Kings Blog and Q&A

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

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FINAL (Lakers 106, Kings 99)

The Lakers relied on their three stars to hold off the Kings with no overtime needed this time around.

The Lakers advantage in the paint was too much for the Kings, who couldn't capitalize on the Lakers making just 18 of 28 free throws (64.3 percent).

Kobe Byrant had 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Pau Gasol had 28 points and 12 rebounds and Andrew Bynum had 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Tyreke Evans finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Kings (23-45). Carl Landry had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jason Thompson had 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

The Lakers(50-18) had 23-second-chance points to nine for the Kings and 60 points in the paint. The Lakers led by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter.


THIRD QUARTER (Lakers 77, Kings 68)

Tyreke Evans is close to his second triple double this season. He has 17 points, 10 rebound and eight assists.

But Evans can't play in the post and that's where the Kings need help.

When the Lakers remember they have an advantage inside there's not a whole lot the Kings can do with them.

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are a combined 17 of 23 shooting. Bynum has 19 points and 11 rebounds. Gasol has 17 points and eight rebouonds.

Kobe Bryant leads all scorers with 24 points on 9 of 22 shooting.

--Jason Jones

SECOND QUARTER (Lakers 49, Kings 48)

The Kings used a 14-3 run to get back in this one, tying the game 33-33 when Omri Casspi buried a three-pointer from the right wing. Tyreke Evans is playing up to the moment once again, scoring 14 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out five assists. He has hit just 4 of 13 while Ron Artest has spent most of the time guarding him, but continues to get to the line where he has hit six of eight attempts.

Kobe Bryant has 18 points for the Lakers, Andrew Bynum has 17 and Pau Gasol has 11. The Kings are shooting just 42.2 percent, but limited their turnovers to five. The Lakers haven't been much better, hitting at a 42.9 percent clip.

FIRST QUARTER (Lakers 28, Kings 17)

This got ugly quick, with the Lakers finishing the quarter on an 11-2 run and Kobe Bryant already scoring 13 points. Lakers center Andrew Bynum has dominated Kings center Spencer Hawes, hitting five of six shots for 11 points while grabbing six points. In Hawes' defense, his running mates aren't rotating at all and that's only making it worse.

March 16, 2010
A fitting goodbye

Of course this goodbye blog was finished just before 3 a.m.

Of course the nonstop attempt to do this job justice meant giving a little here to provide a little more there. Specifically, it was the late-night decision to blog about KHTK's Jason Ross and his family and tomorrow night's bone marrow program before the Kings-Lakers game that changed the original plan for the evening.

Plan A, of course, was to craft a parting piece that would serve two purposes: announce that my incredibly-fulfilling time at The Bee that dates back to 1998 will come to an end today and naturally provide the what's-next? portion of the programming by telling you all that I'm heading to Fanhouse to cover the NBA. This is the end of one fantastic challenge and the beginning of a new one, a calculated move into the web-only world of sports media that thankfully won't involve a change in address.

So much for crafting. When it comes to this job, you do it by feel and follow instincts and trust where your head and heart take you every single day. So, yeah, this really is fitting.

This job was never only about the finished product, anyways. When it wasn't about trying to serve the reader as the Kings beat writer, it was about meeting people like Ross who made you better for knowing them. These are people I never would have met had The Bee not entrusted me with this position back in the summer of 2005, meaning I owe enormous and endless thanks to editors Tom Negrete and the departed Rick Rodriguez for providing opportunity and Bill Bradley for always being on board for what became such a memorable experience.

There are plenty of people who don't need this public gratitude to know what they meant. Yet because this is the blogosphere - that limitless space in which I so often rushed to discuss such pressing matters like the future of Rashad McCants - please indulge me a little longer here.

To Joe Davidson (who knows the real reason he hired me to answer phones and beg for chances to write during my college years), former sports editor Armando Acuna (whose valuable editing was never better than the day he introduced me to the word "maudlin" while harshly assessing a feature I was convinced was fantastic), Vic Contreras (a good man who knows all too well what this gig did to me on some days) Ahmed Ortiz (an entertaining, creative spirit and top-notch editor), Barbara Zumwalt (a gem), Jane Hughes-Yeung (resident copy desk angel and pumpkin patch partner) and Ailene Voisin (an appreciated colleague and friend who really doesn't love Ricky Rubio as much as everyone insists).

A special thanks to Mark Kreidler, the former Bee columnist and resident Rise Guy who was officially my first sports department contact at The Bee long before he became the most classy of colleagues and friends. I was still a Sacramento State student on that cold day late in 1998, selling Bee subscriptions in front of yet another supermarket and reading the sports page to pass the time on a slow sales day. The job at the time was to man the three-foot tall, plastic Bee post and coerce the passers-by to sign their names on the dotted line.

But as difficult as this public admission may be, there was a short stretch there where I stopped the sales pitches (sorry, Maria:). I had sneaked away to the nearest payphone, deciding to cold-call Kreidler after his latest column got me thinking about the whos and whats and hows of sports writing. The message seeking advice and guidance from a stranger was returned just days later (to my pager, of course), when Kreidler became the first of many people I would feel so lucky for knowing at this place I am now leaving.

To my closest colleagues and readers, the sincerest of thanks. - Sam Amick

"It's giving him a chance."

Jason Ross is paid by the folks at KHTK to get to the point, to convey his thoughts clearly and make sense of his opinion on any given topic. But the well-respected radio man wasn't talking about an athlete in the above quote. He was talking about his son, Jackson.

The seven-year-old has a chance in this his second battle with Leukemia because he has a bone marrow match, one that took just four weeks to find and will lead to an early April procedure that Ross, his wife, Alva Toca, and their only child so desperately hope marks the beginning of his comeback.

It would make it all worth it - the endless chemotherapy, the radiation and the 50-plus days in the hospital since October - if only they could see hair on his happy head again and have him healthy. Yet while their situation remains unfair and so very frightening, the fact remains that they are already better off than countless families facing similar circumstances.

KHTK, with the support of the Kings, will attempt to change that today. When the doors to Tuesday night's Kings-Lakers game open at 6 p.m., the folks from BloodSource will be on hand to swab your cheek and sign you up for free as a willing bone marrow donor in their "Be The Match" program. Head to the Sports 1140 tent at the main gate for more information and sign up on the arena concourse.

The Kings themselves started things off right after Monday's practice, when Andres Nocioni, Donte' Greene and Francisco Garcia were all swabbed and became hopeful donors. Individuals may also register online at www.bethematch.org and use the BloodSource code Month10 (January10, February10, etc). Registrants with diverse ethnic and racial heritage are especially needed. For those who join online, a swab kit will be sent to the home address. For more information about marrow registry, go to the BloodSource website www.bloodsource.org or by calling 866-822-5663.

While fees are being waived for this free event, it does cost the company approximately $100 for each new Be The Match registrant and contributions are appreciated. The donations to support marrow registry are tax-deductible. Call 916.797.4526 or 916.453.3717 to make a financial contribution in support of marrow registry. - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 114, Minnesota 100)

The Kings cruised in this win, with the only point of intrigue in the final quarter the question of whether Tyreke Evans would get his second career triple double (and second in three games).

Kings coach Paul Westphal answered that question with 6:04 left in the fourth, when he took his rookie out for good despite the fact that he was just one rebound away from the mark. Nonetheless, Evans' 29 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds were huge. Donte Greene added 19 points on eight of 11 shooting, with Andres Nocioni and Jason Thompson adding a combined 27 points off the bench.

The T-Wolves shot just 41.8 percent and lost for the ninth straight time.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 94, Minnesota 61)

The Kings started piling on at the start of the third quarter, going on a 15-0 run in which Donte' Greene had 11 of the points and the T-Wolves missed all eight of their shots. Tyreke Evans just might be able to get his second triple-double in three games (and second of his career), as he has 29 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 64, Minnesota 49)

Kings rookie Tyreke Evans had a rare off-night on Friday against Portland, scoring just 10 points in a blowout loss. He has more than doubled that total by halftime tonight, though, scoring 24 points on 8 of 12 shooting while adding four rebounds and two assists.

For Evans, it's the kind of game he could wind up having on a routine basis later in his career for one reason: he is burying his jumpers. The inside-out game - while a rarity for him this season - is nearly unguardable when he has it going.

He has received substantial help from the bench as well, with forward Jason Thompson pitching in 11 points on four of four shooting and grabbing five rebounds. Andres Nocioni has added spark too, scoring nine points on four of eight shooting (although he missed his last three).

The Timberwolves are being carried by forward Al Jefferson (18 points) but have shot just 39.6 percent. They have given the Kings 10 turnovers to their four.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 32, Minnesota 28)

For a moment, it looked like Tyreke Evans capped the Kings' opening quarter in fine form. His end-to-end dash was a thing of beauty, with the Kings rookie staying a step ahead of Damien Wilkins and Wayne Ellington in traffic and finishing the layup and the free throw that followed. On the Kings' next possesion, he found small forward Andres Nocioni for a three-pointer that put the Kings up seven.

Wilkins, however, spoiled the finish somewhat. He buried a 30-footer at the buzzer to cut the Kings' lead to four. Evans has 12 points, four rebounds and two assists already, while forward Carl Landry has nine points. The Timberwolves are led by Al Jefferson (nine points) and Jonny Flynn) seven points). Forward Kevin Love (left midfoot sprain) is not playing tonight for Minnesota.

March 12, 2010
Down on Evans? Hardly

This will be the last time I react on this blog to radio rantings from the local afternoon sports talk show, and I'll tell you in a few days why I'm quite confident making that statement.

For now, though, there's some clarifying to do as it pertains to Tyreke Evans' sensational triple-double night on Wednesday and how in the world this game story led to what I was told was the perception that I'm down on Evans and don't want him to win the Rookie of the Year award.

What I want for all NBA-related accolades is for the voters (of which I am one) to get it right. And right now, that means Evans remains out front by a healthy margin, followed by Golden State's Stephen Curry and his intriguing second-half surge (yes, take note of the key phrase - second-half) and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings. And what I really don't want, since that's such a popular topic, is Jennings getting too much credit for his team being in playoff position.

As Charles Barkley pointed out on TNT last night, guys like Andrew Bogut and John Salmons have a whole lot to do with the Bucks' success and Jennings - whose numbers simply don't compare to the likes of Evans and Curry - shouldn't luck into the ROY because of the talent around him. Case in point: the Bucks' March 3 win over Washington.

Jennings goes 2 of 12 with five assists and six turnovers, and Milwaukee wins going away. Ironically, Evans had a similar experience that same day, going 4 of 22 from the field as the Kings downed Houston. The difference, however, is that Evans has a much greater capacity to affect the game in other ways.

His assist-to-turnover ratio was five to one that day, and he certainly had something to do with the Rockets' backcourt of Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin going a combined 12 of 38. Plus, what was an aberration for Evans - it was his second single-digit scoring game since Nov. 2; the other was a loss to Charlotte - has been far more routine for Jennings.

Before his last two outstanding games in wins against Cleveland and Boston, Jennings was at a 25.2 percent shooting clip (26 of 103) in his previous nine games (he is at a 36.8 shooting clip on the season). He is incredibly inconsistent, enough so that Bucks coach Scott Skiles must gauge the Jennings meter every time out before determining his somewhat-erratic playing time.

But I digress...

The original point is that I somehow killed Evans in that story, and that's the part that is just baffling. His was a phenomenal night, enough so that I intentionally left Beno Udrih and his outstanding contributions (24 points on 10 of 14 shooting, eight assists, two turnovers) out of the piece to focus on the Evans mania and how he lived up to the moment.

As for the mention that one of Evans' assists was questionable, even the player himself had fun with that topic (as well as TrueHoop network blogger Zach Harper in his breakdown). Asked about his sideline chat late in the fourth quarter with Kings radio color man/Mr. Triple Double former point guard Fat Lever, Evans said with a smile that he was openly campaigning for some stat-padding.

"I told him that they cheated me out of my (previous) assist," he said. "I gave Cisco a pass and he laid it up, and they're supposed to give me that. If I was Chris Paul, I would have got an assist, or Darren Collison (in reference to Collison's Assist Gate). Either one of those guys. I was just trying to get some more assists."

Asked by a radio reporter if he thought he would get his ninth assist if he was on the road, he said, "Umm, I don't know" while another radio reporter shook his head left to right and got a laugh out of Evans.

The larger point is this: questioning anything relating to Evans results in these kinds of reactions in Kings Land. There has been frustration all season long from the Kings that the local paper wouldn't put the cart in front of the horse and wanted to - imagine this? - actually do our jobs and analyze the team. You always got the strong sense that they wanted us to be sure and always call him a point guard, to not talk so much about how he often struggles to keep the ball moving or why his teammates get benched for saying things similiar to what he publicly said or how his jumper has a long ways to go.

It's a silly exercise, really, because he has earned a good amount of hype in our pages while already showing with his play that he is a unique and dynamic talent in just six short months as a pro. And as Kings director of player personnel/TV color man Jerry Reynolds constantly and accurately reminds me, let's remember that he's without question one of the best 20 year olds to ever play this game at the NBA level. The scary part? There's plenty of room for improvement.

He is, as I've already mentioned, the leading-by-a-longshot Rookie of the Year and a young man who is on the verge of becoming just the fourth player in league history to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game as a rookie. For those of you who somehow haven't seen that stat yet, that's a club that only Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James have access cards to.

Maybe it's just a matter of taste, but I would much rather take the measured and healthy approach to handling a young player as opposed to calling him great before he can legally go to a bar and waiting for him to live up to that unfair billing. I don't see that happening, though, and I suppose anyone who doesn't play that game will be treated accordingly. - Sam Amick

FINAL (Kings 113, Raptors 90)

Just about everything went right in the second half. The Kings scored 73 points to turn this game into a laugher.

Tyreke Evans didn't disappoint on the night dedicated to celebrating his push for Rookie of the Year. He recorded his first career triple double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Beno Udrih made 10 of 14 shots to lead all scorers with 24 points. The Kings shot 50.5 percent and dominated the glass with a 52-33 rebounding edge. They also had 27 assists with only 11 turnovers.

Sacramento had just three turnovers in the second half.

Andrea Bargnani led the Rapters with 20 points.

--Jason Jones


THIRD QUARTER (Kings 83, Raptors 68)

After a miserable offensive performance in the first half, the Kings made 18 0f 24 shots in the third.

Sacramento opened the period on a 15-3 run that sparked a 43-point quarter.

Beno Udrih ended the third with a jumper at the buzzer and leads all scorers with 22 points and seven assists. Tyreke Evans has 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Carl Landry made all five of his shots in the quarter and now has 12 points.

Chris Bosh is struggling for Toronto in his third game back from injury. He's 5 of 17 with 11 points.

--Jason Jones


SECOND QUARTER (Toronto 45, Kings 40)

The offensive woes that were so bad last night in Portland have continued for the Kings, who have shot 39.1 percent in the first half. Beno Udrih is pretty much the only proficient scorer, as he has 13 points on six of eight shooting.

Carl Landry and Omri Casspi are a combined 1 for 12, and the Kings haven't helped their own cause with eight turnovers. The Raptors have been led by Andrea Bargnani's 11 points.

FIRST QUARTER (Toronto 25, Kings 24)

The Raptors - who are less than 24 hours removed from their heartbreaking loss to the Lakers - don't look quite as sluggish as the Kings had hoped.

But Beno Udrih has helped get the home team off to a good start, scoring 11 points on five of six shooting.

FOURTH QUARTER (Portland 88, Kings 81)

PORTLAND, Ore. - I've got to run to the locker room, but enjoy these nightmarish offensive numbers - click here if you dare.

THIRD QUARTER (Portland 73, Kings 62)

Five turnovers and the continuation of inefficient offense hurt the Kings in the third.

They went on a 14-4 run to cut the Blazers' lead to 58-56, but Andres Nocioni - who started in Donte' Greene's spot to start the second half - blew a layup and Tyreke Evans was stripped on a fastbreak layup attempt as momentum switched. I know that's extra brief and all, but I need to watch this action.

SECOND QUARTER (Portland 52, Kings 42)

Everyone was getting involved for the Kings - even Garrett Temple.

The rookie point guard playing on a 10-day contract drove baseline and hit a layup that put the Kings 33-31, but it has been all downhill from there for the visiting team. Portland tore off a 9-0 run, with a Rudy Fernandez three-pointer starting it and a Juwan Howard dunk finishing it.

The Kings have fallen behind in the all-important boards battle (23-21), with LaMarcus Aldridge grabbing all five of his rebounds in the second quarter. Three-time All-Star Brandon Roy has 10 points to lead the Blazers, who are shooting 46.7 percent and didn't have any turnovers in the second quarter. The Kings - who are stagnant offensively and allergic to the notion of passing more than twice in a set - are shooting just 43.9 percent. Carl Landry has a team-high 10 points, while Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih have nine points apiece.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 29, Portland 25)

The Kings are winning with their rebounding.

How many times do you here that about this team? Not often, but that is indeed the case as their control of the glass (13-10) helped them come back from a terrible start in which they trailed 12-2.

There were rebounds to be had, of course, as Portland missed eight of nine shots at one point after hitting six of their first seven to start the game. Kings center Spencer Hawes - whose play is so integral to this team's success or failure - has started off well against the likes of Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard. He has five points, four rebounds and two blocks, while the Kings' scoring has come largely from Carl Landry and Beno Udrih (combined 15 points).

The Blazers' Brandon Roy has eight points, while LaMarcus Aldridge has six.

PRE-GAME

We're a little more than a half hour from tipoff here, but I needed to clarify something real quickly before we get going.

Unbeknownst to me when I wrote this morning's Gameday blog, Ime Udoka is inactive because he is hurt. That wasn't mentioned at shootaround when coach Paul Wespthal said he was inactive. But in all fairness, I didn't ask either.

He has a sprained left knee and left ankle suffered Sunday against Oklahoma City, and is day to day. In other news, Kings rookie guard Tyreke Evans went on KHTK this afternoon to apologize for his comments made to The Bee after the loss to the Thunder on Sunday.

He vented about the rapid-firing ways of Andres Nocioni in the fourth quarter, but has since come to the conclusion that he didn't handle it properly. I'll have more on that in tomorrow's paper, but figured it was worth mentioning now. Otherwise, let the game begin...

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Blazers officials clearly got to Kings coach Paul Westphal as it relates to the Omri Casspi situation, and one can only imagine that the conversation went something like this...

Blazers rep: "Um, hello coach, this is (inaudible). Yeah, I'm just calling to make sure you're not thinking about leaving Omri Casspi in a suit for tonight's game like you did the other night against Oklahoma City. After all, he is Israel's first NBA player and that means we'll have a few hundred Jewish fans at the Rose Garden tonight who wouldn't ordinarily be there. Times are tough for us right now just like everybody else, and we really don't want to have to hand out refunds unnecessarily. Is he really that tired?"

Westphal: "Oh, good gracious. He's fine. We're playing him."

Or something like that...

Kidding aside, Westphal said at this morning's shootaround that Casspi will indeed be available to play tonight. The coach is still concerned about Casspi's energy level, but apparently not enough to give him another night of rest.

"I still think he's kind of worn down, but he'll have a uniform and we'll see how it goes," Westphal said at the Rose Garden.

I noticed a few fans wondering if Casspi was perhaps ill. And while I had heard nothing even remotely implying that was the case, I relayed the question Westphal's way just to be sure.

"Not that we know of," he answered. "There's nothing that we know about that is unrevealed. I'm being as open as I can be. His effectiveness has gone down a little bit, and I think it's because he's tired. Simple as that."

Point guard Beno Udrih will play as well, which we note only because he banged the inside of his right ankle in the last game and was a tad questionable for tonight. That means the starting lineup - No. 26, for those who are counting - remains the same. What a concept.

As for who is inactive, that would be Ime Udoka, Joey Dorsey and the injured Jon Brockman. You can bet that Udoka was the most surprised of the bunch, as he had become a Westphal favorite late in games recently and averaged 14.8 minutes in the last eight games. And those numbers even include a 30-second stint during that span.

We have plenty of linkage and good reads below, but I wanted to provide a bit of highlight reel action as well. Portland point guard Andre Miller - whose Sacramento ties I wrote about not too long ago - had a wicked dunk the other day...

Jason Thompson hadn't seen or heard about that dunk, so Udrih was kind enough to duplicate it for him after Tuesday's shootaround. OK, so maybe he didn't exactly duplicate it - he did a weak walkthrough version of it on the Rose Garden floor while in his socks. Although that makes one wonder: if people were surprised by Miller getting up like that (and they were), can you imagine if Udrih uncorked a similar slam?

From The Bee

'Casspi may need more time to rest,' By Sam Amick

From the Oregonian

'Marcus Camby will play against Kings,' By Joe Freeman

'Live Chat: Kings at Blazers,' By Oregonian staff

'Tyreke Evans remains ROY frontrunner, but...' By Geoffrey C. Arnold

GAMEPLAN

Kings (21-42) at Portland (37-28)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: The Rose Garden.

TV:
CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: The countdown is at eight. And, no, we're not talking about the number of wins the Kings hope to secure between now and season's end. That's how many games they have left until their five-game, eight-day trip that will be as tough as any getaway they have this season. Only two of the next eight games are on the road.

Blazers update: Nate McMillan wasn't trying to be funny, but there was something absurdly comical about the way the Blazers' coach summed up his team's latest injury Sunday: "Now, even our injured players are getting injured," he told reporters in Denver. He was referring to center Joel Pryzbilla, who was already out for the season with a ruptured right patella tendon but who re-ruptured it Saturday falling in his shower at home. It has been that sort of season for Portland, but the Blazers still have won seven of their past 11 games.

PROBABLE STARTERS

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

19 Beno Udrih PG

13 Tyreke Evans SG

20 Donté Greene SF

24 Carl Landry PF

31 Spencer Hawes C

TRAIL BLAZERS

No. Player Pos.

24 Andre Miller PG

7 Brandon Roy SG

88 Nicolas Batum SF

12 LaMarcus Aldridge PF

6 Juwan Howard C

-- Sam Amick

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook's eye looked fine in the fourth quarter.

After having stitches put in his right eye, he came back late in the third quarter and dominated the fourth quarter. He drove through the Kings defense repeatedly to get 13 of his 21 points for the game.

After making it close in the third, the Kings couldn't breakthrough against the Thunder. Kings never pulled closer than within two points in the fourth.

Tyreke Evans led the Kings with 24 points and seven assists. Carl Landry had 20 points and eight rebounds.

Thunder forward Kevin Durant had 27 points to lead all scorers.

The Kings (21-42) gave up 23 second-chance points. Oklahoma City (38-24) also had a 45-33 edge in rebounding.

The Kings didn't help themselves by making just 15 of 24 free throws (62.5 percent).

