Kings Blog and Q&A

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

November 29, 2008
So you say you're a fan ...

The Bee has a fun feature online right now. After going through photo archives, we are inviting you to play a game to see how many former and current Kings players you recognize. It's a nice trip down memory lane and a good way to pass the time while waiting for Kevin Martin to return.

November 29, 2008
Opening tip: The Kings and their leadership issue, Part II

Mavericks (7-8) at Kings (5-13)

Scoring: Kings 12th (99), Mavericks 11th (99.3).
Shooting: Kings fourth (48.2 percent), Mavericks 18th (44.2).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (105.6), Mavericks 17th (98.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (48 percent), Mavericks third (42.6).
Turnovers: Kings 24th (16.1), Mavericks 13th (14.1),

The links: Mavericks coverage in the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star Telegram.
The almanac: On this date in 1997, the Wizards lost to the Bulls in the final game at what was then called US Airways Arena, ending a 24-year run at the Landover, Md., building. On this date in 1999, Tyrone Corbin of the Kings played his 1,000th regular-season game.

__________


The leadership question is an actual debate now, not just one person's observations. Good. It's a very important topic in the moment and heading to the future, and so it deserves to be out there.


Don't miss the timing either. Reggie Theus was hoping someone would get angry Friday about a half after he was bothered by huge mental mistakes Wednesday -- the end of the Nets game until whatever that was in the third quarter of the Jazz game. This was not a coach flying off the handle.

Theus to Sam Amick after Friday's loss in Salt Lake City: "The one thing I would've liked to see is one of our guys get really angry ... about what was happening on the floor. Our team has a very good temperament, but somebody should've been angry about that. I see that as a leadership issue."

November 28, 2008
The slide continues

SALT LAKE CITY - Bobby Jackson played only 12 minutes. And if he wasn't Bobby Jackson, any beat writer in his right mind would wander right past his locker on a night like this.

After all, plenty of others played a far bigger role in the 120-94 drubbing from Utah on Friday night. But he is Jackson, which means he's sure to be candid and insightful and a fairly decent barometer for the locker room at large. So we talked.

The Kings guard had his voice heard in the game story when he disagreed with coach Reggie Theus' opinion on a lack of leadership, but there were some other interesting thoughts that didn't make it in the paper as well. Namely, the veteran said he's grown tired of hearing the team's various injuries being used as an excuse for poor play.

"Everybody uses the excuse, 'We ain't healthy, we ain't full strength,' but what's healthy got to do with effort?" Jackson began as he got dressed. "What's healthy got to do with playing defense? We shoot the ball, and everybody wants to ... shoot it and not get back on defense. Nobody wants to take a foul and everybody wants to take a jump shot. It ain't about leadership. It's about effort and having pride in yourself as an individual and as a basketball player."

There wasn't much for the Kings to be proud of in the second half. And suddenly, the bigger picture is changing again. For as much credit has been heaped upon this team when it has been valiant in defeat, the numbers game is starting to catch up here and threaten to change the outlook.

Eight losses in nine games is what it is, a streak bad enough to put them 5 1/2 games back from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Regardless of whether the organization's aspirations to compete for a postseason spot were realistic, the fact remains it was a stated goal.

Now? Take a peek at that schedule and tell me where you're putting any part of your paycheck on a win. Saturday night it's Dallas, with the Mavs having lost to the Lakers on Friday after five straight wins and the Kings in danger of losing six straight at home for the first time since late in the 1997-98 season.Then it's a rematch with the Jazz (home), Denver (home, won nine of 12), Lakers (home, and fairly hard to beat), Lakers (away, and thus even harder to beat), quasi-respites against the Knicks and Minnesota and then four straight road games in Portland, Houston, New Orleans and San Antonio. It keeps going from there, but you get the idea.

If there isn't even an outside chance at making that playoff push, everything changes. Theus' status and the way in which he's judged. The futures of Brad Miller and Mikki Moore, both of whom are the next logical trade pieces and who become obstacles to the youth movement if the priorities are shifted heavily in favor of development over competing. It's changing quickly around Kingsland, and not for the better.

***

* Kevin Martin had yet another spirited workout before the Utah game and looked ready to roll by my untrained eye, but he's not expected to play Saturday. Tuesday against the Jazz is a real possibility.

* Kings swingman Francisco Garcia was a shell of himself in his return from a strained right calf, but no one could blame him. He missed two exhibition games and 17 regular-season contests, a span of 41 days. Needless to say, it will take him some time to get in shape.

"I'm gonna give it a go," he said before logging 12 mostly quiet minutes. "I didn't get to practice, so we'll see. I waited. I've been patient. But it's time to see how I am. I feel good."

I asked Garcia if it was safe to say he's out of shape.

"Of course, of course I'm out of shape," he said. "We'll see when I get tired how it feels." - Sam Amick

November 28, 2008
Opening tip: The Kings and their leadership issue

Kings (5-12) at Jazz (10-6)

Scoring: Kings 11th (99.3), Jazz 10th (99.4).
Shooting: Kings fourth (48.2 percent), Jazz third (48.4).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (104.8), Jazz 11th (95.9).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (47.7 percent), Jazz tied for 16th (45.3).
Assists: Kings ninth (21.1), Jazz first (24.9).

The links: Jazz coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News.
The almanac: On this date in 1992, Cavaliers coach Lenny Wilkens was involved in his 2,500th regular-season or playoff game as a player or coach, joining Don Nelson at that plateau. On this date in 1992, Larry Brown of the Clippers recorded his 400th coaching victory.

__________


I stayed for Reggie Theus' post-game news conference Wednesday rather than go straight to the locker room, so I missed the quick-departing Brad Miller and was unable to ask about getting a technical in overtime against the Nets. But I did ask Theus.


"It's bad timing," the coach said. "Bad timing."

Not terribly critical, but not letting Miller off the hook either. Diplomatically critical. That probably translates into Theus being 100 percent bothered and not wanting to publicly bury one of his veterans on a night when Theus tore into players at halftime and then again after the Kings snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and handed the game to the Nets. Reggie could easily have said "Emotions are part of the game" or some such line, except that he was very on edge and not interested in giving Miller an out.

It may not even be about Miller specifically (then again: one-point lead in overtime against a bad team playing the second night of a back-to-back, taking a frustration tech rather than walking away, maybe it was all about him.) It may just be the latest example of a team lacking leadership.

November 26, 2008
Opening tip: In defense of Reggie Theus

Nets (6-7) at Kings (5-11)

Scoring: Kings 15th (98.4), Nets ninth (99.4).
Shooting: Kings second (48.6 percent), Nets tied for 19th (43.7).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (104.1), Nets 28th (104.5).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (47.9 percent), Nets tied for 22nd (45.9).
Rebound differential: Kings 22nd (minus-2.3), Nets 11th (plus-0.9).

The links: Nets coverage in the Newark Star-Ledger, New York Post, New York Times and New York Daily News.
The almanac: On this date in 1986, the Bucks beat the Washington Bullets to give Don Nelson his 500th coaching victory in 817 games, at the time reaching the milestone faster than anyone in league history. Pat Riley later got there in 684 games. On this date in 1994, the Cavaliers set a record by attempting two free throws the entire game, breaking the previous mark of three. On this date in 1999, A.C. Green of the Lakers set the professional basketball record by playing in his 1,042nd consecutive game. He passed Ron Boone, who set the mark in the ABA and NBA. On this date in 2000, John Stockton of the Jazz set the record for most career games with one team, 1,271.

__________


A close loss to the Suns, a close loss to the Spurs, an inexcusable showing in a loss to the Grizzlies, a quality win over the Hornets on the second night of a back-to-back, a prideful effort in losing to the Lakers, another energetic showing on the second night of a back-to-back in a close loss to the Trail Blazers. Seven games, as many good moments as bad -- Reggie Theus isn't at Defcon 2 anymore.


But the additional supporting evidence, just in case someone starts putting empty boxes in his office, hint, hint:

*Brad Miller, 35.3 minutes a game.

*Spencer Hawes, 29.3.

*Jason Thompson, 27.

*Mikki Moore, 22.3.

*Shelden Williams, 10.1.

November 25, 2008
Petrie: "I want to continue doing what I'm doing as long as it works for everybody. "

Strange timing by the Kings to announce the Jason Levien hiring so late in the day. The release was sent out just after 5 o'clock, meaning space was at a premium in the story in the paper and the overwhelming majority of material from my interviews had no home.

Except on the trusty blog, of course.

To offer a bit of background before we get into it, the news of Levien's impending hiring last Thursday evening sparked much Internet chatter (and e-mails sent my way) about what it meant for the future of Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie and questions about whether this was his eventual successor. Even more relevant is that similar questions were being asked within the organization, where all but a small minority didn't know this was in the works and who wondered if Petrie's end wasn't more near than they thought.

On the surface, the uncertainty is driven mostly by three key factors: Petrie's contract expires after next season; the organization just made a rare front office addition and committed to a multiyear deal; common sense told you sharp ones out there that an agent doesn't leave that life for this one unless there's the potential for a promising path in place. I addressed a few of these questions in this post, but the relevant parties finally weighed in now that it's a done deal.

PETRIE (By phone)

Opening comment

He's bright. He's knowledgeable, has a breadth of experience now in terms of the collective bargaining agreement. He's a lawyer. He has a good network of people and resources that I think he's developed over the years. I think he'll add a lot.

Q: When did you start to think about this guy in this capacity in terms of bringing him in house?

A: Obviously, going way back to when we drafted Hedo (Turkoglu), he was working for (agent Lon) Babby. He was doing some of the point-work there. Over the years, I had different conversations with him - obviously Kevin (Martin), and there were other players in that arena. I was impressed with his preparation, his knowledge. Again, it's his ability to do some things in house for us along with his basketball background will be valuable.

Q: When the story came out last week, by far the most frequent question being asked by your fan base was not only 'What is this guy going to do?' but - so long as your deal doesn't go beyond next season - people wonder where your career is at. Does this have any impact on that? Is there a bigger picture at play here at all?

A: I don't think so. I really don't. I mean, I want to continue doing what I'm doing as long as it works for everybody. Obviously, you're healthy enough and you think your track (record) is good and you're accomplishing something. I don't think people should be really caught up in that at all.

Q: I was just talking to Gavin (Maloof), who said Geoff will be with us as long as he wants to be with us.

A: My relationship, not just with Joe and Gavin but just with the Kings as an organization or to whatever extent it's an institution in this community, it's a huge part of my professional and even my personal life at this point. That's why I just keep trying to do a good job.

Q:Did it surprise you at all that an agent would want to switch sides, so to speak?

A: There's a lot of people who would like to get into the basketball side of the business, regardless of what their profession or qualifications are. I think the world of Lon Babby, too. I think he's terrific, and Jason worked for him. He's carved out a niche for himself on the player side of things. And to do that, especially when you're a sole proprietor, you have to have some sense of whether a player can make it in the NBA or even has the ability to make it in the NBA. If your clients aren't doing anything, you can't make a living. Right?
Again, he's got a breadth of experience that's really valuable.

KINGS CO-OWNER GAVIN MALOOF By phone

Opening comment

I know Jason pretty well. He's certainly a very bright individual. He loves basketball, cares about the Kings, has a good rapport with Joe (Maloof) and I and Geoff. It's just another set of eyes and ears and an opinion that we could use to help us draft other picks, help us with our current roster. ... He knows basketball and he's a bright guy, so you can't have too many of those around.

Q: Were you looking to make an addition and you started looking around and you honed in on this guy, or was it the other way where the more you got to know him the more you thought you'd want to bring him in?

A: You run across a lot of people in the basketball business. I guess there are a lot of competent individuals, but you have to find someone that you really get along with and that you really hit it off with. We kind of all just hit it off. That's what happened with us and Jason.

He's an attorney and a bright guy, so he'll work well under Geoff. He'll review players' contracts. He'll help us form the contracts, do a lot of legal work that we need done. Whatever is involved in the business, that's what he'll help us with. And he's a basketball junkie, which is great too. You've got to find somebody who eats, breathes, and sleeps basketball, and that's what he does. I feel fortunate to have him, and I think he's going to bring a lot to the table.

