Kings Blog and Q&A

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

January 31, 2009
Overtime: A new low every time out

CHICAGO 109, KINGS 88

Game story, Game notes

Box score, Video recap

Kings plus feature (on Kevin Martin)

Daily story leading into Sunday's game against Oklahoma City (with preview box)

Ailene Voisin column on Thunder coach and former Kings assistant Scott Brooks

***

I'm a sucker for structure. So even though I didn't cover the game last night and won't tomorrow either, the overtimes continue in minimized - and tardy - form. Truth be told, "Overtime" serves as a great way to be sure folks who only come to the blog don't 'miss some of the good work being done in the paper, so be sure to peek above and pick your piece...

So Melody Gutierrez reports that the Kings are without Brad Miller and Beno Udrih, which is great if you're Spencer Hawes but not so great if you're Kenny Natt. Your team has already hit rock bottom in the standings and here comes much-improved Oklahoma City to wave a finger in your face.

January 31, 2009
Kings down two starters

I should have checked the stock market before writing this, given Spencer Hawes' quote in today's Bee.
When Hawes was asked after last night's loss if he sensed that this is the bottom when it comes to the Kings' struggles this season, the second year center-forward quipped in: "It's like the stock market - you think it's gone down as far as it's going to go, and you find something else to slip up on."
And then came today's news. The Kings will be without two starters in Sunday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Point guard Beno Udrih is listed as doubtful with a left calf contusion, while center Brad Miller will likely miss at least two games with an abdominal strain.
Hawes will start in place of Miller, which will be a nice treat for the struggling sophomore. Bobby Brown or Francisco Garcia will be called to run the point.

January 30, 2009
Opening tip: The Kings, the expiring contracts and the possibilities

Bulls (19-27) at Kings (10-37)

Scoring: Kings 13th (99.1), Bulls 12th (99.2).
Shooting: Kings tied for 21st (44.6 percent), Bulls 24th (44.5).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (108.2), Bulls 24th (102.1).
Shooting defense: Kings tied for 29th (48 percent), Bulls tied for 14th (45.4).
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-4.6), Bulls 18th (minus-0.5).

The links: Bulls coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Daily Herald.
The almanac: On this date in 1994, the Celtics retired uniform No. 32 in honor of Kevin McHale. On this date in 1996, the Bulls beat the Rockets to complete the 10th undefeated month in league history with at least 12 games played, a 14-0 January. On this date in 1996, Magic Johnson of the Lakers came out of retirement with 19 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds against the Warriors in his first game since the 1991 Finals. On this date in 2002, Karl Malone joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to score 34,000 points.

__________

The inevitable Kings trade does not have to mean taking back expiring contracts. They'll do something that includes an extended deal if it's for a young-ish player who fits into the long-term plan with a decent cap number. Geoff Petrie is a few months off giving lengthy pacts to Francisco Garcia (without immediate threat of losing him) and Beno Udrih. No single-minded push to dump salaries here.


It is an obvious preference, though. Get Brad Miller ($11.38 million this season, $12.25 mil next) and/or Kenny Thomas ($8.56M, $8.78M) off the books without inheriting a bad commitment by a different name, maybe add a decent prospect or a first-round pick in the process. It's what they did with Ron Artest (the expiring Bobby Jackson, Donte Greene, a No. 1 in 2009) and sort of did with Mike Bibby (lots of expiring contracts, a look at former lottery selection Shelden Williams with little risk).

So, expiring contracts. The realistic variety, meaning no Jason Kidd because the Mavericks aren't trading him barring an unexpected development, no Allen Iverson under similar reasoning, ditto no Bibby, no Artest, probably no Lamar Odom. The expiring contracts that could move or even figure to move, in other words.

January 29, 2009
Overtime: The looming uncertainty is certainly interesting

BOSTON 119, KINGS 100

Game story, Game notes

Box score, Video recap

***

BOSTON - Since it was hardly even worth recapping the game in today's story in which Brad Miller and John Salmons spoke candidly about being on the trading block, we may as well keep the theme going the morning after.

Because this team, in its current state, is obviously going nowhere.

While Salmons remains the most available King with the most value, Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star Telegram beat me to the punch in addressing the possibility that Beno Udrih could be on his way out too. Yesterday was the first day in which I'd heard of Dallas' interest in the Kings point guard, and it should surprise no one that they are willing to part ways with him at this point for the right package.

January 28, 2009
Opening tip: Commence scoreboard watching

Kings (10-36) at Celtics (37-9)

Scoring: Kings 13th (99.1), Celtics 10th (101.1).
Shooting: Kings tied for 22nd (44.6 percent), Celtics second (48.2).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (108), Celtics second (91.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (47.8 percent), Celtics first (42.2).
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-4.5), Celtics first (plus-5.4).

The links: Celtics coverage in the Boston Herald and Boston Globe.
The almanac: On this date in 1980, Red Holzman of the Knicks joined Red Auerbach as the only coaches to win 600 games. On this date in 1985, Bill Fitch of the Rockets became the sixth coach to win 600 games. On this date in 1988, Michael Adams of the Nuggets began a streak of 79 consecutive games with a three-pointer, a run that stretched over two seasons. Dana Barros later pushed the record to 89 games in a row.

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Scoreboard watching 1: The Wizards are 9-35 and play at Miami and the Kings are 10-36 and play at Boston, so this is the moment the unthinkable becomes possible. Rock. Bottom. It would be a tie at the bottom, and the Thunder (10-35) and Clippers (10-34) could sink there as well with similar percentage-point differences, but still. Last place. Kings-Thunder on Super Bowl Sunday looms as the head-to-head showdown. Good seats are available.


Scoreboard watching 2: The Rockets have reached a very soft spot of the schedule with your other first-round pick in the balance, a run of 10 games over the next three-plus weeks against 10 opponents with a combined .393 winning percentage. Only the Mavericks are better than .500. Only three, the Mavs plus the 76ers and Bucks in the East, would qualify if the playoffs opened today, and Milwaukee is dangling after losing Michael Redd for the season.

Plus, Yao Ming is scheduled to return to the Houston lineup after missing two games with a sore knee. And maybe Ron Artest will play tonight as well. Or maybe he won't. Artest told cbssports.com an ankle injury could sideline him until after the All-Star break, nearly three weeks, and his agent told the Houston Chronicle that Ron-Ron should be available tonight. An Artest contradiction. Imagine the surprise.

January 28, 2009
Thompson, Hawes left off All-Star Rookie-Soph roster

CLEVELAND (yep, still here) - This will be short, but not so sweet for Kings fans.

The streak of All-Star weekends that will not include Kings of any kind will stretch to five, as rookie forward Jason Thompson and second-year big man Spencer Hawes were not selected by the league's assistant coaches for the Rookie-Sophomore game. - Sam Amick

January 28, 2009
Overtime: King James trumps Kings

CLEVELAND 117, KINGS 110

Game story, Game notes

Box score, Video recap

***

CLEVELAND - LeBron James wasn't celebrating.

That much was clear. The Cavs' star and his teammates were less than thrilled that they couldn't pound the Kings like fellow Eastern Conference heavyweight, Boston, did back on Dec. 28. Their reaction was enough to make you wonder if the Kings have become the bottom-of-the-barrel barometer by which elite teams judge themselves. Winning isn't enough, the thinking would go, and anything less than winning huge is a failure.

But while the Cavs were moaning about giving up 110 points and their inability to stop Kevin Martin, some of the Kings weren't content to have merely competed either. Chief among them was swingman Francisco Garcia, who took exception with my question of whether the Kings actually believed they could pull off the upset.

"Did we believe it?" Garcia responded with a sideways stare. "We beat the Lakers (on Dec. 9)...and we're playing better than we were playing before."

But when the Cavs made their second-half push and this team that has become so accustomed to losing had to respond, I continued, did these players believe in their heads that they could really do it?

January 27, 2009
Opening tip: The Wally Szczerbiak dilemma

Kings (10-35) at Cavaliers (34-8)

Scoring: Kings 13th (98.8), Cavaliers 10th (100.8).
Shooting: Kings tied for 24th (44.5 percent), Cavaliers tied for third (47.7).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (107.8), Cavaliers first (90.1).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (47.8 percent), Cavaliers second (42.4).
Rebound differential: Kings 28th (minus-4.1), Cavaliers fifth (plus-3.1).

The links: Cavaliers coverage in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon Journal.
The almanac: Nothing much happened this date in history.

__________

This probably doesn't impact the Kings. "Probably" because there's no way to know for sure, given the number of possibilities in play heading to the Feb. 19 trade deadline, except that the Cavaliers already have two centers and won't trade Wally Szczerbiak for Brad Miller, won't trade Szczerbiak for John Salmons and won't trade Szczerbiak's expiring contract for some package of Kings expiring contracts.


But it's very interesting for the entire league at a time Cleveland has the best record in the East, the chance to improve by dealing a valuable and expendable trade chip ... and may not do anything.

The Cavaliers are 34-8. They don't want to cough too hard for fear of derailing all that has gone right. LeBron James is the early favorite for MVP. The Mo Williams acquisition has been a great success. The defense has gone from 11th in the league in shooting last season to pushing the established Celtics for first. Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been sidelined all January with a sprained ankle and Delonte West is out with a broken wrist, so there are injuries, but the Cavs have won eight of 11 and get to spin that into an added confidence from overcoming adversity.

January 27, 2009
Petrie still waiting for lift off (and more trade musings)

CLEVELAND - On a drive to Arco Arena the other day, I was listening to KNBR's Bob Fitzgerald talk about the Warriors upcoming game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The discussion was focused on LeBron James, and how it's truly remarkable how he has managed to surpass expectations that were so high to begin with. Fitzgerald went on to opine about the world at large, and how expectations - and whether they are met or not - dictate most of the reaction to any particular situation. Which brings us to Geoff Petrie.

The Kings basketball president thought his team was better than this. He said it publicly. He said it privately. If the roster was healthy, he saw his team staying relevant for most of the season and maybe even pushing the .500 mark. So considering the Kings continue to struggle despite having been full strength for the entire month of January, it came as no surprise that Petrie was so disappointed when we spoke yesterday for this piece.