--Jason Jones


THIRD QUARTER (Thunder 81, Kings 79)

The Kings withstood a good quarter from Kevin Durant and countered with a good effort from Tyreke Evans to keep the game close.

Evans hit a three at the buzzer to give him 12 points in the third and 19 for the game. He's tied for the team lead with Carl Landry who also had a strong showing in the third.

Durant has a game-high 25 points. The Thunder played much of the third without Russell Westbrook. He left early in the third after being cut on his right eye thanks to an accidental poke by Landry.

--Jason Jones
.


SECOND QUARTER (Oklahoma City 57, Kings 52)

Two of the league's youngest teams are putting on a decent show at Arco Arena tonight.

The Kings have played well enough to agitate the Thunder, as evidenced by second-quarter technical fouls assessed to superstar Kevin Durant and partner in hoops crime Russell Westbrook. Nonetheless, Durant has been plenty effective in scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds. Westbrook has struggled, but reserve rookie shooting guard James Harden has hit five of eight shots and scored 14 points.

The Kings have been led by forward Carl Landry (11 points) but their backcourt of Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih is a combined 5 of 15. The Kings are getting beaten badly on the boards (23-13) with center Spencer Hawes struggling again just as he did when these teams played Tuesday. He has just one rebound in 15 minutes, while Nenad Krstic has seven boards in 14 minutes.

FIRST QUARTER (Oklahoma City 26, Kings 25)

First things first, we have a few lineup updates. Kings rookie small forward Omri Casspi is inactive for tonight, with coach Paul Westphal deciding that he is fatigued and simply needs the night off. Casspi has been struggling mightily in recent weeks, and the obvious hope for Westphal and the Kings is that he can, as Westphal said, "recharge his batteries."

Also, second-year forward Jason Thompson has returned from his Feb. 23 back injury and contributed four points and a rebound in five first-quarter minutes. Otherwise, Donte' Greene and Carl Landry have scored a combined 13 points for the Kings while Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha have 20 points for the Thunder.

Tyreke Evans is just 1 of 4 thus far, while Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is 1 of 5. - Sam Amick

I'm Tweeting the game as always too, so follow me here.

***
FOURTH QUARTER (Dallas 108, Kings 100)

DALLAS - The Kings staged quite a comeback, cutting the Mavs' lead to 102-100 with 1:37 remaining when Tyreke Evans' driving layup in traffic fell through.

But Evans - who scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter - was stripped by Caron Butler in the lane on the Kings' next possession. After two Dirk Nowitzki free throws pushed the lead to four, an Evans pass in the lane careened off Carl Landry and resulted in yet another turnover.

The Kings - who averaged 10.8 turnovers in the last five games - had 17 against Dallas that led to 24 points. Nowitzki overcame a slow shooting start to his night, finishing with 31 points on 12 of 26 shooting as the Mavs won their 10th straight game.

THIRD QUARTER (Dallas 85, Kings 72)

The Mavs finished the quarter on a 9-1 run, and took full advantage of a period in which the Kings gave up seven of their 11 turnovers.

The Kings cooled offensively, hitting just 7 of 19 from the field while scoring just 19 points. Meanwhile, Dallas' 33-point period included 11 of 19 shooting and eight points apiece from Dirk Nowitzki (16 points on 7 of 19) and Jason Kidd (15 points on five of seven shooting, 10 assists).

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 53, Dallas 52)

The Kings have gone toe to toe with a team seen by many as a legit contender for the Western Conference crown at American Airlines Center tonight.

And they've done so largely without much help from rookie guard Tyreke Evans.

He is 1 of 5 from the field, having faced a tough combination of defenders in DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler and the like. But backcourt mate Beno Udrih has hit six of eight shots and has 17 points, while forward Carl Landry has 12 points on five of five shooting.

The Kings have hit 6 of 10 threes, with Udrih, Ime Udoka and Andres Nocioni (eight points) hitting a combined six of seven. Nocioni is playing in his first game since serving his two-game suspension related to his DUI charge.

Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki is just 4 of 13 from the floor, but rookie Rodrigue Beaubois has exploded for 16 points on six of 11 shooting.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 26, Dallas 24)

The Kings adjusted well to the Mavericks' gameplan to stop Tyreke Evans, with Beno Udrih, Spencer Hawes and Carl Landry picking up the offensive duty by scoring a combined 23 points on 11 of 15 shooting.

Dallas has put DeShawn Stevenson on Evans, just as Houston put Shane Battier on him the other night. If his teammates keep this up, however, they could have one heck of an upset.

I'll be Tweeting during tonight's game as well as doing the in-game blog, so follow me by clicking here.

***

So as we discussed in today's paper, the Tyreke Evans-Beno Udrih pairing is working fairly well these days. But this offense still has plenty of room for improvement, especially the newest model.

Since adding forward Carl Landry to the mix, the Kings are averaging just 93.8 points per game. The recent win over Utah should be the DVD each Kings player watches before every game, as the Kings did their best impression yet of the Jazz themselves with the way they shared the ball and pushed the tempo. And while the topic of how to use Landry certainly comes into play, Evans and Udrih and how they run that end of the show remains most relevant.

As such, Kings coach Paul Westphal weighed in on his team's scoring state as it currently stands.

WESTPHAL

"There are still kinks to get out, but I like that we're getting into our offense sooner, we're moving the ball better and involving more people. In general, I think that it's a credit to the backcourt and also to Spencer (Hawes) because he gives us another ball-mover and I think that Carl is a very versatile player too. He doesn't have to be in just one spot to be respected by the defense. We're a lot harder to guard because we have a lot of versatile players out there."

On a comment Udrih recently made that the first pass needs to come earlier in the shot clock...

"To say the first pass (should come early), I agree with that too. But what I really want is the first attacking event to be earlier in the clock, like at 17. Sometimes you might not make the first pass, but if you set a high screen and somebody gets to the paint, that's good. What we don't want is stagnation, where we don't know what we're running and don't know where we should be and are looking at each other saying, 'Now what?' We're not trying to run the shot clock down and shorten the game. We're not a ball control team. We want to get into it and take a good shot when a good shot comes."

From The Bee

'Success of Evans-Udrih pairing pleasantly surprising the Kings,' By Sam Amick

'Landry's presence sparks Kings offense,' By Sam Amick

From the Dallas Morning News

'Mavericks a 'danger' team among the West's Elite Eight,' By Eddie Sefko

'Terry to miss anywhere from seven days to two months,' By Eddie Sefko

'Mavericks should have gotten tougher, DeShawn Stevenson says,' By Eddie Sefko

GAMEPLAN

TONIGHT'S GAME
KINGS (21-40) AT DALLAS (41-21)
When:
5:30 p.m.
Where: American Airlines Center
TV: CSNCA.
Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: Contrary to last season, the Kings have shown an ability to handle themselves quite well in tight games. They are 14-10 in games decided by six points or less, and this one certainly qualifies as a game in which simply being close would be a moral victory in and of itself. It's the beginning of a brutal stretch, as the Kings face teams that are in playoff position in seven of their next eight games. They've lost twice to the Mavericks already, falling 104-102 at Dallas on Nov. 20 and 99-91 on Jan. 2 at Arco Arena.

Mavericks update: The Mavericks' current nine-game winning streak is their longest since they won nine straight in March of 2007. More than that, though, they are 9-1 since the trade that brought them Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood and looking every bit like a team that could challenge the Lakers for Western Conference supremacy. Despite Butler's 6 of 15 outing in a win over Minnesota on Wednesday, he has added a two-way toughness on the perimeter that they so badly needed.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.
19 Beno Udrih PG
13 Tyreke Evans PG
18 Omri Casspi SF
24 Carl Landry PF
31 Spencer Hawes C

MAVERICKS

No. Player Pos.
2 Jason Kidd PG
4 Caron Butler SF
0 Shawn Marion SF
41 Dirk Nowitzki PF
33 Brendan Haywood C - Sam Amick

I'm chatting about this game on Twitter as well, so follow that digital conversation here.

***

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 84, Rockets 81)

HOUSTON - In the ugliest of games, Carl Landry was pretty darned good.

The Kings forward who was playing his old team for the first time since he was traded to Sacramento on Feb. 17 scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lift his new team at the Toyota Center.

The Kings nearly gave a seemingly-sealed-up game away late, as they led by seven with 3:09 remaining after Landry's right hook over Jared Jeffries fell through. The lead was cut to two after a Kevin Martin free throw, a Jeffries putback layup and an Aaron Brooks layup on the break.

Up 82-80 with a chance to wrap up the win with less than 20 seconds left, rookie guard Tyreke Evans - who was 4 of 17 from the field at the time - took a 20-footer from the right wing after nary a pass. On the other end, Evans' attempt to pickpocket Brooks above the free throw line resulted in a foul. Brooks, however, missed the first of two free throws and left it at 82-81.

The Kings were able to hold on from there, if only barely. Landry buried his two free throws with four seconds left to push the lead to three, and Brooks missed an open three at the buzzer that would've tied it.

Martin, who spent his first five-plus seasons in Sacramento before the trade, scored just 14 points on 3 of 13 shooting. Evans was locked down by Shane Battier, scoring just nine points on 4 of 22 shooting.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 69, Rockets 65)

On a night in which the Kings offense is as ineffective as it has been all season, forward Carl Landry has never been better.

The former Rocket has 18 points through three quarters, having hit 6 of 11 shots in a variety of fashions. He has helped counter Houston's significant defensive edge otherwise known as Shane Battier, who has locked Tyreke Evans up and forced him into 3 of 14 shooting and just six points. The other player of note on this night, former Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin, has 11 points on 3 of 12 shooting.

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 43, Rockets 37)

Somebody call the Elias Sports Bureau, because there's no way this happens all that often - if ever.

The Kings have themselves a nice lead despite shooting 29.5 percent from the floor. Most of that lead was earned in the final three seconds of the half: Carl Landry hit two free throws, and the Rockets coughed up the ball on the inbounds pass past halfcourt. Francisco Garcia took a pass from Ime Udoka, then buried a three-pointer from way beyond the line on the left wing at the buzzer.

In all, Landry is the offensive aberration, scoring 12 points on four of six shooting to go with six rebounds. Take away Garcia's two of three shooting, and the remainder of the Kings have hit 12 of 52 (23 percent). The Rockets haven't been much better, hitting just 36.1 percent of their shots and giving up 10 turnovers to the Kings' three. Former Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin has seven points on 2 of 8 shooting.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 22, Rockets 17)

Fascinating game here at the Toyota Center. It's obviously the reunion game relating to the Feb. 17 trade, and Carl Landry is easily the most popular guy in the building. They ran a tribute video for the third-year player who was such a positive presence here, and he has repaid his old fans by scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds in the first quarter.

Neither squad is shooting well, with the Rockets at 37.5 percent and the Kings at 39.3 percent. Former Kings shooting guar Kevin Martin has seven points on 2 of 5 shooting and has been guarded by both Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih. Evans - who has four points and three rebounds - has a tough night ahead as Rockets coach Rick Adelman has put Shane Battier on him.

HOUSTON - Back-to-back sets mean more than tired legs and off-target jumpers for the players involved. It means frantic sports writers too.

And, yes, that's an excuse for what will be an extremely thin Gameday blog today. We have plenty of material to get into tonight, with the Rockets and Kings facing off for the first time since trading their respective core players in the three-team, nine-player deal with New York Feb. 17.

Kevin Martin will obviously be looking to down his old squad, while Carl Landry will want to have bragging rights on Chuck Hayes with a strong game that he certainly hopes ends in a Kings win. That coverage, however, will be tomorrow's news. As for today, the expected signing of Garrett Temple has taken place.

Take a peek at the previous blog post or today's Kings notes to learn more about him, but his agent, John Hamilton, just informed me the 10-day contract has been signed.

From The Bee

'Kings can't stop Durant, surging Thunder,' By Sam Amick

'Kings' Nocioni suspended for two games,' By Sam Amick

'Landry to face his former team,' By Sam Amick

From The Houston Chronicle

'Rockets-Kings reunion not the time for sentimentality,' By Jonathan Feigen

'Rockets trade looks better with each game,' By Richard Justice

TONIGHT'S GAME

Kings (20-40) at Houston (30-29)

When: 5:30 p.m. Where: Toyota Center.

TV: CSNCA. Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: This may be the third of four meetings between the teams, but the respective rosters obviously look much different this time around. The Kings continue to try to integrate Carl Landry, the former Houston forward who was traded to Sacramento with Joey Dorsey on Feb. 17. While the teams have split the first two meetings, the last time the Kings beat the Rockets in Houston was Jan. 11, 2006 (88-80).

Rockets update: The Rockets are 2-4 since acquiring former Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin, but they appear to be playing better lately. They have won two of their last three games, against San Antonio and Toronto, while Martin has averaged 31 points in that span. They gave up 133 points in a loss to Utah, but it came without renowned defender Shane Battier. An injury to Trevor Ariza moved Martin into the starting lineup three games ago.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

19 Beno Udrih PG

13 Tyreke Evans SG

18 Omri Casspi SF

24 Carl Landry PF

31 Spencer Hawes C

ROCKETS

No. Player Pos.

0 Aaron Brooks PG

12 Kevin Martin SG

31 Shane Battier SF

4 Luis Scola PF

44 Chuck Hayes C - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Oklahoma City 113, Kings 107)

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Kings are hoping to follow the Thunder's blueprint to rebuilding as their plan to regain prominence.

On this night, they weren't as far behind one might think.

Thanks largely to a 27-point, five-assist, six-rebound, two-steal outing from rookie guard Tyreke Evans, they hung with the NBA's surprise team until the end. But MVP candidate Kevin Durant (39 points on 13 of 26 shooting and 10 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (30 points, 13 assists, five rebounds) were simply two too much to handle.

The Kings' frontcourt was the weak link, as they were outrebounded 43 to 32 overall and 17 to eight on the offensive glass. After two strong outings, third-year center Spencer Hawes could grab just three rebounds in 31 minutes while scoring just eight points. Thunder center Nenad Krstic had 14 points and nine rebounds.

THIRD QUARTER (Oklahoma City 90, Kings 82)

OKLAHOMA CITY - Despite a 12-point quarter from Tyreke Evans, the Kings continues to trail because the stops just aren't there. They had been feeling better about their defense of late, but the frontcourt play is subpar once again and Evans is being abused by Russell Westbrook (24 points, 13 assists).

The Thunder are shooting 57.9 percent.

SECOND QUARTER (Oklahoma City 65, Kings 58)

The Kings were good in the first half, but the Thunder were better.

It really was as simple as that, and no sequence symbolized it better than the one at the end of the first half. After a Francisco Garcia three-pointer slowed Oklahoma City's strong finish, Russell Westbrook ran the length of the court and buried an off-balance, banked three-pointer over Tyreke Evans at the buzzer.

Westbrook has been unreal, scoring 18 points on six of seven shooting and dishing out nine assists. Kevin Durant has 22 points on 7 of 9 shooting. The Thunder are shooting a ridiculous 66.7 percent (24 of 36).

Evans has 12 points for the Kings and Garcia has 10 while they are shooting 53.7 percent collectively.

FIRST QUARTER (Oklahoma City, 28, Kings 25)

The Kings recovered nicely at the end of a lackluster first quarter, scoring eight points in the final 1:09 of play to cut into a Thunder lead that was as large as 10 points.

They simply can't slown down the up-tempo Thunder, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combining for 20 points on 6 of 9 shooting.

BLOG UPDATE (7:15 p.m. Central): I'm being told that Temple will join the Kings tonight in Houston and sign a 10-day contract with them tomorrow.

BLOG UPDATE (4:15 p.m. Central): A source with knowledge of the situation says it looks like Temple will join the Kings soon, but it's uncertain whether he would be ready to play against his old team tomorrow night or wait to hit the floor on Friday at Dallas. Temple has two other 10-day contract offers, but all signs indicate he likes the Kings' situation best.

OKLAHOMA CITY - Andres Nocioni obviously isn't available to guard Kevin Durant tonight, so Kings coach Paul Westphal will have to look elsewhere for defensive options on the Oklahoma City star.

The third-year player has been unreal this season, and it's worth peeking at his game-by-game (link here) to admire his work. As for who gets the duty of guarding him, Westphal shared his thoughts at this morning's shoot-a-round.

"Actually, we've got several players we'll try on him," Westphal said. "Omri (Casspi) will start on him, Donte' (Greene) will get a piece of him. I think that probably our best chance as far as a guy who can make it tough on him is maybe Dominic McGuire, and also Ime (Udoka) can chase him around some.
"(Udoka) really understands angles and everything. When we beat them in Sacramento (on Nov. 10), Nocioni guarded him the whole game and really made it tough on him. Even though he had 37, he earned every point he got. Everybody knows you're not going to shut that guy down. The main thing is you want to make him work, to make him make field goals and not free throws."

As an addendum, I'm told that an ESPN.com tweet indicating the Kings will sign guard Garrett Temple on a 10-day contract is not done yet. Assuming it gets done, the 6-foot-5, 23-year-old Temple will bring another up-tempo scoring option and respected defender to the Kings. He was averaging 14.9 points per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season in the D-League. He is long and well respected on the defensive end, which is likely the main reason the Kings looked his way. Temple had two 10-day contracts with the Rockets, who elected to let him go.

From The Bee

'Garcia keeping things light with Kings, in the weight room,' By Ailene Voisin

'Late lapses prove costly to the Kings,' By Sam Amick and Phillip Reese

From the Oklahoman

'February success has OKC in the hunt,' By Mike Baldwin

GAMEPLAN

TONIGHT'S GAME
KINGS (20-39) AT OKLAHOMA CITY (35-23)
When:
5 p.m.
Where: Ford Center
TV: CSNCA.
Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: Winning two games in a row is rare enough for the Kings, who did it for just the second time since mid-December with this week's wins over Utah and the Clippers. But three in a row? That's almost unheard of. They haven't done it since winning four in a row against New York, New Jersey, New Orleans and Indiana in a stretch that started on Nov. 25 and ended on Dec. 2.

Thunder update: When Thunder coach Scott Brooks and his boys ran roughshod over the Kings in a season-opening win on Oct. 28 (102-89), no one knew that would become a regular part of Oklahoma City's routine. They've been the surprise team of the league this season, with Kevin Durant having an MVP-caliber season and his supporting cast headed by Russell Westbrook keeping pace. The Thunder have won 11 of their last 13 games.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.
19 Beno Udrih PG
13 Tyreke Evans PG
18 Omri Casspi SF
24 Carl Landry PF
31 Spencer Hawes C

THUNDER

No. Player Pos.
0 Russell Westbrook PG
2 Thabo Sefolosha SG
35 Kevin Durant SF
22 Jeff Greene F
12 Nenad Krstic C - Sam Amick

OKLAHOMA CITY - Kings small forward Andres Nocioni wil miss tonight's game against Oklahoma City and tomorrow's game against Houston while serving a league-mandated suspension, the NBA announced today.

Nocioni was arrested early on the morning of Nov. 5 for driving under the influence and plead no contest on Feb. 22. Nocioni will also serve two days in a work program operated by the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. He also must complete a three-month alcohol class, pay a $480 fine and court penalties and serve three years' probation. - Sam Amick

FINAL (Kings 97, Clippers 92)

Tyreke Evans had 22 points, including four late points that prevented the Clippers from rallying from 16 points down.

Rasual Butler's three pointer made it 91-90 with 2:07 to go. But Chris Kaman's turnover on the on the ensuing possession after Kings' miss set up Evans to take over.

Ime Udoka came up with the steal and who tossed the ball back in play while falling out of bounds. Spencer Hawes came up with the ball at midcourt and Evans did the rest.

The play set up the first of two consecutive baskets from Evans to give the Kings a 95-90 lead.

Spencer Hawes finished with 16 points and nine rebounds for the Kings. Carl Landry had 18 points and rebounds.

Kaman led the Clippers with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Drew Gooden added 17 points and eight rebounds.

It was an off night for Baron Davis, who made just five of 17.

The Clippers' 92 points was the fewest the Kings have allowed this season.

--Jason Jones


THIRD QUARTER (Kings 76, Clippers 68)

This game feels like the Kings are up by a lot more, especially since the Clippers are shooting 37.1 percent. But The Kings made just six of 23 shots in the third to allow the Clippers to stay close.

Chris Kaman now has 16 points and nine rebounds. Spencer Hawes, who started off hot with 16 points in the first half, is still stuck on 16. Hawes does lead the Kings with eight rebounds.

--Jason Jones

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 56, Clippers 42)

Spencer Hawes has always been able to shoot, but this is ridiculous. The third-year center is hitting jumpers, hook shots, aggressive driving layups and doing all of it while in motion. A game of H-O-R-S-E that comes with set feet this is not. Nonetheless, he has hit 8 of 12 shots and has a game-high 16 points to go with five rebounds in 21 minutes.

The Kings are shooting 52.2 percent overall, again pushing the tempo and moving the ball like they did in Friday's win over Utah and controlling the ball (five turnovers). The Clippers are shooting just 35 percent, with Drew Gooden and Chris Kaman scoring a team-high eight points apiece.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 32, Clippers 18)

In what was perhaps the Kings' strongest finish to a quarter of the season, they ended on a 20-4 run capped by Spencer Hawes' 17-footer from the left wing at the buzzer.

While the Kings center is off to another good start (10 points, three rebounds), it's point guard Beno Udrih who is again playing at a very high level. He has seven points, three assists and three rebounds. The Clippers - who beat the Kings handily at the Staples Center on Feb. 20 - hit just 3 of their final 16 shots of the period after starting four of five from the field.

February 26, 2010
In-game blog (Utah at Kings)

FINAL (Kings, 103 Jazz 99)

The Kings' poor free throw shooting helped keep it close, but they over came that and Utah's rebounding edge to end a five-game losing streak.

Tyreke Evans had 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Beno Udrih had a season-high 25 points.

The Kings (19-39) were 16 of 28 from the free throw line (57.1 percent) and were outrebounded 48-37 by Utah (37-21).

The Kings won by making 70.6 percent of their shots in the fourth (12 of 17) to overcome making 4 of 10 free throws.

The Kings shot 54.5 percent for the game while the Jazz struggled and made just 40.9 percent from the floor. Utah stayed close with 18 second-chance points.

Carlos Boozer led the Jazz with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Deron William had 10 points and 13 assists, but shot 4 of 16.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 75, Jazz 75)

The Kings are still hot on offense, having made 50 percent from the floor. Tyreke Evans is close to his first triple double as a pro with 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Much like he did earlier this season, Beno Udrih (14 points) is playing well with Evans.

The Jazz are still hanging around because they've outrebounded the Kings, 39-29. The Jazz are shooting just 39.4 percent. Carlos Boozer has 20 points and nine rebounds.

