Kings Blog and Q&A

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

September 30, 2008
A trip to training camp

Jason Thompson relaxed into a seat inside the Kings' practice facility after the first workout of training camp today.
"The first part of the first day went well," the rookie said after the morning non-contact session ended and players scattered into different directions.
With a swollen left eye, Thompson appeared to have taken a hit during the action.
"Oh, no," he explained. "It's a stye. I look like a pirate right now. I'm trying to not let it affect me."
Thompson said the toughest part of his job right now is learning all the plays, although he said he is a fast learner.
"But I have to learn more than one position, like I did in college," Thompson said. "So I'm going to have to learn the three, the four and the five. It's going to be tough, but I'm going to get my playbook out and since I don't have schoolwork, that will be my schoolwork."

Other notes from Day 1 of training camp:
* Coach Reggie Theus expanded on his reason for implementing the triangle offense.
"There are two types of coaches, there are coaches who put in a system and demand that players play under the system and there are coaches who try to fit the system to the players you have. I am trying to fit the system to the players we have."
So, does he think this new system will work? "I certainly hope so, it's too late now" to change it, he said.

* Kenny Thomas missed practice with a strained lower back. He said he expects to be out a couple days. For more on Thomas, check out tomorrow's paper.

* The Kings are in the midst of two-a-days, with the morning session non-contact, followed by contact in the evening. Bet you can guess which workout Kevin Martin prefers.
"I like contact practices more than non-contact," Martin said. "Tonight will be fun, because you get to talk some trash."

To hear what Theus said his goal was for today, click on the video below.

September 30, 2008
Never too soon for hoops


Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who recently retired because of knee problems at age 31, looked a little uncomfortable Monday during media day. The veteran power forward is joining Reggie Theus' coaching staff, primarily to work with the frontcourt players. But he looked as if he would rather be wearing a Kings uniform than a suit and tie - understandably. Who wouldn't prefer to play games for a living rather than worry about preparing scouting reports, analyzing videotapes, worrying about player-coach relations, etc.? Oh, well. It still beats working a real job.

Asked if he should be addressed as "coach," the soft-spoken Abdur-Rahim laughed. "Just call me Shareef."

The former Cal standout was convinced to take the coaching position by Kings president Geoff Petrie, a terrific NBA player who was similarly forced to retire prematurely because of knee problems. Petrie was a co-Rookie of the Year with Dave Cowens, and before he retired age the ridiculous age of 28, established himself as one of the game's great scoring guards. So he can empathize. He also took a different path than Abdur-Rahim. Admittedly emotionally ill-prepared to remain in the NBA in a non-playing capacity, he pursued other interests, business and real estate among them, and eventually returned to the Portland Trail Blazers in the front office.

Pointing to the problematic left knee, Petrie said he still experiences occasional discomfort. "But not as much as I do other parts of the body," he said, with a grin. As the youthful-looking, 60-year-old executive often notes, aging is not a pleasant experience.


The boss likes what he sees

Petrie is known for carefully selecting his public comments - and for his creative analogies, metaphors and one-liners - but to those who have spent a lot of time in his company, he is actually pretty transparent. Unlike many of his NBA colleagues, he isn't very accomplished at serving up the b.s. So, it was interesting to note his mood Monday: for the first time in a while, he seems genuinely upbeat about the direction of the team and the upcoming season. He believes he has a talented young corps that can be developed while competing for a playoff berth, in essence, one that is starting to resemble a team with pieces that fit. Plus, pieces that pass the ball.

Petrie seems intent on returning to the days when the Kings might have been defensively challenged but were fun to watch. And there is no doubt that he has allies in Kevin Martin, Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes, etc., all of whom are adamant about playing a very specific style - as Larry Brown would say - of playing the "right way." Think cutting, passing, teamwork, fast breaks, and a minimal amount of one-on-one basketball.


Hunting, fishing, whatever ...

Miller and Reggie Theus spent the past few weeks on separate hunting trips - Miller to Kentucky, Theus to New Mexico. Theus, who often uses the bow and arrow, said he discovered archery during his playing days in Sacramento, and is encouraging his teenage son, Reggie Jr., to pick up the sport. "It's just another thing that we can do together," said Reggie Sr. Theus also loves to hike, but says his son has absolutely no interest in tents, sleeping on the ground, etc. Hey, I hear him. Nothing wrong with spending a day on the trails, then hitting a Marriott for a jacuzzi and room service ....