Q: Gavin, at this point I know you start working together and see how it goes and you hope he pays off in the way that you're confident that he will. But because Geoff doesn't have a contract beyond next season, a lot of fans see this and wonder what it means.
Is there a chance that this guy down the road could be somebody in a much more significant position if Geoff wasn't around anymore. I know that's a ways down the road, but does he have that kind of potential as you see it?

A: I don't know that we've ever discussed that, as far as him being our next general manager. I don't know that we've discussed that as far as his future role. I think we're just going to take what he can do for us now and see where the chips fall.
We'd love to have Geoff with us a few more years. As long as he wants to be with us, we want to be with Geoff. There's really no timetable. We're just going to see how it develops and see what happens.

Q: It sounded like last summer Geoff was telling you and Joe to just 'leave my contract alone for a little while.' Have you resumed talks in that area at all.

A: What do you mean, 'leave it alone'?

Q: Ailene (Voisin) had reported over the summer that Geoff wanted to leave his contract situation the way it is, meaning this season and next, and that you would see how things fall together and talk about the future at a later date.

A: He's got this year and another, so I don't know. I don't look anything into that. I don't know how to respond to that.

Q: I'm just asking if you have talked about an extension or if you plan on simply operating with the contract he has now.

A: We're just operating with the contract we have now. You know, if it was up to us we'd never need a contract with Geoff. The people that do the job for us, we'd prefer they didn't have a contract because they could have a contract for life as long as they're doing the job and we're satisfied. The contract is just a piece of paper as far as we're concerned.

And Geoff, like I say, he can be with us as long as he wants to be with us. We stand by people who do the job. If you do the job, and you're loyal, hardworking. We don't like to switch people. It's like (team president) John Thomas, who we've had for like 10 years now. As long as they're doing the job and helping us make informed decisions, then they can stay with us as long as they want to.

LEVIEN by phone

Opening comment

I'm pretty excited. I think it's a really unique opportunity. It gets me closer to the game I love. It allows me to use my skills and my resources and contacts in a different way. It's sort of like looking at a puzzle from a different angle. Rather than representing the players, you're representing the team. I think the people in the organization are terrific. From Geoff on down, I think I've had a great relationship with folks there. Obviously knowing the Maloofs like I have, I know how much they care and are committed to winning. I'm just excited to be a part of it, and to try to contribute and figure out ways that I can help shape things.

Q: Why does a guy of your level of success leave that behind? Even geographically, you're Miami-based and now you're coming out this way. Explain the motivation from your side of this.

A: I think it's a combination of a love of basketball, a real belief in the Kings and the people that make up the Kings organization from the owners to the president. And it's the challenge. It's a unique challenge.

I didn't get into the agent business to stockpile as much money as I could. I did it because I really cared about my clients, I really cared about the game, and I felt that I could give good advice and make a difference in their lives. I feel as though, you know, I'm not getting into this for the same reason obviously.

I enjoy remuneration like anyone else, but I think if you chase money your whole life and that's your only goal, then sure I probably should've stayed as an agent. I was doing very well. But I think there's something bigger out there and something I want to contribute to that's more important than that. This is the kind of opportunity you can't pass up if you really feel the way I do. - Sam Amick

November 25, 2008
Extra, extra: Salmons material released (finally)

Call it the John Salmons mentality. The Kings small forward had to wait seven seasons to become a starter, and he has certainly taken the better-late-than-never approach to his current state. The same logic, then, will be applied to this blog post.

The piece on Salmons may have come out a few days ago, but here is the remainder of material that didn't make the cut but that is worth listening to and watching for those who remain curious about this man. From interviews with Salmons himself, former teammate Allen Iverson, and his former assistant high school coach at Plymouth Whitemarsh (Jim D'Onofrio), questions are answered regarding everything from what Salmons thinks of Sacramento to why he pounds the ball to how he views his role this season.

A few disclaimers real quickly: The Salmons interview took place just before the regular season, so keep that in mind (and ignore background noise from Center Court restaurant); the audio files were edited to give you some of the better material (and avoid my own long-winded questions).

The video of Salmons' walk to the basketball court in his North Philadelphia home is referenced in the story, so be sure to read that first.

Audio Files (Click on links to hear interviews)

Salmons interview, part 1 (2:29) (On the difference between Philly and Sacramento and on his view of the media)

Salmons interview, part 2 (13:03) (On becoming a starter; on shade trees named Ron-Ron being gone-gone; on playing in the triangle and his candid take on his isolation/pounding style)

Iverson on Salmons (3:57) (On his former 76ers teammate finally getting a chance to shine and on his legacy as a player who overshadowed so many others)

D'Onofrio on Salmons (7:39) (On his work ethic growing up; on his offseason summer routine in Philadelphia)

- Sam Amick

November 25, 2008
Levien hiring official

The Kings' front-office hiring first reported in The Bee on Thursday evening was made official this evening, when the team announced the addition of agent and attorney Jason Levien.

For a Q&A about what Levien's hiring means, click here. Read tomorrow's Bee for more, but below is the press release in its entirety...

The Sacramento Kings today announced the hiring of Jason Levien to their Basketball Operations staff as Team General Counsel/Assistant General Manager, effective December 15, 2008, according to President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie.


Levien's primary responsibilities include drafting and management of players, coaching and management contracts, assisting in salary cap planning and analysis and overseeing team compliance with all NBA rules and procedures. He will also assist in scouting and report directly to Petrie and Vice President of Basketball Operations Wayne Cooper.

Levien, a former NBA player agent, represented more than a dozen NBA players over the past decade, guiding his clients through their careers which included navigating the NBA Draft process, free agency and contract negotiations. His clients included Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls), Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat) and the Kings' Kevin Martin. In addition to negotiating Martin's long-term extension with Sacramento in 2007, Levien negotiated the largest contract in Bulls' history in July 2008.

"Jason brings a breadth of experience and expertise which will enhance the Kings Organization," explained Petrie. "He is bright, knowledgeable and has an established network of resources which are valuable."

Having traveled the globe evaluating basketball talent, Levien represented a number of international players drafted into the NBA and professional basketball players in more than 15 countries. He developed a reputation for finding talented players that were either overlooked or flew under the radar.

"I've known Geoff Petrie for the better part of a decade and there's nobody in the basketball world that I respect more than him," said Levien. "Geoff, combined with what I think of the ownership in the Maloof's, who are incredible owners, passionate basketball fans and successful business people, made this opportunity unique and attractive. I'm looking forward to contributing in any and every way. This team has a lot of young, talented pieces and to be a part of the future was something that was very attractive and exciting to me. To go from the agent side of representing players to being a part of a team and organization is sort of an out of the box move, but it's something I'm thrilled about."

Levien has also spent time working in politics, including serving as the speechwriter for the Keynote Address at the 2000 Democratic National Convention and in The White House.

Levien is a graduate of Pomona College in Claremont, where he was a member of the basketball team. He served as an editor of the Michigan Law Review while earning his law degree and master's in public policy from the University of Michigan. Levien was later awarded a fellowship at Harvard Law School.

- Sam Amick

November 24, 2008
Opening tip: Coaching changes don't have to be fair

Kings (5-10) at Trail Blazers (8-6)

Scoring: Kings 10th (98.9), Trail Blazers 14th (98.4).
Shooting: Kings second (48.7 percent), Trail Blazers 11th (45.2).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (104.9), Trail Blazers 13th (96.1).
Shooting defense: Kings 30th (48.5 percent), Trail Blazers 27th (47).
Three-point defense (being tracked in the House of Maloof): Kings 30th (43.2 percent), Trail Blazers tied for 25th (38).
Turnovers (ditto): Kings 22nd (15.9), Trail Blazers first (12.4).

The link: Trail Blazers coverage in the Oregonian.
The almanac: On this date in 1938, Oscar Robertson was born in Charlotte, Tenn. On this date in 1960, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors grabbed 55 rebounds against the Celtics to set a single-game record, en route to averaging 27.2 rebounds for the season-long mark. On this date in 1986, Maurice Podoloff, the first chief executive of the NBA, died at the age of 95. Podoloff was NBA president, before the title was changed to commissioner in 1967, from 1946 through his retirement in 1963. On this date in 1999, the Heat beat the Hawks to make Pat Riley the third coach in history with 200 wins with three teams, joining Lenny Wilkens and Bill Fitch. On this date in 2001, Terry Porter of the Spurs became the only player to record 15,000 points, 7,000 assists, 1,000 steals and 1,000 three-pointers.

__________


At least P.J. Carlesimo was fired Saturday in Oklahoma City with a full bad roster. Eddie Jordan got it today in Washington with the Wizards at 1-10, but also with the Wizards still missing Gilbert Arenas and starting center Brendan Haywood, just as they went part of the 2008 playoffs without Agent Zero, just as Arenas missed all the '07 playoffs.


That's how it goes. Fairness doesn't always enter into these things, which is why the move will generate sympathy for Jordan in D.C. and around the league, and why he will have offers to be a No. 1 assistant next season and maybe even interviews to become a head coach. He is respected.

November 23, 2008
Kings v. Lakers pre-game updates (Ivory Towers alert!)

LOS ANGELES - Contrary to what Kings forward Mikki Moore said in today's Kings notes, he will not be playing tonight at the Lakers.

Even more intriguing is the starting lineup that will be used by Kings coach Reggie Theus, who apparently wants to control the glass against the Lake-show and is going big in attempt to do just that. The "Ivory Towers" will be in full effect, with Spencer Hawes playing the four and Brad Miller the five. Jason Thompson will give it a go at the three, alternating between camping out on the perimeter with Vladimir Radmanovic and trying like mad to keep up with Lamar Odom. - Sam Amick

November 23, 2008
Opening tip: Chris Webber is really retired this time

Kings (5-9) at Lakers (10-1)

Scoring: Kings 14th (98.3), Lakers third (104.8).
Shooting: Kings second (48.3 percent), Lakers tied for 10th (45.2).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (104), Lakers third (91.3).
Shooting defense: Kings tied for 29th (48.2 percent), third (41.9).
Three-point defense (being tracked in the House of Maloof): 30th (42.5 percent), Lakers seventh (32.6).
Turnovers (ditto): Kings 22nd (15.9), Lakers 11th (13.6).

The links: Lakers coverage in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register and Los Angeles Daily News.
The almanac: On this date in 1991, the Kings snapped their league-record 43-game road losing streak by winning in Orlando as Lionel Simmons scored 27 points for Sacramento's first win away from Arco Arena since Nov. 29, 1990. On this date in 1994, Jeff Hornacek of the Jazz set an NBA record by going eight for eight on three-pointers. Sam Perkins of the SuperSonics later tied the mark. Also on this date in 1994, the Suns became the third team in history to have 10 players score in double figures in the same game, part of a 140-109 win over the Clippers.

__________


Chris Webber is absolutely, positively, definitely, 100 percent retired. That's the word from his agent, Aaron Goodwin, which isn't exactly breaking news but is noteworthy since Webber has done the half-season thing before in hopes of one more playoff run and he is not happy at going out on the bad note of spring '08 with Golden State


That was a failed experiment for all involved, though much more for Webber. He took an ego hit. The Warriors had the low-risk part of the deal -- minimum contract, the chance to add one of the best passing big men in the game to an offense predicated on the ball whipping around, and no true disruption to the roster or the locker room. As everyone now knows, Don Nelson was not going to play Brandan Wright, the rookie power forward, anyway and the roster was turning more selfish and stat-conscious by the week.

But that will apparently be his limping exit.

November 23, 2008
Kings-plus-plus - John Salmons extra material delayed

I wouldn't normally be this candid, but the truth is that we plugged extra John Salmons material in today's paper and I didn't deliver.

For now, the story will have to be enough. But I will be shameless enough to pull a rare double-tease. Once I gather the audio files, a video file and transcribed material together, there is some fascinating stuff about the Kings small forward that didn't make it into the story. So look out for that.