--Jason Jones


SECOND QUARTER (Jazz 50, Kings 49)

The strong play continues for the Kings, who are shooting 47.6 percent and led by 10 points apiece from Tyreke Evans and Spencer Hawes. Both have been outstanding, with Hawes adding three assists and seven rebounds while Evans also has four assists and five rebounds.

The Jazz are shooting just 41.3 percent against a more-active-than-normal Kings defense, but Andrei Kirilenko's 12 points have helped put them ahead.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 25, Jazz 20)

Huge kudos to Paul Westphal and Spencer Hawes, who decided to flip this tense situation on its head and provide a laugh before the game that led to a more-loose team during it.
After the coach and third-year center feuded over Tuesday's Bee story on playing time and rotations and Hawes was benched against Detroit that night, they orchestrated a hilarious pre-tipoff scene in which the 21-year-old and 59-year-old exchanged a low-five, high-five and ridiculously-funny chest bump that nearly took Westphal's suit jacket off.
As for the actual game, the Kings have moved the ball beautifully en route to their early lead. Beno Udrih - who started with Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Carl Landry, and Spencer Hawes - has 10 points on four of six shooting. Hawes has been phenomenal, hitting a strong putback layup and a three for five point while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out two assists. - Sam Amick

February 23, 2010
Kings waive Hughes

The Kings waived guard Larry Hughes today after they agreed to a buyout, according to a source close to Hughes.

Hughes never played a game for the Kings after he was acquired from the Knicks in three-team deal with the Rockets.

Hughes was scheduled to make $13,65 million this season.

The Kings announced that Hughes had been waived this afternoon.

--Sam Amick.

February 22, 2010
Moving past Martin

Maybe it was done to expedite the process of removing Kevin Martin's likeness from anything Kings-related, or perhaps it was a way of making Francisco Garcia feel better after he didn't play at Phoenix on Sunday.

Whatever the motive, the Kings wasted no time moving past Martin on Monday.

The picture below was taken as you enter Arco Arena through the security door, and the mural was photographed before Martin was traded to Houston on Thursday.

Mural.JPG

In the post-Martin era, however, Garcia has apparently been unofficially promoted. Now whether that's because of his true standing in the eyes of the organization or because his body (skinny guard) and number (32 compared to Martin's 23) made the switch so easy for the artist? That's up for debate. Nonetheless, I wanted to provide a unique look at the periphery aspect of trades that often go overlooked. This is just one of many changes that will have to be made by the Kings, as Martin's face is on billboards all over town after they tapped into the local creativity earlier this season

- Sam Amick

February 20, 2010
Kings in-game blog

Fourth quarter: Clippers 99, Kings 89

Carl Landry had 10 points and eight rebounds in his Kings debut, but six of his points came during garbage time in the fourth quarter. The Kings needed more than single-digit scoring from Francisco Garcia (seven points) and Jason Thompson (nine), not to mention slowing Clippers guard Eric Gordon to something below his output of 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Gordon was strong at the finish, scoring 14 in the final quarter to Staples Center chants of "MVP!"

Third quarter: Clippers 77, Kings 68

Kings rookie small forward Omri Casspi scored nine of his 15 points in the third quarter as the Kings cut ever so slightly into the Clippers' 15-point halftime lead. It was all Casspi and Tyreke Evans, as the rookie guard scored 11 points in deliberate fashion. The Kings picked up their defensive intensity and held the Clippers to 5-of-17 shooting in the third, not to mention limiting their turnovers to two (13 overall).

Second quarter: Clippers 60, Kings 45

After an Evans layup early in the second quarter put the Kings up 24-21, the Clippers put together a 23-8 run that featured the same disjointed defense the Kings displayed before this week's roster shakeup.

No one has bothered to guard Rasual Butler on the perimeter, so he has four three-pointers and 12 points at the break. Chris Kaman (15 points, eight rebounds) is either finishing putbacks or snickering as he buries jumpers that Spencer Hawes apparently isn't aware he can hit. Gordon can't decide whether he wants to muscle through the marshmallow interior defense or punish them from long range, so he has done both en route to 14 points.

Meanwhile, Landry has gone quiet (three points, five rebounds) while Evans was mostly mum until late (eight points, three assists).

First quarter: Kings 22, Clippers 21

Landry wasted no time producing for the Kings. He scored their first basket in the kind of way that Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie had wanted when he traded for him this week. The former Houston forward received the ball on the left block, double-pumped, then fought through Clippers big men Chris Kaman and Butler for a layup and the foul that turned into a three-point play.

It has been a shared effort from there, with Casspi scoring six points and Jason Thompson contributing five points and four rebounds. The Clippers missed their first five shots but then hit six of their next eight. Butler has a team-high nine points.

The Kings' lead would be bigger if Hawes hadn't blown a dunk on the break to end the period.

-- Sam Amick

It's certainly a day to move forward, with the Kings about to get their first look at their new team today in LA-LA land. With that in mind, be sure to stick with this post until the end as there is video of new King Carl Landry discussing tonight's game against the Clippers.

But the trade that sent Kevin Martin to Houston and brought Landry to the Kings will be a topic of discussion for quite some time, and Kings coach Paul Westphal was among those wanted to weigh in at yesterday's practice. After raving about Landry and what he'll bring, Westphal had something to say on the topic of how he used Martin.

As I detailed in this story, Martin certainly didn't think he was utilized effectively in Westphal's offense. From his vantage point, this coaching staff was far too reluctant to speak up when his younger teammates looked past him like he was the Invisible Man. He longed for more sets that fit his style, stagger screens and the like a la vintage Rip Hamilton in Detroit or Ray Allen in Boston.

Martin didn't help the situation with his passive aggressive ways, keeping his true feelings to himself and those closest to him while letting his oft-negative body language do all the talking around the team. He was well aware that there weren't many Martin believers left, and clearly he was right.

But as far as the Xs and Os and how he was used, Westphal took umbrage at the notion that he didn't run offensive sets for Martin.

"He got 20 points a game shooting under 40 percent," Westphal said. "He got a lot of shots and a lot of stuff run for him. I think a lot of it might have been timing, coming back from the injury, and confidence and stuff like that, but I resent a little bit acting like we forgot about Kevin and didn't feature him. (After) almost every time out, we ran something for him. I think he's going to do great in the new system and he'll be real good, but the implication that we didn't run a lot of stuff for Kevin is not true."

All that being said, it was no coincidence that Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie referenced his coach several times when explaining the trade Thursday. Wespthal's voice was heard loud and clear as it pertained to this trade, which takes us to the present.

The Tyreke Evans-Carl Landry era.

The Kings now have the sort of inside-out game they had dreamed about, and I'm among the many who think they are a better team because of this deal (As for the merits of the trade beyond the talent aspect, I'll be weighing in on that in the next few days).

The players themselves don't know how this will go, but at least it will be interesting to watch.

A quick injury update

Rookie forward Jon Brockman will be out two to four weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered during Friday's practice. As a result new King Joey Dorsey will be active tonight to play the rebounding, tough-guy-off-the-bench role. As for Landry, he is fired up about getting started.

-- Sam Amick

From The Bee

'Landry gives Kings additional toughness,' By Sam Amick

'Ball is in Evans' court, and everyone's watching,' By Ailene Voisin

From The Los Angeles Times

'Clippers are in need of a victory,' By Ben Bolch

'Clippers clear the way for a top free agent,' By Ben Bolch


TONIGHT'S GAME

Kings (18-36) at Clippers (21-33)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles.

TV: CSNCA. Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: The 23rd starting lineup of the season includes the return of Jason Thompson to the starting lineup, new addition Carl Landry and Francisco Garcia, who returned from injury this week. Landry might have won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award had he stayed in Houston the rest of the season. Now the league will see how he produces as a starter as he becomes the Kings' primary option in the post.

Clippers update: Los Angeles has an All-Star center in Chris Kaman. The Clippers also have some new players courtesy of two trades. One player will be familiar to Kings fans, as oft-dealt Drew Gooden had a brief stint with the Kings last season. With first overall draft pick Blake Griffin having missed the season because of a knee injury, the Clippers appear to be preparing for next season.

Probable starting lineups

Kings

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans PG

32 Francisco Garcia SG

18 Omri Casspi SF

24 Carl Landry PF

34 Jason Thompson C

Clippers

No. Player Pos.

1 Baron Davis PG

10 Eric Gordon SG

45 Rasual Butler SF

9 DeAndre Jordan PF

35 Chris Kaman C

You folks may have noticed the last post disappeared regarding the Dan Fegan part of today's Kevin Martin story, so let me explain.

It was a gaffe on my part to focus on our editing process in the newsroom, so that is the reason the post was taken down. The original point, of course, was to share more background, information and insight relating to Martin's exodus that is very relevant. So let's do just that...

To be clear: Dan Fegan represented Ricky Rubio, who was passed up by the Kings on draft day in favor of Kings rookie Tyreke Evans.

That really should be duly noted, because Fegan - who represents Martin - was quoted in today's print story saying he thinks the drafting of Evans led to Martin's departure. There is also this reality: Martin's hiring of Fegan didn't sit well with Petrie, as the agent is among the most influential in the game and known for putting serious pressure on teams if his guy doesn't want to be in the current locale.

When Martin signed with Fegan during his time out because of injury this season, the pairing was problematic. Petrie's experience with Fegan in June during the Rubio saga was somewhat contentious, and suddenly here came the prospect of dealing with him again.

And one last clarification about Martin and the lead-up to his departure: it's not as simple as saying he wanted out of Sacramento. He, like so many players around the league who play on subpar teams, was simply dreaming of greener grass. Rather than languish with an organization he wasn't sure could turn it around anytime soon, he wanted to be shipped to a contender.
-- Sam Amick

According to a source close to the Wizards, the Kings will acquire Washington forward Dominic McGuire and cash considerations for a future second round pick. The third-year player is in the final season of a contract that pays him approximately $825,000 this season. - Sam Amick

February 18, 2010
Martin unplugged

The online reporting has changed drastically even from last trading deadline to this one, so be sure to follow the Kings news on www.twitter.com/sam_amick to see it all.

***

Reaction to the trade...

"On the basketball side, I'm ecstatic. I couldn't be any happier with the move that Geoff and the Maloofs made to put me in a great situation. I made a name for myself here, they took a chance on me, and who knows where I'd be now if they didn't make sense.
"But it's just like anything, with these relationships you build up for so long, that's the sad part. I'm sad to be leaving Sac. Just as Corliss referred to me as the Golden Child as far as the perception around here, how the older guys took me under their wing, taught me how to do professional job. I learned a lot from guys like Bobby (Jackson) and Corliss (Williamson), with how they did stuff in the community and how they were professional. I watched a lot of that my first couple years, and then once I got out there in the (lime) light I did a lot of that myself and took pride in it. The Maloofs set an example too - that's the hard part of that deal when it comes to the community part."

On the building negativity that surrounded him the last few seasons and grew to a crescendo locally of late..

"I never paid attention to it, but you can always feel a vibe and honestly I saw firsthand with Webb (Chris Webber), Mike (Bibby), and Peja (Stojakovic), and at the end, it always happens like that. No hard feelings on my end for anybody or anything. I had too many great moments to really look at the last six months or whatever timeline you want to put on it. I had an incredible journey. You go from the 17th man your first year to the first man, I just enjoyed my time here. You're always going to have your highs and low, but it's time to move on and I'm ecstatic about that part."

On his experience this season...

I enjoyed this season. The only thing I didn't enjoy was the injury. You just never know what could've happened if I never would've broke my wrist. I agree with everything you said except that I wasn't distant with my teammates. I was distant last year (when he was injured), but this year I stayed around (the team). You might have seen it this year because a lot of this trade stuff was affecting the whole team, and it was time (laughs). That's why I want to thank Geoff and the Maloofs for putting me in a good situation.

On why he thought it was time considering he's a 27-year-old player in his prime that is in just the second season of his five-year, $55 million deal...

When I was hurt, you look at how guys started to develop. There was a new energy and stuff like that, and now you start to build a system toward their strengths because your main player was out so long. When I say it's time, I was in my prime, I say it's time because the 20-point seasons every year didn't really mean as much to me as they did the first time, the second time, and it was just time for opportunity to showcase it somewhere else.
With a guy like me, I'm going to playing 35 or 40 minutes a night, and that takes a hit on the younger guys who they're so high on. That's why when I came back I was expecting to let people go do what they do and I was just trying to fit in. The only way you're going to let them develop and see what they can hold for the future of the Kings is to make a move with a guy like me. They're just out there trying to make a name for themselves and I'm on the opposite side of the pool.

On whether that created tension between him and his teammates...

I don't think there was any tension, I just think everything was new. Everythign was new, and then I got back out there and some nights I was utilized and some I wasn't. That's just the stuff that tells you it's time. But still, I couldn't ask for a better story as far as where I came into the league and where I'm at, how Sac treated me and how much they have given me. It was all good, and that's why I can walk out of here with my head high and very happy.

How much of you thinking your time was up here was connected to doubts about how long it would take this organization to be competitive again?

Those are things you think about, but the person I am I'm just going to try to come to work and get better every day. Because I know everything usually works out at the end. All I can control is me getting better and then all the other pieces fall into place. If they keep on developing, they're going to have a bright future.

On the fourth-quarter situation against Boston Tuesday and whether his decision not to enter play held any deeper meaning...

Sam, I'd do the same exact thing if it was my first year, sixth-year, or year (No. 15). The guys were rolling, got us a lead. It's like when you're down 10 and then the team's rolling, and sometimes the coaches decide to keep their second unit out there. That was just me with what I call my good nature. Those guys just deserved to be out there. You could look at it how you want, but me and coach (Paul Westphal) were 100 percent on the same page with each other.

On how he sees the fit with the Rockets...

Well the way this trades looking, I really don't think everyone's going to be as excited as me to get to the next stop so they might use all 48 hours (until they have to appear with the new team for physicals). But I think I'll fit in very well. I know that GM (Daryl Morey) has been wanting me for a while; I'm familiar with that coaching staff. They know what I can do, they know my strengths. It's just a team on the rise. They know how to play. You try to make a playoff push this year, and then you look at the bigger picture and getting a healty Yao (Ming) and, 'Wow.' That's all I have to say about that one.

On how exciting it is to reunite with former Kings coach Rick Adelman and his staff...

It's very exciting. You've always got to feel good going to a place that really, really wants you in a trade. You could be on the bad end of a trade and not be excited, but I'm very excited to take on this new opportunity and see what it brings.

That's why I'm so ecstatic about this thing. Rick didn't necessarily make it easy for me. We all know that. I still, to this day, see him as my No. 1 coach - and that staff - because they took the time and effort. Coach Carril took time after every practice, Elston Turner, T.R. Dunn and Bubba (Burrage) in the summer time made it mandatory for me to be in Sacramento to put the work in to make the player I am today. A deal like this, the GM and coach definitely talk and I'm glad Adelman spoke highly of me in that regard. - Sam Amick

The online reporting has changed drastically even from last trading deadline to this one, so be sure to follow the Kings news on www.twitter.com/sam_amick to see it all.

***

BLOG CORRECTION: Hilton Armstrong is headed to Houston after all.

BLOG UPDATE (3:12 p.m.): According to a source close to Kings forward Kenny Thomas, he has been waived after the Kings didn't trade his expiring contract worth $8.5 million this season. That leaves the Kings with 15 players after acquiring Dominic McGuire.

***

By Sam Amick
samick@sacbee.com

A morning later, one thing was certain about the Kings and their unexpected roster shakeup that unfolded Wednesday night: Kevin Martin was gone.
As for everything else, it was uncertain.
But clarity finally came this morning, as a source close to the situation said a three-way trade with Houston and New York was agreed upon. Houston will receive Martin, former Knicks Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries, as well as New York's first-round picks in 2011 and 2012. New York receives Tracy McGrady from the Kings, along with former Kings point guard Sergio Rodriguez. The Kings get Larry Hughes (expiring contract worth $13.6 million) from New York and forward Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey from Houston.
For the Kings, the boon is in the fact that they fortified their frontcourt without taking on Jeffries' contract ($6.8 million expiring after next season). Kings forwards Kenny Thomas or Hilton Armstrong weren't in the trade, after all, as had been originally reported by numerous outlets.

KEVIN MARTIN TRADED TO HOUSTON - Chapter Two

9:42 a.m. - Jumping off from last night's events, sources continues to say it's likely Tracy McGrady is heading for New York. That being the case, the only certainties at this point - and with the trade deadline looming at noon Pacific - are that Kevin Martin will be a Rocket and Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey will be Kings.

Landry is obviously the centerpiece, with the Kings adding to their frontcourt with the third-year player who is having a career year. As for outgoing Kings Kenny Thomas, Sergio Rodriguez, and Hilton Armstrong, they appear to be headed for Houston while the ultimate destination of McGrady remains unknown.

New York and Houston have been working on the McGrady deal for quite some time, and it certainly feels as if the Kings are willing participants to make that deal go down. As one source close to the Knicks told me, "(The Knicks) have been working on this too long to have it not go down." What's more, McGrady is represented by agent Arn Tellem, who just so happens to represent Tyreke Evans as well.

That situation is tailor-made for power play, as Evans is suddenly the most influential King by a longshot and Tellem could - and certainly would - use that leverage to his advantage in these dealings. The Knicks had been offering a package of Larry Hughes (expiring $13.6 million deal), rookie forward Jordan Hill, forward Jared Jeffries ($6.5 million next season) and a draft pick, and that would certainly be the starting point in negotiations with the Kings.

If McGrady comes to Sacramento, I'm told he would immediately pursue a buyout and be looking to sign with Cleveland or the Lakers.

10:34 a.m. - According to a source close to the situation, Tracy McGrady will go to the Knicks, along with former Kings point guard Sergio Rodriguez. The Kings get former Rockets forward Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey and Larry Hughes. Houston gets Kevin Martin, and former Knicks Jared Jeffries and Jordan Hill along with the right to swap first-round picks with New York in 2011 and as well as New York's 2012 first-round pick. The 2012 pick, according to a source, is protected to No. 10.

And Kenny Thomas, who was reportedly in the deal all along, gets to stay in his favorite locale of Sacramento (yes, that was sarcasm). Sam Amick

February 17, 2010
Martin traded to Houston

By Sam Amick
samick@sacbee.com

OAKLAND - When Kevin Martin didn't play in the second half of Wednesday's game against Golden State, it appeared to be the continuation of a bizarre set of circumstances surrounding the team's longest-tenured player.
As it turned out, it was likely the end of his Kings career.
The Kings shooting guard was told at halftime that he looks to be headed for Houston, with coach Paul Westphal relaying word from team basketball president Geoff Petrie that there was an agreement in principle. Sources say the trade also involves Rockets small forward Tracy McGrady, although it is unclear whether he will make it to Sacramento or perhaps be moved again to New York.
The trade was first reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein, with Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the Kings will receive forwards Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey while the Rockets will receive Kings forward Kenny Thomas, Hilton Armstrong and Sergio Rodriguez. The NBA's trade deadline is today at noon. Petrie could not be reached for comment.
"It's a sad day for me in sense that Sac was first team that took chance for me late in first round of draft," Martin said from the team bus. "They showed so much loyalty to me through out the years. They gave me the big contract to show that you loved me...(But) I just think it was time for us to go in a different direction. I was the young guy before, and now I'm the oldest starter. I think it's good."
For more Kings coverage, go to www.sacbee.com/kings .

THIRD QUARTER (Warriors 107, Kings 76)

OAKLAND - C.J. Watson is up to 38 points in what has the makings of the worst loss of the season.

Kevin Martin didn't play the entire third quarter. There was no word of an injury so one has to assume Paul Westphal is just trying something different. The score shows it didn't workout too well.

About the only intrigue left in this game is if Watson might score 50 or if Stephen Curry can record a triple double. He has 19 points, 13 assists and six rebounds.

--Jason Jones

SECOND QUARTER (Warriors 72, Kings 45)

OAKLAND - Wireless was acting up here at Oracle Arena, so we're late with the in-game blog.

Quick ugly update: Golden State - sans leading scorer Monta Ellis - outscored the Kings 42-16 in a second quarter in which Ellis' replacement, CJ Watson, looked every bit as potent as the incumbent en route to 23 points for the half. Stephen Curry has the locals wondering if he continues to catch up in the Rookie of the Year race, scoring 15 points and tallying 10 assists. The Kings are shooting 37.8 percent

As for trade deadline action, there is very little to speak of. The aforementioned Sergio Rodriguez-to-Memphis possibility looks to be cooled unless the Kings take expiring contracts back, in which case they'd simply be doing Rodriguez a favor. As for Yahoo's report of the Kings being recruited in a potential Houston-Chicago deal, four sources close to the teams and players involved could not confirm that scenario that is now impossible since John Salmons is reportedly being traded from the Bulls to Milwaukee. - Sam Amick

There is a bigger story going on here as it pertains to Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin, but this is not the time nor the place to go into every last detail.

So the morning after he strangely played just 15 seconds of the fourth quarter in the loss to Boston at Arco Arena, we will focus on how and why that went down as well as why it matters. As for the latter, it matters because it looks as if he'll be on this team beyond the Thursday trade deadline - even if the Celtics and their most well-known fan wish that wasn't the case. And when a player who is working on a five-year, $55 million deal doesn't play when it matters most, that's just not normal. It's not new, either, as there have been a number of odd instances relating to Martin since he returned.

Again, however, we're in hyperfocus mode in this blog post so let's stay there. In the interest of accuracy, I tracked Martin down today to explain how it all went down. He bolted very quickly after last night's game, leaving Kings coach Paul Westphal to discuss the situation (story here and transcript of postgame quotes here). Let the opinion forming begin...

"At the six minute mark, coach said 'Go in,'" Martin informed me. "I walk up to the scorer's table and then head back because (there) was a timeout coming up. On the way back, I said to coach, 'Hey they're playing well. (Do) you want to let them play it out? He said, 'I want you in.' I said, 'OK.' So I was ready to go in at the timeout, then the timeout happened at 3:37 and he looked at me and said, 'Let's just let them play it out.' And I said, 'OK, that's fine.'"

From The Bee

'Free throw woes costly in loss to Celtics,' By Sam Amick

'Garcia finally makes his season debut,' By Jason Jones

From The Contra Costa Times

'Stephen Curry goes cold as Warriors fall to short-handed Lakers,' By Marcus Thompson II

'For Warriors, trade deadline will probably come and go,' By Marcus Thompson II

From The San Francisco Chronicle

'Curry has 'nightmare,' even with solid stats,' By Rusty Simmons

'Will (Corey) Maggette be dealt?' By Rusty Simmons

TONIGHT'S GAME

Kings (18-35) at Warriors (14-38)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland.

TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM); KNBR (680 AM).

Kings update: Last month's game in Oakland showcased all that can go right and wrong with Sacramento. Thanks to crisp and efficient execution, the Kings built an 18-point lead midway through the third quarter. Then their offense and defense tanked, and the Warriors rallied for a 108-101 win. The Kings have won their past two road games, and another win would give them their first three-game road winning streak this season.