Missing in action

One of the funniest lines of the day was provided by a local journalist, commenting on Joe Maloof's absence. (Joe loves this stuff). When it was mentioned that the Kings' co-owner was still pretty miserable and recovering in Los Angeles from double knee replacement surgery necessitated by old football injuries, the newsy type quipped, "What, from his Pop Warner days?"
Taking up for his older brother, Gavin Maloof later responded, feigning indignation, "No, not Pop Warner. Joe was a safety at the University of New Mexico. We all played football in college. I'm not saying we were very good ..."
Gavin added that the eldest Maloof sibling had lost 30 pounds during his rehab, and "is looking pretty skinny. Wait till you see him."

September 29, 2008
Gavin Maloof: "If you have to play the veterans more to win games, so be it."

Two of the three most important people in the Kings organization just put the youth movement on hold.

Geoff Petrie sort of did, at least. It's tough to tell -- as is often the case when he talks in code -- without a Petrie-to-English dictionary handy. But there were words to that effect.

Gavin Maloof definitely did.

"We're here to win games," he said a few hours ago at media day. "If you have to play the veterans more to win games, so be it."

To review: After months of transactions to acquire prospects and draft picks in a move to build for the future and nearly six months to the day Joe Maloof vented to Sam Amick that it might be in the best interest of coach Reggie Theus' continued employment to invest serious minutes in the young players, brother/co-owner Gavin Maloof said it's all about the here and now.

Petrie's comments could be a president setting the tone that his team is expected to play to win every night. That gets into semantics. It also gets into words as one thing and actions as quite another, and Petrie has traded Mike Bibby and Ron Artest since the All-Star break for cap space, picks and young players. He knows it's not about the here and now.

September 29, 2008
Media Day Madness

Thoughts from training camp invitee Bobby Jones (second-year player out of Washington, 6-foot-7 forward):

This next video comes with a warning as the material is about the departed Ron Artest. Those of you who have grown weary of hearing about Artest, please move on.

Here are a few words from an excited Kings owner, Gavin Maloof.

September 29, 2008
Training camp, at last

Enough maneuvering, enough waiting, enough speculating. The Kings officially reunite today, first for the annual media day certain to be high on optimism and low on news and for the actual start of camp itself Tuesday. Then: news.

It doesn't figure to be an October of blaring headlines with this Ron Artest-less group. But there will be developments worth charting. There always are, for any team, except that this is the first preseason since the late 1990s of the Kings officially tracking to the future, and so watching the storylines of progress will be uniquely important for this roster and this time.

Adding to the value of the next four weeks leading up to the regular-season opener at Minnesota, most of the biggest mysteries on the court have come about or grown since the Kings last played. Suddenly, it's not such a sleepy camp.

We won't know until the games count for real whether Beno Udrih can handle the pressure and expectations of a big contract, a legitimate question based on his history. Likewise how well power forward Jason Thompson can defend and rebound, the two pressing issues the Kings needed to address in the summer and, based on opponents' opinions of Thompson, may not have answered with their first-round pick.

Good stuff, with thanks that this won't be a simple by-the-numbers month.

In order of importance:

September 28, 2008
The education of Kevin Martin - Extra Credit

BLOG UPDATE: The below material is extended coverage related to this piece on Kevin Martin.

***

When it comes to Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin, no one knows his game like his personal coach, David Thorpe. As for who takes second place? It may be Kings assistant coach Jason Hamm.

On a September trip to Bradenton, Fla., to observe Martin's offseason routine with Thorpe, I sat down to lunch with the coaches who play such pivotal roles in his development. The end result was a 30-minute round table on all things Martin, a fascinating discussion about his game, his work ethic, what has helped him succeed to this point and what he must do this season to continue improving as his role grows once again.

As for the player himself, Martin and I caught up for a big-picture interview while he relaxed on the training table after a morning practice session at the IMG Academy.

- Sam Amick

September 27, 2008
Take a peek

Beno Udrih tugged at his jersey, showing the thin material that makes up the Kings new uniforms. While the new threads appear more modern, there isn't a drastic change, other than swapping the wording on the home and away jerseys. Now, the home jersey reads "Sacramento," while the away jersey reads "Kings."
"They are great," Udrih said today after the new uniforms were unveiled at Arden Fair. "They are much lighter. I like the colors on them and they are a little different than last year. I don't know how they will be when we sweat, but for right now, they're great."
The point guard joined teammates Francisco Garcia and Jason Thompson at the event, which drew a large crowd outside Nordstrom.
After unveiling the new uniforms, the three players signed autographs for a long line of people. Many fans came prepared, bringing old souvenirs and photos. As Thompson signed a vintage Kings pennant, he blushed a little when asked what's the strangest thing he's signed.
"I don't know if I can say it," Thompson said. "But, when I first got here someone made me sign her ... I'm going to say her neck."