I will also start making a habit out of making sure you folks don't forget about the conversations taking place in our Forums section. The latest question posed on our end remains - What do you make of the Kings' front-office addition?. For an update on that situation, read today's Kings notes. And for all the Kings' discussions taking place, go here.

November 22, 2008
Scott Brooks gets his chance

It really is a chance, even if it's the Oklahoma City Thunder at 1-12, on a 10-game losing streak and walking head first into a stretch of at New Orleans, vs. Phoenix and at Cleveland starting tonight.

The encouragement of the moment for Brooks is that teams typically get a bounce from a coaching change. Plus, the Hornets are 6-5 overall and 3-3 at home with losses there to the Hawks (with New Orleans scoring 79 points on three days rest) and the Kings (again with three days rest, and Sac on the second night of a back-to-back).

But there is reason for long-term hope for his many fans from French Camp (birthplace), Lathrop (hometown), Manteca (high school) and Sacramento (Kings assistant 2006-07). P.J. Carlesimo out as Thunder coach and Brooks in as the interim in the first firing of the season is an actual opportunity for the guy who nearly got the Kings job that went to Reggie Theus in summer '07.

It's even a good spot apart from the obvious: He can't do worse. The Thunder has trailed by at least 30 points in five of the last nine games, has lost the last 10 by an average of 14 points, and the only win has come against the Timberwolves, not exactly planning a parade route themselves.

That perception game will help Brooks. Do anything and you look good. Win 15 of the final 69, develop Russell Westbrook, continue to develop Kevin Durant, and it will look very good on the resume, whether to stick in OKC or for one of the openings that will come in the summer. A 15-54 finish that would be dreadful anywhere else would be an improvement from the .244 winning percentage last season as the Seattle SuperSonics.

November 21, 2008
Answering your questions about the Kings' expected front office addition

jason_levien.gif

I guess there's room for a microscopic disclaimer as it pertains to the forthcoming hiring of Jason Levien as Kings assistant GM. Months - if not longer - of talks and planning about his addition to the front office could lead to his non-hiring. Common sense (not to mention mountains of reliable information on my end) however, leads to another conclusion.

It sounds as if the timeline on this thing may be sooner than expected. Don't be surprised if it's official by next week, at which time the powers-that-be in the organization can answer all your questions about what it means. For now, you'll have to settle for me. Thus, a Q&A from what I've seen as the most frequent questions being asked by folks in light of the new arrival.

(For those who want to ask and answer their own questions in our Forums section, go to the post - "What do you make of the Kings' front-office addition?"

Q: Is this Geoff Petrie's successor?

A: Only time will tell, but anyone who finds a way into any NBA front office has a shot at the job by default. As for the Wayne Cooper factor (he has been Petrie's right-hand man for 15 years, 12 as VP of basketball ops), I've never had anyone tell me that Coop was biding his time to take the reins from Petrie even before Levien's name was brought up. Admittedly, my take there is that only Cooper knows his thoughts on this matter. And this changes nothing of the fact that he is a well-respected executive in the league whose job title wasn't changed in the slightest.

As for Levien himself, he has a lot to learn about this side of the equation and will have to go to work proving he belongs and gaining the confidence of those around him like he did with Petrie (more on that below). Until this situation unfolds in the coming months, it won't be entirely clear how wide the range of his job duties will be. And while Petrie's contract expires after next season, his future in Sacramento could certainly extend beyond that point. How the next two seasons go will have much to do with how he sees his career. Note to conspiracy theorists: No one is nudging him out the door.

His last public comment on his future came by way of Ailene Voisin in this column when she reported that he had actually nudged the Maloofs to leave his own contract talks for another day.

According to sources within the organization, Petrie, whose option for 2009-10 was picked up last summer, tabled the Maloofs' offer for a multiyear contract extension.

"Honestly, I'm concerned about my job today, tomorrow and the next day," Petrie said recently when asked about his job status. "At some point in the future, we can sit down and talk about it. But I believe that will sort itself out. In the big picture, I want what's best for the franchise."

Levien is aided enormously, though, because of who made the push to bring him in. Which leads us to...

Q: Is this a Petrie hire or a Maloof hire?

A: The short answer: yes. Both sides are on board, but it is Petrie driven from start to finish. Going back to their journey to Istanbul, they became closer through the years. And one thing I didn't 'mention in the story is that Levien was a Harvard Law fellow, meaning he can do the Ivy League fist pound with his new boss.

Q: Why would a successful agent leave a lucrative career behind to do this?

A: According to Hoopshype.com, he ranks 23rd in the league among agents in the NBA in terms of clients' salaries. He was far from an uber-agent, as I once described agent Aaron Goodwin, but more than successful enough to think twice and maybe even 10 times before making this move (and for the record, my line in today's story about how he negotiated "hundreds of millions of dollars in NBA contracts" was a bit steep, as his tally appears to be more in the neighborhood of $150 million). I also don't know what he'll earn, but rest assured - considering his title, inexperience and the current status of the Maloofs' bottom line - it's a pay cut.

The obvious reason for change is the appeal of switching sides, becoming a more permanent part of the NBA system as opposed to a cog in it. He played basketball in college and was quoted in stories dating back years saying he gave serious thought to coaching before taking the route he took. Again, until Levien himself speaks, I'd be sharing guesswork here.

Q: Will he still be paid in full on the contracts he brokered?

A: Yes, but he must lose his status as an agent.

Q: What was the reaction in the agent world?

A: Well, considering I received more than a few phone calls this morning that began with, "Really?!" I'd say his former colleagues were shocked and the overall reaction was negative. Per human nature, though, it's not typically the ones who are positive on any topic that take the time to chime in.

The move is outside the box in every way, and Levien's focus should be on not becoming the next Pete D'Alesandro.

The former agent and former Golden State Warriors assistant GM was fired in early November (www.ibabuzz.com/warriors/2008/11/06/mullins-right-hand-man-fired). He's the only example I've heard of a guy who took the agent's path to become NBA brass, but I may be missing some other examples there (feel free to add to the list as I haven't had time to do that homework).

Just my own musings here, but I find it funny how the Kings and Rockets - whose paths have now crossed in so many different ways - continue to have similarities that may be total coincidence and may not be. Houston stepped outside the proverbial box by putting money man and "Moneyball"-type stat head Daryl Morey up high as a GM. Levien is known to sway toward the newer wave of statistical analysis as well.

Q: Does this mean that if Kevin Martin hadn't already stopped worrying about getting enough shots (which he had) or wondered if had enough support on high (which he did), he can now?

A: Easiest question yet. Safe to say, yes. - Sam Amick

November 21, 2008
Opening tip: Some perspective on this march to the playoffs

Trail Blazers (7-5) at Kings (5-8)

Scoring: Kings 11th (98.5), Trail Blazers 15th (97.3).
Shooting: Kings second (48.2 percent), Trail Blazers 11th (44.9).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (103), Trail Blazers 12th (95.6).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (47.6), Trail Blazers 25th (46.2).
Three-point defense (being tracked in the House of Maloof): Kings 29th (41.2 percent), Trail Blazers 26th (38).
Turnovers (ditto): Kings 22nd (16.1), Trail Blazers first (12.4).

The link: Trail Blazers coverage in the Oregonian.
The almanac: On this date in 1996, Bill Fitch, then with the Clippers, became the first coach to hit 1,000 career losses.

__________


A huge few days for the Kings and their playoff drive. Hosting the Trail Blazers tonight, at Portland on Monday, with a roadie against the Lakers in between. Hourly updates as the magic number shifts.

Or there's the other option: Now that Geoff Petrie has brought his calming influence to the unstable coaching situation, the next step is for a lot of people to get grounded about the Kings and where they fit in the Western Conference. The calendar of the moment just makes it the perfect time, with the Blazers one of the teams to chase down in the standings and, while we're at it, the blueprint of how to build something special for the future.

The Kings' Wednesday night in New Orleans makes it not the perfect time -- impressive win, a sign of life after a drubbing, and in the big picture a signal that players won't roll over on Reggie Theus. That's the kind of game that should get fans and the front office excited about what could be at full strength.

November 20, 2008
Food for thought

While chatting with Kings conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro for a column in today's Bee about Spencer Hawes and his Body-By-Daniel makeover, I learned about a place near Arco Arena that does all the prep work for meals. Great. As someone who is chronically challenged in the kitchen, I probably needed to hear about this. Anyway, according to Shapiro - or "Shippy," as Hawes calls him - "Dream Dinners" prepares meals for its patrons, suggests ingredients, food groups, health hints, then sells the cuisine ready to cook.

Shapiro says that, on a given day, as many as seven Kings accompany him to the establishment and buy a few days (or months) worth of food. He also credits the concept with helping shave about seven pounds of body fat off the 7-foot, 233-pound Hawes. Gone is the body fat of a year ago. "We've got Spencer eating the meals, and he is eating so much healthier now," Shapiro told me. "It's an economic way of eating. Plus, it eliminates the fast food, which is a big thing with players."

Actually, it isn't only the players who are attracted to the fast food joints near the arena. Many an NBA beat writer has asked directions to the local In-N-Out Burger. Sorry. I have no clue. Never touch the stuff.

November 20, 2008
Breaking: Kings to make front office addition

For more, click here.

And after reading, be sure to share your thoughts in a new forum question regarding this story. Click here. - Sam Amick

November 19, 2008
Martin's return likely to be delayed

BLOG UPDATE: To read Geoff Petrie's take on his coaching situation, click here.

***

I spoke to Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie this afternoon. And while I'll leave his thoughts on the coaching situation for tomorrow's paper, it's worth noting now that it appears Kevin Martin's return has been delayed.

After tonight, the Kings shooting guard will have missed six games with a sprained left ankle. Tomorrow marks the long end of his expected absence based on the original prognostications, but Petrie didn't make it sound as if Martin would be ready to play until the middle of next week at the earliest.

"Kevin is a little bit better, but he's still probably a little ways away," he said. "I'm not even saying this is possible, but maybe the middle of next week. I wouldn't say that's written in stone, though. It's getting better. It's just (a matter of) when he's going to feel comfortable just really going on it and I don't think he's gotten to that point yet."

Kings swingman Francisco Garcia (strained right calf), Petrie said, appears ready to start practicing at the end of this week. Both players stayed in Sacramento on this road trip, as did injured forward Mikki Moore (right ankle). - Sam Amick

November 19, 2008
Curve ball alert

Kings rookie Donte Greene will start in his first NBA game tonight at small forward against New Orleans. Kings coach Reggie Theus said he decided to move Bobby Jackson out of the starting lineup and slide John Salmons to the shooting guard position.
"We just want to put a little more length on the floor," Theus said. "It has nothing to do with Bobby Jackson, I thought he played really well yesterday. I talked to him about it. I think with what we want to do tonight, we need someone taller to guard Peja (Stojakovic). I was a little worried he'd take Bobby down and shoot over the top of him."
For more, check out The Bee tomorrow.

November 19, 2008
Opening tip: Are the Kings waiting for Dec. 3 for a coaching change?

Kings (4-8) at Hornets (5-4)

Scoring: Kings 14th (97.9), Hornets 24th (93.7).
Shooting: Kings second (47.7 percent), Hornets tied for 10th (44.7).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (103.6), Hornets fourth (91.6).
Shooting defense: Kings 27th (47.3 percent), Hornets tied for 18th (44.8).
Three-point defense (being tracked in the House of Maloof): Kings 29th (42.7 percent), Hornets 25th (38.6).
Turnovers (ditto): Kings 23rd (16.1), Hornets fourth (13).

The link: Hornets coverage in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The almanac: On this date in 1977, the New Orleans Jazz set a record with one made free throw. The Jazz went to the line five times despite 17 fouls by the Rockets, yet still won 103-101. The Raptors topped (bottomed) that in 1996 by going the entire game without a made free throw.

__________


Tuesday night was the kind of game that gets coaches fired, especially coaches who have been put on notice specifically to improve the three-point defense. The Kings lost by 15 at Memphis, were heartless on defense, can't pin it on being shorthanded because they've also been heartless with Kevin Martin and ... drum roll ... the Grizzlies went from No. 27 in the league behind the arc at 29.9 percent to making 10 of 16 threes.