Warriors update: As Thursday's trade deadline looms, rumors abound as to which Warrior might be made available. One player that won't be dealt is Stephen Curry. The rookie is emerging as a candidate for Rookie of the Year, and has more freedom lately with Monta Ellis missing time with a knee injury. The Warriors have relied on NBA Development League call-ups lately because of all of their injuries.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans PG

23 Kevin Martin SG

18 Omri Casspi SF

20 Donté Greene PF

31 Spencer Hawes C

WARRIORS

No. Player Pos.

30 Stephen Curry PG

22 Anthony Morrow SG

50 Corey Maggette SF

44 Anthony Tolliver PF

15 Andris Biedrins C

- Jason Jones

February 16, 2010
In-game blog (Boston at Kings)

FOURTH QUARTER (Celtics 95, Kings 92)

Oh, those free throws.

The Kings couldn't make them in the fourth quarter. And with that, so much for that winning streak reaching three games.

Sacramento (18-35) could have tied the game at 89 twice, but two missed free throws each by Omri Casspi and Jason Thompson prevented that.

The Kings made 17 of 20 free throws through three quarters but were missed eight of their 10 free throws in the fourth.

Meanwhile, the Celtics (33-18) made all seven of their free throws in the fouth.

Casspi led the Kings with 19 points. Tyreke Evans had 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Rasheed Wallace and Paul Pierce each had 17 points for the Celtics.

THIRD QUARTER (Celtics 76, Kings 69)

The Kings still can't make shots against the Celtics defense, which looks better with each quarter. It's covering up for the fact that Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen are a combined 8 for 28.

The Kings are now shooting 37.1 percent. But Sacramento's defense hasn't been horrible.

Boston is shooting just 40.3 percent and the Kings have blocked seven shots. The Celtics also have seven blocked shots.

--Jason Jones

SECOND QUARTER (Celtics 57, Kings 52)

The shooting wasn't nearly as good in the second quarter, unless you were a bench player for the Celtics.

Rasheed Wallace has 10 points off the bench to lead the Celtics. Eddie House added nine as Boston reserves have accounted for 34 points.

The Kings are now shooting 41.9 percent. Boston is down to 45.5 percent.

The highlight of the second quarter was the ovation for Francisco Garcia. He checked in at the 9:54 mark and picked up two fouls before sitting down again with 8:31 left in the half.

--Jason Jones


FIRST QUARTER (Kings 30, Celtics 30)

The Kings clearly got their rest during the All-Star break, as they came out strong against the Eastern Conference heavyweight.

Omri Casspi has 10 points on four of seven shooting for the Kings as they shot 55 percent. The Celtics hit 52.2 percent, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett scoring six apiece. Kings turnovers already at five. Good energy from crowd, and Donnie Wahlberg - Celtics super fan - says hello from courtside. - Sam Amick

The Kings remain among the most quiet teams in the league on the trade front right now, according to my sources, but there is a small situation to report.

I'm told they are considering sending point guard Sergio Rodriguez to Memphis. Rodriguez, who is making $1.8 million in this the final season of his contract, would back up Mike Conley. Because the Griz are under the salary cap, they could simply take Sergio on while the Kings would save the remaining money from this season.

The Kings may elect to hold onto Rodriguez simply for the backcourt versatility. New York and New Jersey have also inquired about Rodriguez, but nothing with any of the teams is believed to be imminent. Newsday's Alan Hahn informed me via Twitter that the Knicks also have a trade exception they could use. New Jersey also has a trade exception. - Sam Amick

It's t-minus nine days until the NBA's Feb. 18 trade deadline, and we'll keep this conversation going because the fan appetite for information is certainly strong this time of year.

That being said, it's admittedly quite the challenge to separate truth from fiction when it comes to the rumor mill. As one Eastern Conference executive told me today, "half of what I read today (on hoopshype.com) is total bull****." It's not just the media folks trying to sift through it all, though, as front office types often fight the same struggle from a different vantage point.

Now as for the latest that I'm hearing from sources around the league...

TROY MURPHY A KING? POSSIBLY

As of my last trade blog post, I hadn't been told that the notion of Indiana-forward-Troy Murphy-to-the-Kings was legit. That has changed, however, as sources close to the Pacers say there is significant Kings interest in the 29-year-old forward.

And while I had alluded to a possible three-team deal sending Kevin Martin to Dallas, Josh Howard and his $10.8 million expiring contract to Indiana and Murphy to Sacramento, I've been told that the Kings are pursuing a straight up deal centered around the expiring contract of Kenny Thomas ($8.5 million).

The Pacers reportedly want to shed themselves of Murphy's salary, and Thomas would almost do it on his own. He makes $11 million this season and nearly $12 million next season (the final one on his deal). Indiana would surely push to include at least one of the Kings' young prospects (Donte' Greene?) but the Kings may ask that they take on point guard Beno Udrih and his contract that runs through 2013 (player option in final season) and has a combined $21.7 million remaining after this season.

If the Kings could get Murphy without giving up Martin, they would obviously push their payroll to a much higher number but would have a chance to look at that mix for a while. If it doesn't work, you still having the ability to make big changes in the summer. Intriguing idea, to be sure.

THOMAS A KING? DON'T THINK SO

I haven't been able to confirm the fact that the Kings indeed inquired about Chicago's Tyrus Thomas, recently but they'd certainly be doing their due diligence by doing so. I was privy to talks from a few months ago, but this may be a cold trail.

Thomas is a young, athletic, talented big who could help their frontcourt in ways the current crop doesn't (defending the rim, finishing with authority on a consistent basis). But he's also an unpredictable young player with a few character questions who will be a free agent this summer (qualifying offer of $6.2 million for next season). And considering the Bulls aren't looking to take on any additional money, there's no added incentive of them taking back an Andres Nocioni (of whom they think highly as a person, but I'm told don't want that contract back after he was traded to Sacramento last February) type.

I'll keep sharing what I'm hearing, but I'd better run off to the airport lest I miss my flight to Dallas for All-Star weekend. - Sam Amick

Sorry for the late notice folks, but there is unfortunately no Bee presence at tonight's Kings win over Detroit. (Although we do have quotes at the bottom of this post)

Ailene Voisin was scheduled to finish the trip, but the East Coast snowstorms trapped her in New York City. Nonetheless, my from-the-recliner observation is that this was the sort of all-for-one-one-for-all win this team so often put together in the early season.

Kevin Martin's 26 points were obviously key, but the bench production from Beno Udrih (22 points, 8 of 10 shooting) and Andres Nocioni (13 points on 6 of 9) was huge in helping the Kings keep pace offensively when their defensive gusto was mediocre early on.

Tyreke Evans got past a few unforced turnovers early and eventually looked like a poised and professional point guard, distributing with willingness and confidence during the first half before turning on his offensive game in the fourth (three crucial fourth-quarter buckets en route to 13 points to go with six assists five rebounds and four of team's 18 turnovers). The Kings' ability to limit turnovers after the first quarter (in which they had six, I believe) was big, as was their ability to get stops late (18 fourth-quarter points from Pistons).

What's more, Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson helped make up for their lack of scoring (11 points combined) by doing other things. Both big men hit the boards (20 rebounds combined), while Hawes facilitated the offense from the high post quite well (four assists).

Martin won his position scoring-wise 26 to 18, as Rip Hamilton was just 5 of 18 from the floor. He was aggressive and on-target, hitting 9 of 15 shots to mark just the third time in the 15 games since he returned from injury on Jan. 15 that he has hit 50-plus percent from the field. The good news for coach Paul Westphal as he looks ahead to the post-All-Star break stretch (assuming Martin isn't traded by then)? Two of those games were his team's last two, which Martin was a combined 16 of 28.

Speaking of the All-Star break, I will be doing no such thing. I'm heading for Dallas tomorrow to be on the Evans-Omri Casspi beat at the league's annual hoops gala, so check back for letters from the road in the coming days.

P.S. Fun fact of of the day, via Kings stat guru Daryl Arata - The last time the Kings won back-to-back road games leading to the All-Star weekend was in 2003-04, with wins at Milwaukee and Detroit.

Speaking of Arata, he just e-mailed me postgame quotes fresh off the Kings' fifth road win this season in 27 tries.

DETROIT PISTONS HEAD COACH JOHN KUESTER: (On the game) "I know our thought process going into this thing was in the right way. In the beginning, we just kept trading baskets back and fourth in the first and second quarter and we couldn't come up with stops. As good as we were defensively at times last night, we weren't as good tonight. Going into the fourth quarter, you're tied up - our execution wasn't as crisp as it was the night before."

(On Nocioni and Udrih): "Well, Udrih lit us up. He goes from five minutes versus New York and then comes in and lights us up. That hurt and Nocioni came in and hurt us. You have to go into this thing knowing that these guys are in the NBA for a reason and you have to play them straight up."

(On gaining some momentum before the All-Star break): "Going into it, we really had that mindset, looking forward to that next game and recognizing that, 'Hey, listen, we're headed in the right direction.' We took one step forward and two steps backwards. This game can be very unkind to you at times especially if you don't do things the right way and we didn't do things the right way defensively or offensively."

(On the team's consistency): "It seemed like we weren't as poised as we were the night before. We go from being so poised to not being as in control as we had been. It seemed like we were rushing things. These guys wanted to win so badly tonight but sometimes when you want something so badly you end up rushing as opposed to doing things like you did the night before."

DETROIT PISTONS FORWARD CHARLIE VILLANUEVA: (On the disappointing loss) "It's very disappointing. We let that that one slip away. We gave them this game. We will spend a couple days off, get away from basketball and be focused on Monday."

(On the game) "I think we were playing well, and then they made a run. We kind of got away from what we were doing at the first half. I think that during first half we were playing very well."

(On the All-Star break) "A lot of things change during an All-Star break when guys come back. Hopefully, we will be one of those teams that can make a push."

SACRAMENTO KINGS HEAD COACH PAUL WESTPHAL: (On back-to-back road wins before the break) "I'm very happy, our team is getting better and one of our problems has been that we let go of leads and two nights in a row we did just the opposite. Tonight our defense really stiffened up and we actually got some stops which is what we needed to do if you want to win road games in this league. So, we are learning and we are getting good performances from different people and we hate to have this break happen right now. However, it's a good time for it and it is good to take two road wins into the break."

(On bench stepping up) "We were having a hard time playing with any energy at the beginning of the ball game and then Nocioni and Beno (Udrih) came into the game and were just very aggressive and changed the tone of the game for us. Jason Thompson then came in and did a good job on the boards as well. Then when the starters came back in there later, they took the cue from Beno and Andres. It was definitely a group effort in all ways tonight."

SACRAMENTO KINGS GUARD KEVIN MARTIN: (On back-to-back wins on road) "It was huge, especially for our confidence since we were struggling with that coming in to this road trip and we just wanted to get a couple of wins and we did. We just knew what we were up against tonight with the All-Star break here. Sometimes guys mentality is to pack it in early, but we didn't do that tonight."

(On finishing strong) "We did, we just wanted to execute better down the stretch because when you have guys out there like Rip and Tayshaun who has been through everything in this league, they know how to execute down the stretch and we just wanted to do the same. We hit shots and they didn't down the stretch."

(On bench help) "Beno (Udrih) and Nocioni came in and gave us a spark and that is what we needed. Sometimes, especially on back-to-backs, with the game that we had in overtime last night in New York, guys played a lot of minutes. So, tonight Beno and Nocioni came in and gave us a big lift and they got everyone else going."

- Sam Amick

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Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

First of all, be sure to read yesterday's debut of 'Trade chatter from home,' as it includes all the relevant context to fully comprehend this post.

Now as an addendum to that one, I wanted to address three reports regarding the Kings today.

TROY MURPHY A KING?

Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports the Kings have inquired about the Indiana forward Troy Murphy, and that wouldn't be surprising.

I've been told that's not the case, but that doesn't mean it's not worth discussing. The Kings obviously want a big, and Murphy - who is a very productive one with a good inside-out game- is one of the few so widely known to be available. If this were to happen, look for it to be the aforementioned three-team deal in which Kevin Martin goes to Dallas. And consider this as well: Murphy is represented by agent Dan Fegan, who also represents Martin and most of the Mavericks team.

THE STOUDEMIRE SCENARIO - AGAIN?

Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Kings have discussed sending Martin to Phoenix for Suns forward Amare Stoudemire.

I began discussing in late January why the Kings would steer clear of this kind of scenario - read here - and I have been told that remains true. The only qualifier is this: the Maloofs are big Stoudemire fans.

They have privately raved about his talents for quite some time and have a relationship with him. That coupled with their eternal confidence in their own powers of persuasion means they just might think Stoudemire could be convinced he belongs in Sacramento. If there was a call made, I wouldn't be shocked if it was George Maloof on the Kings' end (I'm half-kidding, or maybe 90 percent kidding). Yet while that may sound like a means to getting a deal done, remember this: those same factors were in place relating to Drew Gooden, and he couldn't get out of Sacramento quickly enough when he was traded here last season.

HOW SERIOUS IS BOSTON?

We had extensive Celtics material in the last post, but I've seen conflicting reports about the team's willingness to deal veteran shooting guard Ray Allen and his expiring contract worth $18.7 million.

As I understand it, the most accurate representation of reality is this story from CBSSportsline's Ken Berger in which this is what we call the "nut graph"...

The bottom line is that Ainge, who saved his job by pulling off the perfect storm of trades that yielded Allen and Garnett three years ago, has made it clear in private conversations that he's "not going back to the abyss," according to one person familiar with the discussions.

SPEAKING OF MARTIN...

I did an interview with Whiznews.com - Southeastern Ohio's News leader and serious Martin mania country - yesterday in which we discussed his situation and the continuing chaos around it. That chat can be found by clicking here, but be warned that it took me about 10 minutes to get it loaded up.- Sam Amick

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Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

Ailene Voisin is on this East Coast trip, although it sounds as if she's stuck in New York and potentially unable to get to tomorrow's game in Detroit.

Back at home, I've been banging the phones on the trade front and have to a couple of iron-clad conclusions regarding the hot topic of Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin and whether he'll be moved.

* The Kings remain quiet, at least as it pertains to Martin. There is no reason to think basketball president Geoff Petrie is motivated in the slightest bit to move him before the Feb. 18 deadline. Translation: "Dead as Chelsea's nuts."

That's how Petrie answered my question about Martin and potential trade talks in late January, when I knew the gist of what he meant but had to chuckle at how he so consistently finds confusing ways to say simple things.

His chosen form of expressing the fact that it was a non-existent topic in his mind was odd enough and off-color enough that it was edited out of this story. Depending on a number of factors - the four games remaining before the deadline, the patience level and state of mind of the Maloofs and the quality of any potential offers - I'd still say there's a slim chance this part of the equation changes.

* Boston is legitimately interested in Martin, but that scenario doesn't look likely to go anywhere at the moment. A source close to the Celtics said they have not spoken to the Kings, but the two teams will likely talk soon.

If the Kings were to accept a deal giving them Ray Allen and sending the Celtics Martin and Andres Nocioni, the deal could very well get done. I don't see Petrie doing that, however. That move would free up approximately $17 million off the Kings' cap this summer and free up Martin's money that runs through 2013 and Nocioni's through 2012. It doesn't bring back talent beyond this season, obviously, as Allen's contract is expiring.

Despite the Kings' hopes of landing an impact big man, don't expect Celtics GM Danny Ainge to give up center Kendrick Perkins (or point guard Rajon Rondo, for that matter, if I even needed to verbalize that part).

* After a recent strong statement from Minnesota GM David Kahn that he won't be doing any big moves, I inquired once again as to the state of affairs out that way.

My discoveries are sure to crush those of you online and in the radio realm who have been clamoring for a Martin-for-Al Jefferson deal or even a Martin-for Kevin Love deal. But don't hold your breath. Despite sources close to the T-Wolves recently saying they had discussed adding Martin, those discussions apparently didn't wind up with the conclusion that he is destined to be a T-Wolf. There is no interest in him.

* Dallas remains the leader in this pack as far as interest, but owner Mark Cuban is reportedly pursuing Washington's Caron Butler and surely looking at Sacramento thinking, "It takes two to tango." No dancing yet, but who knows as the deadline nears. The Mavs don't have enough desirable pieces from a talent/contract standpoint to get it done on their own, though, meaning a third team remains necessary.

* To review, Houston didn't get far in its talks with the Kings about Martin that would have involved the expiring contract of Tracy McGrady coming to Sacramento for Martin and the expiring contract of Kenny Thomas. That shows quite clearly that ridding themselves of Martin's money alone after this season isn't enough to do a deal.

In conclusion, we surmise that it's going to take some serious offers to pry Martin out of Sacramento before the deadline. - Sam Amick

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***

We are equal-opportunity pleasers here at The Bee, meaning we want to give you the real dish about what's going on with the Kings while not offering doom-and-gloom insights every single day.

What that in mind, we present the latest update to the ongoing Spencer Hawes story: he's playing pretty well.

After Hawes talked recently about his mindset, he has gone on to make his presence felt against Denver and San Antonio - 23 points (10 of 18 shooting), seven rebounds, three assists and one block against the Nuggets on Monday; 18 points (9 of 14 shooting), six rebounds, three assists, three blocks against Spurs on Wednesday.

Both teams have formidable frontlines, so no one can take anything away from what Hawes was able to do. And in light of coach Paul Wespthal's comments made Thursday, Hawes' next goal should be to eventually be known as the team's best post player.

"Tyreke (Evans) is our best post player," Westphal said when asked by former Bee scribe and current Sacramento Press writer Marty McNeal about the post play. "Haven't you watched the games?

"We don't have a big guy in the low post that you can throw into and make everything calm down and better. I think that's obvious. At the same time, we have plays and sets that I think we're doing a better job of executing. I think for the most part, we can expect to get a pretty good shot when we need to."

I asked Westphal about Hawes' comments in the story I linked above, when the third-year center was candid about the fact that he has no desire to play like teammate/resident bruiser Jon Brockman. For the most part, Westphal agreed with his player but clarified that he could add elements of that kind of game.

"He's not going to intimidate anybody with his body," Westphal said. "He's more of a finesse type player. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have to use leverage and make contact first. He has a totally different style than Brockman, but he's as entitled to loose balls as Brockman and he's entitled to carving out his position and learning how to best utilize the body that he has. No, everybody can't have the same style, they have to find a way to get the job done. I think he's learning how to mix it up.
"For example, (against San Antonio) he was going to try to box out (Tim) Duncan, and Duncan being the wily veteran that he is grabbed Spencer's wrist right as he was trying to box him out and use the leverage point to move Spencer away from the step he's supposed to make...It's a nice trick...Duncan outwilyed him (yes, I realize that's not a word, but you get the point)."

The Kings are down one post player for tonight's game in Jason Thompson, as he will miss his second game because of a death in the family and meet the team in Toronto. Small forward Omri Casspi will play in spite of dealing with a stomach virus that caused him to miss practice on Thursday.

Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin said he has been impressed with Hawes lately.

"With Spencer, a lot of things revolve around him, but confidence-wise it was (case of) him reading a little too much (when he referenced his D-plus grade in the above story)," Martin said. "But in this last week, he has really grown up a little, shown he can handle what comes with this business."

From The Bee

'Team isn't fully in top gear,' By Sam Amick

'Udrih, Westphal differ over playing time,' By Sam Amick

From The Arizona Republic

'Suns' Robin Lopez-Channing Frye combination working at center,' By Paul Coro

'Amare Stoudemire favoring opting in with Suns,' By Paul Coro

TONIGHT'S GAME
PHOENIX (30-21) AT KINGS (16-32)
When:
7 p.m.
Where: Arco Arena
TV: CSNCA.
Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: The downside of progress continues for the Kings. Before they started the season with a surprising 13-14 record, the idea of remaining competitive with a team like the run-and-gun Suns qualified as success. So when they fell twice to Phoenix by reasonable margins on Dec. 5 and Jan. 5 (115-107 and 113-109, respectively), it was hailed as such. Now, though, coming close is no longer enough. In what is their fifth attempt to match last season's franchise-low win total of 17, this team simply needs a victory.

Suns update: Trade rumors aren't bothering Suns forward Amare Stoudemire, who has led his team in scoring throughout its four-game winning streak. It's the high-point of the season for Phoenix, which is not only winning but taking out high level foes in Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Denver. It's the sort of potential playoff preview that could inspire the front office to hold onto Stoudemire until the summer at least. He as an early termination option on his contract for next season but has yet to decide if he'll become a free agent.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.
13 Tyreke Evans PG
23 Kevin Martin SG
18 Omri Casspi SF
20 Donte' Greene SF
31 Spencer Hawes C

SUNS

No. Player Pos.
13 Steve Nash PG
23 Jason Richardson SG
33 Grant Hill SF
1 Amare Stoudemire PF
15 Robin Lopez C - Sam Amick

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***

Truth be told, I never took the Kings' late rally seriously. As discussed in the game story from their 115-113 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday night, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof never looked enthused and it's safe to say I took his lead.

Upon retrospect, however, it was still a ridiculous run led by rookie Tyreke Evans that's worth revisiting. They were down 13 points with 2:23 remaining after a Keith Bogans three, followed by missed jumpers from Donte' Greene and Spencer Hawes and the subsequent decision from Evans to take matters into his own hands in the eight straight scoring possessions that followed...

1:41 - Evans pickpockets George Hill much like he did in a win over Washington back in this team's glory days, then finishes with a dunk on the break. Down 11.

1:07 - After a Manu Ginobili travel, Spencer Hawes hits a 20-footer after taking the pass from Evans. Down nine.

:46.6 - Evans pulls off yet another sensational steal, this time getting Roger Mason. He finds Greene for the alley-oop dunk on the break. Down seven.

The necessary foul game begins from here, with the Spurs hitting eight of their final 10 to eventually seal it. Nonetheless, the Evans show continues.

:28.5 - A classic Evans drive and layup cut the lead to six.

:18.7 - Evans - who is shooting just 27 percent from beyond the arc for the season - continued his three of five outing from three-point range with a rainbow attempt that cuts the lead to five.

:06.9 - Evans hits yet another three to cut the lead to four.

:04.1 - Andres Nocioni buries a three to cut the lead to three.

:01 - Evans hit a three that was not only a bank shot but I believe it circled the rim a bit before falling in. As Jason Jones commented, Evans will probably never look so disappointed to hit a three as he was shrugging and walking off the floor before it fell through. Kings lose...again.

"You can't really say enough about Tyreke," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "He's 20 years old and he's gotten respect throughout the league because of the kind of competitor he is plus the kind of talent and voice that he is. He's an unbelievable player."

Other notes from the game that didn't make the paper...