"In order to have lift off, you have to have ignition," he said of the team. "And we're still sort of waiting for that to show up in some form I think."

January 26, 2009
The Maloofs intrigued by the D-League

Near the end of my conversation with Joe Maloof yesterday at the Palms for the lengthy Q&A in today's editions of the Bee, I asked what he thought about Geoff Petrie's suggestion that the Kings would benefit at some point from purchasing the Reno Bighorns, their affilate in the NBA Development League. Joe completely agreed. Speaking, of course, of a future investment - the Kings co-owners already have enough financial issues with the Monarchs and Kings, and an outdated arena - he embraced the concept of a developmental league as a vehicle to oversee the progress of, say, a Donte Greene. "Yes, yes," he said, adamantly. "we would look at buying them. I've seen what it's done for Donte. He's been up and down there, but he's getting training, teaching, an opportunity to get big minutes. I think all the young players - and you know what I love about Donte Greene? I love the way he accepted going down there for five games. He wasn't like, 'I'm better than the D-League.' He's 20-years-old. He's smart enough to realize, 'Hey, I've got to work at this if I want to do well, if I want a career.' And he has that attitude. I'm really proud of him saying 'I want to go down,' instead of throwing a tantrum and acting like he's too good.' So I told Gavin, 'I love his attitude.' And that's the D-League. So, yes, I like it a lot. I think it would be very good for us to have complete control over them (Bighorns) at some point."

More Maloof musings ...


After catching up with Joe in the coffee shop - pun intended - and immediately noting his physical discomfort even four months after his double knee replacement surgery (and subsequent stroke), I understand where he's coming from when he says he should have listened to the people who had advised him to take it one knee at a time. Actually, I was pretty shocked at his condition. He isn't as gaunt as he was when he made an early-season trip to Sac, but he still seems pretty miserable. He continually stretched his legs and rubbed his knees, grimacing. When I asked how much pain he was experiencing, he shrugged and said the knees stiffen up, and he tries to keep them as loose as possible.
A few minutes later, when we were making the short walk to the hotel exit, he had to stop and momentarily sit down at a slot machine. He massaged his knees, and then we continued.
Overall, though, I was surprised at his good spirits and his candor. It had been years since I had spent that much time with Joe, just sitting and talking, asking questions and getting answers, without his friends or handlers hanging around and interfering. It reminded me of when his family first bought the Kings and he and Gavin still had that immensely charming "aw shucks," small-town air. On Sunday, seated in a quiet booth in the back, he was funny, pensive, and even nostalgic for the days when the Kings were the toast of Sacramento and he and Gavin were beloved and competed with our celebrity governor for the headlines. To his credit, he also laughed and acknowledged his public relations and personnel gaffes, refused to apologize for being passionate and involved, and said he finally understood that pro sports owners of losing teams invariably catch the wrath of the fans. He reminded me of the old Joe, before the fans and we media types ruined him!.


Thoughts of Larry Miller


Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller has long been one of my favorites. We completely disagree on politics and other matters, but I always appreciated the fact that he respects the opinions of others, bought the Utah Jazz when the franchise was in jeopardy of being relocated, and I particularly enjoyed his quirky, small-town, if intrusive personna. Who else - and where else - could someone get away with this:? Until his illnesses of the last few years, he frequented his own stall alongside the players in the locker room, retrieved shots for his players during warmups, and participated in the huddle during introductions. I lways thought it was so quaint, and so unique. Maybe it's a chic thing. Larry is always quick with the quotes, too. He can shoot his mouth off with the best of them, often much to his regret. But you have to love his passion, his loyalty to the Jazz and his community. Quite the character. Here's hoping for a full recovery.

January 26, 2009
Overtime: The exposed Kings and their lack of exposure

TORONTO 113, KINGS 97

Game story, Game notes

Box score, Video recap

***

TORONTO - At least it gets easier from here.

Easier to lose, that is. The Kings must still go to Cleveland and Boston because the schedule says so, but the big money (I'm guessing betting lines of 15-ish for both games) is on the Cavs and Celtics teams that have lost twice in 42 tries at home and so it's fair to expect that the Kings' draft stock - if not their record - can only improve. Cleveland is the one that is perfect on its turf, which makes this the prime opportunity for this hard-luck team to gain rare national exposure by pulling an upset.

They could use the good exposure in a bad way.

It's rough enough that the Kings are off the national television radar (no games this year), off the NBA radar (they've gone four All-Star Weekends without a participant in the game, the three-point shootout, dunk contest, skills challenge, rookie-sophomore game - nada), and have to put up their own radar - so to speak - in the form of their own TV show in order to get on the boob tube outside the Sacramento region. Now the only way they get talked about in coast-to-coast fashion is to serve as a punchline.

A few recent examples...

January 25, 2009
Opening tip: And One

Kings (10-34) at Raptors (17-28)

Scoring: Kings 13th (98.9), Raptors 20th (97.4).
Shooting: Kings tied for 24th (44.4 percent), Raptors tied for 10th (45.9).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (107.6), Raptors 18th (99.7).
Shooting defense: Kings tied for 28th (47.7 percent), Raptors tied for 20th (45.8).
Rebound differential: Kings 28th (minus-4), Raptors 26th (minus-3.2).

The links: Raptors coverage in the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun.
The almanac: On this date in 1960, Wilt Chamberlain set a rookie record by scoring 58 points. He tied the mark less than a month later. On this date in 1986, Manute Bol of the Washington Bullets blocked 15 shots in a 111-103 win over the Hawks, two shy of Elmore Smith's league record. On this date in 1988, Rickey Green of the Jazz scored the NBA's 5,000,000th point on a 24-footer at the end of the third quarter of the 119-96 victory over the Cavaliers. On this date in 1998, voting totals for the All-Star game were announced with Michael Jordan of the Bulls receiving the most support for a record ninth time. Also, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers became the youngest starter in history.

__________

*The landscape on the Brad Miller trade front has been shifting. The Mavericks dealt DeSagana Diop to the Bobcats mostly for the perimeter depth of Matt Carroll, leaving Dallas shorthanded at center. And Alonzo Mourning's decision to retire rather than re-join the Heat was a hit to Miami with Joel Anthony as the starting center. Mourning would have come much, much cheaper -- salary wise and also in allowing the Heat to keep Shawn Marion or use him in another deal -- but Miller would be the dependable option, as much as people in Sacramento would find that hard to fathom. Miller is averaging 13.2 points and 9.7 rebounds in 11 games in January and will be in his contract year in 2009-10, meaning the Miller of next season will be motivated by a money drive if not a playoff drive wherever he is.


*You never know with so-called retirements these days, so Mourning could change his mind and play after all or reconsider a year from now and decide he actually does have a second-half charge left. But if this really is it, one of the star-crossed careers of the era is over: a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and seven-time All-Star who returned from a kidney transplant and advanced his image as one of the warriors of the game, but who also refused to play after being traded to the Raptors in 2004. He is likely a Hall of Famer, but there could be some good debate.

*Former Sheldon High star DeMarcus Nelson has yet to find a new home after being cut by the Warriors on Jan. 5 and apparently will wait it out for a chance in the NBA rather than go the D-League route. Nelson can't wait too long -- he needs to be in front of people, not playing the patience game for the phone to ring, and he did get good reviews when Golden State sent him to its minor-league affiliate in Bakersfield. Besides, the time for movement at the end of the bench passed a couple weeks ago, when the contracts of all players on a roster became guaranteed. Some got waived just to take a team off the financial hook, some were re-signed to 10-day deals soon after and some were replaced, but that was when the player-go-round was moving fastest for someone looking for a landing spot.

January 25, 2009
Overtime: Martin and his late-game habits

MILWAUKEE 106, KINGS 104

Game story, Game notes

Kings Plus: Feature on Kings' D-League team; Week ahead (w/Fire and Ice)

Box score, Video recap

***

CHICAGO - If the Kings are complaining about this travel schedule - and they are - then I will too.

A Milwaukee-Toronto back-to-back is one thing, but this is another. This is a 7:30 tipoff followed by a 6 p.m. tipoff, which is worse than it sounds because there's an hour lost in the Time Zone shuffle as well. And for scribes like myself, it's even worse. Sometimes, as in tonight, you have to drive from Milwaukee to Chicago just to find a nonstop flight that gets you through customs and into Toronto on time.

It doesn't stop there, either. Sometimes you pound away on a blog about Kevin Martin and whether he is shying away from late-game-winning or game-tying shots, only to have your laptop crash and a few hundred words disappear and then it just gets ugly when it's 3 a.m. local time. So unfortunately, it's the Cliff Notes now.

January 24, 2009
Opening tip: Ten years and forever ago

Kings (10-32) at Bucks (21-25)

Scoring: Kings 13th (98.8), Bucks 17th (98.3).
Shooting: Kings tied for 24th (44.5 percent), Bucks 19th (44.8).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (107.7), Bucks 13th (98.1).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (47.8 percent), Bucks tied for 18th (45.6).
Rebound differential: Kings 28th (minus-3.7), Bucks seventh (plus-1.8).

The link: Bucks coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The almanac: On this date in 1956, Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks won the first of his record four All-Star game MVPs. On this date in 1985, players announced plans to donate their share of the money for playing in the All-Star Game to aid famine victims in Ethiopia. The league matched the amount to make the total donation approximately $100,000. On this date in 1990, Pat Riley of the Lakers reached the 500-win plateau faster than any coach in history, his 684th game.

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A fun one. You can use a fun one.


Ten years ago this week, the league and the players signed the new Collective Bargaining Agreement to end the lockout, the unprecedented 50-game schedule was being put in place and the Kings signed Vlade Divac and Jon Barry. The foundation of the greatest success of the Sacramento era was in place.

Really, it was that entire lengthy offseason that set the course, month after month mostly of nothingness as the labor dispute chopped away at the first half of the season. The lockout started July 1 and officially ended Jan. 20 and there could be no player business in between, but what happened just before and just after changed the Kings forever.

Even during, actually. Rick Adelman was hired as coach during that time.