For more on Thompson and to see the Kings' new uniforms, check out the video below.

September 27, 2008
Did J-Will just retire?

The Los Angeles Times has the report that Jason Williams just quit on the Clippers, but also the disclaimer from coach Mike Dunleavy: "He could be like Brett Favre. And in a month from now he could want to play again."

The Clips aren't totally buying this as an actual retirement, in other words.

It's a strange development either way. Maybe, as the new season approaches with training camp opening Tuesday, Williams realizes he doesn't have another season in him, whether emotionally or in a body that has allowed 67, 61 and 59 games the previous three seasons. Maybe he'll take a step back and decide he wants to play after all. The distrusting J-Will let very few people in on his thinking, as always, and even his agent was reportedly surprised by the decision some seven weeks after his client signed a one-year deal with L.A.

It's also unwanted news for a team that hoped to move from offseason craziness -- Elton Brand and Corey Maggette leaving, Baron Davis, Marcus Camby and lottery pick Eric Gordon arriving -- to a place of greater stability. The retirement of a projected backup point guard hardly qualifies as the ground moving under the Clippers again, but the timing is obviously bad. That's what moves it from cursory event everywhere except Sacramento and Miami to meaningful in the Pacific Division and Western Conference.

The Clippers are realistic playoff candidates again and may have just lost an important role player. They set their roster based on the expectation of a Williams presence. The late call is more critical because starter Baron Davis has a bad history of injuries, although he went all 82 with the Warriors in 2007-08.

September 26, 2008
Shaq, another smash hit in Sacramento


Not that anyone should be surprised. Much of this was chronicled in The Bee during the best years of the Kings-Lakers rivalry. But Shaquille O'Neal has always privately (and not so privately) enjoyed an affinity for Sacramento, his comments about "cowtown" and "Sacramento Queens" notwithstanding. When he wasn't dunking over Scot Pollard and Vlade Divac during his visits with the Lakers - OK, and keeping the Kings from their first NBA championship in 2002 - he was strolling the lobby of the Hyatt Regency, chatting with fans, and graciously posing for photos. Kids in particular love him. Other times, he was off at the shooting range with former Sheriff Lou Blanas, prepping for his afterlife as a deputy sheriff. Can you imagine?.

Last night, as the featured speaker at the annual St. HOPE dinner at the Hyatt Regency, he was, as usual, absolutely hilarious. (I swear I even saw Jerry Reynolds laughing, in spite of himself and his Kings loyalty). Shaq danced onto the stage wearing an Afro wig and lip-synching to the The Jackson Five's "I Want You Back." He almost immediately mentioned the incongruity of being asked by Sacramento native Kevin Johnson to speak at his event - that Kings rivalry indeed lives - and said he initially told KJ he was crazy to ask him to attend, given his mayoral aspirations. "I told him, 'People hate me there," related Shaq, who agreed to make the trip anyway.

Referring to a visit earlier in the day to the Boys & Girls Club, Shaq added, "Everyone is going 'Shaq, Shaq!, and one little kid says, 'Shaq, but you still (stink) at free throws!' " He went on to say that his verbal shots about Sacramento all those years "were all about marketing. As you know, Sacramento is a beautiful town. The people here, you guys got us playing at a high level ... and without you guys, I wouldn't have four rings!"


What if?

I have known Shaq since his days at LSU - his former attorney/representative and I were law school classmates - and because I worked in Atlanta for eight years, we spent a lot of time together (Olympics, NBA Finals, Orlando Magic, etc.). Thus, there is no doubt in my mind that he left the Magic for the Lakers in 1996 because he couldn't resist the overtures of the legendary Jerry West, I can also tell you that he was more than a little hurt when the Maloofs (per Geoff Petrie's counsel) didn't pursue him when his relationship soured with Kobe Bryant. Shaq liked Sacramento that much. He has always been a small town guy - he kept a home in Orlando during his years with the Lakers, and spent most of his offseason there. He absolutely hated L.A. traffic. Once, during a preseason trip to San Diego, we drove to the nearby San Diego Zoo, and he spent most of the time complaining about the traffic (and playing around with the GPS system, looking for escape routes).

No doubt about it. When asked what I like best about covering the NBA all these years (and in all these cities), I always respond that it's the people. Shaq has long been one of my Fab Fives, as is Charles Barkley, who might be the only NBA type who is even funnier than The Diesel .