BLAIR WITCH (DOCTOR) PROJECT

DeJuan Blair's story is simply incredible, especially considering he has no ACLs in either leg. He has had a productive rookie season and destroyed the Kings front court for 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting, including a second-quarter stretch in which he scored 13 straight points for the Spurs.

The Kings - like so many other teams - passed up on Blair in the June draft because of the huge red flags being waved by the medical community. They were obviously on the hunt for a backup big (eventually taking Jon Brockman at No. 38 via the Sergio Rodriguez trade with Portland), but Blair - who was once seen as a lottery pick - fell to No. 37 because of the red flags being waived so vehemently by the medical community.

"Every team in the league wants to disbar or whatever you do to doctors who said that guy and his knees weren't OK to draft," Westphal said. "He's making them look like they should have flunked out of medical school and gone to drive a cab. That guy is unbelievable. He was a legendary rebounder in college (at Pittsburgh) and there's no reason to think he won't lead this league in rebounding if he ever gets enough minutes."

BENO A NO-SHOW

Beno Udrih had his second DNP-CD (Did not play, coach's decision) of the season just one day after Westphal and his point guard revealed he has been dealing with foot soreness related to plantar fasciitis. Sergio Rodriguez was effective in his 16 minutes off the bench, hitting five of seven shots for 10 points and posting three assists against no turnovers.

"Beno has had that plantar fasciitis and looked a little slower than he ordinarily is," Westphal said. "It was just a decision to go with Sergio before Beno...I told him I'd probably use Sergio as the backup point and I'd probably use (Udrih) behind Kevin (Martin), but I really didn't want him to go out there and guard Ginobili when they subbed Ginobili in at (shooting guard). So when it was time for Kevin to take a rest, I put Ime (Udoka) in. And in the second half, we used Donte' to guard Ginobili because of the way matchups were. I didn't see (the point in) playing Beno two or three minutes in each half so we just went a different direction."

Udrih had played 32 minutes just two nights before in Denver and had played at least 13 minutes in every game he had played in this season. But he has long since has slowed in more ways than foot speed.

He finished January shooting just 43.8 percent overall and 27 percent from three-point range for the month, this after he shot 51.5 percent overall and 42.9 percent from three-point range in November and December. Aside from his 24-point outing against Golden State on Jan. 26, he has scored a combined 27 points in the last six games in which he has played.

MARTIN - AND NAPEAR - OFF-TARGET AGAIN

The boos were a new experience for Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin, who drew the fans' ire when his reverse layup off an Evans pass through the lane sailed over the rim and barely glanced the backboard.

Martin - who did not address the media afterward - hit just 6 of 17 shots overall, bringing his totals since coming back from wrist surgery on Jan. 15 to 36.4 percent shooting overall and 34.5 percent from three-point range in 11 games while averaging 17.2 points.

On a side note, I did catch wind of Grant Napear's concocted controversy regarding Martin's final attempt in Denver. The KHTK and Kings' company man who so clearly has a beef with Martin ripped me for not asking the shooting guard about the miscommunication Westphal had alluded to in Tuesday's editions.

Had he asked me - which he curiously never does, leading me to this current Donovan McNabb-Terrell Owens-esque state of 'Keep my name out of your mouth' - I would have informed him that all involved said the miscommunication was simply a case of poor timing and nothing more. Martin took too long to get into the play, as it began with 18 seconds left and he drove some 10 seconds later. He shot it with 2.7 seconds left, meaning the Kings would hardly have had enough for a last-ditch attempt had they grabbed the offensive rebound, not to mention the possibility of a drive and kick to shooters on the perimeter if Martin's path was blocked. Not ideal by any means.

And while it was certainly a botched attempt at a game-tying or winning play, the more relevant part of the possession was Martin thinking he'd get that call (which we all knew he wouldn't) and speaking on that topic (which he did). While Napear explained that he doesn't do postgame interviews with players because his TV platform doesn't have that postgame element anymore, he's certainly free to present his various theories to the players in person for material he could later use on his radio show. Especially since he supposedly doesn't read the paper, right? How else are you going to speak in an educated manner on the topic unless you do your own homework? Even the bloggers do that these days.

For what it's worth, Napear's voice was heard the one and only time I questioned his work. Apparently professional courtesy doesn't go both ways.

ON A MORE POSITIVE NOTE, THE GOLDEN HILLS KIDS DO THEIR COUNTRY PROUD

The flag didn't touch the ground, and that's all that really matters right?

Kudos to the kids from Golden Hills School in El Dorado Hills for that. The energetic bunch who was escorted by athletics director Geoff Kaupinnen took part in a game on the Arco Arena floor by day, then held the American flag by night during the pregame national anthem.

In the interest of full disclosure, my father-in-law is a middle-school science teacher at the fine establishment. And as I learned in the brief time spent together with the students, there are about a dozen kids convinced that they - and no one else - are Mr. Blum's favorite pupil. - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Spurs 115, Kings 113)

As seems to be the case a lot in Kings losses lately, they made it close in the end, but the comeback didn't come soon enough.

The Kings fell behind by 13 in the fourth quarter before Tyreke Evans did all he could to bring them back. He had 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a three that rattled in at the buzzer.

The Kings missed 12 of their first 16 shots in the fourth to fall behind. Evans' efforts insured the game wouldn't be a blowout, but Sacramento would have needed a miracle to pull out this one.

Evans finished with 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Kevin Martin made just six of his 17 shots in scoring 15 points. Spencer Hawes added 18 points for the Kings.

George Hill filed in for the injured Tony Parker with 23 points and nine assists. Tim Duncan added 22 points and 13 rebounds.

Manu Ginobili and DeJuan Blair each had 20 points off the bench for the Spurs.

--Jason Jones


THIRD QUARTER (Spurs 88, Kings 83)

The Kings still haven't figured out how to slow down Tim Duncan or DeJuan Blair, but they're still close enough to possibly pull out a win.

Four of the five starters for the Kings are in double figures. Spencer Hawes is up to 14 points and Donte' Greene now has 10.

Duncan has 19 points and 12 rebounds. Blair has 20 points, as the frontcourt of the Spurs has been dominant enough to overcome 15 points apiece from Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin.

--Jason Jones


SECOND QUARTER (San Antonio 61, Kings 60)

DeJuan Blair's 16 first-half points and Tim Duncan's 15 may have led the Spurs, but Manu Ginobili's dunk energized them.

The supposedly-old-and-not-as-athletic-as-he-used-to-be guard drove left and ripped a left-handed dunk over Spencer Hawes late in the second quarter to pull the Spurs within one. It's been nearly even across the board other wise, with the Kings shooting 56.1 percent and San Antonio hitting at a 52.2 percent clip.

The test will come in the third quarter, of course, as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is sure to make the sort of defensive adjustments he always makes and the Kings will be hard-pressed to score 50 in the second half, let alone 60.

FIRST QUARTER (San Antonio 31, Kings 29)

A solid opening quarter for the Kings, who could stand to defend with a little more gusto but whose 50 percent shooting has them in fine position.

Tyreke Evans has seven points and Donte' Greene has six, while the Spurs are led by Tim Duncan and George Hill (eight points apiece). Spurs point guard Tony Parker is out with a left ankle injury. - Sam Amick

OVERTIME QUARTER (Denver 112, Kings 109)

DENVER - Arron Afflalo's 20-footer with 18 seconds left in overtime lifted the Nuggets over the Kings at the Pepsi Center on Monday night.

The shot came after a jumpball was won by Denver's Kenyon Martin with five seconds on the shot block, but Afflalo corralled the loose ball and buried the open look over Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin.

It was a rough finish for Martin, who handled the ball in the Kings' final two possessions and could only muster a turnover (driving on Afflalo) and missed runner when he drove left against the other K-Mart and didn't get the call he was looking for.

Spencer Hawes had a team-high 23 points for the Kings and Martin had 22, while the Nuggets had six players score in double figures and were led by 24 points from Kenyon Martin and 23 from Chauncey Billups (who was just 6 of 25 from the field).

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 99, Denver 99)

After giving up the lead that was once as large as 16 points and even trailing by six in the fourth quarter, the Kings have survived to go to overtime.

Chauncey Billups hit a driving layup over Beno Udrih to put Denver up 99-95 with 55 seconds left, but Omri Casspi hit a driving floater in the lane to cut the lead to two. Then a Nene inbounds pass was mishandled by Billups and lost out of bounds.

With 27 seconds left, Spencer Hawes' tip-in of a Casspi miss tied it 99-99. Billups missed a three attempt with 2.7 seconds left and Hawes missed a jumper at the buzzer.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 78, Denver 73)

Of course the Kings' offense stalled.

Ten third-quarter turnovers later, and they put up a 14-point period that was so bad it's a wonder they're not trailing. Kevin Martin went scoreless in the third, missing all three of his shots. Denver's Chauncey Billups finally awoke from his superstar slumber, hitting two key threes.

The Kings are 14-8 in games in which they led after three quarters, so we'll see what happens here.

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 64, Denver 50)

Spencer Hawes just shot two free throws in the second quarter, which is as good a sign as any that things are going well for the Kings.

After all, the third-year center averages just 1.6 free throw attempts per game. He made those, just as Jon Brockman made five of six shots during a 10-point second quarter in which he repeatedly blew by Nene and avoided the likes of Chris "Birdman" Anderson and Kenyon Martin.

The Kings trailed 38-37 before taking off on a 12-2 run in which Andres Nocioni hit two three-pointers and Omri Casspi scored four points (much to the delight of Section 108 at The Pepsi Center, which is populated entirely with Casspi fans).

The Kings are shooting 54.5 percent and have 17 assists, with their offense looking fully capable of surpassing the 100-point mark for just the second time in the last 11 games. Denver, meanwhile, hardly looks ready for revenge after already falling to the Kings twice this season. They said all the right things for this story coming in, but have been flat while allowing the Kings to outrebound them 22-15.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 26, Denver 26)

No Tyreke Evans tonight for the Kings, but they're doing fine so far.

The Kings rookie is out with a sore right ankle (read blog below), but Kevin Martin and Spencer Hawes have picked up the scoring load by combining for 15 points. The Kings started by hitting nine of their first 15 shots, but missed their final five while the Nuggets finished the quarter on a 13-3 run.

Kenyon Martin and Chauncey Billups have five points apiece for Denver, which is playing without Carmelo Anthony (left ankle sprain). - Sam Amick

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***


Quick update on tonight's game: Tyreke Evans will not play, as the Kings rookie is now dealing with a sore right ankle that is related to his previously-bruised left hip. He overcompensated while dealing with the hip and is now experiencing discomfort in the ankle. He said at this morning's shoot-a-round that he expects to be ready for Wednesday's game.

Beno Udrih will start, followed by the usual suspects (Kevin Martin, Donte' Greene, Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes). Denver's Carmelo Anthony - as mentioned in story links below - will play. As for how the Kings handle this challenge that was daunting even before losing Evans, we present coach Paul Westphal.

From The Bee

'Jason Thompson has King-size growing pains,' By Ailene Voisin

From The Denver Post

'Nuggets' Martin scores 27 in Melo's absence to lead 103-89 road win against the Spurs,' By Chris Dempsey

'Nuggets coach Karl says Anthony will try to play tonight,' By Chris Dempsey


GAMEPLAN

Kings (16-30) at Nuggets (32-15)

When: 6 p.m.

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver.

TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM), KAHI (950 AM).

Kings update: The trip to Denver comes at the most inopportune time. The Kings, who have lost eight of the past 10, continue to labor offensively. They have failed to score 100 points in 11 of the previous 12 games. The Kings have defeated the Nuggets twice at Arco Arena this season, but a win on the road will be much more difficult. Tyreke Evans sat out most of the second half of Saturday's loss with a sore left hip but is expected to play.

Nuggets update: George Karl may not have obtained that desired new contract, but his club is on a roll. Even with Carmelo Anthony sitting out the previous four games, the Nuggets were 12-3 in January, won nine of their past 10, and are coming off a road rout of San Antonio. J.R. Smith averaged 17.5 points during Anthony's absence. Unfortunately for the Kings, 'Melo is due back tonight.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans PG

23 Kevin Martin SG

34 Donté Greene SF

34 Jason Thompson PF

31 Spencer Hawes C

NUGGETS

1 Chauncey Billups PG

6 Arron Afflalo SG

4 Kenyon Martin PF

15 Carmelo Anthony SF

31 Nene C - Ailene Voisin

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***

So when it comes to this blog/sports section and those who read it, I'm well aware that there are some who cringe any time there's anything non-Kings related discussed. They'd rather know what Hilton Armstrong thought about last night's game than hear about Charlotte's surprising season and how it came to be.

Yet there are those who want to look at the bigger picture too. And with that in mind, I caught up with Team USA architect Jerry Colangelo for this week's NBA page (which, by the way, has Kings trade talk to satisfy you Kings-centric folks).

While taking a flight from Portland back to Sacramento earlier this season, I finished Dan Bickley's book "Return of the Gold: The journey of Jerry Colangelo and the Redeem Team." It really was a fantastic read, with Bickley offering the necessary perspective on what winning the gold meant not only for the national program but for the NBA and its health as an institution.

In the book, there is hope that the way in which Team USA won would have a ripple effect on the league. The lessons learned from failures in the past had led to deserved respect for the international game, and Colangelo expressed optimism that the NBA would reflect the true spirit of the game more than it had in recent years.

Colangelo spoke on that and more in our chat, and most of his thoughts simply didn't fit in today's paper. Specifically, he raves about Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant as the leader of the league's next wave of young talent. He also mentions that the FIBA World Championships may take on a new name at some point in the future so as to attract more attention. I put it up in its entirety - as opposed to taking out what was in the story in the paper - for simplicity's sake. (Click below for the interview)

FOURTH QUARTER (Charlotte 103, Kings 96)

For as bad as the Kings played in the third quarter, they made up for it in the fourth. But they dug too deep a hole in the third to recover.

The Kings held the Bobcats to 13 points in the fourth after scoring only 13 in the third. But Sacramento could get no closer than six points.

The Kings trailed 102-96 when Jason Thompson missed two free throws that could have cut the lead to four.

Thompson came up with an offensive rebound but Raymond Felton stole the ball and called timeout with 17.1 seconds to go to end the Kings' comeback.

Kevin Martin led the Kings with 31 points. Gerald Wallace had a season-high 38 points and 11 rebounds for Charlotte.

Tyreke Evans (bruised left hip) did not play in the fourth quarter, leaving Sergio Rodriguez to direct the comeback.

--Jason Jones


THIRD QUARTER (Charlotte 90, Kings 67)

Let's be nice and just say things didn't go well after halftime.

The Kings were outscored 34-13 in the third.

Or we could say Gerald Wallace outscored the Kings 19-13.

Wallace now has 33 points to lead Charlotte. The game third was so bad when Paul Westphal called a timeout, the fans at Arco booed the home team.

The Kings shot 5 of 20 in the third (25 percent) and had seven turnovers that lead to 13 points for Charlotte.

The Bobcats made 12 of 20 in the third. Wallace made more shots (six) that the Kings in the quarter.

Wallace looked every bit the part of an All Star, scoring from all over the court. He's already at his season high for points this season.

Meanwhile the Kings just struggled to score against one of the better defensive teams in the NBA.

Kevin Martin had only three points in the third and leads the Kings with 24 points. But no other Kings has more than nine points.

--Jason Jones


SECOND QUARTER (Charlotte 56, Kings 54)

The Kings have fixed their offensive woes, but they need to start defending.

The Bobcats are shooting 55.8 percent, with Nazr Mohammed scoring 13 points, Gerald Wallace with 14 (on six of six shooting) and Flip Murray with 10. The only guy misfiring is Stephan Jackson, who is 3 of 13 while seeing a heavy dose of Ime Udoka, Omri Casspi and Donte' Greene.

Kevin Martin is clearly feeling it again, as he has 21 points against the league's third-ranked defense (7 of 14 shooting). Tyreke Evans has been a point guard in every sense tonight, dishing out seven assists against no turnovers while taking just four shots.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 33, Charlotte 29)

What offensive struggles?

The Kings have hit 14 of 22 shots (63.6 percent) to grab the early lead. Kevin Martin - what offensive slump? - already has 13 points on four of nine shooting while the Kings have just three turnovers.

Beyond the box score, there has been strong frontcourt defense thus far with Jason Thompson being very active down low. Donte' Greene has brought energy, scoring all six of his points on putbacks.

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***

SALT LAKE CITY - We're going with a late-night postgame version of "Gameday" in this one, since the back-to-back doesn't leave much in between room for new topics.

Instead, let's break down everything that wasn't in the coverage in the paper (links to game story of Utah's 101-94 win and Kings notes below).

DID MILES MAKE MARTIN MAD?

It's not as if Kevin Martin hadn't done anything by the time C.J. Miles made him mad. He had eight points late in the second quarter, having already surpassed the single-game total he'd finished with in the three previous games.

But facts are facts. And after Miles dunked with 3:15 left in the second and apparently stared Martin's way in some sort of disrespectful fashion, the fact is that the Kings shooting guard scored eight more points in the final 3:15 of play as the Kings went on a 13-5 run from that point on to help the Kings cut Utah's lead to 49-46 at halftime.

"It all started when CJ Miles had a dunk and looked at him," said Kings rookie guard Tyreke Evans, who had 25 points of his own, six assists and four turnovers. "He just turned it up. I think we need to get somebody to look at him more often."

Martin laughed at the exchange, and it's safe to say he scoffed at the relative relevance of the player in question. But as for whether that got him fired up, he said it was more a case of the last few days of practices and some individual work helping him get right.

"I just watched some tape lately of how I played in the past," Martin said. "The main thing was I had to be aggressive. It doesn't matter if I start off 1 for 6 (shooting), 1 for 7. I'd had games like that where I finished 10 for 18. I just had to have that mentality and just go from there.
"We had two great practices where coach (Paul Westphal) did a lot of one on one and three-on-three just to get back in game form...That was a good drill we did. Then it was just trying to translate what we did last couple days in practice."

PUTTING THE 'O' IN BENO

The Kings were doomed once again by their lackluster offense, as Evans and Martin were alone on that front. No other Kings player scored in double digits, and reserve point guard Beno Udrih couldn't even get off his goose egg.

Udrih went scoreless for the first time this season, missing all five of his shots while being badly outplayed by Utah's recent D-League callup Sundiata Gaines (12 points, five assists). While Udrih scored 24 points against Golden State Tuesday, he has scored in single digits in six of the last eight games.

Gaines looked well on his way to taking Utah's backup point guard spot from former King Ronnie Price, who watched from the bench in the fourth quarter while Gaines played all 12 minutes (and had five of his 12 points). Not that Gaines is a nobody: remember this shot, when Price literally handed Gaines the spotlight and he was as bright as could be.

NOT GOING GREENE

I discuss Westphal's decision to sit Donte' Greene after the first four minutes in the Kings Notes, but left out the fact that Andrei Kirilenko had scored six easy points in the four minutes, 24 seconds he was guarded by Greene.

Westphal obviously switched it up early and never went back to Greene. The counter argument, of course, is that Greene's length could have helped the hapless frontcourt defense of Paul Millsap (32 points). But Andres Nocioni really did do a nice job on Kirilenko, agitating him like only he can and cooling him off significantly.

Kirilenko had 13 points before Nocioni even entered the game midway through the second, but he scored just two points in the final 5:56 in which Nocioni guarded him. In the third quarter, Kirilenko missed all three shots taken while Nocioni was on his hip and went scoreless. It was more of the same in the fourth, when Kirilenko had three points and Nocioni mostly guarded him.

* One last addendum note regarding rotation decisions. I asked Westphal about whether he gave much thought to letting Jason Thompson take more breathers and going back to Jon Brockman to attempt to slow Millsap, to which he accurately stated.

"Jon wasn't having much luck with him either, so I thought our best bet was JT," he said.

On one play, in particular, Millsap did his best Deron Williams impression with a spin move in the lane that put Brockman sliding on his backside while watching the bucket from below.

From The Bee

'Martins-Evans backcourt stars, but Kings fall,' By Sam Amick

'Wrist watch begins; Garcia tumbles on it,' By Sam Amick

From The Charlotte Observer

'Bobcats' Jackson muffles his old team,' By Rick Bonnell

'Curry lights it up in front of Dad,' By Rick Bonnell

GAMEPLAN

Charlotte (23-22) at Kings (16-29)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Arco Arena.

TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: There has never been a better time for home cookin' than tonight for the Kings, who play seven of their next 10 games on the road. What's more, they have gone from dominating at Arco Arena early this season to losing six of their past nine home games. There's the revenge factor, too, as the Bobcats downed the Kings on Jan. 18 at Time Warner Cable Arena. In that game, Stephen Jackson held Kevin Martin to nine points.

Bobcats update: Right when the Bobcats were being considered a legitimate Eastern Conference contender, they failed their biggest tests. They won nine of 10 games to start 2010, but then have lost to Atlanta (103-89) and Orlando in overtime (106-95) before dropping their third game in the last four against Denver on Monday (104-93). The Bobcats downed Phoenix in overtime Tuesday (114-109) before defeating Golden State 121-110 Friday.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans PG

23 Kevin Martin SG

20 Donté Greene SF

34 Jason Thompson PF

31 Spencer Hawes C

BOBCATS

No. Player Pos.

20 Raymond Felton PG

1 Stephen Jackson SG

3 Gerald Wallace SF

32 Boris Diaw PF

13 Nazr Mohammed C

- Sam Amick

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***

I'm tweeting during this game, so feel free to join me at the above address...

FOURTH QUARTER (Utah 101, Kings 94)

SALT LAKE CITY - After beating Golden State Tuesday in a game that longtime NBA observers deemed the ugliest they'd ever seen, the Kings relished the win anyway.

A win is a win, they said.

It looked like that might be the case again tonight, as the Kings stayed with a Jazz team that was playing without Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer.

Paul Millsap, however, simply wouldn't let that happen.

Utah's "other" power forward destroyed the Kings' Jason Thompson en route to a career-high 32-point, 14-rebound, seven-assist outing that spoiled some good news for the Kings.

After weeks of debate and much skepticism about whether the Kings' backcourt was big enough for Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin, the guard duo was sensational from beginning to end. Martin - who scored just 15 points combined in his three previous games and had hit just 3 of 23 shots in that span - had 33 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Evans had 25 points on 6 of 14 shooting and six assists.

Thompson, however, had what was likely the worst game of his career. Not only was he unable to stop Millsap as he scored with far more flair than he is typically known for, but Thompson tallied just seven points and four rebounds in 26 minutes before fouling out late.

The Kings' offensive woes continued, as they shot just 43.4 percent from the field and were held under 100 points for the eighth time in the last nine games. Millsap had the sort of help that Martin and Evans didn't as well, with Andrei Kirilenko having 18 points and seven rebounds

Utah's backcourt certainly wasn't pitching in, as Ronnie Price and Ronnie Brewer were outscored 58-nine by Martin and Evans.