But, Wednesday morning and Reggie Theus still has the job. It might be a money thing -- the Maloofs are still paying Eric Musselman and don't want two coaches lounging on their dime. It might be an image thing -- a third firing in a little more than 29 months is so bad and even worse for a franchise that once shined with stability from coaching to the front office to ownership.

Or we might be down to timing.

November 18, 2008
Postgame notes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Quincy Douby said he couldn't explain his 0-for-9 performance from the field in tonight's 109-94 loss to Memphis.
And neither could Reggie Theus, but that won't deter the Kings' coach from going to the guard tomorrow against the New Orleans Hornets.
"He'll be fine," Theus said. "As a former shooter, I always believe regardless of what he shot tonight, tomorrow they are going to fall. That's what I believe with a guy like Quincy."
Theus showed no mercy when asked if he thought Douby's misfirings were a hangover from those two make-or-break misses against Phoenix and San Antonio.
"Who knows," Theus said. "I'm going to him and he needs to get over it."
How does Douby explain it?
"Coach wants me to be aggressive with my shots and they just didn't fall," Douby said. "I need to try to get to the free-throw line. You are definitely going to see a better effort tomorrow. I'm going to make up for it."

The other side
The Kings gave the young Memphis Grizzlies their first win in five attempts, which pleased coach Marc Iavaroni.
"It's a step in the right direction," Iavaroni said. "But we have to continue to improve as a team."

Starting block
Bobby Jackson played 21 minutes in the first half and just six in the second.
"I just thought as the game progressed there was no reason to press his minutes," Theus said. "That was my decision."
Theus also decided to give Jackson the nod for tomorrow.
"We just have to go with what we have," Theus said.
Jackson said he planned to talk to his teammates about the team's defensive lapses in Tuesday's loss.
"We gave up too many wide-open shots, wide-open layups," Jackson said. "Our defense has to be there every night. It's just a mind-set. You have to want to play defense. When we aren't scoring or not making baskets we aren't playing defense. That's something I'll talk to the guys about tomorrow and reiterate and come out and put on a better performance."

November 18, 2008
Opening tip: Quincy Douby and seizing an opportunity

Kings (4-7) at Grizzlies (3-7)

Scoring: Kings 13th (98.3), Grizzlies 25th (92.8).
Shooting: Kings tied for second (47.9 percent), Grizzlies tied for 24th (42.8).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (103.1), Grizzlies 21st (98.5).
Shooting defense: Kings 27th (46.7 percent), Grizzlies tied for 12th (43.4).
Three-point defense (being watched in the House of Maloof): Kings 29th (41.1 percent), Grizzlies 20th (35.8).
Turnovers (ditto): Kings 27th (16.6), Grizzlies tied for 23rd (16.2).

The links: Grizzlies coverage in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
The almanac: Nothing much happened on this date in history.

__________


Not storybook seizing it, because the shots missed. But as far as understanding this is his chance, such a rare chance that it may not come again in his Kings career, as far as knowing he has to grab the moment with both hands, Quincy Douby gets it.


That's a start right there: he understands the urgency. Kevin Martin is out with a sprained ankle. Francisco Garcia is out with a strained calf. The Kings need perimeter bodies. Douby, so far down the bench most of the last two seasons that cars had to steer around him on Truxel, needs an opportunity.

Welcome to it.

There's every chance this goes bad for Douby once the roster heals -- nothing should stand in the way of Martin moving from rising star to potential actual All-Star and Garcia is an important, versatile piece. But for now, Douby is getting a public vote of confidence that, however short lived, is as noticeable as it is telling on the challenge of being Reggie Theus.

November 17, 2008
Mikki Moore out (B-Jax to start); other injury updates

BLOG UPDATE (9:50 a.m., Tuesday): I've been told that the non-Mikki Moore lineup will be Beno Udrih, Bobby Jackson, John Salmons, Jason Thompson and Brad Miller.
Also, there is a discussion going on in the Forums section about whether coach Reggie Theus should be on the hot seat. To weigh in, click here.

***

It's never a good thing for a team when a reporter starts a media session with "Another one bites the dust, huh?" and the coach isn't quite sure which exact situation is being referenced.

Such was the case today at Kings practice, where I got a puzzled look from Kings coach Reggie Theus before explaining that I was referring to the absence of Mikki Moore (as opposed to discussing the absences of Kevin Martin or Francisco Garcia or maybe the latest of two straight two-point losses). The Kings starting forward apparently turned his right ankle in the Sunday loss to San Antonio and he will not make the trip for back-to-back road games at Memphis and New Orleans that starts tomorrow night.

Theus said he is undecided on his new starting lineup, and he didn't seem too keen on my idea of what Spencer Hawes called the "Ivory Towers" lineup: equally tall white boys with Hawes at the four and Brad Miller at the five (and Jason Thompson continuing at the three). The concern, Theus said, was the question of who guards Memphis' O.J. Mayo, and he mentioned Quincy Douby in that context. Although rebounding, quite clearly, wouldn't be a problem when you go 6-11 and up in three of your five spots if he opts for Hawes.

But I wouldn't be surprised to see Douby in there at the two (which would make it even more clear that Bobby Jackson's role is fading fast and keep the recent string of Douby votes of confidence alive), with John Salmons at the three, Thompson at the four and Miller at the five. Salmons - as was the case last game - would be assigned to stick Rudy Gay and Douby would do his best to slow down the league's highest-scoring rookie in Mayo (21 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting, 39.6 from three-point range and averaging 2.1 makes from beyond the arc per game).

Also on the injury front, Martin and Garcia are also staying behind on the trip. They will get full days of treatment in Sacramento and are gearing up for a return. I wouldn't be surprised to see Martin (left ankle) play Friday at home against Portland. Garcia, meanwhile, told me after practice (while I saw him at a nearby eatery) that he would be ready to practice when they return. Conditioning will be a major factor for him, as he has been out of action since Oct. 18 and unable to do much cardio because of the nature of his injury (right calf strain).

* I made a few tweaks to a second-edition game story that didn't make it in the paper today. Mainly, there's a Theus quote of interest and a few small changes from the online version. To read that story, click here.
* The Bee's Melody Gutierrez will take over from here, as she is on the road for this trip and I will be taking a breather and putting together a John Salmons piece for Sunday's paper. - Sam Amick

November 16, 2008
Opening tip: The coaching candidates. Just in case, you know, it comes up

Spurs (3-5) at Kings (4-6)

Scoring: Kings 10th (99.3), Spurs 26th (92.1).
Shooting: Kings second (48.2 percent), Spurs fifth (46.2).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (104.4), Spurs 11th (95.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 26th (46.8 percent), Spurs 20th (45).
Rebound differential: Kings 14th (plus-0.5), Spurs 24th (minus-2.4).

The link: Spurs coverage in the San Antonio Express-News.
The almanac: On this date in 1957, Bill Russell of the Celtics set a league record with 32 rebounds in a half. He finished with 49. On this date in 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the San Francisco Warriors scored 73 points against the Knicks. On this date in 2001, the D-League opened its inaugural season.

__________



Joe Maloof put the issue of Reggie Theus' future in play, so it's fair conversation without appearing too much the circling vulture. And even if it does appear that way, it's still fair conversation. Rule of thumb, remember: If someone is pushing a coach so far out on the plank, they've been thinking that strong awhile and saying it a lot stronger away from public consumption.


Ailene Voisin mentions former Monarchs coach and current GM John Whisenant has already been lined up as the likely successor, at least on an interim basis, so, yeah, the Maloofs are far along in filling out the pink slips. It also shows what the organization thinks of Chuck Person, an assistant who interviewed in the summer for the head-coaching job with the Chicago Bulls.

Whisenant as interim would expose the Maloofs to huge ridicule -- a guy who has never been in the NBA on any level and has barely coached men's basketball in college -- and the Maloofs do not do well with criticism. It would be a long look at someone they obviously consider a legitimate candidate to hold the job on more than a temporary basis, having put Whisenent on the short list in 2006 for the job that went to Eric Musselman. The Kings could view that as a positive. See Whiz in action once and for all and either go for it finally or close that door at last.

November 15, 2008
More on Maloof

Due to technical difficulties, the story regarding Joe Maloof's evaluation of Kings coach Reggie Theus wasn't posted until moments ago.

To read the story (which includes some background on Theus' job security, or lack thereof), click here.

To read the original Q&As from both Maloof and Theus, click here.

And to read Scott Howard-Cooper's take on the matter, click here (or simply scroll below). - Sam Amick

November 15, 2008
A Maloof makes it official: The Maloofs are the problem

Dramatic stuff from Sam Amick in the Bee and The Rise Guys on KHTK. Joe Maloof hands Reggie Theus a blindfold and cigarette and maybe even throws Geoff Petrie under the bus, but absolutely, positively torches a guy named Joe Maloof and a guy named Gavin Maloof.

Talk about your insightful moments in Kings history. Years of praise, years of criticism, and when it comes right down to it, nobody has ever given a more compelling analysis of the Maloof ownership than a Maloof.

To review:

Sam asks Joe Maloof: "Joe, you want to see those guys play, but you also can't love what you're seeing inside Arco as it's not filling up like it used to. It's got to be killing your bottom line. How tough is it to juggle building with winning enough to keep people interested?"

Joe responds: "Well I think the last couple years, we didn't really have a defined road map for our team. Were we a veteran team, or were we going to try to rebuild? After we traded Mike (Bibby), and of course with the trade of Ron (Artest), and the acquisition of these young players that Geoff has been able to get through the draft, now people can see that we do have a defined future. That's to build through youth, and at the same time have a blend of veterans like we do now with Brad (Miller) and (John) Salmons and those kinds of guys.

"Now people have something to hold onto, something to look forward to. I tell ya, it's a fun thing to watch. It's pretty exciting when (Theus) turns them loose. And then we can't forget about this Bobby Brown and Beno (Udrih). I tell ya, I'm just bullish on this team. I think there's some talent here. I think Geoff has put together some good, good, good talent here. I want to make a run for the playoffs, and I think we can."

November 14, 2008
Joe Maloof sets standards for Theus; Kings coach responds

As many of you may have heard, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof gave a candid interview this morning on the "Rise Guys" show regarding coach Reggie Theus.

While much of his feedback (interview here) was similar to expectations set last season, Maloof ended the interview with a somewhat ominous reference to Theus and his uncertain future.

"He's got to get a system," Maloof said. "And if he gets that system and we have confidence in him and he's got a bright future with us. If he doesn't get that system, then you know, you know he better, he better try to get one quickly." - Rise Guys

I caught up with Maloof this afternoon by phone to ask him to expand on some of his points, specifically his desire for a more-defined system from Theus. As a reminder, Theus is in the final guaranteed season of his contract. Below the Q&A with Maloof is a response from Theus himself, who goes to great lengths to explain and defend his system in his own Q&A.

For more on the situation - including some relevant context - read tomorrow's Bee.

BLOG UPDATE: Read the story here.

KINGS CO-OWNER JOE MALOOF

Q: You seemed pretty vocal on the air today, and I wondered if you could expand on that.

A: I just listed a few things that we had problems with last year that we've got to get worked out. It's some of the same problems, protecting that three-point line and cutting back on turnovers.

Q: What about the young guys? You felt strongly about that last year, and this year you have Jason (Thompson) and Spencer (Hawes) playing some good ball but guys like Quincy (Douby) and Donte' (Greene) not playing much. How do you feel like Reggie is doing integrating the guys you want to build with?

A: Actually, I'm pretty pleased with how he's working the young guys in connection with the veterans. He's got a pretty good balance there. I think we've got a lot of young talent, and we've got some good veteran leadership with Brad (Miller) and John Salmons and Kevin (Martin), those kinds of guys. I think he's doing OK.

I'd like to see Donte' get in there more, and Quincy. But Quincy's been hurt. I'd like to see Donte get a little more playing time because I know he's got a really bright future if he continues to work hard.