Looking slim

I have to agree with my colleague, Scott Howard-Cooper, who visited with Shaq earlier in the day. Shaq looks good. Though suits can be deceiving, and are effective at hiding excess weight, the Phoenix Suns center (that still sounds strange) appeared slim and surprisingly fit given that training camp doesn't begin until next week.

September 26, 2008
The kinder, gentler and lighter Shaquille O'Neal

This was the charitable Shaquille O'Neal in town today/tonight. He arrived in the afternoon, bantered with Kevin Johnson at a press conference in the early evening and was scheduled to speak at the Hyatt later as part of a benefit dinner for KJ's St. HOPE Academy. Shaq was in such a giving mood that he dared call the local team the Sacramento Kings, emphasizing the name to make sure that everyone got that he has dropped the Queens bit.

The basketball development from the visit: he looked good. Good enough that the Suns will be pleased as training camp is set to begin, good enough that the rest of the Pacific Division and Western Conference may have to contend with something other than a bloated, floor-bound O'Neal.

Game condition is much different than being in shape from offseason workouts, so the final determination on his conditioning won't be known for at least a couple weeks. But this is a very encouraging start to 2008-09 for Phoenix, a team that can use the favorable momentum in the wake of the early playoff exit, the decision to cut ties with popular coach Mike D'Antoni and the hiring of former Kings assistant coach Terry Porter as the successor at a crossroads moment for the roster.

Shaq said he was about 335 pounds, and that looked about right. Of course, he said he reported to camp at the same weight the previous two seasons, before he broke down in Miami. Visually, the statement is far more believable this time.

September 26, 2008
Kings training camp roster revealed

All the usual suspects are there with two additions, Noel Felix and Zhang Kai. Felix was a part of the Kings summer league roster and previously played 12 games with the Seattle SuperSonics during the 2005-2006 season.
Kai plays professionally in China, where he attempted to make the Olympic team over the summer before being cut.

NO PLAYER POS HT WT DOB FROM YRS
5 Bobby Brown G 6-2 175 09/24/1984 Cal State-Fullerton R
8 Quincy Douby G 6-3 175 05/16/1984 Rutgers 2
16 Noel Felix F 6-9 225 10/04/1981 Fresno State 1
32 Francisco Garcia F-G 6-7 195 12/31/1981 Louisville 3
20 Donte Greene F 6-10 226 02/21/1988 Syracuse R
31 Spencer Hawes C 7-1 245 04/28/1988 Washington 1
24 Bobby Jackson G 6-1 185 03/13/1973 Minnesota 11
25 Bobby Jones F 6-7 215 01/09/1984 Washington 2
23 Kevin Martin G 6-7 185 02/01/1983 Western Carolina 4
52 Brad Miller C 7-0 261 04/12/1976 Purdue 10
33 Mikki Moore F-C 7-0 225 11/04/1975 Nebraska 10
15 John Salmons G-F 6-6 207 12/12/1979 Miami (Fla.) 6
9 Kenny Thomas F 6-7 245 07/25/1977 New Mexico 9
34 Jason Thompson F 6-11 250 07/21/1986 Rider R
19 Beno Udrih G 6-3 205 07/05/1982 Slovenia 4
22 Shelden Williams F-C 6-9 250 10/21/1983 Duke 2
7 Zhang Kai F 6-10 235 12/01/1982 China R

September 25, 2008
Addendum to Cisco, salary caps, and more

A few basic nuggets regarding Francisco Garcia's extension and other recent events...

* This story from ESPNdeportes - by way of El Caribe of Dominican Republic - is inaccurate as it pertains to the fifth year. While they are reporting that the fifth year is worth $7 million and is Garcia's option, a source close to the negotiations tells me that the fifth year is a team option. As in the case of Mikki Moore - who will be paid $2 million of his $6 million if the Kings cut him before next season - it appears Garcia has a partial guarantee in his final year as well. What's more, Garcia is in Sacramento and not in the Dominican as the story states.

* No, it does not affect this year's salary cap. The extension begins next season.

* On that note, I have learned that the Kings may be able to get Shareef Abdur-Rahim's salary removed from this season's salary cap number after all.

My research had shown that it was too late to apply for the 2008-09 money to be taken off because he didn't make his decision to retire until this summer, but I've been told that's not the case. The key factor here is this: the first anniversary of his career-ending injury date. Because Abdur-Rahim played in fewer than 10 games, his date of career-ending injury could be deemed just after his final game played last season (Nov. 12).