January 23, 2009
Grim news from Kings practice

Here are a few nuggets from practice today.

* Kings coach Kenny Natt missed practice to be with family in New York after learning his grandmother passed away. Natt will rejoin the team tomorrow in Milwaukee.

* Kings leading scorer Kevin Martin also missed practice to attend his great-grandmother's funeral in Zanesville, Ohio. Martin will rejoin the team tomorrow as well.

* Kings reserve Shelden Williams was handed a possible setback today, just two days after playing 17 minutes, his most playing time since Nov. 3, in a 110-107 loss to the Washington Wizards. Williams strained his left wrist and is listed as day-to-day.
Williams scored five points and had five rebounds and two steals against the Wizards on Wednesday.

* And on a lighter note - Kings rookie Jason Thompson still holds out hope of being named to the rookie-sophomore game to be played All-Star weekend. Assistant coaches will vote by Monday on who will be selected.
"That's one of the goals I set for myself," Thompson said. "I will be looking to see what happens. Obviously, I think I've gone through what most rookies have gone through. They have been playing well at times, not as good at times and then back at it. I feel like I've been in the mix of things and I've been hearing good things. We will see what happens."

January 23, 2009
The (bad) options for Western Conference backup center

The fans mostly got it right. Devin Harris or Joe Johnson or Vince Carter would have been better than Allen Iverson at guard for the Eastern Conference, but All-Star balloting has always been more popularity contest than deserving contest and let there be no doubt that AI is popular while leading the Pistons' charge to mediocrity.

The public polling that determined the 10 starters for the Feb. 15 show-off festival in Phoenix is a very credible list, though. Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire, Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul in the West, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Iverson in the East. Iverson is the only guy who would have missed the game if not for the fans.

The coaches take it from here and pick the reserves, choosing two more guards, two forwards, one center and two at any position. They finish the rosters for their respective conference and cannot select a player from their own team. The results will be announced Thursday.

No one could have foreseen that the best of the debates will be at Western Conference center. As in: Hey, coaches! You want the old guy or someone from a terrible team that doesn't deserve representation?

There's always answer C. None of the above. The electorate could go off the board and pick Pau Gasol, a power forward but the center as the Lakers charged through the second half last season and into the Finals. A lot of this is one big shell game anyway. The Spurs lobbied to get Tim Duncan among the forwards a year ago, aware he would probably lose out to Yao at center, and no one complained. It's the All-Star Game -- whatever.

January 22, 2009
Overtime: Taking time out to examine the latest loss

WASHINGTON 110, KINGS 107

Game story, Game notes, Photo slideshow

Box score, Video recap

***

Kenny Natt was already talking about redundant topics, so the transition was just too easy.

Falling short in a late-game situation? Playing defense in ole' fashion? No, it was time to talk about the Terrible Timeout.

Not just this one, but all the ones that came before as well. You've seen the scenario. The Kings are within a few points, and they waste precious seconds in the final moments by dribbling across halfcourt to call a timeout rather than call it on the baseline. It's just unnecessary to even inbound the ball, and it's quite remarkable that the issue that was prevalent in Reggie Theus' era remains as such under Natt.

January 21, 2009
Opening tip: Geoff Petrie and his latest game of chicken

Wizards (8-32) at Kings (10-32)

Scoring: Kings 14th (98.6), Wizards 26th (94.2).
Shooting: Kings tied for 22nd (44.5 percent), Wizards tied for 22nd (44.5).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (107.6), Wizards 20th (100.9).
Shooting defense: Kings 28th (47.7 percent), Wizards 27th (47.6).
Rebound differential: Kings 28th (minus-3.4), Wizards 25th (minus-2.3).

The links: Wizards coverage in the Washington Post and Washington Times.
The almanac: On this date in 1958, Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks had 28 points and 26 rebounds to become the first player named MVP of the All-Star Game from a losing team. On this date in 1991, Dick Motta of the Kings coached his 1,648th regular-season game, at the time a league record. On this date in 1994, the SuperSonics beat the Mavericks 91-87 for Dallas' 19th consecutive home loss, a record.

__________

Brad Miller quietly has improved the Kings' trade leverage, quietly because his impressive January is overshadowed by the months of disinterest that came before and quietly because he is perpetually five minutes away from the next game that sparks doubt about his passion for the game. But this has definitely broken right for Geoff Petrie.


Miller in November: 14 games, 34.9 minutes, 46 percent shooting, 12.4 points, 7.9 rebounds.

Miller in December: 13 games, 27.6 minutes, 47.1 percent, 10.7 points, 7.2 rebounds.

Miller in January: 10 games, 34.7 minutes, 50 percent, 14.1 points, 10.3 rebounds.

A steady increase in shooting and a spike in scoring and rebounding. He is playing his best as the Feb. 19 trade deadline approaches, perfect timing for the Kings, needing this center as opposed to the early-season center in hopes of driving up the price for Miller. Probably good timing for Miller as well, given the signals that he has only occasional interest in being here.

January 21, 2009
Overtime: No, the Kings can't

DENVER 118, KINGS 99

Game story, Game notes

Box score, Video recap

DENVER - The Kings were a jubilant bunch Tuesday morning, when they boarded a bus headed for shootaround with many of the players having just watched the inauguration speech of President Barack Obama.

At least they spent part of the day inspired.

Their Mile High meltdown was yet another sign that this team really is content to make its own kind of humbling history, as they remain on pace to have the worst Kings record of all time. Wednesday night's home game against Washington presents Toilet Bowl, Part II (Kings vs. Golden State last week was Part I) and a subplot to that story line as well. The Kings, who have a 7-14 record at home thus far, need to go 10-10 at home for the rest of the season to avoid having the worst home mark since the team began playing 41 home games per season in 1972. The 1989-90 Kings and the 1992-93 Kings both set that mark.

January 20, 2009
Opening tip: The race to 24-58, or even just 20-62

Kings (10-31) at Nuggets (27-15)

Scoring: Kings 14th (98.6), Nuggets fifth (104).
Shooting: Kings tied for 20th (44.6 percent), Nuggets sixth (47).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (107.4), Nuggets 21st (101).
Shooting defense: Kings 27th (47.5 percent), Nuggets tied for fourth (44.4).
Rebound differential: Kings 28th (minus-3.3), Nuggets 15th (plus-0.2).

The links: Nuggets coverage in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.
The almanac: On this date in 1892, the first official basketball game took place at the YMCA gymnasium in Springfield, Mass., with nine-man teams, a soccer ball and peach baskets nailed 10 feet above the floor on a balcony. On this date in 1952, George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers scored 61 points in a double-overtime victory over the Rochester Royals, a career high for the first superstar. On this date in 1970, Tom Van Arsdale of the Cincinnati Royals and Dick Van Arsdale of the Suns became the first brothers in the same All-Star Game. Dick scored eight points for the West, Tom five for the East in Philadelphia. On this date in 1999, the first regular-season work stoppage in league history ended as the NBA and the player's union signed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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The 24-58 is important because it would surpass the worst record in Sacramento Kings history (23-59 in 1989-90). Even the 1999 club won 27 in the lockout-shortened, 50-game schedule.


The 20-62 is important because it would surpass the fewest wins in franchise history, set by the Cincinnati Royals in 1958-59 (19-53 in a 72-game slate) and 1959-60 (19-56 in a 75-game schedule).

That's what the Kings are facing. Forever, and forever has the ball and fouls to give.

The 2008-09 club has made it halfway across this swamp -- 41 down, 41 to go -- at 10-31. That puts it on pace for the 20-62, which looks real bad compared to the rest of the Sacramento era but at least puts them ahead of all that transpired in the lives of Rochester, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Omaha. This is the season you take the good news where you can get it.

January 19, 2009
The Brandon Jennings Test Case six months later

Marcus Williams of the Golden State Warriors said Brandon Jennings is frustrated in Italy, and what Marcus Williams says about Brandon Jennings matters. The two are close friends, ever since meeting in Southern California on the traveling-team circuit, to where they talk or text several times a week and Williams considers Jennings his little brother. It also matters to NBA teams who will be picking in the lottery and have a need at point guard, if you know of any.

Jennings is the trailblazer who signed a letter of intent with Arizona, got into a back-and-forth over the legitimacy of his SAT scores, took the test a second and a third time, and then skipped the whole thing. A few years too late to jump directly to the NBA, he made the unprecedented move in July of turning pro by signing with a team in Italy, Lottomatica Virtus Roma, in what most everyone in the United States figured was a one-season loaner to Europe before Jennings enters the draft as one of the top prospects at his position, if not overall.

He sidestepped the NCAA, got to play against good competition as a proving ground for the NBA, and got paid for it. Just sticking it to the NCAA would have been worth it for most guys.

The reviews on his early play have been good. Not great, but good, and that's encouraging for someone who would have been a college freshman and is playing competition to most conferences here. His minutes have been sketchy, 17.9 in the first 10 games through Jan. 15, and it's tough to know whether that's because his play has also been inconsistent or because he is learning firsthand how many overseas clubs still operate under a class system that gives preference to veterans even if they are being outplayed by the newcomer.

The Williams perspective:

"It's been back and forth with him," the Warriors reserve point guard said. "He said he's been doing good, then he said the coach hasn't been playing him, he's been getting frustrated. Then he'll turn around and say he played a good game. He's doing fine. But he said the league is just a lot different. It's real physical, sort of slower than what he's accustomed to. To me, that (a physical style), is not his real strength, so I think he's really working on his game being over there, and I think he can only get better."

January 19, 2009
Kenny Natt status report: Could he be next Scotty Brooks?

Kings Plus material: Midseason report card (with Jerry Reynolds lead-in),
Week ahead (with weekly Fire and Ice feature)

Today's Game Notes

***

Could Kenny Natt become the next Scotty Brooks?

Absolutely.

While both are technically considered interim coaches for their respective teams (Kings and Oklahoma City, of course), the Oklahoman is reporting that Brooks' bosses are leaning toward keeping him beyond this season. After starting 3-29, the Thunder had won five of its last eight games before falling to Miami on Sunday. Yet as is the case here in town as well, it's not just about the record when it comes to these situations.

