Kings Blog and Q&A

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

April 27, 2009
What about Byron Scott?



In these horrific economic times, it's pretty much a given that the fates of Lawrence Frank (New Jersey) and Jay Triano (Toronto), among others, are influenced by their respective teams' financial bottom lines. But the New Orleans Hornets' mortifying loss to the Denver Nuggets earlier tonight also left me wondering about Byron Scott. The former Kings assistant has a year remaining on his contract, and at huge dollars, I am told. But Tuesday's record-tying 121-63 defeat is the type of performance that infuriates owners, send fans running for the exits, and has coaches nervously calling their agents within hours. Plus, there are offsets. One team fires a coach, the next team pays X amount, thus offsetting the former team's obligation.

If Scott were to become available, would Geoff Petrie consider him? This could be interesting. Byron always says he eventually wants to coach two teams: the Lakers, where he began his playing career and won two titles, and the Kings, where he was an assistant under Rick Adelman for two seasons (1998 to 2000). He and wife Anita loved living here, and immersed themselves within the community. Plus, Petrie said he was interested in a few coaches who might be available at some point during or after the postseason.

Nothing appears imminent, so who knows? Geoff Petrie is off on a scouting trip to Europe, and his staffers are said to be compiling a lengthy early list of potential coaching candidates. But the favorites have be ex-Kings (and Washington Wizards) coach Eddie Jordan and Paul Westphal, the former head coach of the Seattle Sonics and the Phoenix Suns. Think Petrie. Think offense. But that doesn't mean Scott isn't intriguing. The one-time Laker has several friends and admirers within the organization.

Shaken up all that Jazz

Watching the Utah Jazz lose its unimpressive opening round series to the Los Angeles Lakers earlier tonight, I find it hard to believe Jerry Sloan will not return as head coach. Besides the fact that he committed to coaching next season while late Jazz owner Larry Miller was still alive - I suspect out of loyalty to his longtime friend and employer - Sloan is just too competitive to end his coaching career in this fashion: ejected, and in the locker room. His team uncharacteristically passive and non-combative. His team having undergone a late-season funk that resulted in the fatal first-round matchup against the top-seeded Lakers. His team ... no longer resembling his team.


I'm not a shrink, but consider that, within a matter of weeks, Sloan recently endured the deaths of his owner (Miller) to complications from diabetes, former Chicago Bulls teammates Johnny Kerr and Norm Van Lier, and most recently, the brother, Buck, who essentially raised him. This is one of those times when Sloan really needs to take a few weeks off before making any decision about his future. Can't imagine the Jazz without him, though.


Other playoff musings ...

* Watching Hedo Turkoglu stroke the game-winning three-pointer Monday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, I was struck by two things. First, if Hedo had converted perimeter shots during his brief stay in San Antonio, Gregg Popovich would have found a way to re-sign him. Second, two Kings types long ago insisted the late-developing Hedo would be a much better all-around player than Peja Stojakovic: Geoff Petrie and Chris Webber.
* Dahntay Jones can start for the Denver Nuggets, but couldn't play for the Kings? Again, this is another hint that a philosophical adjustment is needed. Offense is important. Defense is absolutely necessary. Loose balls. Long rebounds. Contesting shots. You know, the things that win championships.
* Very classy act by Kobe Bryant after the Jazz-Lakers finale. The Lakers superstar shook hands with his opponents, then walked directly to the Jazz broadcast booth and spoke briefly with radio analyst Hot Rod Hundley, who is retiring after basically spending his entire life with the franchise. The native West Virginian accompanied the club when it relocated from New Orleans to Salt Lake City in 1979, and is one of the league's good people ... if one of its biggest homers. With Hot Rod at the microphone or in front of the camera, the Jazz never committed a foul or lost a game.
* Add Ronnie Price to the list of former Kings who have contributed in the playoffs. His eight-minute, second-half stretch finally ignited the Jazz, and as the always candid Sloan allowed later, should lead to more playing time next season.
* Peja is looking more and more like one of those NBA players in the midst of a swift and dramatic physical decline. When the Hornets visited Sacramento late in the season, he admitted his back remains problematic. He missed most of last season following back surgery, and said he continues to experience discomfort. Not good for someone who is only 32 years old ...

April 24, 2009
All is quiet on Day One of the coaching search

No surprise there. This Kings coaching search will take a while, meaning there is plenty of time to dissect the ins and outs of who may take over next. For today, though, we offer the raw materials for fans to delve into and form their own opinions. Ailene Voisin shared her take here, and my piece in today's paper can be read here.

Otherwise, below is our edited video of Geoff Petrie's press conference as well as the the presser in its entirety. For those looking to look back more than look forward, be sure to check out the photo gallery of Kings coaches in the Sacramento era.

April 23, 2009
Joe Maloof on coaching search: "Geoff (Petrie) has complete control of it."

Depending on your level of cynicism, this is either the lines being drawn or simply the parameters being set.

Either way, the hours following the announcement that Kenny Natt would not return as Kings coach today included unmistakable messages sent by both basketball president Geoff Petrie and one of his bosses, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof. And for once, it seems, they are on the same page.

While outlining the search to the media, Petrie - who has just one season remaining on his contract - was very detailed about what he wants when it comes to the team's third coaching search in the last four offseasons.