September 25, 2008
Breaking: Garcia agrees in principle to extension

(11:01 A.M.)
By Sam Amick
samick@sacbee.com

The Kings' push to secure a young core took another step forward on Thursday, as they agreed in principle to a contract extension for fourth-year swingman Francisco Garcia.

According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, the deal is for five years and $29.8 million. The fifth year of the deal is a team option, although it is believed it is partially guaranteed. The source requested anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.

Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie did not immediately return a call for comment, nor did Garcia's agent, Aaron Goodwin. The Kings had until Oct. 31 to complete an extension with Garcia, who would have become a restricted free agent next summer if he had not been extended.

Garcia's career appeared to have stalled last summer, as his role under then-coach Eric Musselman was minimal in the 2006-07 campaign and he averaged less than 18 minutes per game. But in the first season under coach Reggie Theus - with whom Garcia played during his college years at Louisville - he flourished as a high-energy reserve.

Garcia was given 26.3 minutes per game and proved worthy while averaging 12.3 points and shooting a career-high 46.3 percent from the field. He was utilized as an outside threat as well, hitting 39.1 percent from three-point range. His new contract will begin next season and concludes in the 2013-14 campaign.

STORY UPDATE (1:25 P.M.)

The Kings just announced the extension for Francisco Garcia which was reported here this morning. It's official.

"We are all gratified we were able to reach an agreement in principle with Francisco on a contract extension," Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie said in a statement. "He embodies a lot of qualities we feel are necessary for our team to continue to improve. He's a competitive leader and he's gotten better every year. We're looking forward to watching him grow even more this season."

Garcia, not surprisingly, was quite pleased.

"I feel great," he said in the statement. "It's good to know that I'm going to be here for years to come. This is a great organization that's moving in the right direction. We have the best owners in the league. Our general manager is one of the best. And we have a good coaching staff with a lot of talented players. I'm looking forward to the upcoming season."

September 23, 2008
What's next for Reef and his roster spot?

First, a bit of in-house business. An online mishap earlier tonight meant the final version of the Kings story (which will land on most doorsteps in a few hours) wasn't posted online.

This matters for two reasons: 1) Because I somehow wrote that Abdur-Rahim's lone playoff appearance was in 1996, which is absurd because he wasn't in the league yet and also because I watched him obliterate Tim Duncan in that memorable 2006 series against San Antonio in which Rick Adelman didn't call Shareef's number nearly enough for my taste. Reason No. 2: Because that meant the readers missed on out this quality quote in which Abdur-Rahim reflects on a legacy that went far beyond the floor.

"I just hope that whatever team I was on, whatever city I was in, whatever organization I was with, that my contributions were more than just playing basketball. If all I did in those situations I was in was play basketball, then I'd say I did a poor job. Hopefully the contributions are bigger than basketball."

For the record, they were by a long shot. Anyhow, here's the story for those who haven't read it yet. Mea culpa from me.

BLOG UPDATE: The story has been updated (the mea culpa remains).

Now while I quoted Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie in the paper saying the organization will "probably try and get something like (Abdur-Rahim coaching) done here pretty quickly," Abdur-Rahim was fairly noncommittal in our interview in regards to his future.

"It's a possibility," he said when asked if he would be the team's big man's coach. "I haven't really had a chance to talk to Geoff extensively about it. I haven't had a chance to talk to (Kings coach) Reggie (Theus) at all about it. This year, I'll be doing something in some capacity with the organization. We'll see where that goes. I'm not sure yet."

Nonetheless, Petrie doesn't speak in near-certainties all that often so the smart money remains on Abdur-Rahim filling that role. Petrie said the fit would be ideal.

"He was a really productive lowpost scorer and a great citizen," Petrie said. "Those are the kind of people you want to have around."

THE ROSTER SPOT

The retirement means the Kings are down to 14 players and could add one more to the bunch.

I didn't get a chance to ask Petrie about his plans for the vacancy, but they may as well make the most of it with a relatively cheap young talent to be named later. Justin Williams anyone? Add another athletic rebounder/shotblocker to the group who just happens to come with the added benefit of familiarity.

To review, Williams was only waived (in Feb.) to make room for the players in the Mike Bibby trade. And while I'm not sure who his most ardent supporters are within the organization, he had a good enough name to outlast Darryl Watkins and all his upside last training camp. Williams is an unemployed free agent at the moment.

Just for kicks...

Ah, but I have one more early Easter egg: There may be reason to think I was wrong in this post about Francisco Garcia's future in Sacramento. That's all I can say for now. - Sam Amick

September 22, 2008
Shareef Abdur-Rahim retires

Shareef Abdur-Rahim announced his retirement today, ending his stellar career after 12 seasons.