Q: Joe, you want to see those guys play, but you also can't love what you're seeing inside Arco as it's not filling up like it used to. It's got to be killing your bottom line. How tough is it to juggle building with winning enough to keep people interested?

A: Well I think the last couple years, we didn't really have a defined roadmap for our team. Were we a veteran team, or were we going to try to rebuild? After we traded Mike (Bibby), and of course with the trade of Ron (Artest), and the acquisition of these young players that (Kings basketball president) Geoff (Petrie) has been able to get through the draft, now people can see that we do have a defined future. That's to build through youth, and at the same time have a blend of veterans like we do now with Brad and Salmons and those kinds of guys.

Now people have something to hold onto, something to look forward to. I tell ya, it's a fun thing to watch. It's pretty exciting when (Theus) turns them loose. And then we can't forget about this Bobby Brown and Beno (Udrih). I tell ya, I'm just bullish on this team. I think there's some talent here. I think Geoff has put together some good, good, good talent here. I want to make a run for the playoffs, and I think we can.

Q: You just mentioned, 'When he turns them loose,' and you mentioned a desire for a system this morning (on the radio). Explain that more for me in the context of whether Reggie is doing what you want.

A: I think he's had some ups and downs, peaks and valleys, like any young coach does or any coach who's new at it. He's doing a better job this year than he did last year. I think he needs to continue to try to definitely improve his defense, and by that I mean defending that three-point (line). I get tired of seeing all those three-pointers that everybody does. There's got to be a way to stop that.

Note: The Kings entered Friday's game ranked 29th in opponents' three-point percentage (.410).

I don't know what the answer is because I'm not a coach but there's got to be a way that he can get that stopped because that's going to cost us some games in the future and he's got to get that rectified. And then he's got to get a way to cut down on those turnovers (the Kings entered Friday's game ranked 23rd in the league at 16.2 per game and were last in the league last season with 16.1 per game) . Those two things are the two most glaring points that I see.

The positives that I see is that he is that he's getting the young players an opportunity to develop. He needs to make sure he doesn't bury any of them on the bench. I don't want them buried on the bench. That's our future. We've got to get fans back in the building, and the only way you get fans back into the building is we've got to keep the excitement, and I think it's youth-driven. That's the way it is.

If you look at our starting five some day, you're going to have Beno and Kevin and they're still young guys. You can't forget about them, and about Salmons - who's young. I think it's a very talented, skilled team that needs to button down a little bit. We need to find our direction a little more. We need to find where we're going, and that's up to Reggie to get that done.

Q: Joe, the elephant in the room is that his contract is up this summer. How short is his leash right now?

A: Well, I think Reggie's future depends upon Reggie and how he develops our young players. Just like anything in life, you have to look at your wins and losses, look at your success. Is your team progressing? Are they getting better? Can you see a bright future for your team?

The past two years, nobody knew what we were. We didn't know what we were. There was no identity. It didn't seem like there was a path. Now we've got a path with the youngsters and the blend of the veterans.


KINGS COACH REGGIE THEUS

Q: You're definitely calling a lot more plays than I think you planned on. Would you agree?

A: Yes, 100 percent. But I've shortened the package. We have a very good system. We have an absolute system. We are a C-action, high-post, double-high post team that has quite a bit of ball and body movement. Anybody who watches us play knows that we're not a team that stands. We move. We cut and we move, and that is the way that we talked about playing.

The system that we put in early was a system that would allow those guys to do those things in an early offense. The system that we put in early was an early offense system, a system that you could run a continuity out of.

On why he's calling so many half-court sets and not relying on the the triangle-esque offense that was implemented in training camp ...

Well we may be a little bit young to (pause). It's a system that has a lot of reads, a system that you have to be patient with, a system that a lot of veteran teams have run and been very successful and won championships with. But it's a system that takes experience and a system that takes a little time to put in and to gather.

The best part of that is that we haven't run it very much. But every time we run it now, it's run perfectly - which is nice, because it's there and it's always going to be there. And it's still an early offensive system.

What I was trying to do was to not call so many set plays during the course of the game. But what I've been doing is finding places where the guys work best at, putting them in a set and letting them play but still allowing them to play freer. The concept is the same in terms of trying to let them play, just utilize the floor and utilize Brad and utilize the cuts and things. Those are still the same.

Q: Has it slowed you down, though? You guys aren't running all that much.

A: No, I don't think so. I don't think it's slowed us down. The focus was on getting out and scoring. Now the last few games, we have gotten quite a few fast breaks. I want them to run - we're not a run-and-gun team. We want to be an up-tempo team, a team that gets out and looks for easy baskets, and looks to get the ball down the court, but we're not a team that's going to forcefeed the run.

As we rebound better, we've gotten more opportunities. We're not far off from our early gameplan. It's just been manipulated and that's what you do. I always say, 'Offense is living and it's breathing. It evolves.' My job is not to put in a system and make my players run it. My job is to put in a system and allow my players to let me know what works for them, and that's what we're doing.

I'm making adjustments as we go, finding out more about Jason all the time and what he can do and what he can't do. Spence has been playing in a good place. Brad has been playing. Everybody seems to be in a good place offensively, so we have to continue to build on that.

The double high-post is perfect for us, and it's also run out of the 1-4 system. We have bigs who can shoot and pass, so we have to pull them away from the basket and give them room and give the guys room to play out of it. That is our system. And if you watch it, it's very similar to what Houston does, very similar. He's run the high post system a long time.

Q: In preseason, I was surprised with how at ease you seemed with the reality of your situation. You had made it clear that you wanted that third year (option picked up), and you just kind of said, 'It is what it is and I'm going to go do the job I'm going to do.' But do you have any sense of how long of a leash you have this year or kind of what the state of affairs is?

A: In all honesty, Sam, I'm just doing my job. I'm doing my job like I always have.

Q: Are you coming to work every day wondering what's next?

A: I'm coming to work with my hard hat on, lights blinking. That's what I do. Whatever they decide to do, it's up to them. I think if you were putting a checklist together in terms of what we said in the beginning of the season and what's going on right now, I think we've done that. I will be here with my hard hat on, doing my job. That's what I do. - Sam Amick

November 14, 2008
Suns without Nash, Barnes, Barbosa; Theus responds to fine

Just a quick hit here from this morning's shootaround ...

First things first, the Kings' chances of reaching the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 4, 2006 have gone up drastically with news that Steve Nash, Matt Barnes and Leandro Barbosa will not play tonight. Barbosa's mother passed away and he has headed for his homeland of Brazil, while Nash and Barnes were suspended in relation to their skirmish with Houston on Wednesday night.

"I don't even think about (the Suns' absences) because it becomes very scary," Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "I always look at it the other way. I see the other guys feeling that they have to step up...that it's all on their shoulders now. If we have the wrong mindset...
"They've still got Shaq (O'Neal), they've still got (Boris) Diaw, they've still got Raja (Bell), all good players. Amare (Stoudemire) is very capable of getting huge numbers."

Theus said he anticipates Suns coach Terry Porter relying on Bell to bring the ball up the floor.

"This team has beaten us quite a bit in the past few years (nine of last 10 meetings)," Theus said. "This is an opportunity to not only get to .500, but to keep what we're doing rolling and keep getting better."

On another note, Theus responded for the first time since he was levied a hefty $25,000 fine for his comments following Tuesday's loss to Detroit (the Kings also have to pay $25,000 for his actions).

"Listen, I'm one of the lowest paid coaches in the league so that's a pretty serious (financial) number for me," he said. "But at the same time, I think it's a standard thing. It's unfortunate, but I've already moved on."

Theus was asked if he anticipated the punishment after making his comments.

"No, I absolutely didn't think they were inflammatory, but that's OK," he said. "I just have to keep moving on." - Sam Amick

November 14, 2008
Opening tip: Shaquille O'Neal on the unknown Spencer Hawes, finishing his career in L.A., finishing his career in Sac, and Kobe-Shaq vs. Magic-Kareem and Wilt-West

Suns (6-3) at Kings (4-5)

Scoring: Kings tied for ninth (99.8), Suns fourth (100.9).
Shooting: Kings second (48.9 percent), Suns first (49.7).
Scoring defense: 28th (105.2), Suns 18th (98.1).
Shooting defense: Kings 25th (46.8 percent), Suns 19th (45).
Rebound differential: Kings tied for 10th (plus-1.4), Suns ninth (plus-2).

The links: Suns coverage in the Arizona Republic and East Valley Tribune.
The almanac: Nothing much happened on this date in history.

_____


That's a lot of topics in the headline, but sometimes Shaquille O'Neal has a lot to say. Not often. He's more sound-byte guy than expansive, but when the mood strikes and the schedule allows, he'll go beyond the not often.


A few weeks ago in Phoenix was one of those times. Very relaxed in a courtside seat after a Suns shootaround, he was detailed on several topics. Some of the thoughts were used for the story in the paper today. Some were in the previous blog post that he and teammate Grant Hill are hoping to buy the Orlando Magic after retiring. One or two other parts are being held back for future use.

The highlights:

*He does not rule out a return to the Lakers as a free agent in the summer of 2010 on a one-year deal to back up Andrew Bynum. (On the other hand, he says he doesn't want to go somewhere as a backup, but it's hard to imagine him at starter's minutes for a contender in two seasons.) The L.A. scenario is far off in ways that have nothing to do with the calendar -- owner Jerry Buss would have to sign off on it, and people close to Shaq know the breakup was so contentious that Buss might be the tougher sell than Kobe Bryant. But O'Neal, at least, is open to the possibility.

November 13, 2008
Theus fined for comments

Kings coach Reggie Theus was handed a $25,000 fine today for comments he made about the officiating in Tuesday's loss to Detroit. The Kings were also penalized by the league with a $25,000 fine for Theus' comments, which you can read below.

"It's unfortunate that a team (can) come here (in) our building, (and) they get thirty-six free throws to our 17," he said. "It's ridiculous....Their stars got the calls down the stretch."

Here is a video from Kings.com that includes Theus' post game press conference and the comments the NBA deemed fine-worthy, which come 56 seconds into the video.

November 12, 2008
Opening tip: Jason Thompson's real position

Kings (3-5) at Clippers (1-6)

Scoring: Kings ninth (99.4), Clippers 30th (86.9).
Shooting: Kings second (48.4 percent), Clippers 29th (41).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (106.1), Clippers 25th (101.4).
Shooting defense: Kings 26th (47.2 percent), Clippers tied for 15th (44.2).
Rebound differential: Kings 13th (plus-0.4), Clippers 29th (minus-7.7).

The links: Clippers coverage in the Los Angeles Times, and Los Angeles Daily News.
The almanac: On this date in 1994, All-Star ballots were made available in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia, the first time voting extended beyond the United States.

_____


One of the appeals of Jason Thompson is that he can do a lot, 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds yet agile enough to create a shot on the perimeter, bring the ball down court after a defensive rebound or score inside. So there is no need to fence him in to a specific position.


But Tuesday night, with his first pro start at small forward of all places, and tonight, with the possibility of another turn there and the challenge of super-athletic Al Thornton, makes it a relevant discussion: Where will Thompson eventually play?

Small forward against the Pistons was more necessity than ideal choice. No Kevin Martin, no Francisco Garcia, no Quincy Douby. The Kings were low on wings.

The realistic direction remains as before -- power forward is Thompson's natural position and where the bulk of his minutes will come. Along the way, he'll play some small forward, in fewer situations than now, and some center. But he is still the power forward of the future with enviable versatility.

November 12, 2008
Answers to the Pistons questions?

Iverson rolling along


While watching Allen Iverson play his third game with the Detroit Pistons, it just seemed unfathomable that he is 33 years old. Given the physical beating that he absorbs nightly? Amazing. I used to marvel at Kevin Johnson's fearlessness during his career with the Phoenix Suns. With his tongue resting on his lower lip, KJ relentlessly and fearlessly attacked the basket and routinely got knocked to the floor. I have all these images of KJ blowing past his defender, converting the basket, taking the hit, and adding the free throw. But he had a few inches and pounds on Iverson. Anyway, it was fascinating to watch the 6-foot, 165-pound AI again, and to say he was really, really good would be ridiculous. He was terrific. His creative, yet controlled performance was exactly what Joe Dumars had in mind when he swapped the steady, stately Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets. "I joked with Iverson the other day," Joe D. told me earlier Tuesday from his office. "I told him, 'I tried to trade for you in 2000, but I'm sure glad I have the 2008 version of Allen Iverson. You were a handful in 2000."