"We'll start to cull the list and look at people that we think meet some of the qualifications that we're looking for at this point, and they would be somebody that has had a lot of experience in the NBA, No. 1, and No. 2, somebody that's had experience as a head coach in the NBA, and No. 3 somebody who has had some level of success at some point as a head coach in the NBA," Petrie said in no uncertain terms.

After the news conference, I spoke with Maloof by phone and discovered that he is - at the outset - prepared to allow Petrie to operate within his own guidelines.

"The decision will be made by Geoff and the basketball people," Joe Maloof said. "They're going to make this decision, and I guess in time they'll probably start the interview process, Geoff will, and go from there. Geoff has complete control of it. I don't know who he's going to speak to."

We'll have more obviously, but one final note is that Petrie said Shareef Abdur-Rahim will remain with the organization in come capacity. As for Kings consultant Pete Carril, he said "Coachie" was not in a position to be a full-time assistant coach at this stage in life but said role as a "wise sage" could be attractive to the next Kings coach. - Sam Amick

April 23, 2009
Kenny Natt era officially ends

By Sam Amick
samick@sacbee.com

As expected, the Kenny Natt era has come to an end. And for the third time in the last four years, the Kings will engage in an offseason coaching search.

The interim Kings coach will not return in the post for the 2009-10 campaign, the team announced this afternoon. Natt, who took over for Reggie Theus after he was fired on Dec. 15, went 11-47 during his time with the team and simply couldn't overcome the seemingly-slim odds he had at winning the job. Natt wasn't the only coach waiting to hear his fate, as his assistants were on uncertain ground as well. Assistants Rex Kalamian, Randy Brown, Jason Hamm, and assistant coach/advance scout Bubba Burrage were also let go. Assistant coach Shareef Abdur-Rahim was on a one-year contract for last season.

Yet the prospect of Natt remaining beyond this season was real enough that the Kings had orchestrated a unique contract for his possible return. Not long after he took over, Natt signed the deal which would have paid him $1.7 million for the 2009-10 campaign. The Kings held the contract option on the one-season deal and had a May 1 deadline to pick it up. But now, of course, they will simply pick up where they left off on the coaching front.

The organization that enjoyed such success and stability in eight seasons under coach Rick Adelman (1998 to 2006) has been stuck on the coaching carousel that included Eric Musselman, Theus, and Natt in the last three years. The first coaching search lasted 24 days after Adelman was not resigned, with Musselman wowing his way into the job and a three-year, $7 million deal during the interview process but unable to impress while on the job as his team was 33-49 in his one season.

The second coaching search was 62 days long, with Theus becoming a late leader and securing a two-year, approximately $4 million contract after it appeared Lakers assistant Brian Shaw was ahead of the pack. With Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie scheduled to leave for Europe on Friday and not return until mid-May, it appears this search could be a long one as well.

The preferred salary range this time around is believed to be between $1.5 and $2 million in annual compensation, although Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof may not adhere to their own parameters in either direction. While league sources indicate the Kings did not reach out to any potential candidates before relieving Natt of his duties, they are expected to consider the likes of Mike Fratello, Eddie Jordan, John Whisenant, and Jeff Ruland. Yet in truth, the list is likely to be as long as the process.

Because there will likely be coaches considered whose teams are currently in the playoffs, the possibility exists that the Kings would have to wait as late as the last possible date of the NBA Finals on June 18. There is, of course, also the possibility that a high-profile coach could be fired after the postseason and immediately appear on the Kings' radar. While teams can request permission to speak with coaches whose teams are still playing, Petrie has opted against it in the past.

"You really have to wait until their teams are done playing," Petrie said on May 8, 2007. "Nobody's going to give you permission anyway if you try and get involved and they're trying to coach their team."

While the Kings have the only vacant head coaching position in the league, there may be more to come that could provide competition for candidates. Denver's George Karl, New Orleans' Byron Scott and Philadelphia's Tony Dileo shouldn't feel completely secure unless their teams survive their first round playoff series, while the lottery-bound New Jersey Nets are currently contemplating whether to fire or retain coach Lawrence Frank. Otherwise, Minnesota's Kevin McHale has yet to decide if he will return for a second season, Toronto's Jay Triano has yet to receive a new contract but is widely expected to remain and Phoenix's Alvin Gentry is also expected to receive a new deal.

The economic climate could play a part as well, as fear of an NBA lockout that may be looming could prompt owners to focus on short-term deals for coaches and lower pay. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2010-11 season, but the league has an option to extend it through the 2011-12 campaign. That decision must be made by Dec. 15, 2010, or else the agreement expires on June 30, 2011. Considering the Kings were believed to be on track to lose between $25 and $28 million this season before their flurry of trades in February that included significant salary dumps, the financial factor could be relevant in this situation.

Read the Kings blog at www.sacbee.com/kingsblog.

April 22, 2009
The largesse of the big men

What is it about 7-footers in this league? There's more to them, so they have more to give? Anyway, Dikembe Mutombo, who was preparing information to send me about his latest humanitarian campaign, tore up his knee Tuesday night in the Houston-Portland series and announced his retirement a hours later. As he says, it was time. He is the NBA's oldest player at 42. He has a young family. And he has grand plans the $29 million, 300-bed hospital he constructed two years ago in his native Congo. Mutombo - who was known as Deke throughout his 18-year career - provided $19 million of his own earnings to complete the facility. He also only half-jokingly told me that he squeezed several thousands ouf of NBA Commissioner David Stern whenever funds ran low. "My good friend David always comes through," Mutombo said, laughing, in his booming voice. The feelings were reciprocated. When speaking about retired Kings center (and fellow humanitarian) Vlade Divac a few weeks ago, the Commissioner quipped, "Divac was Mutombo before Mutombo."