For the last 18 months, the 31-year-old Kings forward had been unable to recover from two arthroscopic knee surgeries and was faced with the reality of retirement far sooner than he had anticipated. But after saying in July that his body would make the decision for him, the answer was not what he had hoped for.

"I've been in a situation where I've been trying to get healthy over the last year and a half," Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. "I came to grips with the fact that, health-wise, I won't be able to get back to the condition and level that is needed to play in the NBA. My right knee has become arthritic over the years and is to the point where it won't allow me to do the things and play at the level in which I'm accustomed to playing. As tough as it is to come to grips with, it's the reality."

September 18, 2008
Stumbling along

Kings/Monarchs co-owner Gavin Maloof, in town for tonight's WNBA playoff game between the Monarchs and San Antonio Silver Stars, described his last few weeks as "exhausting." And, no, he wasn't talking about the impact of the nation's economic crisis on the family businesses. He says he has spent the past month taking care of his mother, Colleen, who was ill, and more recently, brother Joe, who underwent double knee replacement surgery last week in Phoenix.

Gavin described the procedure as "excruciatingly painful," and said that Joe is finally starting to feel better and attempting to walk around. "He knew he had to get it done," said Gavin, "but he kept putting it off because it's such a tough surgery. His knees were bone on bone, from old football injuries. It was causing him to walk bowlegged, but now, even when he takes a few steps, his legs have straightened out on him."

The walking wounded at Arco Arena - which already included Monarchs power forward Rebekkah Brunson - included Monarchs general manager John Whisenant. Whiz came into the press room before tipoff and apologized for not returning my phone call Wednesday. He didn't have to do much explaining: His face was covered with bandages. He had a cancerous growth removed from the side of his nose and required 25 stitches.

September 18, 2008
Get interactive with free Oak Park camp

BLOG UPDATE: The camp folks have informed me that the camp is full, although any no-shows will be filled by kids who are on the premises.

***

It's free. Actually free. No fine print, quotation marks, disclaimers or hidden charges.
A free basketball camp hosted solely by local hoops guru Guss Armstead would be more than worth attending, but this has much more than that. Kevin Martin, Bobby Jackson and ... Marty McNeal! That's right, the Bee columnist will be among those joining Kings players and a score of hoops celebs in Oak Park on Saturday for the 3rd Annual Celebrity Basketball Clinic.

First, the particulars ...

When: 9:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday

Where: At the Dr. Ephraim Family Life Center, 4036 14th Avenue, Sacramento

Who: Up to 150 children will be permitted to spend the day - as the release says - "learning basketball fundamentals, the importance of team work, and receiving words of encouragement from area celebrities" in Jackson, Martin, and former Sheldon High/Duke star and current Golden State Warrior DeMarcus Nelson. Children will receive a t-shirt, photos, lunch, prizes, and mini basketballs. Water/thirst aide will be provided to children throughout the day. Special guests also include Monarchs legend Ruthie Bolton.

Second, the charge issued by this here Kings blog: Anyone attending the event (which I can't attend) should e-mail me pictures of their day (samick@sacbee.com), preferably shots with your kids interacting with the Kings guys or other big names (Marty included). Assuming I get a good response, I'll post the pictures in a future blog. - Sam Amick

September 17, 2008
Artest weighs in on Howard controversy

As the summer neared an end and the reality sunk in that I won't have the joy of covering Ron Artest in this coming season, I began to miss those days when Artest was saying something new and newsworthy almost every day.
Then while I was in a Kings planning meeting with the Bee higher-ups and numerous colleagues, I received an e-mail from the Houston Rockets small forward (that just sounds strange) as if on cue. Artest decided to share his thoughts with numerous media members on today's controversy surrounding Josh Howard, the Dallas small forward whose latest transgression was an unpatriotic rambling regarding the Star Spangled Banner at an Allen Iverson charity event in July.

After starting his own conversation on culture in July before heading for Houston, Artest weighed in on the racial element of Howard's comments.

"I think josh howards comment is a reflection on education. I think the schools need to teach deeper in the history classes and make the students aware of racism but also teach them that all people are not bad. "I can relate to not feeling wanted by my own country at times but as I dug deeper I realized that America is divided and we need leaders to bring America closer together. An example where I felt unwanted by my country was when I didn't get a chance to tryout for my national team. I believed it was because of my history.

I hope he overcomes this.

