelson. Also, one other item from Lepper and the CC Times, noting Nelson's public break with free agent Matt Barnes, a Del Campo High product.


This all comes back to the same swerving uncertainty for the Warriors: whether Monta Ellis can play point guard.

Don Nelson used to think so, as recently as training camp '07. Then the season began, he scrapped plans to play Ellis as Baron Davis' understudy and build Ellis into the starter once Davis left or broke down, and by late 2007-08 said Ellis is the shooting guard and that's it.

Then came the stunning Monday.

Davis voided the final season of his contract and became a free agent, walking away from $17.8 million, after he and his agent had been saying for months and re-stated a few days ago that they expected to keep the deal in place.

Let's hope, for his sake, there is some plan with more certainty than the strategy of "Hey, we'll see how it goes." And not just a plan with good possibilities. A plan with (wink, wink) indications from a club wanting to partner up. Everyone's assuming the Clippers because they could have the money, they do have a position need and L.A. is Baron's hometown.

Ellis is a restricted free agent, but that's more technicality than anything in his case. He almost certainly will be negotiating exclusively with the Warriors. He almost certainly will not sign an offer sheet with another team because it would be for less money than Golden State can and will offer and because VP of basketball operations Chris Mullin would need the time it takes to get the cap off the pen to match. It will be a surprise if more than one or two competitors so much as invest real time to try and steal Ellis away.

July 1, 2008
Kings pursue Arenas?

All those Kings fans tired of their team not trying to make a major splash: Read here.
The Washington Post is reporting that none other than point guard/unrestricted free agent Gilbert Arenas received a highly-enthused phone call from a Kings rep last night who said they would do "whatever it takes" to bring him to Sacramento. I spoke with the Post's Wiz beat writer Ivan Carter at around 1 a.m., and it's safe to say he convinced me that this really did go down.

BLOG UPDATE: A Kings source was shocked by this news and said the story was way off. And since we don't even know who called Gilbert, it seems safe to say as of now that it wasn't part of the in-house plan. Crank call, maybe?

I'll try and find out who exactly called Arenas, but they were obviously proposing some sort of sign and trade in which the Wizards do the deal and essentially get their pick of the Kings' roster in return. You could, as always, involve a third team as well. And right away, you see the benefit of Ron Artest not opting out. This conversation doesn't happen if he opted out.
It's a serious long shot that Arenas would go for the plan, but it says something that the Kings are thinking this big at this moment. Hopefully I'll have more on this later today...

Beno watch

To reiterate what was below, Beno Udrih received an offer from the Kings at the start of free agency last night.
Numerous sources close to the team say it was for the full midlevel exception (approximately $6 million) and for the max term of five years. We have now entered the waiting game stage, as Udrih mulls his options and makes up his mind. - Sam Amick

July 1, 2008
Beno, Baron and free agency

Crazy night. And crazy morning. I have spent the last several hours speaking with colleagues about the free agency craze that's been ongoing. As The Bee's Kings beat writer Sam Amick long has predicted, Ron Artest remained with the club for $7.4 million and the final year or his contract. Ron-Ron made a wise move. He has another season to distance himself from brawls, domestic and animal neglect incidents, and prove to contending clubs that he could be a critical piece in a championship run.
Count me among the true believers. I bought in a long time. I also believe that if Geoff Petrie doesn't offer a longterm extension - which is highly unlikely, for all the obvious reasons, among them the fact the Kings are rebuilding and wouldn't benefit from a restless Artest - the veteran small forward is confident that Petrie will swap him to a contender. There is a genuine level of trust involved here, strange as it sounds.
Meantime, there should be no reason to doubt that Artest will continue to compete at an incredibly high level. The man is one of the game's great gamers. Rather, the issue is whether he neglects what he does best -- defend at a level that ranks with the all-time greats - and becomes consumed by offense, field goal attempts, and proving he's a great scorer. He's not Michael Jordan, but he might be a better defender than Jordan.

Baron Davis does WHAT?
It was interesting to learn that Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy was in New York last night in his aggressive pursuit of Kings free agent point guard Beno Udrih. But I have to wonder about two things. Is Clips owner Donald Sterling suddenly sympatico with his coach, with whom he has been feuding with for several months? And how does Baron Davis' stunning decision to opt out of a Warriors'contract that would pay almost $18 million next season factor into the equation?
I suspect the Clips will re-sign their free agent Elton Brand, the face of their franchise, and one of the league's class acts. I also believe that Sterling (via Elgin Baylor) will indeed make a serious pitch for Davis, who is from L.A., went to UCLA, produces movies in L.A., etc., etc., etc. Plus, having covered the Clips and The Donald for almost 10 years, I can say this unequivocally: the man is obsessed with superstars. He doesn't necessarily want to pay them, but he loves them.
If Baylor can convince Sterling to open his wallet, there is little likelihood that Warriors' owner Chris Cohan will match the deal and retain his oft-injured veteran point guard.

Sterling and Hollywood stars
One of the most revealing facets of Sterlng's ownership style is this: Instead of summoning the moving vans in the dead of night and sneaking his 1983-84 San Diego Clippers to Anaheim, where he would dominate the NBA market, he opted for the Los Angeles Sports Arena (and later, to share the Staples Center with the Lakers) because he refuses to contemplate the possibility that the good life exists outside a block or two of the I-10, I-5 or Harbor Freeways. He's an L.A. guy all the way. Strange.



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