THIRD QUARTER (Utah 73, Kings 63)

Just as players like Kevin Martin can struggle to find rhythm on the floor, coaches deal with that too.

That appeared to be the case in the third, as coach Paul Wespthal inexplicably sat Martin for the final 7:32 of play (CORRECTION: Martin sat for the last 4:29 of play, but the subsequent run mentioned is accurate in that span) and the Jazz finished the quarter on a 14-4 run.

The Kings went cold without Martin's hot hand (6 of 22 shooting in the quarter), and Paul Millsap scored 13 of his 23 points and also has nine rebounds and five assists.


SECOND QUARTER (Utah 49, Kings 46)

There's been a Kevin Martin sighting at EnergySolutions Arena, as the Kings shooting guard has 16 points and spent 24 minutes looking like the perfect complement to Tyreke Evans.

It's a short window of time, to be sure, but there was clearly relief on the floor as Martin finally found the rhythm that has been missing since his Jan. 15 return. With the Kings trailing 44-35 midway through the second quarter, Martin hit a layup on the break. Kudos to Tyreke Evans for helping get him going, as he penetrated on the next possession and whipped around to find Martin alone for a three that made it 44-41 Utah. As Martin surpassed his combined total of the last three games (15 points) later in the quarter, Evans almost looked more excited than his teammate.

Evans has 12 points, three assists and four turnovers, but the Kings - once again - need more from Jason Thompson (no points, one rebound in 14 minutes).

Andrei Kirilenko has 15 points and three blocks for the Jazz, having hit six of eight shots. Paul Millsap - Thompson's counterpart - has 10 points and six rebounds. This one remains a turnover-fest, as the Jazz have 12 and the Kings have 10.

FIRST QUARTER (Utah 22, Kings 20)

Just about the time the Kings looked primed to get blown out once again on the road, the Jazz let them back in.

Playing without All-Star point guard Deron Williams (personal reasons) and forward Carlos Boozer (calf strain), Utah gave up eight turnovers in the first quarter that certainly aided the Kings' cause. The Kings didn't even score until there was 7:28 left in the first quarter (on two Kevin Martin free throws), but they put together an 18-8 run that was highlighted by an Omri Casspi posterizing dunk over former King Ronnie Price.

The Kings hit eight of their last 13 shots after starting 0 of 6. Martin and Tyreke Evans had six points apiece, with one of Martin's two baskets coming on a lightning-quick drive to the hole the likes of which I hadn't seen in months. - Sam Amick

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***

SALT LAKE CITY - This is one of those substance over style days on the blog, as I'm devouring some breakfast in the Salt Lake City airport and need to get off to shoot-a-round.

But as I drove to the airport in Sacramento this morning, I listened in as today's piece on the Spencer Hawes and his current outlook was the talk of today's "Rise Guys" show on KHTK. Whitey, Mark and Phantom all debated Spencer's thoughts and shared differing opinions on the matter, and they come with a different perspective as they talk to him on their show every week.

Whitey even penned a humorous piece of his own on their site discussing Hawes' short leash as it pertains to the coaching staff. There is a quality post from Tom Ziller at Sactownroyalty as well, with fans clearly at a loss to understand why Hawes hasn't progressed like so many had hoped he would.

So in the interest of letting the analysis of Hawes' psyche continue, I wanted to share my 15-minute interview with Hawes at yesterday's practice in its entirety. (Click on link below)

Pardon the absence of updates tonight folks, as I was flying solo (Jason Jones not on the premises tonight) and trying to glean some insight from folks at Arco Arena that benefits the Kings coverage on the whole.

So we'll fast forward to the finish at Arco Arena.

The Kings had far too much trouble handling one of the league's worst teams that was without its best player (Monta Ellis), doing little to quell recent concerns about their state of affairs while breaking their seven-game losing streak.

While Tyreke Evans had a team-high 23 points, shooting guard Kevin Martin continued the worst slump of his career with a 1 of 9 shooting night for five points. Veteran forward Sean May was the unexpected spark off the bench, contributing seven points and 11 rebounds in 14 minutes while playing for the first time since Dec. 12. May had played a combined 15 minutes since Nov. 7.

The Warriors actually threatened late, but strong play from Spencer Hawes (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Beno Udrih (24 points, five assists) kept them at bay. The Warriors were led by Stephen Curry (27 points on 10 of 22 shooting), but shot an atrocious 31.9 percent overall. Forward Corey Maggette was by far the worst offender, hitting just 3 of 22 from the field. - Sam Amick

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***

Paul Westphal had one thing going for him on his team's recent 0-6 road trip: the lack of Kings-centric media picking his brain throughout the painful process.

Other than the typical postgame scrums, it was just myself for the first four games, Jason Jones for the final two and esteemed radio man Gary Gerould throughout. That changed on Monday, when a fairly large group of Sacramento TV, radio and print journalists (and even a reporter from Italy, randomly enough) turned out to dissect the recent hoops disaster.

Westphal was amiable in these duties as always, and the following nine minutes of audio gives a decent window into his world at the moment. I'd venture to guess that only the hardest of hardcore fans want to know what he's thinking and saying right now, so I'll leave said interview in audio form below and be curious to check back later and see how many people listened in. As bad news goes, it's good stuff.

Before we go to Westphal, though, a few quick news and notes about tonight's game against the Warriors.

* Rookie forward Jon Brockman is questionable after bruising his left hip in practice on Monday. I don't expect him to play but do expect to see Spencer Hawes back in the starting lineup (as I pointed out in today's grades, the Kings are 11-15 when Hawes starts).

* While fifth-year swingman Francisco Garcia had talked recently as if he would be back in less than a week at this point, Westphal repeatedly said it would be a while - no specific date given - until he plays. I believe that's in the audio interview.

* Monta Ellis (ankle) is not expected to play for the Warriors, meaning a loss here for the Kings would be a new low considering it's a subpar opponent without its best player on your home floor coming with two days rest (one off-day, one practice day).

From The Bee

'Blame is spread for Kings' swoon,' (Midseason report card), By Sam Amick

From The Contra Costa Times

'Warriors GM Larry Riley promises changes, but when?' By Marcus Thompson II

'Monta Ellis doesn't deserve an All-Star spot,' By Tim Kawakami

From the San Francisco Chronicle

'Warriors' Ellis gets a pass,' By John Shea.


GAMEPLAN

Kings (15-28) vs. Golden State (13-29)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Arco Arena.

TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: It's not as if the notion of Jon Brockman in the starting lineup was a flawless one, as the Kings lost the last four games after coach Paul Westphal put him in there. But whether the rookie big man starts or comes off the bench, he is a valuable asset to a team that once again is lacking toughness. Yet after Brockman took a fall during Monday's practice, he is questionable for tonight's game with a bruised left hip. Brockman had X-rays and a CT scan that were negative, but he surely won't be able to bang like his normal self even if he does play. It could mean much-needed opportunity for former starting center Spencer Hawes to redeem himself.

Warriors update: The Warriors are playing the best pro basketball of the two Northern California teams recently, as they've won six of their last 14 games while the Kings have only won two in that span. Shooting guard Monta Ellis will not play tonight. Ellis sprained his right ankle Friday against New Jersey and missed Saturday's game in Phoenix.

PROBABLE STARTERS

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans PG

23 Kevin Martin SG

20 Donté Greene SF

34 Jason Thompson PF

31 Spencer Hawes C

WARRIORS

No. Player Pos.

30 Stephen Curry PG

20 Cartier Martin SG

50 Corey Maggette SF

44 Anthony Tolliver PF

15 Andris Biedrins C - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Hawks 108, Kings 97)

ATLANTA - Execution was the problem tonight. Not effort. Not chemistry. Not anything other then getting beat. If anything, it was a step forward on the big picture front as there were no glaring issues or red flags popping up in my head about this group.

They had a competitive personality but simply didn't play well enough to knock off one of the Eastern Conference's best teams. Tyreke Evans had 24 points and five assists but no rebounds, while Kevin Martin had 23 points, four rebounds and five assists. New starting center Jon Brockman didn't contribute nearly as much as his last time out, tallying just three rebounds in 22 minutes.

Five Hawks scored in double-figures as Atlanta shot 51.3 percent. The Kings were just 3 of 15 from three point range.

THIRD QUARTER (Hawks 81, Kings 68)

The Kings are still fighting. They just happen to be getting their proverbial faces beat in by a superior team.

The Hawks tallied 16 points in the paint in the third while the Kings couldn't hit much of anything. They were 5 of 26 from the field.

SECOND QUARTER (Hawks 54, Kings 52)

The Hawks won't be letting up tonight, so the Kings would be wise to keep the intensity up too.

Thus far, though, it has been an exciting, up-tempo affair in which the Kings are looking far more promising than they have yet on this road trip. Tyreke Evans has been relentless offensively (15 points on 6 of 10 shooting), getting by a guy in Joe Johnson who obviously takes pride in his defense.

Kevin Martin has been very good on the overall front, scoring 11 points to go with four rebounds and a team-high four assists. The Hawks are playing their high-flying game, though, and lit this sparse Philips Arena crowd up with the normal allotment of alley-oops and fast-paced play. Speak of which, I can never get over seeing Josh Smith's hops in person. He had to duck on his oop from Mike Bibby so as not to slash his head on the rim. Atlanta is shooting 53.9 percent and have just five turnovers. The Kings need to take it to another level defensively.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 23, Hawks 23)

The Kings can't be happy with the finish to the quarter, as their 17-7 lead midway through the period was quickly erased.

That being said, there were a few impressive showings in the first quarter. For starers, Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin looked determined to make a difference beyond his scoring, getting in the passing lane and playing an aggressive style that led to two steals, three rebounds and four points (1 of 4 shooting). Tyreke Evans has had no problem getting by Joe Johnson's pressure defense (nine points on four of six shooting), and the Hawks guard has done just fine getting by Evans too (seven points).

The Kings' objective of not being put back on their heels at the start has been achieved, but someone needs to tell Hilton Armstrong that the dribble-drive and jumper he attempted in his first quarter showing aren't part of his repertoire. - Sam Amick

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***

ATLANTA (No, not Philly, despite the headline) - Will practice make perfect?

It hasn't recently for the Kings, but we will see once again tonight. The last three Kings practices have lasted nearly three hours, with coach Paul Westphal wanting to iron out some of the recent problems but also give his new additions to the practice floor (Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia and HIlton Armstrong) more time to acclimate.

Westphal said his specific agenda on Tuesday was interior defense and talking turnovers. Yet as the players themselves know, the practices haven't been the problem lately.

"We're not playing the basketball we're capable of playing," rookie guard Tyreke Evans said after Tuesday's session. "We're all good in practice. We scrimmage and guys look good and everything but then game time it's a different story."

Jason Thompson - who has hit just 26 of 74 shots in the last seven games (35.1 percent) - saved his worst shot for last on Tuesday. And it didn't even involve a basketball.

As the second-year forward grabbed an energy drink from the cooler near the practice court at Philips Arena, Francisco Garcia asked him to grab him one as well. Thompson obliged, then lobbed the drink some 20 feet toward Garcia. It smashed into the support holding up one of the baskets, spilling red juice all over the floor. The Kings can only hope it wasn't a sign of things to come tonight.

***

Evans and fellow rookie Omri Casspi stopped into the NBATV studios in Atlanta for a visit...

From The Bee

'Nocioni could be odd man out for the Kings,' By Sam Amick

'Greene, Brockman earn starts,' By Sam Amick

'Kings' Evans named in wrongful death suit,' By Jason Jones (contributions from Bill Bradley and Sam Amick)

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

'Extra work raises game for Horford,' By Ken Sugiura

GAMEPLAN

KINGS (15-25) AT ATLANTA (26-14)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Philips Arena
TV: CSNCA.
Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: Today's game marks the first time since Kevin Martin's Jan. 15 return from injury that the Kings face a team that they've already faced with him taking part, although that Nov. 4 loss to the Hawks (113-105) doesn't offer any clarity as to how this new mix works. Martin had 29 points and 11 rebounds but had a negative-11 plus-minus, while Tyreke Evans was a plus-four in that game despite hitting just 7 of 21 shots and finishing with four assists and three rebounds.

Hawks update: Atlanta lost six of eight games after starting the season 19-6, but the Hawks have won five of their last seven games. They lost to Oklahoma City on Monday in what was the second game of a four-game homestand. Yet just as Atlanta's three wins in three tries against Boston seemed to unofficially put them among the Eastern Conference elite, they have been routed in both games against defending conference champion Orlando.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.
13 Tyreke Evans PG
23 Kevin Martin SG
20 Donte' Greene SF
34 Jason Thompson PF
40 Jon Brockman C

HAWKS

No. Player Pos.
10 Mike Bibby PG
2 Joe Johnson SG
24 Marvin Williams SF
5 Josh Smith PF
15 Al Horford C - Sam Amick

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***

FOURTH QUARTER (Bobcats 105, Kings 103)

CHARLOTTE - Sure enough, the Kings made a run at it. But after a 13-0 run that included seven points by Tyreke Evans and four more points assisted by the Kings rookie, they simply couldn't finish the comeback.

On the big picture front, it's certainly worth noting that the comeback took place while Kevin Martin played just one fourth quarter minute. Evans, Beno Udrih, Jon Brockman, Andres Nocioni and Donte' Greene doing all the damage. Of course it helped immensely that Gerald Wallace sprained his left ankle in the fourth and was out for 12 of the 13 points during that run. He returned and finished with 28 points. Raymond Felton had 17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for the Bobcats.

Evans had 34 points on 13 of 20 shooting for the Kings, while Omri Casspi and Andres Nocioni had 13. Martin had nine points in 26 minutes.

There were some controversial calls late the Kings are surely mad about, but the fact is they still gave up 20 turnovers.

THIRD QUARTER (Bobcats 84, Kings 72)

I learned my lesson in Chicago not to count this team out on any public venue, as I blogged that day about how I heard the team plane firing up in the third quarter.

That being said, it's still not looking good for the Kings. They still trail by 12 despite a much-improved third quarter, although five more turnovers has them at 16 and there's just no way you win on the road doing things like that. Short and not so sweet in this update...

SECOND QUARTER (Bobcats 66, Kings 47)

Is it 2008-09 again?

The Kings are a complete and utter disaster in this one, allowing their own worst-case scenarios to unfold on both ends of the floor. They are ice-cold on offense after a hot start (not sure about that figure below though) and are shooting just 44.4 percent.

More importantly, they've let Charlotte small forward/newest slam dunk entrant Gerald Wallace and his teammates get to the rim at will en route to shooting 56.8 percent. Wallace has 19 points on 5 of 10 shooting, while Omri Casspi (nine points, four of six shooting) is among the few on-target.

Sloppy (11 turnovers), disjointed (10 players in action) as coach Paul Westphal reaches for answers. Ugly, ugly, stuff.

FIRST QUARTER (Bobcats 32, Kings 23)

The Kings looked like they'd fixed it, hitting jumpers and runners and even good old-fashioned layups at the start.

Yet after hitting 10 of their first 14 shots and leading 21-20, they reverted while the Bobcats finished the quarter on a 12-2 run. The frontcourt defense is again an issue, as Gerald Wallace (seven points) already finished two alley-oops. New King Hilton Armstrong saw his first action and changed that tone, swatting a Stephen Jackson dunk attempt.

But Kings coach Paul Westphal went away from the lineup that included Kevin Martin, Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, Omri Casspi and Armstrong and at one point had Beno Udrih, Martin, Andres Nocioni, Jon Brockman and Evans on the floor when it all went awry.

Omri Casspi hit three of his first four shots after struggling so mightily from the floor in the last five games, yet hasn't returned after six first quarter minutes (It's early in the second when I'm writing this). The rotations may have been a bit much in the first quarter, as Westphal used 10 players.

The Kings hit just one of their final seven shots, while Charlotte has hit 63.6 percent from the field (14 of 22). - Sam Amick

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***

CHARLOTTE - The scouting reports have changed, with teams figuring out these young Kings' tendencies and making the necessary defensive adjustments.

And right about the time the Kings may have thought things couldn't get worse offensively (they've shot below 40 percent in three straight games and averaged 86.6 points in that stretch), they get to play a Bloody Mary affair (11 a.m. tip Pacific) against the a Bobcats defense that is known to leave offenses bloodied (tops in the league).

But if the Kings are to pull off an inaugural win in Game No. 3 of this six-game road trip, they absolutely must finish at the rim better than they have been recently. It's not just center Spencer Hawes who continues to get denied down low, rookie Tyreke Evans has finished on just 49 percent of his layups and dunks in the last five games.

That's a four percent decrease from his season-long percentage, although it's hardly bad news for the Kings. Evans has been going to the hole more, which is the smart play considering his jumper remains a work in progress and he was letting the defense off the hook far too often before by firing away. As for the data, 73.7 percent of Evans' shots in the last five games have been at the time as compared to 59.8 percent for the season (courtesy of NBA hotspots).

And while coach Larry Brown has his Bobcats defending the right way, shotblocking isn't this team's forte. Former Kings small forward Gerald Wallace leads the squad with 1.1 per game, and resident big man Nazr Mohammed is a token starter who is averaging just 14 minutes while Tyson Chandler remains out with a foot injury.

If the Kings want to finish this losing streak, in other words, it's time to finish at the rim. - Sam Amick

From The Bee

'Kings seem lost with Martin back,' By Sam Amick

From The Charlotte Observer

'Felton taking fewer, but better, shots,' By Rick Bonnell

GAMEPLAN

Kings (15-24) at Charlotte (19-19)

When: 11 a.m. Pacific

Where: Time Warner Cable Arena Arena

TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: Before the Kings shot 37.3 percent against Washington on Saturday, Paul Westphal was asked if his team's recent shooting slump was a concern. The Kings coach said he was optimistic that the misfiring simply couldn't continue. He's likely right, but it hasn't ended just yet. His team has shot a combined 36.4 percent in the last three games while averaging 87.3 points per game. They are now 1-11 when scoring fewer than 100 points.

Bobcats update: The Stephen Jackson trade has been a success, as Charlotte is 16-13 since being joined by the former Golden State shooting guard. He presents problems on both ends on his own, but the pairing with former King Gerald Wallace has been potent. The Bobcats, who have won seven of their last eight games, were 3-6 without Jackson.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans PG

23 Kevin Martin SG

18 Omri Casspi SF

34 Jason Thompson PF

31 Spencer Hawes C

BOBCATS
No. Player Pos.

20 Raymond Felton PG

1 Stephen Jackson SG

3 Gerald Wallace SF

32 Boris Diaw PF

13 Nazr Mohammed C

- Sam Amick

'Kings' touch remains missing in loss to Wizards,' By Sam Amick

'Casspi erupted over playing time squeeze,' By Sam Amick

NBA Page: 'Carter's solo style isn't Magic so far,' By Sam Amick

'NBA Betting: Is it worth the gamble?' By Jason Jones

***

WASHINGTON D.C. - This is more than than 10 losses in 12 games for the Kings. It's bad basketball lately.

And just imagine the state of affairs if they never played Denver, which is the only team the Kings have managed to defeat in the last three weeks. Yet the recent dip in fire and rhythm - dare we say, chemistry - is what has turned the locker room into quite the frustrated place.

Omri Casspi is and always will be the heart-on-the-sleeve type, so his emotional spillage during Friday's game at Philadelphia became a temporary issue (more on that in a minute). His teammates, meanwhile, seem to be feeling a confusing mixture of angst, patience, optimism and concern. In other words, it's a crucial time for this team.

In tomorrow's paper, I'll get more into what everyone not named Tyreke Evans or Kevin Martin thinks about what needs to happen going forward. But as I pointed out in today's NBA page, , they aren't even close to being the most surprising team in the league (Oklahoma City, Clippers and Memphis have improved by more wins at this point). And while the Kings are still on pace to win 31 games following their franchise-low 17-win season, they have just blown the two games on this six-game road trip that - on paper - were the easiest of the bunch.

Charlotte (Monday's opponent) is 16-4 at home and has won nine of their last 12 games (including four straight and seven of the last eight). What's more, the 2 p.m. East Coast start means the Kings will be arriving at the arena at 9 a.m. West Coast time. If their body clocks haven't adjusted by then (and mine hasn't yet), that's not an ideal situation when you're trying to come with maximum energy.

From there, Atlanta (Wednesday's opponent) is 16-4 at home, followed by Orlando (14-4 at home) on Friday and Miami (11-10 at home but always a tough matchup with Dwyane Wade) on Saturday.

As for Casspi, I wanted to share all of his thoughts regarding his state of mind. Most importantly, his apology to his teammates was edited out of today's Kings notes, so it's only fair to get that out there as well. These are the comments not found in that story, with a bit more from Westphal below as well...

CASSPI

"I shouldn't have reacted the way I did and I'm just sorry for my teammates, you know, because I don't want nobody to think that I was not happy for somebody else to play. I just was frustrated for myself and it's just behind me now. I just want to focus on (the Wizards game and the future). I'll just try to contribute to the team. I don't need the ball in my hands to contribute."

On how Martin's return affected his role...

"I didn't really know what to expect. That might be why I got shocked by it, frustrated. But Kevin is so important to the team and we can be so much better with him so hopefully I'll get my touches and I'll get my minutes and I'll do good things like I did until now.
I've never been in a situation like that where I was a big part and then I was going to the back a little bit. I'm going to have adjust. Everybody will."

WESTPHAL

"I wouldn't even say he was complaining as much as he was frustrated. ..We've had several players during the year express frustration, but we always handle it and they always come back and understand that that's not appropriate, but we don't make announcements about it either. This was a little bit more visible...but it's not unusual in this league to have that kind of thing."

For those who made it to the end here, I'd been meaning to share this video of Evans' homecoming in Philadelphia on Friday night. It was quite a scene inside the Wachovia Center long after the game was over, with the chaos even prompting my own dust-up with an overzealous security guard who didn't believe I was shooting video for professional purposes.

"That's not a work camera," he insisted of my IPhone as if I was an autograph hound.

You can certainly see why he wondered, of course, as Evans was definitely getting the rock star treatment.


- Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Wizards 96, Kings 86)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Wizards used the sort of balanced attack the Kings could only dream of to hand them their tenth loss in their last 12 games, as five players scored in double figures.

Caron Butler led the Wizards with 19 points and Brendan Haywood had 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Kings, meanwhile, have quickly turned into a miserable offensive team.

They shot 37.3 percent overall, marking the third straight game in which they hit less than 40 percent of their shots. And after Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans combined to score 40 of the Kings' first 66 points, the backcourt duo mustered just six fourth-quarter points between them. Evans hit just 2 of 6 in the final quarter while Martin was 0 of 3.

THIRD QUARTER (Wizards 70, Kings 66)

Apparently the Kings are taking the baby-steps approach to making this new mix work.