Since I'm sure Deke will be more than a little preoccupied these next several weeks about his knee (rest? surgery?), I decided to offer some of the information he was able to provide when the Rockets' visited Sacramento the last week of the season: His new campaign is a grassroots effort to lure 100,000 viewers to his web site (www.DMF.org or call 1-877-funddmf.) and obtain donations from each of $20 or more per year. The funds will be used to operate the hospital, pay the doctors and nurses, and provide medicine and treatment, mostly for women and children. While chatting in the visitors locker room here during that last visit, Deke admitted that he was "shocked" at the high cost of operating the facility in Kinshasa, and mentioned his fears about malaria outbreaks and an ongoing crisis with HIV. "I am going to keep working on this," he said, "but I'm going to need a lot of help from all the people I have known all these years."

Once again, that website address is www.DMF.org.


THE FINGER WAG WILL BE MISSED

Mutombo, who had a booming, hearty laugh and a wicked sense of humor, was a delightful presence, as well as a formidable, if occasionally confounding competitor. The stories about his sharp, swinging elbows inflicting pain and suffering, occasionally dislodging an opponent's teeth, are all true. Several players and coaches argued that the bony 7-foot-2 center should be required to wear elbow pads, though to no avail. But the league eventually placed some restriction on Mutombo's habit of blocking a shot, then shaking his head and wagging his right index finger at his victim. Taunting, they called it. Mutombo was told to direct his finger wagging elsewhere, say, toward the fans. But for some, including his former Atlanta Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens, that wasn't enough. Lenny hated it when Mutombo would wag the finger and stand under the basket, while play continued. Finally, the two compromised: Deke could wag the finger and shake his head, but only if doing so while running downcourt.


April 22, 2009
Kings town hall BBQ offers plenty to chew on

A couple quick programming notes...

1) It takes a few coherent thoughts or a couple facts worth sharing to make a blog post worthy, but I'm using Twitter to share the more random and less substantive insights, info etc. To sign up, go here.

2) Best of luck to Melody Gutierrez, a classy and comical colleague who has left the sports department to take over the education beat on our news side (yes, still at The Bee). She'll be fantastic over there just as she was over "here," but she will be missed.

The versatile Jason Jones will be contributing in that capacity from here on out, just as soon as he's done covering the NFL draft. He's coming from the Raiders beat, so there is certainly expertise when it comes to covering a struggling club.

***

So it was quite an interesting night at the Roseville Sports Center, where season-ticket holders were on hand to hear from the Kings' powers-that-be.

And while I discussed this event in the context of the Kenny Natt situation in Wednesday's paper, we'll springboard from there to provide some additional coverage for the blogosphere.

The story linked above is required reading, if only because I won't be providing any further context here. So in supplemental form, here we go...

April 17, 2009
A playoff preview through purple glasses

Now that Vlade Divac and Chris Webber's jerseys have been retired, the nostalgia has got to go. It really does.

No offense to the Kings fanbase that had such a blast during those most glorious of years, but those very memories - as I see it - too often keep the faithful from accepting the reality of the organization in its present state and embracing the process of becoming competitive again. Yes, as I remind our readers in today's piece, it's ugly. But it's still pretty fun, because it's sports and because the road to recovery will certainly be full of intriguing twists and turns and no shortage of drama. Not saying that's a winning pitch to renew season tickets tomorrow, but it's worth watching from a distance at the very least.

All that being said, I love nostalgia just like the rest. In small doses, it's a welcome distraction to the situation at hand. As such - and because the Kings will miss the postseason for the third consecutive season - we present a playoff preview as it pertains only to former Kings. But first, two quick Kings-ish sidenotes: 1) almost-Kings-head-coach Scott Brooks officially won the Oklahoma City job today and 2) Quincy Douby won the job that Will Solomon could not, as the third-year guard out of Rutgers picked 19th by the Kings in 2006 was signed by Toronto through next season on a partially guaranteed contract.

Now on to the postseason and how former Kings will play a part...

April 15, 2009
Opening tip: The beginning and the end in Minnesota

Kings (16-63) at Minnesota (24-57)
Scoring: Kings 12th (100.6 point per game), Timberwolves 21st (97.9)
Shooting: Kings 25th (44.7 percent), Timberwolves 29th, (44.2)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (109.8 points), Timberwolves 22nd (102.77)
Shooting defense: Kings 30th (48.4 percent), Timberwolves 25th (47.4)
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-4.97), Timberwolves 13th (plus-0.79)

The link: Timberwolves coverage in The Minneapolis Star Tribune (Story and preview) and the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Story). Kings coverage in The Bee (Voisin column on Joe Maloof's anger toward Kenyon Martin)

On this date in NBA history: On April 15, 2009, the Sacramento Kings became the first team in its franchise's 50-year history to finish a season with fewer than 19 wins.