My chat with Dumars also reminded me of what a brassy executive he has become - not at all what most of us who covered the NBA during his playing career would have projected. Joe's game was smooth, steady, understated. He did everything well, and yet somewhat remarkably, recognized exactly what he needed to do to flourish (and win) alongside the dynamic, mercurial Isiah Thomas. But understated no longer. Consider that within the past few years, among other things, Dumars has done the following: Hired and fired Larry Brown; won a championship and been runner-up in the NBA Finals; acquired and contained Rasheed Wallace; hired and fired Flip Saunders; signed and refused to re-sign local product Chris Webber; and drafted and dumped No. 2 pick Darko Milicic. As for that draft clunker, well, even the Logo (Jerry West) missed once in a while.


Typical rookie mistake

Kings rookie Jason Thompson, who had an impressive first NBA start with 15 points and nine boards, was assessed a phantom foul as he elevated and attempted to block a deep baseline jumper by Tayshaun Prince with just under two minutes remaining. True, based on the replays, the power forward never made contact with Prince, except perhaps with a fingernail. Also true, there isn't a rookie in the league who hasn't been suckered into committing that foul. Next time, the 6-foot-11 Thompson needs to jump straight up, denyng the refs the opportunity to claim that he was leaning into the shooter. The rule of verticality applies, as they say, though rookies historically are allowed considerably less wiggle room.

Still, Thompson's candor - "Yeah, they got me on that once in the first half, too" - is another reason to like the potential frontcourt pairing with second-year center Spencer Hawes. I love the fact Thompson didn't whine about the call afterward, but instead talked about how he would react in the future. The more time I spend chatting with opposing scouts and coaches, the more I think the Hawes-Thompson pairing has the potential to be something special.

In other words, I don't think Geoff Petrie is disappointed that, say, Joakim Noah didn't "drop" to the Kings two drafts ago. As one coach told me recently, "the Kings got the better player" in the less celebrated Hawes. At this point, it certainly appears so. Hawes, who is only 20, has length, skill, attitude, and will gain physical strength as he matures. He couldn't ask for a better mentor than Brad Miller, either.


Miller off target, on point

Miller endured the worst shooting night that I can remember. His 2-for-16 effort featured every shot imaginable: blown chippies and dunks, botched driving layups, mostly, the short-arming of jumpers he normally hits. Yet though he struggled from the field, he scored with his insightful postgame analysis, as usual. "It was a little tough and it was a twist without having Kevin (Martin) playing," the veteran center said. "He is the guy who gets all of our free-throw attempts for us and slows them down. We were aggressive early on, pushing the ball. You can't really get into a halfcourt game with the Pistons because they know how to lock it down and get the extra help."

Unfortunately for the Kings, after they built their early 15-point lead, they seemed to sit on it. They stopped pushing the pace, and instead of advancing the ball quickly and getting into their early offense, they were left with Reggie Theus calling plays on virtually every possession. I didn't get a chance to speak with Reggie afterward because I was in the visitors locker room waiting to speak with Iverson, but it seemed odd, even given the injuries. Late in the game, Reggie just seemed determined to pound the ball inside to his post players, getting away from an effective pick-and-roll. I'll ask him about this when the Kings return from their road trip to the Clip Joint. I remain a firm believer that the Kings need to create transition opportunities, play at a faster pace, and utilize their athleticism and youthful energy if they want to ensure an interesting season. As we continue to see, they have plenty of talent to do that. To make this an interesting season.

Memories, memories, memories ....

This little tidbit is provided by Kings backup beat writer Melody Gutierrez: While chatting with Mikki Moore before the game, with a previous Kings-Pistons meeting on the television in the background, the one-time Pistons forward chuckled when Detroit coach Michael Curry's image flashed on the screen. "That let me know it's about time to retire and enjoy my money," Moore said jokingly. "He was actually my veteran. He helped me get through my stuff just like try to help J.T. (Thompson), Donte (Greene) and Bobby Brown. It's good to see he got the job. He worked very hard." Asked whether he envisions a similar career path, Moore shook his head. Yes and no. He envisions himself coaching, but is more intrigued with junior college, high school or the NBA Development League.

November 11, 2008
Thompson to get first career start

Kings coach Reggie Theus wasn't willing to tip his hand at shoot-a-round this morning, but a source close to the team said rookie Jason Thompson is about to log the first start of his NBA career.

The most likely lineup will have Beno Udrih at the point, John Salmons at shooting guard, Thompson at small forward, Mikki Moore at power forward and Brad Miller at center.
BLOG UPDATE: I've been told that will be the lineup.An ankle injury to Kevin Martin (out six to nine more days) isn't quite the way Thompson planned on earning his first start, but the big man's early play has obviously played a part leading up to Theus' decision. He averaged 11 points (56.7 percent) and 6.1 rebounds while playing well enough that the prospect of taking Mikki Moore's position early would not have been a stretch.

Matchup-wise, this could be interesting. While Thompson could bang away at Detroit's Tayshaun Prince down low, I'm curious to see how well his size-20 hooves can keep up with one of the league's most active players. Or maybe they don't face off at all once Detroit coach Michael Curry sees the Kings mix.

In another development (courtesy of Melody Gutierrez from shoot-a-round), Quincy Douby (sore right ankle) is going to play tonight.

HEDO-KINGS REUNION? PERHAPS

Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel coerced Magic GM Otis Smith into saying what I'd reported last summer, that the Kings would love to have Hedo Turkoglu back in Sacramento. The small forward was traded from the Kings to San Antonio in 2003 as part of the deal that brought Brad Miller from Indiana to Sacramento. The nine-year veteran is coming off his best season, having won the NBA's Most Improved Player award last year. - Sam Amick

November 11, 2008
Opening tip: The Kings are attempting what the Pistons pulled off

Pistons (4-2) at Kings (3-4)

Scoring: Kings seventh (100.4), Pistons 13th (98.3).
Shooting: Kings third (48.4 percent), Pistons tied for 15th (44.4).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (107), Pistons 13th (95).
Shooting defense: Kings 27th (47.9 percent), Pistons 22nd (46.3).
Rebound differential: Kings 14th (minus-0.3), Pistons third (plus-5.2).

The links: Pistons coverage in the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press
The almanac: On this date in 1992, Shaquille O'Neal of the Magic made his NBA debut. On this date in 1993, the Nets retired jersey No. 3 in tribute to guard Drazen Petrovic, who had been killed five months earlier in a car accident in Germany.

__________


It was the Pistons of last season, with Flip Saunders as coach instead of eventual replacement Michael Curry, but it was good work on a tightrope no matter what.


With championship aspirations, with a veteran roster in no position to be patient -- and, boy, was that ever proven out -- Detroit committed minutes to develop prospects while playing to win in the moment was still a priority.

There was, ultimately, no title. The Pistons lost in the Eastern Conference finals in May, and Saunders was fired in June. But, per the mandate of president Joe Dumars, Saunders did win big and get young players into the rotation. Rodney Stuckey, Jason Maxiell, Arron Afflalo, Amir Johnson.

That was Reggie Theus' balancing act with the Kings last season, without a realistic shot at the playoffs, and it his balancing act this season, without a shot at the playoffs. Develop the kids even if you're starting Brad Miller and Mikki Moore. There was also Ron Artest in 2007-08 and the obvious direction that he was not part of the long-term solution even if he was young enough to be part of it.

November 10, 2008
Martin out seven to 10 days with sprained left ankle

An MRI taken on Kevin Martin's left ankle today at the UC Davis Medical Center confirmed his sprain, and the Kings shooting guard is expected to miss seven to 10 days.

Based on the previous comments of Kings coach Reggie Theus, he may start Bobby Jackson at Martin's depleted position. Swingman Francisco Garcia (strained right calf) has yet to play in the regular season and is expected to miss at least another 10 days, and guard Quincy Douby is expected to remain out with a sore right ankle. Martin's time span would mean he will miss anywhere from four to six games. More to come with updates in this blog post... - Sam Amick

November 10, 2008
Kevin Martin injury update

As it turns out, there was a medical miscommunication on the Kings' end last night regarding Kevin Martin's ankle injury.

While the team initially announced that he had an MRI and the result was negative, he actually had an X-Ray taken last night that was negative. The MRI will be taken today. We should know more in a few hours... - Sam Amick

November 10, 2008
A Golden chance (if Martin's ankle cooperates)

Three in a row is three in a row because of the four that came before it for the Kings, even if the recovery did come against Memphis, Minnesota and Golden State. But a win on Tuesday over Detroit to break even at 4-4 and the possibility for more as they play at the Clippers on Wednesday should have them hungry because of the history here.

To wit: they haven't been .500 since Dec. 4, 2006, when a 92-89 home loss to Orlando dropped the Eric Musselman-led Kings to 8-8. (Quick sidenote: Musselman's blogging fancy may not have led to another coaching job yet, but it has led to a gig as a columnist for Pro Basketball News) After starting 11-18 last season, the Kings were two games away from breaking even on three separate occasions in Reggie Theus' debut campaign.

Here's why it will happen: According to Theus, he was told that Martin's left ankle injury looked worse than it was. If that's the case (and I'll know more in a few hours), then Martin will be back at it again (he's averaging 26.2 points on 51.7 percent shooting in the last five games) and the newfound collective chemistry should continue. Speaking of history, the Kings have won 10 of their last 11 games against Detroit at home and three of the last four overall.

Here's why it won't happen: After being stifled by Boston on Sunday, the Pistons are 0-2 since trading for Allen Iverson. And considering Detroit's next 10 days are mostly brutal (at Kings, Warriors, Lakers, Phoenix; home vs. Cleveland and at Boston), this is a must-get game for them. It becomes all that much easier if Martin's ankle puts him on the shelf.

November 9, 2008
Pre-game injury update

* BLOG UPDATE: Kings coach Reggie Theus says Brad Miller will start tonight, while Kevin Martin remains a game time decision. Martin appeared ready to go while shooting around with teammates.

In case you missed any of our own coverage today, there's the Kings plus breakdown, Ailene's profile on Kings scout Keith Drum, Melody's piece on the DeMarcus Nelson return, a brief preview of tonight's game against the Warriors and today's blog preview "Opening Tip" from Scott Howard-Cooper. For good measure, I just started a new forum question - "Whose future is brighter - the Kings or the Warriors?" Discuss it here.

As for the latest on tonight's game, I was told that Kevin Martin (sprained left ankle) and Brad Miller (sore right foot) are gametime decisions. Quincy Douby (sore right ankle) and Francisco Garcia (strained right calf) are out as expected.

November 9, 2008
Opening tip: Would it really be so bad if Chris Mullin left the Warriors?

Warriors (2-4) at Kings (2-4)

Scoring: Kings 14th (98), Warriors fifth (101.7).
Shooting: Kings second (48.5 percent), Warriors 25th (42.3).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (108.5), Warriors 23rd (102.8).
Shooting defense: Kings 27th (49.3 percent), Warriors 22nd (46.6).
Rebound differential: Kings 18th (minus-1.2), Warriors tied for 19th (minus-2).

The links: Warriors coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News.
The almanac: On this date in 1946, George Mikan, the first superstar big man, made his professional debut for the Chicago American Gears in a National Basketball League game against the Oshkosh All-Stars. On this date in 1983, David Stern was named to succeed Larry O'Brien as Commissioner. Stern took office Feb. 1, 1984. On this date in 1989, the Bucks beat the SuperSonics 155-154 in five overtimes, the longest game since the advent of the 24-second clock in 1954 and tying the second-longest ever. Seattle's Dale Ellis set a record by playing 69 of a possible 73 minutes. On this date in 1993, Micheal Williams of the Timberwolves had his record-setting streak of 97 consecutive made free throws end with a miss at San Antonio.