Against Philadelphia on Friday night, Kevin Martin looked fine but Tyreke Evans struggled. Tonight, the backcourt mates are on the hunt for a third scorer.

They have scored 40 of the Kings' 66 points, with no other player in double-digits. Omri Casspi, specifically, has missed 2 of 7 while falling short in his audition. Jason Thompson - who had 19 points last night - hasn't taken that role on tonight either as he has seven points on 1 of 5 shooting. The Kings are shooting 38.3 percent and are on pace to finish in the sub-40s for the third straight game.

SECOND QUARTER (Wizards 48, Kings 44)

Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans are the least of the Kings' problems tonight, as they have hit a combined 8 of 17 shots and scored 26 points (Martin 16, Evans 10).

As for their running mates? Not so hot. They are 8 of 24 combined, with Spencer Hawes the worst offender (3 of 9). He is getting destroyed at the time and continues to have his shot blocked in helpless fashion. Donte' Greene has been a spark off the bench, scoring seven points in front of his home town crowd.

The Wizards have received 11 points off the bench from Earl Boykins and shot 50 percent overall. Washington led 45-39 with a minute left, but a Greene three-pointer and electric alley-oop finish from an Evans pass on the break cut the lead to one. Martin played way too far off DeShawn Stevenson at the end of the half and gave up a three with two seconds left that killed the Kings' strong finish.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 23, Wizards 22)

The Tyreke Evans-Kevin Martin combo is working just fine tonight.

The Kings lead 23-22 and their newly-paired backcourt has combined to score 18 points. The Kings trailed 14-6 early, but Evans rattled off nine straight points for the Kings on a series of drives and one 20-footer. Martin followed suit when Evans went to the bench for a spell, scoring six of the Kings' final eight points of the quarter. - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Sixers 98, Kings 86)

PHILADELPHIA - Kevin Martin's return to the Kings lineup changed little about the outcome on Friday night at the Wachovia Center, where they fell to the Sixers to lose for the ninth time in the last 11 games.

Martin had 19 points on 4 of 10 shooting in his first game back since having Nov. 9 surgery to repair a hairline fracture in his left wrist, but an off-shooting night from Tyreke Evans (3 of 13) and unproductive outing from fellow starter Omri Casspi (six points) didn't help matters.

Samuel Dalembert was the real reason the Kings began their six-game road trip on a losing note, as the Sixers center hit all seven of his shots and finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Thaddeus Young had 20 points for the Sixers, and Allen IVerson had 17.


THIRD QUARTER (Sixers 74, Kings 71)

Allen Iverson scored 10 of his 15 points in the third as the Sixers kept the Kings at arm's length.

Kings forward Jason Thompson (11 points, 12 rebounds, four assists) is playing some inpsired basketball near his hometown but not getting rewarded nearly enough. The same could be said for Tyreke Evans, who has just four assists but who has seen a number of would-be dimes wasted by his teammates.

Evans just isn't finishing like he normally does and is 2 of 10 from the field. Kevin Martin has a team-high 18 points.

SECOND QUARTER (Sixers 49, Kings 47)

The Kings finally have something to build on as far as their new lineup, as they finished the half on a 9-3 run with Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans on the floor.

Evans started the game 1 of 6 from the field, but he entered attack mode and got to the line for four of the points. His lone bucket in that stretch came when he blew by Lou Williams on the break to cut the lead to 47-44.

Thaddeus Young and Samuel Dalembert have combined for 22 points for the Sixers, who are the benefactors of the Kings' horrible shooting. They're missing wide-open putbacks, uncontested jumpers and everything in between en route to a 41.5 percent shooting half (17 of 42). They have been sloppy, too, and have 10 turnovers.

After hitting 11 of 20 in the first quarter, Philadelphia hit just 8 of 22 in the second quarter.

FIRST QUARTER (Sixers 32, Kings 25)

Before we even get to how Kevin Martin looked and how Tyreke Evans looked with him, there's the obvious: Defense, anyone?

The Sixers have hit 11 of 20 shots and forced just two turnovers, with Samuel Dalembert hitting all four of his shots for eight points (he also has four rebounds) while Thaddeus Young has 10 points.

Martin has looked good, hitting three of five shots for seven points on jumpers and post-up action. Evans, however, is 1 of 5 with just one assist. The Sixers finished the quarter on a 14-3 run.

As for rotations and how all of this will work, you had your starters of Evans, Martin, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes. Beno Udrih and Ime Udoka were the first guys off the bench, while Jon Brockman was the first reserve big to see time. Andres Nocioni was the last sub of the quarter. - Sam Amick

PHILADELPHIA - We're going for substance over style on this particular blog post, as there is obviously just one topic fans are wondering about tonight: Kevin Martin's return. I have plenty on that at the top here, but would strongly recommend that folks stay tuned until the end of this blog post for video of a comedic shoot-a-round shootoff between Kings swingman Francisco Garcia and assistant coach Mario Elie.

As for Martin, I caught up with the sixth-year shooting guard at this morning's shoot-a-round, and he informed me that he will be starting tonight in his first game back since having surgery Nov. 9 to repair a hairline fracture in his left wrist. Martin is expected to be joined in the starting lineup by Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes.

Martin said he met with Kings coach Paul Westphal for about 20 minutes to discuss the best approach to tonight's action. And rather than relay the info and paraphrase, just go ahead and hear from his mouth how he's feeling and thinking going into the game...

MARTIN

"I'm ready to play, anxious. It's like starting my training camp right now. We'll see how it goes. Don't expect a come back like I had the last couple of years (laughs)."

Asked why this is different than past years...

"First of all, we're starting on the road and the last couple of years I had my comeback at home. This one was a little longer layoff."

On how his first practice on Wednesday was more taxing than he'd anticipated when Westphal decided to go approximately three hours...

"I knew it was gonna be a tough one just because we're trying to go full speed right now. We're trying to get people going in the flow, so we needed that long, three-hour practice. It was good for everybody. It was just good."

On his meeting with Westphal...

"We met this morning for 20 minutes. I'm gonna start, and you never know how the game is going so maybe five or six minutes here and there depending on my breath, then chill out until I'm ready and depending on the game flow. If I'm going 30-plus (minutes), that means I'm playing well. I think wind-wise, once I catch that second wind I'll be fine.
Usually your first game back, it's either all or nothing."

On whether he has talked with teammates about the best way to play or if you just 'go ball,'...

"We just go out and ball. Everyone feels like it's a new start. We had a team meeting this morning before we started watching the film, and coach just told how it was going to be. We're the healthiest we've been all year. We've got 14 healthy players, and most teams in the league don't have 14. We're ready to go, so let's go. I think this is our time to get going and see what happens."

One last note: newly-acquired big man Hilton Armstrong told me he will not play tonight. I got the sense he needs a bit more time to learn the Kings' system and get comfortable.

And now, we present the sharpshooter's showdown.. I stopped the video too quickly, though, and missed Elie's proclamation that he needs his own Gatorade commercial like Miami's Dwyane Wade because "I got three (championship rings) and he's got one." "Super Mario," as he is known, won two titles with Houston (1994 and 1995) and one with San Antonio (1999).

From The Bee

'NBA, Kings back major land swap,' By Tony Bizjak

'Kings' May doesn't mope despite decline in playing time,' By Sam Amick

'Philadelphia is home game for Evans,' By Jason Jones

From The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News

'Tyreke Evans of Chester is living an NBA dream,' By Kate Fagan

'Tyreke Evans' strength coach is support system,' By Keith Pompey

'No skipping practice for Sixers' Iverson,' By Kevin Tatum

'Sixers rookie Holiday starting to show he's got game,' By Bob Cooney

- Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Magic 109, Kings 88)

This finish wasn't all that complicated, but it was certainly ugly for the Kings.

They hit just four of 22 shots in the fourth quarter and scored just 10 points, with Dwight Howard dominating and intimidating on the inside and the Kings misfiring from the outside.

Howard finished with 30 points and 16 rebounds, which sounds far more monstrous than it actually was. The Kings did a decent job on him defensively, but simply couldn't find ways to score consistently against this defense that leads the league in fewest points in the paint allowed. Tyreke Evans led the Kings with 18 points, but hit just 5 of 16 shots. Omri Casspi had 11 points but hit just 5 of 13 shots. Jason Thompson continued to struggle, finishing with just six points and five rebounds. Overall, the Kings shot a season-low 34.9 percent.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 78, Magic 76)

A Kings starter is finally heating up, as Tyreke Evans has hit four straight and has a team-high 16 points. Omri Casspi has a well-rounded nine points, nine rebounds and four assists but has hit just 4 of 11 shots.

Otherwise, the Kings continue to do a nice job on Dwight Howard. The Magic big man was - no type here - actually stopped by Spencer Hawes on a late third-quarter possession, and the Kings are doing a decent job of closing out on threes even when they double down low. Orlando is 7 of 23 from three-point range.

With no Vince Carter tonight, I'm amazed at how bad Rashard Lewis looks. He is sluggish, getting beat to every loose ball and hardly hitting his shots like we've been accustomed to seeing (2 of 8). - Sam Amick

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 55, Magic 51)

It's still all about the Kings' reserves in this one.

The Kings were in control most of the second quarter, leading by as many as nine points with the backup leading the way.

So far, 35 of the Kings 55 points have come from the bench led by Beno Udrih's 12 points. Andres Nocioni has eight points while Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes each have seven points off the bench.

Meanwhile the starters continue to struggle to find their rhythm. Tyreke Evans has missed nine of 10 shots. Omri Casspi is 3-of-8 and Jason Thompson has missed all three of his shots. Ime Udoka missed his only field goal, too.

The Magic hasn't exactly been on fire, barely shooting better than the Kings' 40 percent rate at 42.9 percent.

Jason Williams led their reserves with eight points and cheers for an Orlando player. Former Oak Ridge High School star Ryan Anderson was also received well at Arco.

This is a four-point game in part because someone didn't start the clock fast enough. J.J. Redick made a jump shot with 0.3 seconds left, aided by what was a slow start to the game clock.

And I thought you could only get a tip-in with that much time left on the clock.

--Jason Jones


FIRST QUARTER (Kings 24, Magic 24)

Before tonight's game Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said his projected starting lineup had only been together for 10 games.

Well he'll get no sympathy on the Kings side.

Paul Westphal trotted out his 16th different starting lineup tonight.

The result was good enough to start as the Kings played even with the Magic through the first quarter.

Donte' Greene returned to the starting unit after missing two games with a sprained left ankle. He joined Jason Thompson and Omri Casspi in the frontcourt. Tyreke Evans started in the backcourt with Ime Udoka.

But the bench is why the Kings are in the game right now.

The Kings' reserves made six of eight shots. The starters were two-of-12.

Andres Nocioni led the Kings with eight points off the bench.

Thompson picked up two fouls and forced Westphal to go to Spencer Hawes early and he added five points.

Dwight Howard had 13 points in the first to go with six rebounds for Orlando.

--Jason Jones

BLOG UPDATE (1:49 p.m.): First of all, all you fans calling for Martin to play tonight can go ahead and settle down.

That's just not happening, but he will be getting some work in today. He plans on getting in four practices leading up to Friday's game, but the ultimate decision on whether he returns against Philadelphia will now be made by coach Paul Westphal.

Meanwhile, here's his tentative schedule leading up to that game. He'll work out this afternoon, doing sprinting, jumping, dunking, and going very hard like he did in a couple one-on-none extra sessions last week. Tomorrow he will practice with the team, then do extra work on his own afterward.

The team isn't schedule to practice on Thursday, but Martin is planning on getting in one last workout with an assistant coach on Thursday night in Philly. From there, it'll just be a case of whether Westphal and Martin think he's back in a rhythm and ready to contribute.

***

According to Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin, he was cleared to play today by the doctor who performed his Nov. 9 surgery.

Martin, who has been out since having the operation done to repair a hairline fracture in his left wrist, said the next couple days of practice will determine if he can play as early as Friday's game at Philadelphia.

"We'll see how these practices go the next couple of days," he said immediately after his appointment. "It's a good thing I have been doing basketball related workouts for three weeks so it should be real quick." - Sam Amick

BLOG UPDATE (11:40 a.m.): The trade has been formalized. The pick is in 2016.

***

The Kings have acquired Hilton Armstrong from New Orleans for a future 2nd round pick, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

According to Armstrong's agent, Sam Goldfeder, the teams are waiting for the trade call from the league. The deal also includes cash coming Sacramento's way. Armstrong is in the final year of his deal and will be paid $2.8 million this season. He gives the Kings much-needed depth, length and athleticism in the frontcourt and is low risk because of his contract. It's a far cry from a couple months ago, when the Kings considered trading for Hornets big man Emeka Okafor and his enormous contract. More to come... - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 102, Nuggets 100)

Regardless if the Denver Nuggets are at full strength or not, the Kings have found a contender they can beat.

Tyreke Evans hit a fadeaway jumper with 0.7 seconds left to give the Kings the win over the Nuggets.

Evans finished with 27 points, the final two answering a clutch three-pointer by Chauncey Billups that tied the game at 100 with 11 seconds left in the game.

Spencer Hawes was benched in favor of Jon Brockman and responded with one of his best games. Hawes had 17 points off the bench and was key in the fourth quarter for the Kings (15-21).

Brockman was a monster on the glass as usual with 12 rebounds.

Billups had 27 points for the Nuggets (23-14). Kenyon Martin and JR Smith each had 20 points for Denver, which was without Carmelo Anthony.

This is the second time the Kings have beaten the Nuggets without one of its stars. Billups did not play last month when the Kings won, 106-101.

Evans also missed that game.

--Jason Jones


THIRD QUARTER (Nuggets 76, Kings 73)

The Kings looked like a team still in the funk that began in the fourth quarter last night in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors.

They appear to be out of it now.

Maybe it was Paul Westphal's playful protest at the end of the second quarter. Perhaps the Kings just didn't want to be embarrassed at home. But they looked like a different team after halftime.

The Kings opened up the third on a 13-2 run to tie the game at 56 and led briefly, 63-61.

Tyreke Evans exploited mismatches and now has 17 points. Beno Udrih finally found his shooting stroke for nine pints in the third. Omri Casspi and Evans each had seven in the third.

Chauncey Billups leads Denver with 20 points, 10 coming in the third.

--Jason Jones


SECOND QUARTER (Nuggets 54, Kings 43)

Paul Westphal is one frustrated and funny man.

The Kings coach wasn't attempting to be humorous with his late second-quarter protest, but he had fans and media like laughing at how he chose to express his displeasure with the officials. After watching what he thought was a Nuggets loose ball foul go uncalled and be followed by a Chauncey Billups three-pointer and 51-38 Denver lead, Westphal laid into officials James Capers and Mark Lindsay for nearly two minutes with a tirade that included "nobody has anybody idea what you guys are calling."

When Lindsay finally called a technical, Westphal yelled "Yeah, that's right," and then took a different tactic. He peeked down the floor at a content Nuggets coach George Karl sitting peacefully on his side of press row.

So Westphal assumed an identical position on his side of the floor - seated on the cushion, arms crossed, not making a sound.

"I'll be happy like George, then maybe you'll treat me like George," he explained to the refs.

After the halftime buzzer sounded, Westphal remained while staring at an officiating crew that refused to acknowledge his extended presence.

Yet that didn't work, nor did anything else for the Kings. They have given up a combined 32 points to Joey Graham, Kenyon Martin and Billups and 50 percent shooting overall. The Kings are shooting just 41.5 percent, with Tyreke Evans and Ime Udoka scoring 10 points apiece. Westphal has been trying everything tonight, from starting Jon Brockman to even using Kenny Thomas again.

But with a horrific assist-to-turnover ratio of four to 11 and an offense that is atrocious to this point, the Kings find themselves in quite a hole. - Sam Amick

FIRST QUARTER (Nuggets 26, Kings 19)

A good night's sleep didn't cure the Kings' execution problems.

They had seven turnovers and shot 40 percent (8 of 20) in a sloppy first quarter in which ball movement was about as prominent as Paul Westphal atta-boys. There wasn't much of either, as there was a grand total of one assist.

Omri Casspi was the obvious mascot of the team's frustration, shaking his head during numerous possessions when the ball was pounded far too much. Casspi, Jason Thompson and Jon Brockman (who started in place of Spencer Hawes) are a combined 3 of 12.

The Kings, of course, are coming off an ugly fourth quarter at Golden State on Friday night in which they struggled with many of these same problems. - Sam Amick

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 86, Warriors 76)

OAKLAND - The beat writers are busy writing but the Warriors are making it tough on the Kings. They led by as many as 18 in the third, but the Warriors kept withing reach.

Monta Ellis leads all scores with 26 points. Tyreke Evans leads the Knigs with 22 points.

--Jason Jones

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 61, Warriors 46)

OAKLAND - Omri Casspi spoke for the Kings masses pregame, when the topic of Golden State's defense arose and he smiled and said, "This is going to be fun."

Sure enough, the Kings have managed to put up 61 first-half points even while shooting "just" 47.7 percent. That number would have been much higher if Andres Nocioni wasn't so trigger happy, as he has missed six of his eight shots and all three of his three-pointers.

There has been no such trouble for Tyreke Evans, who has a team-high 14 points and four assists while outdueling fellow rookie Stephen Curry (six points, two assists). Monta Ellis is the only one going for the Warriors, as he has 18 points on 7 of 13 shooting.

Ime Udoka was key in a late second-quarter run in which he scored seven of his 10 points in the final 5:12. The Kings finished the half on a 12-2 run, with Evans helping Udoka on Corey Maggette and the rookie's steal leading to a break and two layups for the current margin. Udoka also has seven rebounds.

As mentioned by JJ below, Warriors forward Anthony Randolph was lost to an injured left ankle. He will not return. - Sam Amick


FIRST QUARTER (Kings 32, Warriors 28)

As you might have expected, there are a lot of points being scored to start this game.

The Kings shot 52.6 percent in the first quarter, led by Tyreke Evans (eight points) and Andres Nocioni (seven points).

Spencer Hawes played just 1minute, 37 seconds before picking up two fouls and being replaced by Jon Brockman, who again provided a spark with four rebounds and four points.

The Warriors were led by Monta Ellis' eight points, but might be without forward Anthony Randolph the rest of the game.

Randolph was helped off the floor at the end of the first quarter and was unable to put any weight on his left leg.

--Jason Jones

Kings coach Paul Westphal has an enviable problem coming around the bend. Sometime in the near future, shooting guard Kevin Martin will return and Westphal will have to change his rotations and roles accordingly while figuring out how to maximize the potentially-potent backcourt of Martin and Tyreke Evans.

Well thanks to David Thorpe's latest Rookie Rankings at ESPN.com (which are Insider only, unfortunately), Kings fans can now relate when it comes to having the best kinds of troubles.

Surprisingly, Omri Casspi was given the top spot and Tyreke Evans was bumped to No. 2. Now before the reaction begins, I'll advise fans to not only read the rankings and explanations involved thoroughly but to also listen to or read the below interview. Evans' ankle problems and three missed games are the main reason he dropped, with Casspi's phenomenal week making it easy to move him up after he was third overall last week. Overall, Thorpe makes it clear Evans remains the Rookie of the Year frontrunner by a long shot over Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings and Casspi.

Nonetheless, the rankings have the potential to be even more controversial when it's considered that Thorpe - a personal coach who has worked with Martin for his entire NBA career - trained Casspi at his Bradenton, Fla. facility over the summer. David was good enough to spend some time explaining his thinking regarding the rankings and to talk about how he juggles the the job of analyst while also having business relationships with so many of the players he analyzes. Lastly, he weighs in on the eventual Evans-Martin pairing and predicts good things to come. Thorpe is in town to work with Martin while also wanting to observe and evaluate fellow Rookie Ranking regular Stephen Curry of the Warriors in tomorrow's game.

The transcribed interview is below (or on the other side of the below link), and the audio file is just over 10 minutes long.

FOURTH QUARTER (Suns 113, Kings 109)

This is a familiar story.

Kings play a good team tough only to see that team make the plays down the stretch to pull out a win.

That was the case tonight. The Kings couldn't make the plays to take control of the game and when it mattered most, they were done in by yet another former league MVP.

Add Steve Nash to LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as MVPs that have ended hopes of wins for the Kings at Arco lately.

The Kings had a chance to tie the game at 105 with 1:09 left in the game, but Tyreke Evans missed two close shots and Jason Thompson couldn't put in a tip-in.

On the other end, Nash nailed a jumper to give the Suns enough cushion to escape Arco Arena with a win.

Evans had 27 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Omri Casspi had a career-high 24 points and seven rebounds for the Kings (14-20) who have no lost four straight.

Nash led all scorers with 30 points to go with 12 assists. Jason Richardson had 20 points and Amar'e Stoudemire had 24 points for the Suns (22-13).

--Jason Jones


THIRD QUARTER (Suns 88, Kings 81)

Tyreke Evans' ankle continues to bother him.

The Kings rookie limped off the court with a sprained right ankle in the third quarter. It's the same ankle that kept him out for three games recently. Evans, who has 19 points, five rebounds and four assists started the fourth quarter.

Jon Brockman started the third in place of Spencer Hawes and played almost the entire quarter. He is doing what he does and has six rebounds. The other bench contributor that is standing out is Andres Nocioni with 17 points.

Steve Nash has been a problem all night. He has 20 points and 11 assists to lead for suns in double figures.

--Jason Jones


SECOND QUARTER (Suns 63, Kings 49)

Kings aren't defending and aren't scoring, and you don't have to be Red Auerbach to know that's not a good combo.

They are shooting 42.6 percent, while the Suns are shooting 55 percent. Amare Stoudemire has 16 points and seven rebounds to lead the Suns, and Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi have combined for 23 points for the Kings.

FIRST QUARTER (Suns 34, Kings 25)

Leandro Barbosa's bankshot three-pointer to end the quarter was an aberration, as Phoenix earned every other point in this first quarter en route to an early lead.

The Kings attempted to go at Steve Nash with the Tyreke Evans mismatch, and it worked to the tune of six points on 3 of 7 shooting. But Nash did plenty damage of his own, scoring eight points and dishing out six assists. Amare Stoudemire led all scorers with 12 points and grabbed five rebounds while forcing Spencer Hawes into a bad start. - Sam Amick

Join the Kings Corner Facebook page here.

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

The Suns are not the Cavaliers, nor are they the Lakers.

They are members of the Western Conference's upper middle class, a squad that has returned to its running roots but won't be challenging for the title come June. Which means one thing for the Kings: it's time to get a win.

During this recent stretch that coach Paul Westphal referred to as "murderer's row," his team has been competitive against each and every one of the top-tier team (That's Cleveland, the Lakers and Dallas, while laying one egg against Philadelphia and downing a Denver team without Chauncey Billups). But they now find themselves in danger of cutting their own surprise story short, as the attention and credit will begin to wane should they fall too far below .500.