***

MINNEAPOLIS - This is where it all began, where a two-point loss to the T-Wolves in the season opener wasn't considered so bad because Kevin Martin's shot was off (5 of 19), and because the Kings didn't have Brad Miller and because the young frontcourt of Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes had thoroughly impressed.

The promise wouldn't last long, not with the way they would be run off the floor against Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia during the rest of the road trip. For a night, though, they thought - they hoped - that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad season after all.

Headline YOUTH KEEPS SACRAMENTO CLOSE TO THE END

Origin Sam Amick samick@sacbee.com
Publication Date 10/30/2008
Page C1
Section SPORTS
Edition METRO FINAL
Dateline MINNEAPOLIS

The confidence should have been at an all-time high, what with Spencer Hawes looking more like Al Jefferson than Jefferson himself and the Kings in position to win largely because of it.

But with five seconds left Wednesday night at Target Center and the Kings trailing Minnesota and its dominant forward by two in their regular-season opener, Hawes took a pass from Beno Udrih at the free-throw line and was struck by a moment of indecisiveness. The second-year center dribbled once, then shoveled the ball back to Kevin Martin when he had nowhere to go.

Martin heaved the ball from the left wing and missed, John Salmons' putback fell short, and the Kings walked off the floor having done the same in a 98-96 loss.

"I should've shot it," said Hawes, who started in place of Brad Miller (five-game suspension). "I caught it, overpenetrated maybe a dribble ... I saw it, tried to take up a little slack, and (the lane) just closed quicker than I thought it would. I've just got to go with my game and hit the first one ... trust my instincts, I guess."

The Kings opened with a loss for the fifth consecutive season in the opposite style most anticipated. With so many wondering whether Martin would receive enough offensive assistance to complement his high-scoring ways this season, he had a 5-of-19 shooting night while the supporting cast was far more productive than even coach Reggie Theus could have expected.

While Jefferson turned in his standard performance (21 points, 10 rebounds) that Martin had joked he could do in his sleep, Hawes bested his counterpart with 12 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks that set a Sacramento-era record for a King on opening night.

Kings forward Jason Thompson became the franchise's first player to post a double double (18 points and 10 rebounds) in his NBA debut since Jerry Lucas tallied 23 points and 17 rebounds in 1963. Salmons added 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting.

Yet Martin was out of rhythm from start to finish. He went 0 of 5 in the fourth quarter, including an open jumper from the left wing with 26 seconds remaining that would have put the Kings up by one.

"It's one of them games where I'll forget about it quickly," said Martin, who ended with 17 points. "I cost us a couple buckets. It's just something I'll have to go back and look at on film, because I don't know what was going on there. I think tonight was just on me, personally."

This was opportunity lost for the obvious reason that it only gets tougher from here. Among Minnesota, Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia, no team faces lower expectations this season than the Timberwolves, who were 22-60 last season.

What's more, the Kings had four days in which to prepare for the opener yet will have two practice days jammed between the next three games.

Hawes didn't take long to look comfortable, scoring nine points in the first six minutes as the Kings went up 20-14. He hit his first four shots, Thompson followed with a layup for the six-point lead, and the notion of untested youth as a liability was nowhere to be found.

But the Kings gave up an 8-0 run late to trail 33-32 at the end of the first quarter. The run continued thereafter, as Jefferson scored 10 second-quarter points. Martin's 1-of-5 quarter had much to do with the Kings' 56-49 halftime deficit.

"It was a tough first half," Theus said. "I'd like to think the team who we are played more in the second half ... (when the Kings were) plus-12 in rebounding and (they trimmed the T-wolves') 42 points in the paint (in the first half) to 16. ... I'm encouraged because I think our guys saw that they're a better team than they played in the first half."

And Martin, quite certainly, can be better as well.

"If Kevin has any type of game at all, we beat this team," Theus said. "But it's a team game."

Read the Kings blog at www.sacbee.com/blogs

They thought it wouldn't be that bad. They were, of course, very wrong. - Sam Amick

April 14, 2009
MRI confirms left knee strain for Hawes

MINNEAPOLIS - In the it-could-have-been-so-much-worse category, the Kings were relieved to officially hear today that Spencer Hawes' left knee injury was merely a strain.

The second-year center took a tumble (with inexplicable help from Kenyon Martin) in the Kings' loss at Denver on Monday, and the MRI taken in Sacramento on Tuesday confirmed the strain. I haven't spoken to Hawes or Kings officials yet and will update when more is known. Needless to say, he will not be playing in the team's season finale at Minnesota on Wednesday. - Sam Amick

April 13, 2009
Opening tip: At least someone is getting defensive

Kings (16-62) at Nuggets (53-27)
Scoring: Kings 12th (100.7 point per game), Nuggets 6th (104.51)
Shooting: Kings 25th (44.7 percent), Nuggets 5th, (47.2)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (109.5 points), Nuggets 19th (100.91)
Shooting defense: Kings 30th (48.4 percent), Nuggets 4th (43.9)
Rebound differential: Kings 30th (minus-5.06), Nuggets (+0.40)

The link: Nuggets coverage in The Denver Post. Kings coverage in The Bee. (Game story vs. Spurs on Sunday. Game notes. Photo slide show).

