Kings (16-56) vs. New Orleans (45-27)
Scoring: Kings 13th (100.26), Hornets 25th (95.75)
Shooting: Kings 23rd (44.9 percent), Hornets 17th (45.5)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (108.59), Hornets 4th (93.44)
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (48.2 percent), Hornets 6th (44.8)
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-4.94), Hornets 17th (plus-0.36)
The almanac: On this date in 1982, the NBA and the Players Association reached a four-year agreement that included a revenue-sharing plan, the first of its kind in team sports. Players received 53 percent of revenues starting the 1984-85 seasons in return for minimum and maximum payrolls. On this date in 1992, Phoenix Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons guided the Suns to a 128-111 home win over Portland, becoming the sixth coach in NBA history to chalk up 800 career wins. On this date in 1996, after defeating the visiting Phoenix Suns 97-83, the San Antonio Spurs become the 11th NBA team to go unbeaten over a month, with a 16-0 mark in March. The Spurs tied the 1971-72 Lakers (who were 16-0 in December of 1971) for the winningest month ever by an NBA team.
In the land where Kings coaches roam and PR chiefs reign, the curtain is down these days and paranoia is up.
And while the practice facility drape that keeps the media from observing is black, it really should be gray. That's the true color of this coaching situation in its current state. The misguiding of gray matter. Gray areas galore. And growing gray hairs for me, of course, as the absence of black and white indicators means Kenny Natt's status remains unclear.
Public perception is the easy part. The record alone leads to opinions such as the one below, as written by former Rocky Mountain News writer and current In Denver Times scribe Chris Tomasson in a Hoopshype column on interim coaches...
Kenny Natt of Sacramento is 9-36 since replacing 6-18 Reggie Theus. If one were to measure the impact the change has had, perhaps he should be known as Kenny Gnat...
Put (Washington's Ed) Tapscott, (Toronto's Jay) Triano and Natt as guys who soon might want to head to Kinko's to choose the font for their resumes.
Even locally, the fan reaction has been far from supportive as to whether Natt should return next season. In this poll on the widely read Sactownroyalty site on March 22, 401 of 511 voters called for the Kings to embark on their third coaching search in the last four summers.
But gauging the thinking from inside is a much fuzzier matter. Yet while watching Kings consultant Pete Carril compare Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson to Vlade Divac and Chris Webber after yesterday's practice, I was reminded of one of Natt's lesser-seen advantages in this situation: He's on board with the master plan.
Yes, there have been more plan changes than coaching changes when it comes to this increasingly dysfunctional organization, but the notion that Hawes and Thompson should try to emulate the Divac-Webber (and Brad Miller) model has gained steam. Carril, as a reminder, is an extension of Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie when it comes to basketball vision. And Natt, without question, is on board with this particular vision.
This is big because of the recent history, the fact that Eric Musselman and Reggie Theus were so routinely either fighting the in-house system or begrudgingly going along with the plan. The complexity of their personalities was an added element to the situation, but their preference for a more traditional approach - the inside-out game as opposed to a free-flowing movement offense in which so much goes through the bigs - created constant of conflict. That doesn't exist with Natt, whose reputation as a simple man had much to do with his hiring and continues to aid his case for rehiring.
Simple, of course, has not translated into successful, which is why public sentiment leans so heavily in opposition of Natt. From the endless conversations I've had with folks around the league, there is a split camp of those who say Natt doesn't look like head-coaching material to those who say it's a talent-based league and the simple man simply doesn't have much talent.
The other factor, of course, is the financial backdrop, the fact that Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof simply aren't in the mood to hand out long-term contracts of any kind. So here's Natt, who has already agreed to a one-year team option for next season at just under $2 million that the Kings have until May 1 to decide whether to pick up or ignore.
Beyond those dynamics, good luck gauging this one. There are losses like the ones to Washington and Memphis that look like nail-in-the-coffin moments, followed by a win over Phoenix that may have cracked the lid and brought some air back in the box. Ten games to go and the gray remains. - Sam Amick