It's about the relationship between the coach's bench and the front office, about having a shared vision and solid communication that creates an environment in which the talent on hand is used to its maximum potential. And just as Thunder GM Sam Presti has praised Brooks in this department, I continue to hear nothing about good things about Natt in that area as well. From his personality to his approach and general philosophy, he has a good approval rating going.

January 17, 2009
Overtime: No defense for this defense

MILWAUKEE 129, KINGS 122

Game story, Game notes, Photo slideshow
Box score, Video recap

The Warriors had 105 points at the end of regulation on Wednesday night, so it's not like the triple-overtime excuse is going to fly.

There's really no defense for this. No defense at all.

The Kings' last three games - from their 32-point loss to Orlando to their 3OT win over Golden State that finished with the Warriors compiling 133 points to Friday night's loss to the Bucks?

Four hundred and one points.

January 17, 2009
Two nights later ...

So what is it with these Kings? Two nights after persisting and prevailing against the Warriors in triple overtime, they snooze through the first half and blow an opportunity against a Milwaukee Bucks team whose starting center (Andrew Bogut) is sidelined with an injury. That was not a misprint for those who turned off the television. The Kings trailed by 23 points before closing to 114-112 with just under four minutes remaining.

A few observations:
* Beno Udrih committed five turnovers and contributed only two assists, and though his more aggressive play of late is a welcome development, I still think he is more effective when he thinks like a playmaker instead of a scorer.
* Kevin Martin is getting into the habit of flailing when he gets bumped on a play, trying too hard to sell the foul, and when he doesn't get the call, complaining to the referees while play is ongoing. And seriously, no athletic 6-foot-6 player should complain about anything after managing only three rebounds, no assists and no steals (to go with 24 points).
* Too many of the Kings are griping about fouls, substitutions, etc., and are far too demonstrative as they walk toward the bench. Kenny Natt has to gain control of the situation before it spirals out of control.
* John Salmons led the Kings with six assists - one shy of his seven-assist effort against the Warriors. His defense on Michael Redd in the fourth quarter also enabled the Kings to make the game interesting.
* Jason Thompson is starting to resemble the rookie who got everyone so excited earlier in the season. Mostly, he is pursuing rebounds, hustling for loose balls and scoring in the rhythm of the offense. Spencer Hawes, by contrast, seems lost. Unlike his play throughout November and December, his interior defense is a step slow, he isn't rebounding (period), and he appears confused about when to set up in the high post or move down low. I like him at center better than power forward, and particularly when Thompson is the power forward. I think the Brad Miller-Hawes combo is too slow and defensively challenged.
* Bucks second-round draft pick Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a 6-foot-8 forward out of UCLA, is a better pro than I expected. Actually, he's exactly the type of tough, physical and athletic player the Kings could use. He' s not a star, but he'll always have a job in this league.
* The Kings' defense was pathetic. Natt accurately summarized his club's problems when he accused them of lacking "heart" in the first half, though their apparent confusion about the defensive schemes comes back to him. Either he didn't clearly communicate, or they weren't listening. This is one very frustrated bunch ...
* And the good news is, the more games the Kings lose like this, the more Geoff Petrie learns about his personnel. Whom to trade. Whom to build around. What positions to fill. I'm thinking, I hope Ricky Rubio declares for the draft. Adding a Jason Williams-type performer - without the baggage - wouldn't be bad. You know. Someone who plays with passion, likes to play fast, and isn't afraid to show some emotion? That's why I like the youngsters, Hawes and Thompson, despite their inconsistency.


DONTE IS COMING BACK ... AND WHY?


I caught up with Petrie in the tunnel during the second quarter, and he confirmed that he is recalling Donte Greene from the D-League after the Reno Bighorns' game Saturday afternoon. I'm not sure I understand his rationale, though, given that the 6-foot-10 small forward has had one exceptional game and three so-so performances. If Donte isn't dominating the D-League, what's to be gained by bringing him back? I guess the idea is to keep him around the team and to create some playing time. But in place of Cisco Garcia? Salmons? Thompson? I don't see it, but then, I don't get paid Petrie's big bucks, either ...

FROM COLLEGE TO THE PROS


First-year Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, who is among the latest of the former college head coaches to enter the NBA, told me that he understands why so many college coaches struggle when making the transition directly from college to an NBA head-coaching position. The list of notables he is referring to includes Mike Montgomery, P.J. Carlesimo, Jerry Tarkanian, Tim Floyd, etc. "It's so different," said Sampson, who was fired by Indiana for NCAA recruiting violations. "The last two minutes of the game. Free throws. Inbounding the ball at halfcourt. Understanding how to save timeouts so you have one with 10 seconds left. Those are things I never would have thought of."
I have to add here that while glancing toward the visitors bench when the game started, I was struck by the overall quality of the Bucks' coaching staff. Scott Skiles - and I love his intellect and his intensity, even though he wears everyone out after about four seasons - has put together a terrific group with former NBA head coaches Jim Boylan and Lionel Hollins, Sampson, who was regarded as an excellent coach during his tenure at Oklahoma and the U.S. national team, and Joe Wolf, a former NBA journeyman who spent two years as a head coach in the CBA and another two in the D-League. Wolf also happens to be a native of Wisconsin, and one of the many former Clippers who remained classy and professional amid their unseemly surroundings.

January 16, 2009
Opening tip: Francisco Garcia, the starting lineup and the possibilities

Bucks (19-22) at Kings (10-30)

Scoring: Kings 14th (98), Bucks 19th (97.4).
Shooting: Kings 24th (44.4 percent), Bucks 20th (44.7).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (106.8), Bucks 13th (96.9).
Shooting defense: Kings 27th (47.4 percent), Bucks tied for 13th (45.2).
Rebound differential: Kings 27th (minus-3.4), Bucks fifth (plus-3).

The link: Bucks coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The almanac: On this date in 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scored 42 points, the most ever in an All-Star game, and grabbed 24 rebounds en route to MVP honors even though his East team lost 150-130. The West's Bob Pettit had an All-Star record 27 rebounds. On this date in 1966, Chicago was granted a franchise, to be called the Bulls. On this date in 1993, Michael Jordan of the Bulls scored 64 points in an overtime loss to the Magic.

__________


Forty-two minutes Wednesday was an aberration. Kenny Natt squeezed the rotation, triple overtime on the second night of a back-to-back or not, and 42 minutes was fifth-most among the Kings in the Oakland endurance test.


Francisco Garcia's eight previous games: 27, 27, 24, 24, 21, 21, 24 and 23 minutes. An average of 23.9 per. Toss out the rarity of the 3 OT late late show the other night and he hasn't broken 30 since Dec. 26.

Plus, his possible move into the starting lineup just turned fuzzy again. Natt hearts Beno Udrih again and for now apparently trusts Udrih enough to close tight games, which didn't happen for the longest time. Natt doesn't love Garcia at point guard, but likes the defense he couldn't get from Udrih or Bobby Brown and obviously liked anybody but Beno in a fourth quarter or overtime, and imagine the possibilities if the Kings had gone ahead and moved Cisco into the opening lineup:

January 15, 2009
It takes three ...

For a night anyway, ignore the fact that Wednesday's game featured two fo the league's bottom feeders. The triple-overtime treat between the Kings and Warriors game deserved a second look ... and perhaps a third .... even though it featured two of the league's bottom feeders. The physical effort alone is noteworthy, specifically, because the Kings had embarrassed themselves 24 hours earlier against the Orlando Magic, and because the Warriors were without the injured Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Marco Belinelli and Brandan Wright. Also, Corey Maggette, C.J. Watson and Andris Biedrins fouled out well before the outcome was decided in the third OT.

Other musings, observations:

* The playing time was crazy. Jamal Crawford (60), John Salmons (56), Beno Udrih (56), Kevn Martin (55) and Brad Miller (51) definitely earned Thursday day off.
* What got into Brad? This is probably just a coincidence, but in the locker room before the game, former NBA coach Paul Silas visited with with Kings coach Kenny Natt, whom he hired as an assistant in Cleveland, and Miller, whom he coached during the center's second season in the league in Charlotte. Silas, a former star at nearby McClymonds High, was in Oakland to visit his son, Warriors assistant Stephen Silas, and his longtime friend and former Boston Celtics teammate Don Nelson. The scene was actually pretty funny.
While waiting for the Kings bus to arrive, the burly Silas stood in the back tunnel area, leaning on a stationary bicycle. When the Kings started walking into the buiilding, the understandably preoccupied Natt walked toward the locker room, head down, but then did a double-take when he saw Silas. I left so the two could chat. In the locker room a while later, Silas and Miller plopped down on two chairs in the middle of the room, sat laughing and reminiscing for about 20 minutes. When I approached, Silas affectionately described the former Hornet as a muscular rebounder who ran the floor relentlessly and consistently attacked the basket. The jumpers and pretty passes came later in his career. Miller joked that he ran the floor and rebounded because, on that particular Hornets team, that was the only way he ever touched the ball. Ok. So what happened next? Miller goes out and contributes a muscular 30 points, 22 rebounds and two steals in what some (Pete Carril among them) suggest was a career-best performance. I asked Brad if he was showing off for his old coach. He just laughed. In all seriousness, I can think of several games that rival last night's performance, including his triple-double outings in 2003-2004. People might forget, but Miller routinely flirted with triple-doubles and was named to the All-Star that season.
* Just thinking: I love when Miller plays with passion, but can't he cool it with the technicals? That was in the scouting report on him in 2003-2004, too
* The words "gutsy" and "Beno" aren't often uttered in the same conversation, but the maligned point guard took the ball hard to the basket, and frequently became acquainted with the floor, a la Kevin Johnson. Beno might want to review tapes of Sacramento's mayor during his days with the Phoenix Suns, as a matter of fact. KJ was superb at penetrating - and landing without getting hurt - but he was equally adept at getting into the lane and finding open teammates in the corners, on the wings, or trailing on the break. Yes, yes, yes. More passing, please.
* I often have asked myself why Golden State's crowds remain so energetic, given the fact the club is decimated by injury, free agent defections and soon will be joining the Kings in the NBA Lottery. After being in Arco Arena and Oracle Arena on consecutive nights, and noting the contrasting energy and enthusiasm levels, I have come to the following conclusion: the Warriors might be a flawed club, but at least on their homecourt, they play fast, move the ball, and have three-point shooters who can hit those momentum-changing three's that excite a crowd. In other words, it's one thing to be a bad team that plays at a slow, methodical pace and doesn't move the ball (see the Kings on most nights), and another to be a bad team that is still fun to watch. (see Warriors at Oracle). Forced to play at the Warriors' clip, the Kings are much more enjoyable to watch. Why can't they do this more often? That would give fans something to cheer about.
* Not to harp on the fact that it's so much easier to score before the defense is set (and seems to be a no-brainer to me, especially for teams that are only modestly-talented), but Martin's three-pointer that forced the final overtime was launched before the Warriors' transition defense had time to get set. Instead of slowly bringing the ball upcourt, per usual, Martin moved quickly, saw the opening, then took advantage of the opportunity. Natt continues stressing this facet of play, so maybe something is starting to sink in.
* Salmons' game-winner was the play of the night, of course, but this was his best all-around game in a long time: 25 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers. Additionally, he rarely dominated the ball, instead, gave up the dribble and moved to an open spot, enhancing the team's spacing. His late-game defense was significant as well, as was the defensive positioning of Miller and Martin.
* Though the press seating at Oracle is at the top of the lower bowl, it was still possible to see Don Nelson furiously scrawling on the clipboard during late timeouts. While no one will ever accuse Nellie of being a defensive guru, when it comes to designing a play to win a game, he's one of the best. I kept wondering what he was going to come up with this time.
* From the Kings' perspective - and Natt's perspective - this was one of the nights when his club desperately needed a victory. Accordingly, Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson were limited to 11 and 22 minutes, respectively. Hawes struggled defensively and was beaten for several rebounds. Thompson, though, was effective and efficient, with 12 points (5 of 8), nine boards and his usual assortment of taps and hustle plays.