* * *


Before George Karl became infatuated with offensive basketball, a la his good friend Don Nelson, he was regarded as an excellent defensive coach (Cleveland, Seattle). So look what happens when old George goes retro? The Nuggets slash payroll, basically give shotblocker Marcus Camby away to the Clippers, and actually improve defensively. Maybe that swap of Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups rekindled Karl's passion for defense, though Billups isn't in Gary Payton's class as a ballhawker. Anyway, Karl can't believe that no one believes. He reminded the Denver Post last week that, "It seems like the national media does not want to jump on our bandwagon. The only thing I say to those people is, 'go watch the film.' Defensively, we (have) led the Western Conference in (defensive) field goal percentage the whole year." It's true. He is not exaggerating.

* * *


The Kings have two road games remaining (Denver and Minnesota). They cannot possibly play more poorly than they did in the opening quarter of Friday's debacle against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers, can they? Even a smidge of defense would be a monumental improvement ....


* * *

The expansion team Reno Bighorns, the Kings' affiliate in the NBA Developmental League, finished the season Saturday night with a 25-25 record and just missed the playoffs. Not bad given that Jay Humphries' club started the season with a bruising road schedule and a 1-11 record . Still wondering what Donte Greene was doing in Sacramento when he could have been in Reno for an extended period (a) playing himself into shape, (b) distancing himself from the zone defense played during his one season at Syracuse, and (c) developing the mechanics for a jump shot. His form is ever-changing; sometimes the ball's rotation is perfect, other times the seams are off in different angles. Weird.

April 13, 2009
Arco Overtime: Udrih and Natt go down together against Spurs

SAN ANTONIO 95, KINGS 92

Game story, Game notes

Box score, Video recap

***

It's not as if the Kings didn't accomplish anything on Sunday night.

They secured the worst record in the league and thus gave themselves the best possible shot (25 percent) at landing the No. 1 pick in June. They secured their place in history, guaranteeing that this season will go down as the worst in the franchise's 50 years. That much was already certain from the standpoint of winning percentage, but now they can claim the trophy for fewest wins (from 16 to 18, depending on outcome of final two games) than the 19-win Cincinnati Royals teams in 1958-59 and 1959-60 that played in 72 and 75 games, respectively. The home-record (11-30) was an all-time worst, too, both from a record and winning percentage standpoint.

And while the Kings were certainly robbed in their loss to the Spurs because of the game-winning Michael Finley three that shouldn't have counted, make no mistake about one thing: they left the door open for the burglars. Come to think of it, point guard Beno Udrih - and by extension coach Kenny Natt - answered the door and let them in.

It's not a coincidence that the Kings have lost 11 straight games that were decided by seven points or less, with the late failures hurting Natt's chances at winning the job every time. They almost always fall short in the most crucial possessions, and finishes like the latest one have been prompting shaking heads on press row - and even on the Kings bench - for some time.

April 10, 2009
Opening tip: Webber wants back in Sac and the coaching situation pulse

Kings (16-62) at Clippers (18-60)
Scoring: Kings 11th (101.06), Clippers 27th (95.48)
Shooting: Kings 23rd (44.9 percent), Clippers 22nd (44.1)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (109.66), Clippers 25th (104.11)
Shooting defense: Kings 30th (48.4 percent), Clippers 26th (47.5)
Rebound differential: Kings 30th (minus-5.06), Clippers 28th (minus-4.03)
The link: Clippers coverage in The Los Angeles Times,, and the LA Daily News. Kings coverage in The Bee (Game story vs. Houston on Thursday, Game notes,. Photo slideshow).

***

It's all about change from here on out for the Kings, even if there are four more games that must be played for the sake of schedule keeping.

With the obvious focus on changing their own dire situation, it's certain that there will be player changes (they have only eight players on contract for next season) and almost certain that there will be a coaching change. And if it was up to Chris Webber, there would be a front office change as well.

The former Kings forward told me recently that he would like to team with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie in the Kings' rebuilding effort, rejoining the team in an ambassador-type role in which he could help attract free agents, weigh in on the remaking of the roster and help the organization on all matters of public relations. In an interview that took place before the retiring of Vlade Divac's jersey at Arco Arena on March 31, Webber said he was already talking to three teams about a return to the game as soon as next season (though he would not disclose which ones). And while the Kings aren't one of them, he wishes they were.

"Yeah, I'm definitely going to be in basketball," said Webber, whose official title at present is that of TNT analyst. "I'm deciding now if I want to do TV next year. I have some opportunities (in the NBA). And of course I would like (to be in) Sacramento first. But it is what it is."

April 10, 2009
Arco Overtime: Ron-Ron returns, Will Solomon runs and Kobe revels

HOUSTON 115, KINGS 98

Game story, Game notes, Gameplan for Clippers game Friday

Box score, Video recap

***

We knew the Ron Artest return would be anticlimactic.

That much was clear when the schedule was set, if only because the trade that sent him to Houston went down in August and the Rockets' first regular season affair at Arco Arena was in early April. But this was elevated irrelevance, with the Rockets in the midst of a tight race for playoff position and the Kings counting the days until the end.


Meanwhile, the former King is in a fortuitous position after what was a messy ending in Sacramento. After having his hopes for a long-term future with the Kings dashed last summer, he has become the second-half hero of the Rockets' season after Tracy McGrady's season-ending left knee injury and microfracture surgery.