Family 1st"

What jumped out at me first about Ron's comments was the reference to the Olympic team. Artest was obviously mad/disappointed/all of the above over not being considered, and he is certainly correct that his past played a part. Beyond that, I found his message both sincere and simplistic. Interestingly, he e-mailed from an address connected to his XCel University charity organization rather than his typical generic address. The mission of XCel is to encourage kids in high-risk neighborhoods to focus on education and staying out of trouble. It seemed like he was looking for a plug, and I have absolutely no problem obliging. Go here for more on that program. - Sam Amick

September 12, 2008
Theus goes hunting in old stomping grounds

Kings coach Reggie Theus went hunting with some old friends from Las Cruces, N.M., and I can't wait to ask Brad Miller about his coach's technique! In truth, I'd given some thought to doing a story like this except for the part about me not being a hunter.

To read the story, click here. And here's the video...

CATCHING UP WITH COACHIE (Sort of) - Examiner columnist/Fox Sports TV personality/Former Warriors beat writer for the Contra Costa Times Matt Steinmetz did an interview with Kings GM Geoff Petrie regarding the one and only Pete Carril. For those looking for a slice of nostalgia for the old Kings days, click here to give it a read. - Sam Amick

September 10, 2008
Pre-preseason in Florida with Kevin Martin

Bradenton, Fla. - Kevin Martin walked out of a muggy gym at the IMG Academies in Central Florida this afternoon, having swapped his sweat-drenched t-shirt for a crisp and dry replacement.

Another session with his personal coach, David Thorpe, had come to an end, and Martin's saturated state said everything about the work that had been done. The Kings shooting guard has been teaming with Thorpe for offseason workouts for seven years now, beginning when Martin was entering his sophomore season at Western Carolina. After years of hearing about the pivotal role these weeks of workouts played, I decided to see for myself this week.

Because I will have an in-depth story and loads of multimedia material from the trip as the season nears, I won't be spoiling too much of the experience just yet. I will, however, share this: Martin looks ready for the regular season.

Physically, his once-fragile frame took yet another offseason step toward sturdy. His game that already has taken historical steps in terms of statistical progress should be refined, with an emphasis this summer on everything from strengthening his weak hand on the dribble to playing lower to the floor rather than his penchant for staying upright to improving defensive positioning and awareness to finishing with exclamation point dunks more than ever.

Kings assistant Jason Hamm paid a visit to this hoops classroom as well and - like myself - was impressed with the detail, intensity and game-relevance of the workouts. While Martin sometimes works out with the likes of fellow Thorpe clients Tyrus Thomas and Luol Deng of Chicago, the better-known talent this week was NBA D-Leaguer Elton Brown and former NBA player Daniel Santiago (who has been making millions in Europe and is a free agent but has no business not being on an NBA roster with his big-man skills).

While media types (myself included) and fans alike are wondering how Martin will handle the role of being 'The Man' now that Ron Artest is gone, he is taking a somewhat more savvy approach. Between his strong stance in Las Vegas and his shared opinions this week, it's obvious he is welcoming the new personal challenge while expecting more from those around him at the same time.

He made a comparison to the season when Bonzi Wells' injury opened the door of opportunity for him and the huge chance so many of his teammates now have. There is a deaf ear turned to the many prognosticators (myself included) who expect the Kings' playoff-less streak to extend to three seasons and a competitiveness that wants nothing more than to play in late April again. There is the hope that his teammates are in shape come October training camp because a head start can only help.

There was far more working than there was talking this week for Martin, who gave every indication that this will be yet another breakout year. - Sam Amick

September 8, 2008
Maloofs add star to their list

The Maloofs have long since cornered the market on courting young celebrities at their Palms Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, and they hosted the biggest young name in the sports world on Friday.

Michael Phelps, the Baltimore-born swimmer who won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics this summer, stayed at the renowned Hardwood Suite over the weekend and even dined with Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof at the hotel's Garduno's restaurant.

While Phelps couldn't escape Sin City without getting nabbed by the tabloids, he left quite an impression on Gavin during a visit to the hotel's pool.

"He caused a stir at the pool," Gavin said by phone. "Everybody was asking about him and wanting to take his picture. He was really a gentleman, a really a nice fellow."

While there is always far more socializing than swimming going on at the Palms pool, Gavin said Phelps resisted the urge to speed past the patrons with a few laps.

"He didn't swim, but he stayed in the cabana," Gavin said. "I don't know if he ever got in the pool. We wanted to make him the honorary lifeguard of the Palms. I said, 'We want to offer you an honorary lifeguard position, but are you sure you can swim?'"