Jerry Reynolds remembers ...

As he walked toward the locker room afterward, Kings do-everything executive and current television analyst Jerry Reynolds reminded me of the Kings' most recent triple-double outing in late February, 2001. We shared a laugh about that one - a wildly entertaining game against the Raptors in Toronto, Peja Stojakovic appeared to hit the game-winner, and in a rare display of bravado, strutted and celebrated as he walked toward the bench. Oooops. One of the Raptors - was it Vince Carter? - responded and tied the second OT. Peja had to win the game all over again, which he did, with another jumper from the side to finish the third OT. That was also one of those afternoons when the Vlade Divac-Chris Webber-Doug Christie-Mike Bibby group amassed assists by the dozens.

So there they are

Several Kings fans were among those who stayed at Oracle until the finish, and they could be heard cheering from all over the building. One fan who paid $500 for his seat just behind the scorer's table - a cheaper ticket than his seats at Arco, he says - approached while JR and I were talking. Jimmy Pierson, a paramedic who attended Christian Brothers High and Sac City, says he bought the ticket on-line earlier in the week. "This is my favorite game of the season," said Pierson, who was wearing a Kings jacket. "I love being from Sac and coming to Golden State, cheering for the Kings against the Warriors fans. I wish we played them more often."

January 15, 2009
(Quadruple) Overtime: Kings work triple OT shift to get 'W' from Ws

KINGS 135, GOLDEN STATE 133 (three overtimes)

Game story, Game notes

Box score

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the video above is worth at least 10,000 or so.

And truth be told, this three hour, 11 minute marathon was tough to capture in words - let alone in the 650-word space of a game story. On the writer's side of things, it was the rare night where you wind up being envious of the fans. Why, you ask? Because when the madness comes to an end and the place is buzzing about what a wacky and wild night it was, I'm peeking at the all-powerful clock to see the ridiculous reality facing me considering our deadline is 11 p.m.

It's 10:52.

On the newspaper side of things, we certainly adjust our production process to help on these kinds of nights. The first story gets in without any quotes, and we continue to follow up as quickly as possible with additional versions of the game story being plugged in and distributed to a declining number of print subscribers as you go. The downside on my end is that the lateness of the affair means I didn't get into the joyous Kings locker room.

Our own Ailene Voisin was in there getting reaction and I've since heard a number of the interviews by way of audio files, and there was certainly a sense from all involved that - Toilet Bowl or not - it was quite a night to remember.

Admittedly, working triple overtime - and making my way back from the Bay - had everything to do with this particular 'Overtime' being delayed until the following afternoon. I'll share more of the reaction in tomorrow's paper, as there were records of various kinds broken and plenty of moments that went undiscussed in our pages. For now, the video will have to do. - Sam Amick

January 14, 2009
Opening tip: The Kevin Martin leadership issue

Kings (9-30) at Warriors (11-28)

Scoring: Kings 20th (97), Warriors second (105.8).
Shooting: Kings tied for 20th (44.6 percent), Warriors 18th (44.8).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (106.2), Warriors 30th (111.7).
Shooting defense: Kings 28th (47.6 percent), Warriors 25th (47.1).
Rebound differential: Kings 28th (minus-3.6), Warriors 30th (minus-5.5).
Three-point defense (bonus coverage): Kings 30th (40.8 percent), Warriors 28th (38.7).

The links: Warriors coverage in the Contra Costa Times and San Francisco Chronicle.
The almanac: Nothing much happened this date in history.

__________


It has become the Kevin Martin leadership issue because quiet Kevin Martin wanted that role this season and said he would do well in it and because the Kings just got lit up again and are a laughingstock. Kevin Martin said so: "We're a joke right now. That's how people look at us."


He meant even outside Sacramento.

So, leadership time. The Kings go to Oracle Arena tonight, and if you thought the Magic was giddy to be left alone to fire away from behind the arc, the Warriors will get saucer eyes from the scouting report filed off the Tuesday comedy routine at Arco. Orlando hit 23 threes, an NBA record, and its best player, Dwight Howard, is all about inside. Golden State lives on the perimeter, has been off since Sunday and gets an opponent on the second night of a back-to-back, though, as Kenny Natt noted, his Kings didn't expend much energy in the opener.

The leadership deficiency has been a screaming story line since the opening weeks. Getting Francisco Garcia back Nov. 28 after he missed the first 17 games with a strained calf was a big help, Bobby Jackson and Garcia being the two best leaders on the team. The coaching change, from Reggie Theus to Natt, was no help. Same apathetic group that can't be bothered to challenge shooters.

January 14, 2009
Overtime: Van Gundy does it again


ORLANDO 139, KINGS 107

Game story, Game notes, Photo slideshow.

Box score
Video recap

As our sports editor touched on in Tuesday's paper and I've chronicled plenty in the past, Stan Van Gundy has stuck it to Sacramento before.

And now, he has done it again.

The Orlando coach who picked the Magics' Benz of a roster over the Kings' jalopy two summers ago was among the many joyous members of the Magic celebrating their history-making day at Arco Arena. And while Van Gundy has expressed his regrets more than once about how he handled the Kings in that infamous coaching search, I'm guessing he has no regrets about the way his team manhandled the Kings in the blowout.

The Magic were outrageously good in part because the Kings were so incredibly bad. And among the many critics on hand after this one, one of the more valid points was made by our own Marty McNeal. His point - which was made as he sat in Kevin Martin's chair in the locker room some two feet away from Francisco Garcia afterward - was that no team should be able to bury 23 threes without at least a couple of Magic gunners being put on their backsides in the process. Yet as he noted, the Magic were never fouled as they fired away from three-point land. Thirty-seven attempts with no fouls from beyond the arc and one blocked shot in all from the Kings. In other words, the Kings were 0-for-everything in the pride department.

"You never want to foul a three-point shooter no matter what," Garcia told me when I referenced Marty's observation. "I think that's the dumbest foul you can have. But we could have had some more fouls when they were going to the basket or whatever. They couldn't miss. That was the game."

January 13, 2009
Donte makes it three in a row

For those who might be wondering, Donte Greene just finished playing significant minutes in his third game in four days. So, OK he's on assignment with the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League, but at least he's playing and getting into better game shape. The Kings' affiliate franchise won a sixth straight victory - 119-114 over the visiting Los Angeles D-Fenders - before a few thousand screaming kids who attended the 11 a.m. tipoff at the Reno Events Center. According to a Bighorns official I spoke with a few minutes ago, Donte had a strong opening half but struggled in the final two quarters. In 29 minutes, the rookie small forward sank 11 of his 17 field-goal attempts, was 0 for 1 at the line, and contributed four rebounds, three assists and three steals. No word yet on how long Geoff Petrie plans to keep him in the D-League, but I wouldn't be surprised if Greene remains with the Bighorns for a few more games. I have been playing phone tag with Petrie, so hopefully, will have an update this evening.

January 13, 2009
Opening tip: Jason Thompson could miss All-Star weekend

Magic (30-8) at Kings (9-29)

Scoring: Kings 20th (96.8), Magic ninth (101.1).
Shooting: Kings 22nd (44.5 percent), Magic tied for eighth (45.8).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (105.3), Magic fourth (93.3).
Shooting defense: Kings tied for 26th (47.2 percent), Magic third (42.8).
Rebound differential: Kings 28th (minus-3.5), Magic 18th (minus-0.5).

The link: Magic coverage in the Orlando Sentinel.
The almanac: On this date in 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scored 73 points in a 135-117 win over the Chicago Packers, at the time the most points by a player in a regulation game. It remains tied for third-most. On this date in 1999, Michael Jordan announced his second retirement, just before the start of the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. On this date in 2001, the Hawks retired jersey No. 21 in honor of Dominique Wilkins.

_________


Not a screaming headline and not a shock, but a step back from about a little more than a month ago with the possibility of becoming an official disappointment in a couple weeks.


Rosters for the rookie-sophomore game at All-Star weekend in Phoenix are announced Jan. 28. To be played Feb. 13 at US Airways Center. Nine players in their first season vs. nine in their second, chosen by a leaguewide vote of assistant coaches.