Since McGrady's last game on Feb. 9, Houston has won 20 of 27 games and Artest has led the charge. The timing of it all was impeccable, as McGrady and Artest had been sniping at each other in the locker room prior to McGrady's exit and the chemistry declining by the day. The new development, though, was that those I spoke to in Houston had said Artest was the one receiving support while McGrady's act was growing increasingly tired on that scene.

April 9, 2009
Opening tip: Martin remains out

Kings (16-61) vs. Rockets (50-28)
Scoring: Kings 11th (101.10), Rockets 18th (98.35)
Shooting: Kings 23rd (44.9 percent), Rockets 22nd (45.2)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (109.59), Rockets 6th (94.53)
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (48.3 percent), Rockets 5th (44.5)
Rebound differential: Kings 30th (minus-5.09), Rockets 4th (plus-2.83)
The link: Rockets coverage in The Houston Chronicle; Kings coverage in The Bee.

The almanac: On this date in 1992, Magic Johnson was voted the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America.
Johnson was selected because of contributions and work with charities, including the formation of the Magic Johnson Foundation for HIV/AIDS programs; the United Negro College Fund; the American Heart Association; and the Starlight Foundation, which grants wishes to critically ill children.

***
This just in: Kevin Martin will not play tonight. Martin informed our own Sam Amick that he will sit out his fourth consecutive game due to his troublesome left ankle.

Meanwhile, former King Ron Artest makes his first regular season visit to Arco Arena. The Kings are 0-2 against the Rockets this season and tonight's contest will serve as the season series closer.
"I don't like to see Ron in a different uniform," said Kings coach Kenny Natt. "At the same time, his presence probably inspires guys as another challenge. That's something we need. We seem to play better when we are challenged."

April 8, 2009
Kings waive Solomon

Will Solomon was shown the door early as the Kings requested waivers on the guard today.
Solomon played in 14 games for the Kings after joining the team in February. In his second season, Solomon averaged five points (.406 FGs, .448 3FGs, .500 FTs) and 1.5 rebounds for the Kings.
Solomon has played once in the last seven games after twice earning 20-plus minutes in mid-March.
Lately, Solomon has had a right shoulder injury and lower back stiffness.
Solomon was acquired from the Toronto Raptors and previously spent six seasons in leagues in Greece, Israel and Turkey. His contract was set to expire this summer.

April 8, 2009
Hours after Blake Griffin says he's available ...

With five games remaining in the Kings' regular season, which means they are a virtual lock to secure one of the top four picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, Geoff Petrie and staff members these next few weeks will be off scouting, working out players, and traveling overseas. Before the Kings-Lakers game earlier tonight, Petrie told me he planned to attend the Euroleague Final Four in Berlin May 1-3, but believed he was traveling overseas about a week earlier. I am absolutely certain that, among his many duties, he will be gathering information about Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, the teenage whiz who also unfortunately happens to be under contract to DKV Joventut. We can keep hearing that Rubio is trying to buy out his contract and enter the NBA, but we'll see.


So let's get started ...

Here are the players I believe would most benefit the Kings, in order. (This week, anyway):
1. Blake Griffin. Oklahoma
2. Ricky Rubio. DKV Joventut
3. Jonny Flynn. Syracuse
4. Tyreke Evans. Memphis


Back in the building

Kings co-owner Joe Maloof, who missed the Vlade Divac retirement ceremony because he was bedridden with a bad back, attended Tuesday's game with his brother, Gavin, and his mother, Colleen. "Back, hips, knees, they're all related," said Joe Maloof, shaking his head. He underwent double-knee replacement surgery in October and is still hobbling along

Final thoughts on Kings-Lakers

* It was interesting to note that the crowd began favoring the Lakers about the time the Kings subs reverted to their usual one-on-one, my turn, your turn style of offense, in sharp contrast to the play of the starters in the fast-paced and entertaining first period.
* The Kings' futility from three-point range was ghastly, especially that of the reserves. Donte Greene was 1-for-7, Bobby Jackson 0-for-4 and Rashad McCants 0-for-3.
* I spoke with Luke Walton for a few minutes after the game, and asked how his father - Hall of Fame center Bill Walton - was feeling. Luke said his dad, who had surgery to fuse vertebrae in his lower back a few months ago, remains pretty immobile. He's only allowed to walk around the house for brief periods. Yet, attesting yet again to Vlade Divac's reputation within the NBA, when I left a message for Bill last week, explaining that I was writing a series of articles and columns about Vlade, he called early the next morning, and said he would be delighted to talk about Divac. He then proceeded to go on and on about Vlade's extraordinary court vision and passing skills. Here's wishing Bill the best. I covered him when he played for the San Diego Clippers - at a time when he attended Stanford Law School during the week, and played for the Clips on the weekends, when his ailing feet permitted - and he was always a classy, cooperative person.
* After a shaky start to the season, and a lengthy slump following Reggie Theus' dismissal, Francisco Garcia is finishing strong.

April 7, 2009
Arco Overtime: Martin update, Natt post game

Lakers 122, Kings 104

Game story, game notes

Box score, video highlights

***
Our own Ailene Voisin sat down with Kevin Martin during halftime of tonight's game for a column that will be in tomorrow's paper. The conversation obviously centered on Martin's troublesome left ankle.
Martin had an X-ray on Monday, which showed bone spur. For more, including whether the leading scorer sees himself returning to the floor, check out The Bee.