__________


Chris Mullin and the Warriors: the non-Shakespearean, non-palace intrigue version.


Take away the famous name and the recognition factor from great years as a player and the deserved popularity for time as a small forward and later the front-office work that rejuvenated a slumped-over franchise and there is a case to be made for a personnel boss who has earned shaky ground. Not in this unfortunate, mishandled manner, but there is a case.

Agreed to terrible contracts with Adonal Foyle, Derek Fisher, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy, which took years of buyouts (Foyle) or trades (Fisher, Murphy, Dunleavy) to untangle and that are still being untangled. Stephen Jackson was a great acquisition in the Dunleavy-Murphy deal with the Pacers, after all, but Al Harrington is a Warriors problem still waiting to be resolved.

November 8, 2008
Kings can't catch a break

Brad Miller was added to the injury list today, joining teammates Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia and Quincy Douby. Miller has a sore right foot and is listed as day-to-day. Martin is listed as probable with the left ankle sprain that nearly kept him out of Friday's 121-109 win against the Timberwolves. Douby (sore right ankle) and Garcia (strained right calf) both remain out of action.
Martin said his injury remains sore, but he credited it with his 26-point performance against Minnesota.
"I think when you are injured you are more focused," Martin said. "We can say it's because of that. We played great as a team so that made my job easy."
Martin said he worked on drills Saturday to strengthen his ankle and legs. For some reason, his explanation on why this was important became funnier after I transcribed it.
"I'm not a doctor, but every muscle is connected to another muscle, so we are trying to work it all," Martin said.
And to finish off this post, I'll leave you with Martin's reaction to Miller's injury.
"Just another injury," Martin said. "We're used to it though."

November 8, 2008
...and cleaning up the mess

Don't let the above ellipses confuse you. It's a continuation of the blog headline from just a week ago that began "Taking out the garbage."

A week later, they've picked things up a bit around here. Friday night's win over Minnesota was yet another step away from the box full of dynamite. As I alluded to before, a loss to Memphis in the home opener may have been the spark that lit the fuse. And the more folks I chatted with after the fact, that assertion was supported many times over.

Now it's a a 2-4 record with a real chance of breaking even by the end of the homestand. It's Golden State at Arco on Sunday and the possibility of upsetting an evolving Detroit team on Tuesday. For the extra-greedy, it doesn't get better than the struggling Clippers on Wednesday as a candidate for first road win.

A few late-night observations that wouldn't fit in print...

November 7, 2008
Pre-game update - and it's not pretty

The local logic surrounding tonight's game had gone something like this for the Kings faithful, "Well, at least it's just the T-Wolves."

And suddenly, the T-Wolves look pretty daunting.

Why, you ask? Well because Kevin Martin will start despite having a left ankle that is somewhere close to 60 percent healthy and face the task of chasing equally-active Corey Brewer. And because his help off the bench has gone from slim to virtually non-existent, as Quincy Douby is out with a sore right ankle. To make matters worse for this bunch, team trainer Pete Youngman has extended the recovery time for swingman Francisco Garcia (right calf strain) to two to three more weeks from today. All of which is good news if you're Donte' Greene.

The rookie small forward will be active by necessity but could get a chance to play if the circumstances are right.

"With Kevin kind of not knowing exactly what's going to happen when the game starts, we could end up needing another small too," Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "When you look at that (Minnesota) lineup...He can guard (Brewer), definitely. I think so."

CHAT IT UP

I've got a new question up at the "Forums," - Should Brad Miller be starting and are you worried about what it means for Spencer Hawes? Share your thoughts here.
- Sam Amick

November 7, 2008
Miller in, Martin possibly out

I just returned from the Kings shoot-around and have two updates from today's story.

1. Kevin Martin did not practice with the Kings this morning and is considered a game-time decision. Martin has a mild left ankle sprain, which he suffered in Wednesday's win over Memphis.
If Martin can't go tonight against Minnesota, Kings coach Reggie Theus said he will start Quincy Douby or Bobby Jackson at shooting guard.
Be the first to know who will get the nod tonight by signing up for Kings text message alerts. You will also get Kings-related breaking news alerts and game scores sent to your phone. Just text the word KINGS to 72737.
For more information, click here.

2. Brad Miller will be inserted into the starting lineup tonight. Following yesterday's practice, Theus said he was still mulling over the decision. Today, he is opting to go with his veteran instead of second-year center Spencer Hawes, who has played well in Miller's absence.
Bee readers are discussing the decision in the comments section of today's story.

November 7, 2008
Opening tip: Maybe the Kings will also get Beno Udrih back tonight

Timberwolves (1-3) at Kings (1-4)

Scoring: Kings 24th (93.4), Timberwolves 11th (98.3).
Shooting: Kings tied for fifth (47.1 percent), Timberwolves 18th (43.8).
Scoring defense: Kings 30th (108.4), Timberwolves 24th (102).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (50.4 percent), Timberwolves 20th (46).
Rebound differential: Kings 17th (minus-1.8), Timberwolves tied for 21st (minus-3.5).

The links: Timberwolves coverage in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The almanac: On this date in 1991, Magic Johnson announced his first retirement with the stunning disclosure that he had tested HIV-positive. On this date in 1997, the Kings' streak of 497 consecutive home sellouts ended.

__________


Five games in, and still no Beno Udrih. Any other time, this is merely a slump. But slumping at the beginning of a season, without good moments as a counterweight, the numbers jump out: 22 assists, 19 turnovers, 39.5 percent from the field.


Worse, so many of the mistakes have come in the halfcourt, not the result of the Kings playing fast. Mistakes of the wrong pass or the receiver being in the wrong place rather than mistakes of acceleration. So, none of the hoped-for push in the offense and none of the old baskets either.

The Kings are struggling to score despite shooting the ball well, a sure sign they're not getting enough attempts. Wasted possessions. That means the point guard with the terrible assist-to-turnover ratio gets a turn under the microscope that comes complete with a heat lamp. Hey, the defense can't have all the fun.

And not just any point guard. The one who had been a career backup before last season and privately mocked by his former club in San Antonio for a lack of fortitude, then got five years and $32.76 million to re-sign in Sacramento. The implications of Udrih becoming long-term dependable are massive for both sides.

November 6, 2008
Opening night musings ...

Jay Humphries, the head coach of Reno's NBDL's expansion team, attended the home opener last night and met briefly with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie. The Kings and Knicks are affiliates of the Reno franchise, which will enable Petrie to send rookies or second-year players down to the minor league setting for experience and closely monitor their progress. (Donte Greene, anyone?). The NBDL is also the developmental league for future NBA head coaches, similar to the defunct CBA that once featured head coaches Phil Jackson, George Karl and Flip Saunders, among others. It's hard to imagine Our Friend Phil hooping it up with the Albany Patroons, but he won titles there, too.

Anyway, Humphries, accompanied by his new assistant and current Monarchs assistant Tom Abatemarco, said he was eager to establish a relationship with Petrie.

"I wanted Geoff to know where I was coming from," said Humphries, who played 11 years in the NBA and coached for six seasons in Asia. "I plan to run a lot of the Phoenix Suns sets, and play aggressive defense. That's the philosophy I've always believed. I told Geoff I'm looking forward to doing whatever I can to help out."


Finally casting a vote

Though the family is heavily involved in Democratic politics, Joe and Gavin Maloof refused to publicly align themselves with Heather Fargo or Kevin Johnson during the recently concluded mayoral race. But let's just say, it wasn't a coincidence that KJ was seated courtside next to Gavin Maloof during Wednesday's season opener in Arco Arena. Sacramento's mayor-elect, who arrived shortly before tipoff, walked up to the owner's suite and chatted with Joe Maloof, still hobbled after undergoing double knee replacement surgery. Johnson then went back downstairs and joined Gavin, front and center.

The Maloofs - who revered the late Sacramento mayor Joe Serna - never believed Fargo was emotionally invested in their attempts toward securing a public/private financing agreement for any of the discussed arena ventures. Right, wrong, whatever. They never moved beyond their initial impressions of the outgoing mayor. Interestingly, KJ, who kept his distance from the arena discussions while he was pursuing a charter school for Sac High - surprising given his obvious connection to the NBA - has emerged as a forceful advocate for an arena deal. The former Phoenix Suns point guard repeatedly has said that securing the Kings' presence in Sacramento is among his priorities, often citing the club's economic and psychic value to the community. That will require construction of a modern facility, at some point in the near future, or whenever the economy allows.

As an aside: My Bee colleague, Sam Amick, turned to me during the game and suggested that you can't appreciate how outdated Arco is - in terms of the acoustics, big screen capabilities, concourse, and all-around amenities and comfort level - until you travel to the other venues around the league.

I don't disagree. Arco has sprouted too many hairs - and too many leaks. But a $10 seat at Arco offers a much better value than what you get at the newer, bigger arenas. At Staples Center, they ought to dispense oxygen tanks to those in the nosebleed seats. Or at least binoculars.

Final thoughts about the opener ...

* I have commented often about John Salmons' tendency to pound the ball, but against the Grizzlies, he was the best player on the court. He demonstrated once again that he is much too skilled to become one-dimensional. This was one of the best games he's played since joining the Kings. He keyed the defense up top (often with double-team help from rookie Jason Thompson), made his moves quickly or gave the ball up, pursued rebounds and loose balls, and in general, provided the sense of leadership have been so sorely lacking.

* Beno Udrih continues to struggle, which leads me to relate tidbits from a conversation I had recently wiith an NBA scout. The scout - who shall remain nameless, for obvious reasons - asked if the Kings' point guard was hurt. He thought something was wrong. My take on Beno is this: he missed most of training camp with a strained hip and is playing his way into shape. He seems a half-step slow. His timing is off. And his confidence appears to be shaken. He had two excellent drives in the second half, though, so maybe that will give him a boost.

* I'm looking forward to Friday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, mostly, to see Wolves rookie Kevin Love and his probable matchup against Kings rookie Jason Thompson. I think we're going to be hearing a lot about these two power forwards during the next decade.

* While Bobby Jackson remains one of my favorite people, I agree with Reggie Theus' decision to use Bobby Brown as the backup point guard. Bobby Jax doesn't seem to have much left, except, perhaps, the unwavering affection of the fans. He received a standing ovation when he entered the game.

* What WAS the name of that rock band that played during introductions? Never mind. Don't want to know. Don't ever want to hear them again. I always hated hard rock ...

* My favorite stat of the night: the Kings' 24 assists

* No surprise at the non-sellout numbers. A Wednesday night opener. Against the Memphis Grizzlies. The night after the election. One thing I found interesting, though, was that the upper bowl was almost full. Most of the empty pockets of seats were in the corner sections of the lower bowl, which suggests two things: (1) Fans are responding to reduced ticket prices for upper bowl seats, and (2) The corner sections in the lower bowl offer the least advantageous sight lines, and apparently, are overpriced.

* Theus and Humphries have been friends since their teen years in Southern California

* One last observation about Thompson, the rookie from Rider: He has exceptional hands.

November 5, 2008
Opening tip: The Kings defense may not have hit bottom yet

Grizzlies (2-2) at Kings (0-4)

Scoring: Kings 23rd (91.8), Grizzlies 30th (83.3).
Shooting percentage: Kings 10th (45.8), Grizzlies 24th (41.6).
Scoring defense: Kings 30th (111.8), Grizzlies fourth (85.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (52.2 percent), Grizzlies second (37.5).
Rebound differential: Kings 20th (minus-3.3), Grizzlies 15th (minus-1.5).

The link: Grizzlies coverage in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
The almanac: On this date in 1946, Chuck Connors of the Celtics, later to star in "The Rifelman," became the first NBA player to shatter a backboard, even if it was during pre-game warm-ups. On this date in 1971, Elgin Baylor of the Lakers retired after a 14-year career. On this date in 1982, the Nets set an NBA record with a 24th consecutive loss, dating back to the previous season. On this date in 1988, the Heat hosted the Clippers in the first regular-season game in Florida history.