Jason Thompson wants to be among the rookie selections, perhaps opposing and even matching up against Kings teammate Spencer Hawes. Thompson set it as a goal at the start of the season. It means something to him as a measure against others from the draft class and as personal vindication for anyone who said the Kings reached by taking the relative unknown at No. 12.

January 12, 2009
Getting better all the time ...



Not to steal any lyrics from my beloved Beatles or anything, but while driving home from Reno this afternoon, the words from one of their hits jumped into my heat. (It's the Beatles. Cut me a break). I made the two-hour trip mostly to spend time with Kings rookie Donte Greene, who was sent to the Kings affiliate in the NBA Development League on Saturday, but came away impressed with Patrick Ewing, Jr., the club's second-round pick who was traded away and eventually waived by the New York Knicks. The 6-foot-8 Ewing struggled during the Summer League in Las Vegas, and apparently couldn't convince new Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni that he possessed the offensive skills to play at the next level. He has been with the Bighorns ever since, opting to remain stateside and improve his skills rather than attempt to play overseas.

And right now, according to members of the Bighorns staff, Ewing is their best player. He still struggles with his three-point shot and isn't an exceptional ballhandler, but his playmaking is improving, he is consistently hitting the 10-15 foot jumper, his defense and work ethic terrific. During Monday's practice, Ewing, Greene and newcomer Gerry McNamara were the last players on the court.

Bighorns coach Jay Humphries is convinced Ewing - a free agent - will be called up by somebody before the season ends.


More on the mouthpiece

Greene, who averaged 33 minutes in his first two games with the Bighorns, and figures to get another 30 or so in Tuesday's 11 a.m. tipoff (some youth promotion), kept his mouthguard in place - in his mouth - during Monday's practice. In one of the more hilarious moments Sunday, the rookie, who was sucking wind big-time Sunday during the second game of a back-to-back, left his mouthguard hanging from his lower lip during a jump ball sequence. For pure entertainment value, I sitll liked the one where he was holding the apparatus while attempting to catch a pass. I'm not sure Kings officials would be so keen about his casual on-court demeanor, however, Unfortunately, I was unable to get a quote from player development director Fat Lever or assistant coach Shareef Abdur-Rahim before they left for Sac.

January 12, 2009
Previous coaching hires and what they mean for the future

Could have / should have included this as part of the breakdown of the six coaching openings that ran in the Sunday paper product because it can be a sign of the direction the Kings and the others will head for replacements: hiring history.

The past is not always an indicator -- it surely is not for the Kings. But it sometimes is, and what everyone else does matters in Sacramento. Six openings before Christmas is twice the number of any previous season and more vacancies will undoubtedly come with a late-season fade or unexpectedly early playoff elimination, so this could become serious roller derby.

But for now, the six we know of and their last three non-interim coaching hires. Three for no particular reason other than it should be enough to signal or disprove a trend, but not too many as to analyze front-office moves to the '50s.

Kings

Who they hired: Reggie Theus (2007), Eric Musselman (2006), Rick Adelman (1998).

What it tells us for the 2009 decision: Nothing. Adelman was very experienced as a head coach, Musselman slightly experienced and Theus very inexperienced. No trend.

Two other points to consider: It's impossible to know who will be making the hire. No way Geoff Petrie would have either pushed for some of the hires or to include some of the serious candidates who fell short. And, the hiring history is even more clouded because the Kings wanted, and thought they had, Stan Van Gundy in '07. That's a sharp left turn from Van Gundy to Theus.

January 12, 2009
Overtime: In defense of Kenny Natt

KINGS 102, DALLAS 95: Game story, Game notes, Photo slideshow.

Box score
Video highlights

Finally, a defensive diamond in the rough.

The Mavericks scored 17 fourth-quarter points on Sunday night, when they could only hit 6 of 24 shots (25 percent) against a Kings team that entered ranked 26th in the league in opponent's field-goal percentage at 47.2 percent. The mark was close to a Kings opponent's season-low for a quarter (15 from San Antonio in the first quarter on Nov. 16) and - more importantly - was a more-obvious sign of a subtle change since Kenny Natt took over on Dec. 15.

The improved defense.

It's not like Natt was hiding his intentions. He has benched Beno Udrih largely for defensive reasons, played Kenny Thomas with the same hopes of helping on that end and had most of his rotations based on playing guys who are willing to protect the rim. And while some fans - and even some media folks - say the team is worse off with Reggie Theus gone, they have become a better defensive team.

To wit...

January 11, 2009
Opening tip: The worst record in the league just became a possibility

Mavericks (22-14) at Kings (8-29)

Scoring: Kings 21st (96.6), Mavericks 11th (100).
Shooting: Kings tied for 22nd (44.4 percent), Mavericks 17th (45.1).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (105.6), Mavericks 15th (97.8).
Shooting defense: Kings 26th (47.3 percent), Mavericks tied for fifth (44.2).
Rebound differential: Kings 28th (minus-3.6), Mavericks ninth (plus-1.4).

The links: Mavericks coverage in the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The almanac: On this date in 1967, San Diego was granted a franchise, to be called the Rockets. The team moved to Houston in 1971. On this date in 1984, the Nuggets beat the Spurs 163-155 in the second-highest scoring non-overtime game in history. Golden State and Denver combined for 320 points on Nov. 2, 1990. On this date in 2001, the Knicks lost to the Rockets 76-75 but held an opponent to less than 100 points for the 29th consecutive game, a record. The streak snapped the 46-year-old mark set by the Fort Wayne Pistons.

__________


You know this anyway because you were watching or refreshing for constant updates, but the Thunder beat the Bulls in overtime Saturday night. That's three wins in the last six games for red-hot Oklahoma City and six victories in all.


The Kings are at eight. We've got ourselves a race, and who would have thought OKC at Arco Arena on Feb. 1 and March 10 and Sacramento at the Ford Center on Feb. 8 could be so meaningful.

It's mostly a status-symbol thing for now, this opportunity for the Thunder to pull itself from the basement and become something other than a punching bag and for the Kings to go from aggravating, alienating and real bad to officially the worst team in the league. An actual, recorded bottoming out, as opposed to this joy ride of the past few months.

January 10, 2009
Overtime: Wilting in the Heat

MIAMI 119, KINGS 115: Game story; Game notes; Photo slideshow.

Box score (Video highlights below)

Well, Kings fans, at least there's this to feel good about: your team's last five defeats all combined don't come close to matching the Boston beating that preceded them (with a win over the Clippers squeezed in between).

Dec. 28 vs. the then-dominant Celtics: 108-63, thus a 45-point margin.

Subsequent losses to Detroit (98-92), Indiana (122-117), New Jersey (98-90), Chicago (99-94) and the Heat (119-115): 28 points.

It's not for naught, at least in terms of the way the team is being perceived in-house. Kings interim coach Kenny Natt continues to receive credit for having the team competing, although the late-game slip-ups from both him and his players are being noted.

Things to mark down as relevant on this night...
* Beno Udrih is officially in the doghouse. At this point, the fact that he remains a starter seems like a token tag. He had a bad start to the third quarter and sat for good midway through the third. The latest tally: 16 minutes, six points on 3 of 6 shooting with two assists and three turnovers.

And for anyone not convinced yet that Natt won't have his decisions dictated by the fact that Udrih signed a five-year, $32 million deal signed last summer, read this pregame quote from him carefully. Natt was discussing his life story and how his father was a minister in Louisiana when the conversation segued into his take on the modern NBA.

January 10, 2009
Awaiting "Coachie's" thoughts


Not that I wasn't intrigued before, but after watching the Kings lose to the Miami Heat in OT earlier tonight, I can't wait to hear Pete Carril's thoughts on the lack of ball movement, hard screens and backdoor cuts - once a staple of the offense. "Coachie," as everyone has probably heard by now, is returning to the Kings (for a third time) as a consultant.He makes his first appearance at Saturday's practice.

With Beno Udrih in a miserable slump, rookie backup Bobby Brown in a miserable slump, and Bobby Jackson limited by old age (35), I wouldn't be surprised to see Kenny Natt using Brad Miller and Spencer Hawes to facilitate the offense, usually from the high post. Miller is the easily the Kings' best passer, and these past few weeks, has been playing more like he did last season.

The point guards production against the Heat was pretty scary: Udrih, Brown and Jackson combined for five five goals in 20 attempts, and only seven assists.


Eager to play ... somewhere


During halftime of the Kings-Heat game earlier this evening, I chatted with rookie Donte Greene, who will be joining the NBA Developmental League's franchise in Reno. Greene for an undetermined period of time. To his credit, the rookie out of Syracuse seems genuinely excited about the opportunity to get some serious playing. The Bighorns play tonight, Sunday at 3 p.m., and again on Tuesday, and from what I'm hearing, coach Jay Humphries plans to play the 6-foot-10 small forward huge minutes. This will be an interesting experiment for the Kings. Geoff Petrie has always seemed a little skeptical about the NBDL, but given the inexperience of so many of today's rookies and second-year players, it just seems to make too much sense. Greene was just wasting away on the Kings bench, playing sparingly because of the crowd at small forward. Plus, while he has an absolutely beautiful high-arching jumper, he has looked completely lost on defense. A few weeks with Humphries and Coach T - yes, Tom Abatemarco is an assistant - can work to his benefit.

Final thought

This Beno issue? I'm thinking, maybe it's time to contact a sports psychologist. I will never understand why so many NBA executives, whose owners spent millions on the strength and conditioning of their players, ignore the mental aspects. Seriously. Couches are pretty cheap these days.

January 9, 2009
Bobby Jackson speaks up

Because of space limitations, I was unable to include Bobby Jackson's comments about interim Kings coach Kenny Natt in my column that ran in today's Bee. But since the veteran guard invariably has something interesting to say, I wanted to revisit them before tonight's game against the Miami Heat. In essence, he endorsed Natt's tendency toward the quick hook, as well as his approach to discipline.