For now, I leave you with Kenny Natt's post game press conference.

April 7, 2009
Opening tip: Martin out, Hawes in

Kings (16-60) vs. Lakers (61-16)
Scoring: Kings 11th (100.06), Lakers 3rd (106.68)
Shooting: Kings 23rd (44.9 percent), Lakers 4th (47.3)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (109.43), Lakers 13th (99.23)
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (48.3 percent), Lakers 6th (44.8)
Rebound differential: Kings 30th (minus-5.09), Lakers 5th (plus-2.55)
The link: The links: Lakers coverage in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News and Riverside Press-Enterprise. Kings coverage in The Bee.

The almanac: On this date in 1984, more than 1,000 spectators from Sacramento loaded 21 buses and headed West to watch the Golden State Warriors take on the Kansas City Kings.
Gregg Lukenbill, one of the Kings' new owners at that time, was among the contingent of fans. Lukenbill assured Kansas City that he was not interested in moving the franchise.
However, Sacramento's interest in acquiring the Kings was obvious.
The Warriors went on to win that game 98-89.

***
Kevin Martin will miss his third consecutive game with a sore left ankle, which makes you wonder whether his 50-point performance on April 1 against the Golden State Warriors was the last hurrah of the season.
With five games remaining following tonight's matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers, maybe it's time to shut the shooting guard down and focus on his full recovery.
However, this is certainly not what Kings coach Kenny Natt wants to hear.
Natt became frustrated when I posed that question after Martin missed Friday's game against the Phoenix Suns.
Both Natt and Kings basketball president said over the weekend that there have been no conversations about sitting Martin out for the remainder of the season.
While Martin will be out for at least tonight, Spencer Hawes will play. Hawes was poked in the eye during the Kings' 105-100 loss to the Warriors on Sunday. Hawes saw an eye specialist Monday after experiencing double vision and was cleared for tonight.

April 6, 2009
His final appearance moved Arco crowd to its feet

Between watching North Carolina's romp over Michigan State and ESPN's interviews with Hall of Fame inductees MIchael Jordan, John Stockton, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan and C. Vivian Stringer, I was reminded that Stockton played his final NBA game at Arco Arena against the Kings in the 2003 playoffs. He was 41 years old - and still averaged 7.7 during that final season. One of our Bee photographers took an incredible shot of Stockton, seated on the bench in the closing seconds of the Jazz defeat, head bowed, face in his hands, and the Arco crowd on in its feet behind the visitors bench, arms raised, applauding and appreciating one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

This is how special Stockton was: At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, he is still the league's all-time leader in steals and assists. Consider that while the career-long Utah Jazz star finished with 15,806 career assists, his nearest competitior was Mark Jackson ... with 10,334! Jason Kidd (10,148) and Magic Johnson (10,141) followed. Additionally, Stockton, whose huge hands enabled him to palm the ball and throw those one-bounce bullets that he was famous for, also averaged an NBA best 14.5 assists in 1989-90. Even for those of us non-stat freaks, those numbers are ridiculous. And to think he was drafted with the No.16 pick in 1984 .....

As for those other inductees ...

Congrats to the other inductees, including Sloan, another familiar face in Arco. He never won a championship, but there is no debating his influence on the game. I suspect he signed another one-year deal only weeks before Jazz owner Larry Miller died, basically to ensure a smooth transition to other family members.
As for Jordan, who was mainly responsible for denying Sloan, Stockton, Karl Malone an NBA ring, he has no equal. Maybe someday we'll be talking about LeBron James in Jordanesque terms, but not yet. Not even close. The discussion doesn't even begin until one of his successors suffocates opponentes the way Jordan did defensively. He was .... vicious. He sure sounded wistful during his interviews though, didn't he? As if he didn't know what to do with himself post-basketball? Guaranteed, he never sounded that lost during his career ....

One more nugget of useful info

My personal affinity for assists led me to discover that Reggie Theus ranks 21st on the league's list for total assists. Just wondering: Will modern players ever learn/embrace/discover the advantages of advancing the ball with the pass instead of the dribble? Nah. Makes too much sense. The next time David Stern asks what went wrong with his league, look no further than his point guard's insistence on dribbling the ball downcourt, wasting precious seconds, while fans look on and (yawn).

April 6, 2009
Eyes and ankles watch

Spencer Hawes and Kevin Martin both did not practice today and did not speak to media, but here's what I know from Kings coach Kenny Natt.

Hawes, who was poked in the eye last night, saw an eye specialist after experiencing double vision last night. Natt said Hawes is in good spirits.
"He's always up beat and feels like he's ready to go," Natt said. "We just want to be really cautious to make sure there is no serious damage to his retina and things of that sort. Hopefully, we will have him tomorrow."

Martin, who has missed the last two games with a sore left ankle, is considered day-to-day.
"His conversation to me was that he was really positive and he feels he will be ready to go," Natt said. "We are just monitoring him."

April 5, 2009
Arco Overtime: A new low

Warriors 105, Kings 100

With the loss, the Kings will rewrite the history books for all the wrong reasons. This year's team will finish with the worst record in the Sacramento-era history of the franchise by falling below the 23-59 record held by the 1989-1990 Kings.
For more, check out tomorrow's Bee. For now, I'll leave you with Kenny Natt's post game press conference in which he says his team "goofed off" for the better part of the loss.