According to Gavin, Phelps brought approximately 30 of his family and friends on his trip and even learned a bit about hoops from Phoenix GM Steve Kerr.

"(Kerr) was teaching him how to shoot," Gavin said. "He was having a good time."

JOE MALOOF HAS SURGERY

When I called Gavin, he was in Phoenix offering support for brother, Joe Maloof, who had both of his knees replaced on Friday.

The Kings co-owner who was a two-time letterwinner as a defensive back at the University of New Mexico had to go under the knife to deal with his old football injuries. The surgery, Gavin reports, went well.

"He's doing well," Gavin said. "He's up and around walking a little bit. His knees were shot. Now he's got titanium knees."

The recovery is expected to take approximately two months.

"He's walking around gingerly and in good spirits," Gavin said. "That's why he couldn't sit at the courtside (at Kings games) that long, because his knees would hurt." - Sam Amick

September 6, 2008
Reef takes a respite in Africa

Reality will set in soon for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

His body, as he said when the comeback began in earnest two months ago, will make the decision for him. The ailing right knee that was operated on for the second time in six months last December either will or will not allow him to take part in October training camp. If not, retirement - and possibly a coaching career - could be on the horizon.

But on an 11-day trip to Africa that concludes on Monday and stretched from Senegal to South Africa, Abdur-Rahim said he was reminded how fortunate he is no matter what his future holds. While taking part in the same "Basketball Without Borders" program that brought Kevin Martin and Ron Artest there last summer, Abdur-Rahim witnessed poverty and struggles that provided rich perspective.

"We have poverty in America, a lot of poor people," the Kings forward said by phone from South Africa. "But this is real poverty around here. It makes you extremely appreciative. It's the simple things you take for granted, like running water, a bathroom...You take the worst projects you've been to in the states and nothing compares to this."

September 6, 2008
Suggestions wanted on Kings online page

As the Bee continues its efforts to improve online and better satisfy our readers, we now have a blog dedicated to brainstorming and feedback.
Last week, managing editor Tom Negrete went fishing for feedback about a new Kings page online. For those looking to inspire change and add a few good ideas, read the post I've linked to below and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section.

CLICK HERE TO WEIGH IN ON NEW KINGS PAGE - Sam Amick

September 4, 2008
A few things Kings...

* A few updates on offseason whereabouts of Kings players and coaches...

- Forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim and assistant coach Kenny Natt are in Africa with the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program.

From what I'm told, Abdur-Rahim's training continues and it's looking like his attempt at a comeback will continue into training camp.

On a somewhat related note, the Kings big man coaching job has gone unfilled and I could still see Abdur-Rahim filling that role eventually. It has been discussed informally within the halls of Kingsland, but all involved will continue to follow Abdur-Rahim's lead as his future unfolds.

- Brad Miller and Kevin Martin have been among the players training hard in Sacramento recently.

Our own photographer Hector Amezcua told me he saw Miller and his family during a State Fair visit when Jessica Simpson was performing. According to his hometown paper, he's headed back home soon for the annual Brad Miller charity golf outing with Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

September 2, 2008
Too new to know better


River Cats manager Todd Steverson is a native of Southern California, so that goes a long way toward explaining his NBA loyalties. Sort of. He's not a Kings fan naturally, but he's not a Lakers fan, either. The Cats' first-year manager actually supports the Clippers - and isn't afraid to say so publicly. "I go back with them to their San Diego days," Steverson recalled the other day. "Norm Nixon, all those guys. Big Clippers fan. But now ... they gave Elton Brand away, I don't even want to TALK about my Clippers. We go and get Baron Davis, and watch, he's going to want to leave."

Steverson, 36, who was 14 years old when Clips owner Donald T. Sterling relocated the franchise to the old Los Angeles Sports Arena, supported all the San Diego pro teams hough his loyalties could have been evenly split: With his parents divorcing, his mother remained in the Los Angeles area and his father moved to San Diego. As a result, he spent time in both locations.

"Loved the Chargers, too," he continued, "especially those (Don) Coryell teams. Kellen Winslow. Charlie Joiner. Wes Chandler. John Jefferson ..."

Asked whether he has developed an affinity for the Kings, the local team that plays across the river and a few miles to the north, Steverson laughed, then added: "Can't be a Kings fan. I'm a Clippers fan. People can hate me all they want, but you like who you like, right?"

Nonetheless, Steverson admitted that he doesn't wear his Clippers gear in public, at least not in Sacramento. "You think I'm crazy?" he laughed. "Down there, yeah. Up here? No way."



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