"If you're not doing the things to help us win games, then you've got to come out," Jackson began. "I like what he's (Natt) doing. I respect him a lot. I think that's the way you have to be. When a guy isn't performing the way you expect, then he has to come sit down. When I become a coach, I'm going to do the same thing. You can't let guys think it's OK to play like that (selfishly), with everybody looking to shoot the ball. We're not a selfish team, but everybody feels the pressure of losing. Everybody wants to step up and make the big shot. They end up making a mistake instead of making the simple play. Here, it's about guys wanting to score instead of making the extra pass, thinking of the team concept. But, hey, you're not always going to shoot well. You can't always control that. But you can control your effort on rebounding, on defense. You can control whether you hustle."

More from Jackson: "I've never experienced anything like this, except maybe my rookie year, where it's all about offense, and guys don't try to play defense. Hopefully that changes."

And one final offering, this one about Kevin Martin's scoring spree, his return to the starting lineup and status as the team's No.1 scoring option: "We're playing harder, but we've got Kevin back. Some guys might not be happy that he's taking shots away from them, but when he's scoring that efficient, man, what can you say"

January 9, 2009
Opening tip: Meanwhile, Mike Bibby is a hero again

Heat (18-16) at Kings (8-28)

Scoring: Kings 21st (96.1), Heat 23rd (95.7).
Shooting: Kings 20th (44.5 percent), Heat tied for 18th (44.6).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (105.2), Heat 11th (95.9).
Shooting defense: Kings 26th (47.3 percent), Heat fifth (43.9).
Rebound differential: Kings 27th (minus-3.6), Heat 24th (minus-2.4).

The links: Heat coverage in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post.
The almanac: On this date in 1947, Don Martin of the Providence Steamrollers became the first player to score 40 points in a game. On this date in 1972, the Lakers' 33-game winning streak, the longest in major-league sports history, ended in a 120-104 defeat to the Bucks. On this date in 1991 Michael Jordan reached the 15,000-point plateau in his 460th game, faster than any player except Wilt Chamberlain (358 games). On this date in 1996, the Raptors became the first team to go an entire game without making a free throw. Toronto went 0 for 3 from the line in a 92-91 loss to the Hornets.

__________

This is not to say the trade was a bad move. It was absolutely the right move to deal Mike Bibby to Hawks last February for Shelden Williams, a second-round pick and the expiring contracts of Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue and Lorenzen Wright. You'd have liked the Kings to get an actual player out of it, but Bibby was shooting 40.6 percent after posting a 40.4 the season before, Beno Udrih was working the contract-year bait-and-switch and the roster overhaul was about three years behind schedule, so it was no time to hold out for the ideal offer.


But look who's having a big season while his moping Sacramento successor is perfecting the art of crash and burn.

It's piling on poor Beno to link the two, yet also unavoidable. Udrih in a declining role as the starting point guard a few months after getting five years and $32.3 million to re-sign, Bibby a few months from becoming a free agent and the second-leading scorer on a 22-12 team that has won seven of the last 10 and is on pace to finish with its best record since 1996-97.

January 8, 2009
Thompson returns to starting lineup

Kings rookie Jason Thompson will be given the nod tomorrow to replace Mikki Moore at power forward in the starting lineup. Kings interim coach Kenny Natt said he made the decision after watching Thompson's progress over the last two games.
"It's a great opportunity," Thompson said. "It's not really new to me. I kind of started earlier in the year when I had things going. It's a different position. I will play four rather than three. But, I'm going to just keep doing what I've been doing - give the coach a lot of energy."

While there will be more in the paper tomorrow, below is a little something to tide you over. Thompson's response to the events in the video will be in tomorrow's paper.


January 8, 2009
Carril in, Greene out

If Donte' Greene and Pete Carril have anything in common, it's that they're restless.

Greene, the 20-year-old rookie small forward out of Syracuse acquired by the Kings in the summer trade with Houston for Ron Artest, hasn't seen the floor in seven of the last eight games and is itching to feel like a basketball player again. Carril, the 78-year-old Princeton coaching legend whose offensive mind was such an asset to the Kings when he was assistant in Sacramento for 10 years, yearns to make an impact on the floor again as well.

It appears both men will be getting their wishes soon, as the Kings announced today that Carril will be pulled out of retirement to serve as a consultant and Greene - according to sources close to the team - will depart for the Kings' NBA Developmental League team in Reno on Saturday.

Greene's departure may only be for a few games or perhaps longer, but his mere presence on the Bighorns' roster is historical because he is the first Kings player sent to its D-League team. The team is coached by Jay Humphries, a former NBA player and Phoenix Suns assistant. Monarchs assistant coach Tom Abatemarco is an assistant coach for the team as well. It is a good thing for him if only because of the return to relevance. Greene, who said early this season that he was open to the prospect of going to the D-League, had grown frustrated as the months wore on and the continued losing had no effect on his nonexistent role.

The addition of Carril is significant in more subtle ways. When he left alongside coach Rick Adelman after the then-coach wasn't rehired in 2006, the offensive style and system that proved so successful during that era went missing too. The heavy emphasis on ball movement and reacting based on reading the defense was replaced by traditional halfcourt sets and a more scripted approach under former coaches Eric Musselman and Reggie Theus. The ball-sharing ways had led to assists numbers that routinely were among the league leaders, only to be followed by Kings teams that were among the worst in both assists and turnovers.

Enter Carril. The man so widely known as "Coachie" has remained close with Geoff Petrie, the Kings basketball president and Carril's former player at Princeton. He will be on hand as a source of wisdom and teacher but he will not be on the bench of interim coach Kenny Natt. - Sam Amick

January 8, 2009
Pete Carril returns to Kings

Here's the press release from the Kings...

PETE CARRIL RETURNS TO KINGS AS CONSULTANT SACRAMENTO, CA ---- The Sacramento Kings today announced that former Kings' assistant coach Pete Carril will return to the organization as a Basketball Development Consultant according to Kings' President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie.

"We're really excited to have Pete come back and join us as a consultant to assist Kenny (Natt) in all areas of individual player and team development," said Petrie. "He's really excited about rejoining the club and adding some of his experience and understanding of the game. I look forward to seeing him back here."

One of the most respected men in basketball, Carril spent 10 seasons with the Kings as an assistant coach, specializing in individual player development and offensive schemes.

"Coach Carril brings a lot of winning experience and knowledge about basketball in general," explained Kings' Head Coach Kenny Natt. "As a young head coach, I will be able to utilize his experience and knowledge about getting the best out of our players. I'm looking forward to his input. It's exactly what I need at this point."

In a crowning achievement to his legendary collegiate coaching career, Carril was rewarded with an induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 29, 1997. After coaching 30 years in the NCAA ranks, Carril joined the Kings prior to the 1996-97 campaign. His addition to the Kings' coaching staff reunited him with Petrie, whom he coached at Princeton from 1968-70.

The winningest coach in Ivy League history (525-273, .658 winning percentage), Carril's career at Princeton included 13 conference titles, 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, and just one losing season. Prior to his retirement following the 1996 NCAA Tournament, he was the only active NCAA Division I head coach to reach the 500-victory plateau without athletic scholarships.

In his final season as head coach at Princeton, he led the Tigers to the Ivy League Championship with a 22-7 record. In one of the most thrilling moments of the 1996 NCAA Tournament, Carril's Tigers upset defending champion UCLA in the first round, 43-41, on a signature Carril-designed backdoor layup with only 3.8 seconds remaining in the game.

Carril played collegiately at Lafayette College under Head Coach Butch Van Breda Kolff. Following his graduation from Lafayette in 1952, Carril began his coaching career at the high school level where he stayed for 12 years. He went on to become head coach at Lehigh University for one season before beginning his stay at Princeton in 1967.

January 8, 2009
The case of the missing point guard

Beno Udrih has gone missing. At least the version seen above.

Sure, we all know where you can find the player purporting to be Udrih - especially in the fourth quarter. But the bench certainly isn't where he'd planned to spend this season.

The fifth-year player who was given a five-year, $32 million deal last summer isn't keeping the pine warm all the time, of course, just when the game is on the line. And as he shared in our conversation that led to this story in today's paper, he is lacking more than playing time these days. He's lacking confidence.

The Udrih-Kenny Natt combination is certainly an oil-water mix for the moment. As Udrih shares at the end of a revealing eight-minute interview you can find below, he's looking for pats on the back from his coach and instead gets quizzical looks or head shakes and a short leash. If Udrih could peek inside the family rooms of so many fans who have watched him play this season, however, he would likely see the same expression of disappointment.

But Udrih's ability to play out of this funk is nothing short of a dire necessity for the Kings. They need him to earn the contract that so many folks around the league can't believe he was given, both because those are big paychecks being handed out and because he is a vital player on a team whose vitals are fading. And beyond the dollar amount, they can ill afford to have Udrih's value dip to these depths for their own purposes and any potential for future trade.

There were some interesting points made by Udrih that weren't in the story, chief among them his feeling that too many players are handling the ball and essentially stealing his role. At one point, he cuts to the chase, saying "I want to run my team."

This file of the eight-minute chat is a bit raw with background noise from the United Center before Wednesday's game, but it should offer a comprehensive sense of where his head is at these days.

- Sam Amick

January 7, 2009
Candace Parker and Shelden Williams to be parents

In my last interview with Candace Parker, I asked her if there was anything to her decision to elope with the Kings' Shelden Williams in November, considering the two had previously talked about a big wedding.
While Parker said no at the time, it appears there may have been a little motivating factor inside her.
Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks announced today that the WNBA star is pregnant with her first child and is due this spring.
"Shelden and I are very excited to be expanding our family," Parker said in a Sparks press release. "We feel blessed and look forward to becoming parents."
The news leaked after Parker did not join UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, where she said she was scheduled to play this month.
The Sparks press release stated that Parker is not ruled out to play in the 2009 WNBA season, which runs from June to September.

January 7, 2009
Overtime: Nothing Bullish about this Kings outlook

CHICAGO 99, KINGS 94: Game story; Game notes.

Box score

CHICAGO - The enormity of these losing ways requires that we start with the big-picture. The irony is an extra bonus.

Brad Miller knows losing, largely because of his time spent - here's the ironic part - in Chicago as a member of the Bulls. Those Bulls lost just as badly then (2000 to 2002 - a combined 36 wins in those two seasons) as this Kings team is now (12 straight road losses, worst start in Sacramento-era history at 8-28). And so the Kings center is by default the expert on all things atrocious.