April 5, 2009
Martin out

Kevin Martin (sore left ankle) will not play in tonight's game against the Golden State Warriors. He is considered day-to-day.
Rashad McCants (back spasms) will give it a go.

April 4, 2009
Martin injury update

Kevin Martin (sore left ankle) and Rashad McCants (back spasms) are both questionable for tomorrow's game against the Golden State Warriors at Arco Arena.
However, Kings coach Kenny Natt gave a vote of confidence after practice today, saying he is "assuming everyone is going to play tomorrow."

April 3, 2009
Martin out tonight

Kevin Martin will not play tonight against the Phoenix Suns because of a sore left ankle. It is the same ankle that has given Martin so many problems this season.
However, it didn't slow him Wednesday. Martin scored a career-high 50 points in the Kings' 143-141 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors.

April 3, 2009
Opening tip: Payback alert

Kings (16-58) at Phoenix (41-34)
Scoring: Kings 11th (100.94), Suns 2nd (109.05)
Shooting: Kings 24rd (44.9 percent), Suns 1st (50.5)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (109.09), Suns 27th (107.18)
Shooting defense: Kings 30th (48.4 percent), Suns 22rd (46.5)
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-5.01), Suns 10th (plus-0.89)
The link: Suns coverage in The Arizona Republic. Kings coverage in The Bee (story on Natt's chances of returning, game preview).

The almanac: On this date in 1998, Michael Jordan scored 41 points to become the third player in NBA history to reach 29,000 career points as the Chicago Bulls beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-93.
Jordan joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to score 29,000. Jordan needed 14 points to reach the plateau. At the time of that Bulls' win, Chicago had a 57-17 record.

Quick Hit - I want to congratulate Sam and Emily Amick, who welcomed their second son, Landon McKnight Amick, into the world this morning.

***
It has been five days since the Kings defeated the Phoenix Suns. Five days.
But here in Phoenix, that 126-118 loss is considered old news. That was part of the old season, which is how the Suns are describing their first 74 games.
They have declared a "new season" since losing to the last placed Kings, according to The Arizona Republic.
The Suns are 1-0 since that declaration after defeating the Houston Rockets as they pursue the final Western Conference playoff spot.
And already this "new season" has more good news for the Suns. Leandro Barbosa will likely return tonight against the Kings after missing the last seven games with a tibial bone bruise in his left knee.
Barbosa is averaging 14.3 points this season.
This could all spell disaster for the Kings. Phoenix is out for revenge. The Kings are coming off two losses decided by late game defensive mistakes.
During the Kings' last visit to Phoenix, the Suns sent them packing following a 129-81 rout at US Airways Center.

April 1, 2009
Opening tip: Oh the irony

Kings (16-57) at Golden State (25-49)
Scoring: Kings 12th (100.39), Warriors 2nd (108.6)
Shooting: Kings 22rd (44.5 percent), Warriors 12th (45.9)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (108.63), Warriors 30th (112.48)
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (48.3 percent), Warriors 23rd (47.1)
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-5.04), Warriors 30th minus-5.13
The link: Warriors coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News. Kings coverage in The Bee (Voisin's 'Packed House Honors Ordinary Guy Divac,' Kings gamer, Kings notes).

The almanac: On this date in 1994, Oliver Miller of the Phoenix Suns thought he was on the receiving end of an April Fool's Day joke when President Clinton called him.
"I asked the White House operator if this was an April Fool's joke," Miller told The Bee in 1994. "She said, "Far from it, it's the president.' I said, "Right. The president of Coca-Cola?' "
Charles Barkley walked by Miller as he tried to decipher the legitimacy of the caller. Eventually Barkley grabbed the phone.
It turned out the caller really was Clinton, who invited Miller to join him in a luxury box at that year's NCAA title game. Miller, a former Arkansas player, took him up on the offer as the pair watched the Razorbacks defeat Duke 76-72. The Most Outstanding Player of that NCAA championship was Corliss Williamson.

***
During last night's jersey retirement, Vlade Divac told the packed Arco Arena that if he were to pick a moment in his career to relive, it wouldn't be the wins the resulted in back-to-back Pacific Coast titles.
Divac said it would be the "heartbreaking loss in Game 4" of the 2002 Western Conference Finals during that infamous Robert Horry three-pointer.
Why?
Because, Divac said, no one believed the Kings could recover by tipoff of Game 5.
Of course the Kings went on to win that game and lose the next two, but that moment in which the team pulled together was the highlight Divac holds close.
"When everyone believed winning the next game was impossible, we proved nothing was impossible," Divac said during his halftime ceremony.
It now seems almost comical that Divac talked about reliving Game 4. While he wasn't asking for a replay, that's what he got as the Kings fell to the New Orleans Hornets at Arco.
The stunned silence following a game-winning three-pointer at the hands of Rasual Butler reminded several Bee readers of that Horry heartbreaker.
Wrote one reader: "Don't you think it's ironic that the day we retire Vlade Divac's jersey is the same day we lose to an opponent by a game-winning three-point shot? Ahem. Sounds kinda like Robert Horry and that dreaded shot."
Be careful what you ask for.



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