You see the 90-foot-tall flashing numbers above. Twenty-ninth in shooting defense and 30th in scoring defense. They're impossible not to see. You can bet that Geoff Petrie and anyone with the last name of Maloof sees them.

It's a dreadful start. Just not entirely unexpected. The Kings were 22nd in shooting defense and 24th in scoring defense last season, then traded their only real weapon on that end of the court, Ron Artest, without a subsequent patching move. Of course they're going to be dreadful.

But -- and this is where things really get good -- you ain't seen nothing yet.

The Grizzlies are in tonight for the Arco opener. Memphis is making admirable strides, especially on defense if the early numbers mean anything, but shouldn't be running up big numbers on the Kings. If the Grizz do hang a 110, the sight of the 76ers scoring 125 on Monday will be nothing compared to the image of a team getting booed off the court in a home opener.

November 4, 2008
Gutcheck time for Kings

PHILADELPHIA - They can lose and still win, and that's the worst part about these Kings so far.

Not many teams get that off-the-hook distinction, but they are among the few. Especially on the road for a season-opening four-game road trip, especially without their starting center and their sixth man, and especially with so much youth being integrated in such significant ways so early on. But they're doing more than losing. They're losing bad.

The 20-point average margin of defeat in the 0-4 start doesn't tell the story, especially in the 125-91 loss to the Sixers. They trailed by 40 points in the fourth quarter, and it takes all kinds of haplessness to make that happen. In 16 quarters of play, the Kings have won just two (and one shouldn't count since it was the fourth quarter against Miami in which they trailed by 31 points after three quarters). They have yet to lead after the first quarter. Most likely, their 111.8 points per game allowed will be worst in the league by the time the beans are counted this morning and their 52.2 percent opponents' field-goal percentage will be pretty close to the bottom too.

Now comes a home opener against Memphis on Wednesday that could be equal parts relief and panic for Kings coach Reggie Theus and his staff. Sure it's nice to not be facing Boston or the Lakers, they might be thinking, but what if it's another loss? Any loss in that game - close or otherwise - won't sit well with all involved.
What's more, the Grizzlies' reputation as sure-thing NBA cellar dwellars may not match their actual ability. Coach Marc Iavaroni and his bunch are 2-2 after wins over Orlando and Golden State and losses to Houston and Chicago. Before we jump ahead, though, let's listen in on what was an incredibly-candid visitors locker room at the Wachovia Center on Monday night.

It's open mike night, because introductions aren't really necessary when it comes to moments of clarity like these. As a quick sidenote, none of this was Donte' Greene's fault, especially since he was inactive again and is looking more and more every day like he may be headed for the D-League (he's not getting better in a suit and he's repeatedly said he would be open and enthusiastic about the notion of playing big minutes as a Reno Bighorn). Now back to those who did take part...

November 3, 2008
Opening tip: Why the Kings mattered in the Pistons-Nuggets trade

Kings (0-3) at 76ers (1-2)

Scoring: Kings 22nd (92), 76ers 17th (96).
Shooting percentage: Kings 11th (45.2), 76ers tied for 12th (45.1).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (107.3), 76ers 12th (92.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 27th (50 percent), 76ers seventh (39.6).
Assists: Kings 25th (17.7), 76ers 16th (20).

The links: 76ers coverage in the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The almanac: On this date in 1989, Sarunas Marciulionis and Alexander Volkov became the first players from the Soviet Union to appear in a regular-season game, Marciulionis for the Warriors and Volkov for the Hawks. Also on this date in 1989, the Timberwolves played the inaugural game in franchise history. On this date in 1995, the two Canadian expansion teams, the Raptors and Grizzlies, both debuted. Toronto beat New Jersey at home before approximately 33,000 fans inside SkyDome, while Vancouver lost at Portland.


Ka-boooooom!

Detroit wanted a new atmosphere, Denver wanted a new atmosphere, so they probably should have been considered logical trade partners all along. It still would have been tough to see this mutual detonation coming, though: All-Star Allen Iverson to the Pistons and All-Star Chauncey Billups along with Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb to the Nuggets in a deal reportedly about to go final.

This comes back to Ron Artest, of course. (No one gets away from that name. No one.) If Denver had done the deal with the Kings in February, it almost certainly would have been committing to give the new lineup a chance with a training camp, meaning the start of this season, and maybe all 2008-09. Not if Artest had opted out there, but if Ron-Ron stays, the Nugs have committed themselves to giving this a chance.

It's a risk applying logic to anything Artest-related, and now Denver management has entered the same hazy realm, but it's tough to avoid the conclusion. A Kings-Nuggets swap potentially changes the West last season -- Denver still gets pushed aside by the Lakers in the first round, but Denver with Artest realistically gets to No. 7 and avoids L.A. -- and it almost assuredly alters talks with Detroit.

November 2, 2008
The meaningful Jason Thompson leftover

One noteworthy sidebar to the Jason Thompson story in the paper product today, left out because it was off the topic of the competition Thompson faced in the mid-major Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference:

Siena coach Fran McCaffery played Thompson and the Rider Broncs at least twice a season each of the last three seasons in the MAAC, more if the teams met in the conference tournament, and scouted them countless times. Siena also played Stanford once last season (a 79-67 home victory over the Cardinal, ranked No. 20 at the time) and once the season before (a 92-72 loss to the Cardinal on the Farm). Stanford had Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez, both, like Thompson, big men and future top-15 picks.

And McCaffery says Thompson is the best of the three.

The disclaimer: Brook Lopez did not play either time, once because of injury and once because of academic suspension. But McCaffery watched a lot of Stanford both times for scouting purposes, so he has more than a casual knowledge of Brook's game. McCaffery is also a former Notre Dame assistant, not some relative newcomer working his way up the coaching chain, so he understands the skill level of players at prominent programs, not just the mid-majors. Plus, McCaffery has an economics degree from Penn's prestigious Wharton School. He's got smarts.

It's a particularly valuable evaluation because so few college coaches will have faced Stanford, a West Coast school from a power conference, and Rider, an East Coast school tucked in the relative anonymity of the MAAC. And Stanford is, however strangely, a perfect debate point because Thompson and the Lopez twins are bigs who may face off in the NBA and because when the draft came in June, Brook went No. 10 to the Nets, Thompson went No. 12 to the Kings and Robin went No. 15 to the Suns. It's a fair comparison.

November 1, 2008
A place for plugs

ORLANDO - Scott Howard-Cooper offered all the relevant data about tonight's game, freeing me up to remind you folks about a few things we have going on. The overall mission is to find new and better ways to provide the info on your favorite team, and here are a few of the latest ways...

* KINGS TEXT ALERTS - For those who just want the nitty gritty on game results and significant breaking news about the Kings, text KINGS to 72737 and you'll get free updates on your phone.

For the terms and conditions and legal speak, click here.

* CHAT FORUMS - There are certainly some high-quality Kings chat rooms out there, but remember to stop by ours if you're looking to have your thoughts read and/or replied to by the folks who cover the team. Admittedly, I'm still getting in the habit of checking in to see who's saying what but it will grow over time. Go to http://www.sacbee.com/forums/ and click on "Kings."

BLOG UPDATE: I just posted at the latest question posed, "An 0-4 homecoming?" Feel free to refute...

* PLAYERS SALARY PAGE - By way of our Kings hub at www.sacbee.com/kings, don't forget about the players salary page.

I just updated it to include the details of Francisco Garcia's extension, which, as it turns out, was for five years and $29.6 million and not the $29.8 million previously reported by my sources. The fifth year is a team option, meaning his guaranteed four seasons are worth $23.2 million. The current contract of every player on the team is now accounted for. To see all the pertinent info regarding a player's deal, click on "Details" on the right side.

* This is a non-Bee plug, but Kevin Martin and Bobby Jackson are conducting four 90-minute hoops clinics this month at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin.

The Tuesday sessions begin this week, run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., are geared for boys and girls ages 6 to 17 and are $200 apiece. For more info, click here. - Sam Amick

November 1, 2008
Opening tip: And One

Kings (0-2) at Magic (0-2)

** 2007-08 stats **
Scoring: Kings eighth (102.5), Magic sixth (104.5)
Shooting percentage: Kings 10th (46.4), Magic fifth (47.4)
Scoring defense: Kings 24th (104.8), Magic 11th (99)
Shooting defense: Kings 22nd (46.6), Magic seventh (44.6)
Assists: Kings 29th (19.1), Magic 22nd (20.8)
Turnovers: Kings 30th (16.1), Magic 13th (14.3)

The links: Magic coverage in the Orlando Sentinel (with an additional story on assistant coach Patrick Ewing being upset the Knicks cut Kings second-round pick Patrick Ewing Jr.) and Florida Today.
The almanac: On this day in 1946, the New York Knicks beat the Toronto Huskies 68-66 in Toronto in the first NBA game.

*Try finding many better days in Sacramento NBA history than Wednesday. A few from the 2002 playoffs, beating the Suns in Game 4 on the road in 2001 as Kings fans invaded America West Arena to be part of the first postseason series victory and, in the real historical context, Oct. 25, 1985, and the first regular-season game in town. But for a sweeping moment, there was the night of Matt Barnes from Del Campo High starting for the Suns, DeMarcus Nelson from Sheldon starting for the Warriors in his NBA debut and Ryan Anderson from Oak Ridge playing 15 minutes for the Nets in his first game as a pro, all within a few hours. The first two were comeback stories as well: Barnes had to accept a one-year minimum deal from Phoenix and ended up bumping Grant Hill at small forward, while Nelson began camp on the bubble to make the team and then became the first undrafted rookie to start on opening night for the Warriors since the team moved from Philadelphia before 1962-63.

*The 54.2 percent from the field by Peja Stojakovic is obviously a soft number two games in, but also very meaningful supporting evidence for the Hornets. Already happy with how he looked playing 77 games last season coming off a back injury that could have jeopardized his career, they are thrilled with the Stojakovic of 2008-09, because of what he went through and because of what he means to their title hopes. "I think he feels more comfortable this year," coach Byron Scott said. "Even though the back was healed last year, he still had it in the back of his mind. This year, it doesn't seem like that." If a healthy, accurate Stojakovic is the third- or fourth-best player on a team -- after Chris Paul for sure and then in some mix with All-Star David West and Tyson Chandler with his ability to change a game on defense -- that's a very dangerous team.

*Few NBA players -- few players in any sport -- may have the positive impact that Delonte West of the Cavaliers can generate by speaking publicly about his battle with depression that recently prompted him to leave the team for two weeks. Mental-health experts, especially those who have worked closely with sports, welcome a spotlight on the topic in hopes of breaking down the stigma that depression has in society, let alone among athletes who are constantly drilled about toughness and can be among the most hesitant to seek counseling. Or as West told reporters in Ohio after returning in preseason: "For a while you feel like a weaker man because you've got to raise your hand and ask for help. But I found out over the last week that made me a stronger person." He should be a candidate for the J. Walter Kennedy Award, given annually to a player for outstanding community work, on that far-reaching platform alone.

November 1, 2008
Taking out the garbage

MIAMI - Maybe the red jerseys were Halloween costumes.

Maybe that wasn't the Heat blasting the Kings on Friday Fright Night, but the Phoenix Suns of the Mike D'Antoni era in new colors. Or maybe the Kings really did just get the South Beach beatdown for the second straight season from a team that's been mostly horrific in recent memory.

Anytime a fan is heckling the coach by asking him if his team will get to 50 points midway through the third quarter, we're talking cover-your-eyes ugly. Such was the case in the 103-77 Heat rout, where coach Reggie Theus did a nice job pretending he didn't hear all the verbal jabs thrown his way from giddy Heat fans.

Theus has plenty to get frustrated with at the moment, as his team's unenviable circumstances have suddenly merged with unexpected truths in the early going. As if the Brad Miller suspension, the Francisco Garcia injury and the Beno Udrih preseason absences didn't put this young bunch even further behind the competitive eight ball, Theus' three returning starters from last season are off to rough starts.

Beno Udrih looks rusty and a few steps slow. Kevin Martin has looked nothing like the scoring machine he was in the preseason. And their lack of production has only exposed the lack of productivity from Mikki Moore all the more.



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