Specifically, the Kings just went 0-4 on a road trip in which no loss was by more than eight points. Closing out games just might be a weakness.

"That is the toughest part to learn in this league," said Miller, who had 18 points, 12 assists and two blocks in 34 minutes. "When I was here in Chicago we had the same (problem). We really have to finetune the details. These four games on this road trip are ones where we could have won all of them. Sometimes if you can get one it will be a building base for you to go on a run."

Despite the loss, there was a silver lining for Miller. Considering the Bulls aren't sure if they want to make a push for him via trade, he did a nice job of showcasing his talents.

More notables from the latest loss...

January 6, 2009
Opening tip: The end of the Spencer Hawes-Joakim Noah debate

Kings (8-27) at Bulls (14-20)

Scoring: Kings 21st (96.2), Bulls 11th (99.5).
Shooting: Kings tied for 21st (44.3 percent), Bulls 23rd (44.2).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (105.4), Bulls 26th (103.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 28th (47.6 percent), Bulls tied for 19th (45.6).
Rebound differential: Kings 27th (minus-3.5), Bulls 24th (minus-2.1).

The links: Bulls coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Daily Herald.
The almanac: On this date in 1951, the Indianapolis Olympians defeated the Rochester Royals 75-73 in six overtimes, the longest game in history. On this date in 1991, the Trail Blazers recorded their 600th consecutive home sellout at Memorial Coliseum. On this date in 1995, Lenny Wilkens of the Hawks passed Red Auerbach for No. 1 on the career coaching win list. Wilkens puffed on a victory cigar in postgame tribute to Auerbach.

__________


The timing is obviously very bad. Spencer Hawes missed the last four games because of a strained abdominal muscle and before that got pulled from the starting lineup, so praise is an awkward fit.

But Sacramento plays Chicago tonight and the Bulls drafted Joakim Noah at No. 9 in 2007 after considering Hawes and the Kings drafted Hawes at No. 10 after considering Noah -- and wow.

Talk about a reality check of how things could be so much worse. Not quite a season and a half into a career is no place to make a conclusion, but Hawes is 1,000 times more skilled on offense, as expected, and 100 times more mature, and if anything the numbers are on the conservative side.

Noah is a major knucklehead and Hawes is a hard worker with a passion to play and on an obvious uptick this season. That's been clear even in the muck of shooting 33.9 percent and averaging nine points per game in December as the job of starting power forward eventually was returned to Mikki Moore -- Hawes also averaged 7.4 rebounds the same month and held his place near the top 10 in blocks.

January 6, 2009
Overtime: The worst Sacramento Kings team ever...to this point.

NEW JERSEY 98, KINGS 90: Game story; Game notes.

Box score

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - On paper, nothing changed. I ventured off to Baltimore for a day to report on a Donte' Greene feature while Melody Gutierrez headed off to Detroit and Indiana, and the Kings lost both games. I returned for last night's New Jersey game, and they fell yet again to make this the worst start ever for a Sacramento Kings team through 35 games (8-27).

But this was different. Losing with Kevin Martin - and with Martin playing at such a high level - has quickly created more friction around this team than I've seen in quite some time. There are no excuses anymore for these players, no hope that maybe things will change when Martin comes back and the roster is at full strength (yes, I realize Spencer Hawes has been out, but almost every team always has at least one player out and Hawes is not Martin).

The vicious vibe could be felt in the locker room, where John Salmons shared his frustrations and it surely didn't stop there.

In one corner, there was a justifiably content Kenny Thomas. The veteran/resident forgotten man played for the third time since Jan. 2, 2008 and played well in his 24 minutes. Not far away, there was a less-than-satisfied Mikki Moore.

January 5, 2009
DeMarcus Nelson waived by Warriors

The strange journey of DeMarcus Nelson from Duke to the NBA took another sudden turn Monday when the former Sheldon High star was cut by the Golden State Warriors.

Nelson went from long shot to make the roster, the hometown team for the Vallejo native, to becoming the first undrafted rookie to start on opening night since the Warriors moved from Philadelphia before the 1962-63 season. But his minutes fluctuated wildly, until Nelson was sent down to the Development League affiliate in Bakersfield. He received positive reviews for his play there and Golden State brought him back in mid-December.

In five appearances after returning to the NBA, he played 20, one, nine, 16 and eight minutes, before the bad news came Monday and Nelson was a free agent again.

His totals from the two stints: 13 games, 13.1 minutes, 4.1 points.

The Warriors used the roster spot to sign Jermareo Davidson to a 10-day contract. Davidson was a 2007 second-round pick by Golden State who had been playing for Idaho in the D-League.

January 5, 2009
Opening tip: Kenny Natt has already made his lineup changes

Kings (8-26) at Nets (16-18)

Scoring: Kings 21st (96.4), Nets 12th (99.4).
Shooting: Kings tied for 19th (44.4 percent), Nets tied for 26th (43.7).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (105.6), Nets 23rd (102).
Shooting defense: Kings 28th (47.6 percent), Nets 23rd (46.3).
Rebound differential: Kings 27th (minus-3.1), Nets 13th (plus-0.5).

The links: Nets coverage in the Newark Star-Ledger, New York Post, New York Daily News and New York Times.
The almanac: On this date in 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors began a streak of 47 consecutive games of playing all 48 minutes, a record. On this date in 1988, Pete Maravich died at the age of 40 after suffering a heart attack while playing in a pick-up game. On this date in 2001, Tim Thomas of the Bucks made eight three-pointers in the second half, breaking the record of seven three-pointers in one half shared by 10 players.

__________


Let's do it the coach-speak way. It's not who starts, it's who finishes. ("I need to look at the tape" and "We've just got to play our game" will be saved for another day.)


Love the Kenny Natt logic in the paper today that Kevin Martin is better as a reserve because the Kings need the energy off the bench. Imagine the number of coaches around the league kicking themselves right now for having their best player start and deliver energy from the outset. You'd think the coach of the team that has been outscored in six of the last eight first quarters would be worried about energy at the opening tip, but, OK.

That's fine. Martin has played 31, 34 and 37 minutes in the three games since returning from an ankle injury, ramping up the minutes with each night, so this is about labels. Martin is obviously one of Natt's trusted players.

Beno Udrih is not. Still a starter, as Natt told Melody Gutierrez. But not on the court at the end of close games, in a statement of another kind.

January 3, 2009
Opening tip: And One

Kings (8-25) at Pacers (11-21)

Scoring: Kings 22nd (95.7), Pacers sixth (102.3).
Shooting: Kings tied for 21st (44.3 percent), Pacers tied for 14th (45.1).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (105.1), Pacers 27th (104.5).
Shooting defense: Kings tied for 26th (47.5 percent), Pacers tied for 19th (45.5).
Rebound differential: Kings 27th (minus-2.9), Pacers 10th (plus-0.9).

The link: Pacers coverage in the Indianapolis Star.
The almanac: On this date in 1998, Bill Fitch of the Clippers coached his 2,000th game.

__________

*Kenny Natt says he needs to get Beno Udrih back to being hungry, as noted in Jeff McDonald's story in the San Antonio Express-News? Back to being hungry? The edge is gone two months into being a full-time starter for the first time in his career? Not quite six months after getting a five-year free-agent deal? Seriously?


*This might be a good time to locate that hunger. The next five matchups for Udrih: the speed of T.J. Ford (tonight at Indiana, though Ford has been slowed by a back injury), Devin Harris in an All-Star season (Monday at New Jersey), Derrick Rose as one of the best young talents at any position and clear favorite for Rookie of the Year (Tuesday at Chicago), Mario Chalmers developing in his first year (Friday vs. the Heat) and Jason Kidd (next Saturday vs. the Mavericks). The Harris-Rose back-to-back should be the worst of it, but if Udrih gets taken apart by rookies Rose and Chalmers in consecutive games, you'll see a new definition of angry fans.

*The best race of the regular season just heated up: Celtics vs. Thunder. Celtics wins vs. Thunder losses. Three defeats in five games put Boston on pace for a 70-12 finish while Oklahoma City, with the encouragement of beating the Warriors on Wednesday followed by playing the Nuggets to the buzzer Friday, was tracking to 10-72. Plus, the Thunder signed Nenad Krstic to fill a need at center. When the 76ers set the mark for futility by going 9-73 in 1972-73, they finished 59 games behind the Celtics in the Atlantic Division and for the best record in the league, but Boston of John Havlicek and Dave Cowens went 68-14 and didn't threaten the statistical anomaly.

January 2, 2009
Opening tip: The modest -- but interesting -- trade options

Kings (8-24) at Pistons (19-11)

Scoring: Kings 22nd (95.8), Pistons 25th (95).
Shooting: Kings tied for 18th (44.6 percent), Pistons 10th (45.7).
Scoring defense: Kings 28th (105.3), Pistons eighth (94.1).
Shooting defense: Kings tied for 27th (47.5 percent), Pistons tied for 10th (44.7).
Rebound differential: Kings 27th (minus-3.2), Pistons 20th (minus-1.5).

The links: Pistons coverage in the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.
The almanac: On this date in 1987, Jack Ramsay of the Pacers joined Red Auerbach as the only coaches to reach 800 career NBA victories.

__________


This is not going to be a franchise-altering, mood-changing trade possibility, in the way dealing Ron Artest or Mike Bibby or Peja Stojakovic or Chris Webber was and Brad Miller will be at some point. It's Quincy Douby and Shelden Williams, individually or packaged, and that won't even tweak the rotation.


But they are directions worth considering, because the Kings apparently have, at least in terms of Douby -- the personnel boss of one team said Sacramento management has been shopping the former first-round pick. "They're trying to" do something, the exec noted, adding, "I think they're trying to do right by the kid."

That would be part of it. Douby has barely played and almost certainly has no future here, barring some unforeseen breakout the next 50 games. He's averaged 12 minutes in a season when two guys ahead of him at shooting guard have missed long stretches to injury. You'll need GPS tracking to spot him now that Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia both are back. Nothing wrong with finding a guy like that a home.



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