The Kings showed they can keep up with the Seven-Seconds-or-Less 2.0 team in their Dec. 6 loss in Phoenix, but this one offers the chance to re-establish home court advantage after dropping four of their last five at Arco Arena (11-7 overall). The Suns have had the Kings' number since the second half of the 2004-05 campaign, winning 13 of the last 15 matchups.

As Westphal sees it, they have to limit turnovers for that to happen. They fixed the problem for a short while in early to mid-December, but are back to the charity effort again (15.6 per game in the last nine games). On the season, the Kings are tied for 24th in turnovers per game (15.5).

"That's got to be our next step in the development," Westphal said. "We're having too many turnovers...and that's a very important part of our evolution of our team."

This team can clearly compete with any squad in the league, but they are 6-16 against teams that currently have a .500 record or better (wins against Memphis, Utah, Oklahoma City, Houston, New Orleans and Denver). The growth can only go so far, however, when moral victories are the norm.

From The Bee

First practice back, Garcia in flow, By Sam Amick

Evans again is West's Rookie of the Month, By Sam Amick

From the Arizona Republic

Suns vs. Kings means Dragic, Udrih reunite, By Paul Coro

TONIGHT'S GAME

PHOENIX (21-13) AT KINGS (14-19)

When: 7 p.m. Where: Arco Arena.

TV: CSNCA. Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: Considering the Kings' challenge at the moment is learning how to beat - not just compete - with upper-echelon teams, the timing couldn't be better for them to face the Suns. The Suns had trouble with Sacramento on Dec. 5 in Phoenix before winning 115-107, this after the Kings had been blown out almost every time out against the Suns in recent years.

Suns update: These Suns aren't nearly as hot as they were, having lost 10 of their last 17 games after starting 14-3. They've been tough to figure out recently, beating the Lakers and Celtics in back-to-back games on Dec. 28 and Dec. 30 before getting blown out (128-103) by Memphis on Saturday.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans PG

18 Omri Casspi SG

20 Donté Greene SF

34 Jason Thompson PF

31 Spencer Hawes C

SUNS

No. Player Pos.

13 Steve Nash PG

23 Jason Richardson SG

33 Grant Hill SF

1 Amar'e Stoudemire PF

8 Channing Frye C

- Sam Amick

Join the Kings Corner Facebook page here.

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

Just because Team Tyreke thinks big doesn't mean they don't enjoy the small stuff.

And considering Rookie of the Month awards can only be a natural path to the Rookie of the Year honor that Kings guard Tyreke Evans and his support system so badly want him to win, today's announcement that Evans is two-for-two in that department is a pretty good start. Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for the second straight time as well, although Evans is seen as the clear frontrunner in this race by most - if not all - media.

Evans averaged 22.1 points (47.6 percent shooting), 5.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.62 steals and 35.5 minutes per game in December. He is averaging 20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists on the season, putting him just a shade away from the elite class of 20-5-5 rookies that only includes Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James. Cleveland's Mike Brown and Memphis' Lionel Hollins were Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month, respectively.

For those who missed it, we discussed Team Tyreke and the Blueprint they have for the 20-year-old in Sunday's paper. I had been meaning to share some material that didn't make it in the story, so this is as good a time as any.

January 2, 2010
Late-night Lakers aftermath

BLOG UPDATE: (5:30 P.M., Jan. 5

Since this finish remains a hot topic, I added a few relevant tidbits on our Facebook page about the final shot and what the Kings were dealing with - Click here to join.

***

Box score (including video)

Game story

Game notes (Ron Artest remains out, talks about his injuries)

LOS ANGELES - First things first, I'm taking a mulligan on the first version of the game story that went out tonight.

My in-person look at the final play was shielded by John McEnroe's oversized head, so it actually looked like Sergio Rodriguez left Kobe Bryant before he hit his 24-foot layup from the left sideline to beat the Kings 109-108. It was fixed in a subsequent version of the story, however, so all you Kings fans who are just looking for someone to take your Laker hate can just move on.

All that being said, the fact remains that Rodriguez was half of a Kings backcourt chosen to be on the floor with 4.1 seconds left and the game's most clutch player in the Black Mamba. The other half? Beno Udrih, who also qualifies as pint-sized for these purposes. And I'm just not understanding that reality.

Andres Nocioni was the natural choice to be in for defensive purposes, but he was on the bench. Omri Casspi was on the other side of the floor, but his length and quickness would have been better served sticking near Bryant. You almost wonder if they could have thrown Tyreke Evans in for the final sequence.

Yes, it would have been gimmicky and a certain backfire move if he came in cold and was burned, but he told me before the game that he plans on playing on Saturday so he's obviously not hobbling all that much.

Even Bryant found it funny that the diminutive Rodriguez was his closest obstacle to his latest game-winner.

Having already answered my question about Rodriguez with a crack about how the Spanish point guard was too small to make any difference in that moment, he kept the comments coming on his way out of the locker room.

"Come on, man," he said with a smile. "That (rhymes with brother trucker) had his chance in Beijing."

Alas, Bryant wasn't flawless late. His reference was to the Spanish team that fell to Team USA in the gold medal game of the 2008 Summer Olympics, but Rodriguez didn't play on that team. It was an incredibly disappointing experience for Rodriguez to be left off the roster, but this qualified as a downer as well.

"I am so proud of our team, but at the same time it's disappointing," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "We have played well enough to beat these guys twice and we have now gone home with two losses. We have seen it before from the Lakers and I'm sure we'll see it again. They have a knack at the end of games that we are hoping to acquire."

There was a long list of contributors for the Kings, who saw Spencer Hawes and Omri Casspi reach career highs in scoring (30 and 23 points, respectively) while Udrih scored 19 points and had a career-high 13 assists against just one turnover (let that stat marinate for a moment). He made Derek Fisher look one step away from retirement and more than a few steps slow, as the Lakers point guard hit just 1 of 10 shots and had just one assist while being limited to nine second-half minutes by Phil Jackson.

The Kings certainly could have used more from Nocioni (1 of 5 shooting, 0 of 4 from three-point range in just 10 minutes), and Jason Thompson was held scoreless for just the third time in his career. Hawes, though, was the one who turned this into a slugfest.

He hit threes (4 of 5), runners, dunks, spinning floaters - just about everything in the arsenal while adding 11 rebounds and five assists.

"For the most part, everyone played their (butts) off," Hawes said. "And it really hurts to come up short in a game like that. If guys are having an off night and you lose, it's (one thing). But to have everyone playing so hard for so long and to have a dagger like that, there's no way you can get used to that or be prepared for that feeling.

"We're missing three of our best players. One Rookie of the Year (Evans), one 25-a-night scorer (Kevin Martin) and Cisco (Garcia), who is really one of the leaders - if not the - leader of the team and a playmaker. We know when we get those guys back it's just going to take off from there."

As for Hawes' huge offensive night, he said his confidence was rolling early.

"Just getting the ball in the right spots, really," he said. "Getting going early with the passing got me in the flow of the game, and when they tried to take that away that's when the shots came."

The Kings, of course, came up one shot short. - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Lakers 109, Kings 108)

LOS ANGELES - Last time around, Kobe Bryant overcame a right shoulder strain to hit the late shots that mattered and bury the Kings. This time, he overcame his own shooting.

Bryant - whose two three-pointers in the second overtime at Arco Arena six days before were the difference - started 4 of 15 from the field but couldn't have finished any stronger. His three-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer came after Ime Udoka missed two free throws with 4.8 seconds left. The Kings led by as many as 20 points, but couldn't stop Bryant (39 points) when it matterd most or capitalize on a number of career nights.

Spencer Hawes had a career-high 30 points, Beno Udrih had a career-high 13 assists and small forward Omri Casspi had a career-high 23 points.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 86, Lakers 79)

Just like the Lakers, I'm trying to catch up here. Bryant explodes for 16 points to help the Lakers' effort, while Spencer Hawes' nine-point quarter helps the Kings.

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 64, Lakers 49)

Running late with newspaper writing here, but here's the short version...

Omri Casspi, Spencer Hawes and Beno Udrih have 13 points apiece, while Kobe Bryant is 3 of 11.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 28, Lakers 23)

Omri Casspi's 11 first quarter points helped the Kings get off to a good start at the Staples Center.

It didn't hurt that Kobe Bryant went 1 of 5 to start the game. The Kings have hit 13 of 23 from the field (56.5 percent), while the Lakers are shooting just 40.9 percent (9 of 22) and have five turnovers. - Sam Amick

BLOG UPDATE (4:22 p.m.): I chatted with ESPN's Kamenetzky Bros today about tomorrow's Kings-Lakers matchup. The interview can be found by clicking here.

***

Much to the chagrin of Kings fans and surely to the delight of the Lakers, Tyreke Evans is doubtful for Friday's game in Los Angeles.

The Kings rookie continues to deal with right ankle soreness from his lingering sprain, and he and the team are clearly taking a cautious approach with the injury. Yet after Evans missed the last two games (Denver, Philadelphia), it's worth noting that the allure of facing off Kobe Bryant can sometimes be a natural numbing-agent for his hungriest of colleagues.

No one knows that better than current teammate and former King Ron Artest, who would often rest his bumps and bruises against other teams but show up to take on the Black Mamba. The Kings obviously showed they can hang with the reigning champs on Saturday, taking them to double-overtime (and blowing a seven-point lead in the first overtime) with Evans at Arco Arena.

Yet for the time being, it's looking like they'll be taking on that challenge without him this time around.

Speaking of Artest, he remains out after suffering a Christmas night concussion at his home and missing a string of three games that began in Sacramento on Saturday. He is not expected to play tomorrow as well, and the incident is being deemed a mysterious distraction by some LA media.

As I wrote on the day he was supposed to arrive in Sacramento, everything had been going well for Artest in LaLa land to that point. - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (76ers 116, Kings 106)

Philadelphia's backcourt dominated the second half to lead the 76ers to 116-106 win over the Kings.

Lou Williams led all scorers with 22 points. Allen Iverson finished with 20 points. Meanwhile forward Andre Iguodala had 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Sixers (9-22).

Williams and Iverson shot a combined 15-for-29 while Beno Udrih and Donte' Greene shot 10-for-27. It was an especially tough night for Udrih, who missed eight of 11 from the floor.

Greene and Omri Casspi each had 21 points for the Kings. Jason Thompson had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Backup guard Sergio Rodriguez had 15 points for the Kings (14-17).

THIRD QUARTER (76ers 79, Kings 76)

The Answer was just that in the third quarter.

After trailing by 13 in the first half, Philadelphia leads after three quarters thanks to Allen Iverson.

Iverson had 11 points in the third to give him 18 for the game. The Kings are still close because Jason Thompson (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Omri Casspi (16 points, eight rebounds) are carrying the team offensively.

But with the team in need of another spark on offense, Beno Udrih has missed eight of 10 shots and Donte' Greene is just four-for-11.

--Jason Jones


SECOND QUARTER (Kings 50, Sixers 50)

Horrible second quarter for the Kings, who let the Sixers hit 13 of 21 shots while Marreese Speights, Sam Dalembert and Elton Brand took over down low. Brand scored nine in the second quarter.


FIRST QUARTER (Kings 28, Sixers 17)

The Kings breezed through the first quarter, leading by as many as 11 points by playing focused defense and enjoying proficient offense.

They forced the Sixers into five turnovers and held them to 7 of 22 shooting (31.8 percent). Meanwhile, Omri Casspi had a team-high 11 points on five of six shooting as the Kings overcame six turnovers. - Sam Amick

December 29, 2009
Petrie extension official

BLOG UPDATE (3:15 P.M.): I've been informed that the figure on Petrie's salary for this season was a bit off, as he is making approximately $4 million.

***

If you didn't know any better on Tuesday afternoon, you'd almost think it was 1998 all over again.

There was talk of Kings championships and bright futures and proclamations of "In Petrie we trust" from the team's owners who were so forlorn not long ago. Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie sat between Joe and Gavin Maloof at the Riverside Clubhouse and discussed how exciting these next three years could be and how satisfied all involved are that he'll be a part of it.

As we reported yesterday, Petrie took a hefty pay cut in this contract. He is earning approximately $4 million this season and just signed an extension that peaks at $1.5 million in the third year with the first year starting around $1.2 million.

But as Gavin Maloof pointed out, it's not all about money when you're 61 and have already accomplished - and earned - so much. Petrie wanted to be here, and it sounds as if the mutual admiration society remained throughout the negotiation process.

"We feel it was a good deal for Geoff and it was a good deal for us," Gavin told me afterwards. "It's a fair deal for Geoff and a fair deal for us. We've got the best GM in the game for another three years. We're very happy about that, elated.

"I think Geoff's excited to be with an organization that he loves. It's a wonderful environment. He wanted to be here and we wanted him here, so whatever the money is has some significance but not really. As you get on in life, you want to be around people that you enjoy being around. That's just as important as the money. He loves this organization. He has built it. There is a lot of pride in ownership here. I always felt he wanted to head this (turnaround).

"I think this year, what Geoff saw and what has transpired with (first-year Kings coach) Paul (Westphal) and the young group that we have. And that there's hope and that this group could win a championship someday, and they're so young and there's really something going here. It's not just talk. There's really something going. We have a great player in Tyreke Evans. I think he wanted to see it through."

Petrie wasn't the only one getting a new deal, as Wayne Cooper had 'general manager' added to his already-existent title of vice president of basketball operations (Jason Levien is the team's assistant general manager/team counsel). Petrie's son, Mike, was promoted from scout to assistant vice president of basketball operations.

"Beyond the fact that we have the same name, he has grown up around the game, he has experience and has been here the better part of 11 years, he has all the qualities that are important in my sense of what's invaluable with people in your organization," Geoff Petrie said. "He's got experience. He has a history of performing. He's loyal. He's trustworthy. And he is, at his age (33), a much better person than I was.
"He was the video coordinator for some of the best teams that we had when Rick Adelman was here, he spent four years in scouting, organizing the draft. He's just very competent."

Petrie said his son's job duties wouldn't change drastically, but he will obviously work more closely and frequently with the front-office team.

"He'll just do more things," he said. "He'll keep doing what he has been doing and get more involved in some of the daily management, work with Coop and I and the rest of our staff and the scouts. We're a team, and we're going to continue to be a team." - Sam Amick

December 28, 2009
In-game blog (Denver at Kings)

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 106, Denver 101)

On this night, the Denver Nuggets missed their best guard more than the Kings.

Sacramento ended a two-game losing streak with a 106-101 win over the Nuggets. The Kings won with Tyreke Evans watching with his right foot in a walking boot to protect his sprained right ankle.

The Nuggets were without All-Star guard Chauncey Billups who is out with a groin injury.

The Kings (14-16) had dropped consecutive games to Cleveland and the Lakers before finally knocking of a division leader in the Nuggets.

Five Kings scored in double figures led by Andres Nocioni, who came off the bench to score a season-high 21 points. Four of five starters scored in double figures with Donte' Greene and Beno Udrih each tallying 17 minutes. Jason Thompson had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

But the star of the game might have been Jon Brockman, who energized the Kings with his play off the bench in the second half. He grabbed 10 rebounds in just 16 minutes and from the reaction in Arco Arena, he's quickly becoming a popular figure for his tenacity.

Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 34 points. Nene had a season-high 25 points for Denver (20-12).

--Jason Jones


THIRD QUARTER (Kings 75, Denver 70)

Jon Brockman entered the game and the energy for the Kings went up a few notches. Brockman's activity resulted in him grabbing five rebounds and adding four points as the Kings took a 75-70 lead.

Brockman did his work in just 4 minutes, 23 seconds on the floor.

The Kings outscored the Nuggets, 28-22, led by Donte' Greene's six points to give him 15 for the game.

Carmelo Anthony steal leads all scorers with 26 points on 12 of 28 shooting.

--Jason Jones


SECOND QUARTER (Denver 48, Kings 47)

Carmelo Anthony is showing why he's the league's leading scorer, as he has 19 points at halftime on 9 of 21 shooting. The Kings have stayed close largely thanks to their second-quarter defense, as Denver hit just 6 of 23 shots in the period. Andres Nocioni has 11 points to lead the Kings and Donte' Greene has nine.

FIRST QUARTER (Denver 32, Kings 26)

No Tyreke Evans tonight apparently means no reason for Denver to worry. So far anyways.

Even without their own dynamic point guard in Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets have been predictably hard to handle for these youthful Kings. Denver has shot 51.9 percent, with Carmelo Anthony scoring 11 points. The Kings already have six turnovers, and are led by Donte' Greene's nine points.

BLOG UPDATE (1:17 a.m.): Correction from earlier: Mike Petrie will be the assistant vice president of basketball operations. And to clear up the rest of the reshifting, Wayne Cooper is expected to have 'general manager' added to his title of vice president of basketball operations. Jason Levien is the team's assistant general manager/general counsel.

BLOG UPDATE: (11:24 p.m.): I've been told that Geoff Petrie isn't the only one in his family who had a banner day, as Mike Petrie has been promoted from regional scout to vice president of basketball operations.

It remains unclear how the other front-office titles shook out. Wayne Cooper is currently the vice president of basketball operations, though I wouldn't be surprised if he was made the team's general manager.

BLOG UPDATE (8:36 P.M.): According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the three-year deal peaks at approximately $1.5 million in the final year. No surprise that there was a significant pay cut involved, as that's the way the league has been going (Petrie is making $4.6 million this season).

***

According to sources close to the Kings, basketball president Geoff Petrie signed a three-year extension today.

While it had been clear for some time that Petrie and co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof were determined to get a deal done, the length of the contract appears to have grown in the final stages of negotiations. A two-year deal had initially been discussed. - Sam Amick

December 26, 2009
In-game blog (Lakers at Kings)

SECOND OVERTIME (Lakers 112, Kings 103 Final)

When it was over, Kobe Bryant did in the Kings one more time.

Bryant drilled consecutive three pointers in overtime to give the Lakers a six-point lead in what would be a 112-103 win over the Kings.

Bryant finished with 38 points, including the threes he hit over Donte' Greene. The second made the score 109-103 with 2:40 left.

The Kings offense stalled in the second overtime as they managed just two points. Tyreke Evans had a rough shooting night, going 9-for-23 for 18 points. Beno Udrih led the Kings with 23 points.

--Jason Jones

FIRST OVERTIME (Kings 101, Lakers 101)

Pau Gasol could have won the game in regulation with a free throw. Instead he kept this exciting game going with little time left on the clock.

The Kings scored the first seven points of overtime to take a 101-94 lead. The Lakers responded with a 7-0 run of their own, capped by a Gasol tip-in with 0.4 seconds left in overtime.

The Kings forced a missed three pointer by Kobe Bryant with five seconds left in overtime, but couldn't grab the rebound. The ball ended up with Derek Fisher, who missed a shot in the lane that was put back in by Gasol.

--Jason Jones


FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 94, Lakers 94)

The Kings scored the last six points of regulation to force overtime. Both teams had chances to take the lead with free throws.

Omri Casspi missed a free throw that would have given the Kings a 95-94 lead with 1:15 to go.

Pau Gasol missed two free throws with 23.3 seconds left but the Kings were unable to get a shot off before time expired for the second straight game.

--Jason Jones


THIRD QUARTER (Kings 78, Lakers 78)

The third quarter was the Kobe Bryant Show, but the Kings are far from out of this game.

Sacramento withstood a barrage from Bryant, who had 16 points in the third, and head into the fourth quarter tied with the Lakers at 78.

Bryant has 30 points for the game and was able to get his shot off against Tyreke Evans and Ime Udoka.

Beno Udrih has 21 points, eight in the third, to help keep Bryant from taking over the game completely. When the Kings were bothered by the size of the Lakers frontcourt, they turned to Jon Brockman.

Though he's undersized, Brockman's aggression and activity meant he was after every loose ball and frustrating the Lakers.

--Jason Jones

HALFTIME (Kings 57, Lakers 55)

The Kings have to hope this isn't the most fun they have all night, but they're having plenty of it so far.

Beno Udrih hit a three from the right corner at the buzzer to put the Kings up and make him 5 of 9 thus far with 13 points. The crowd went mostly nuts (sans the large contingent of Lakers fans) in a good way after spitting fan poison moments earlier.

Kobe Bryant got a phantom push call on the baseline after the Kings defended well for all 24 seconds, but his free throws gave the Lakers the lead. Bryant has 14 points, but it's Pau Gasol (12 points on 5 of 5 shooting) who is really hurting them (Jason Thompson specifically).

Kings have just five turnovers while the Lakers have nine. THe Lakers are shooting 55 percent to the Kings' 47.8

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 31, Lakers 28)

Thus far, the Lakers are having a hard time taking their frustrations out on
the Kings.

After getting blown out by Cleveland on Christmas Day, the Lakers couldn't handle the up-tempo Kings and their frenetically-defending ways. Small forward Donte' Greene had 11 point son 4 of 7 shooting, including a gorgeous crossover and stepback over Lamar Odom for a 25-18 lead.

THe Kings forced seven turnovers, and only a late Kobe Bryant flurry cut the lead. The Lakers trailed despite shooting 60 percent.

December 21, 2009
Chewing on crow in Chi-town...

Game story

'Kings historic rally stuns Bulls,' By Sam Amick

Game notes

'Brockman back in a big way,' By Sam Amick

CHICAGO - You know you thought this thing was over, too.

But you got the privilege of thinking that in your mind's eye, or saying it to your wife on the couch or your buddy at the bar. I, on the other hand, wrote it for all to see during the third-quarter recap of tonight's in-game blog.

'I'm sure the Kings' plane has already been fired up. They, however, have completely stalled out.'

One 35-point comeback later, I'm eating dark purple crow.

For what it's worth, I do remember hesitating in the slightest bit before hitting the 'Publish' button on that sentiment. But there was a game story to write and so I just went with it. I had the lede all picked out, something about how Andres Nocioni may have sat on the bench all night biting his nails but this was far from a nail-biter.

Safe to say there was some re-writing to do. Gavin Maloof, meanwhile, will surely be reliving this game in his head for some time to come.

The Kings co-owner made the flight to Chicago and I caught up with him as he was walking on air through the United Center tunnels. I've got to run and pack and we'll certainly cover this more tomorrow, but take note of one priceless thing in this video: watch for Vinny Del Negro.

The Bulls coach walks by en route to his postgame press conference and does his best to keep his frustrated face out of the shot.

- Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 102, Bulls 98)

So that whole line below about about the Kings firing up their plane? It's still true. They need to get out of this city faster than a Tyreke Evans dribble drive.

The Kings pulled off a remarkable comeback from 35 points down, with Evans doing it all late in what was simply an incredible finish. No way I'm missing a second of this postgame scene, so click here for the breakdown. One last thought: Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro may want to catch a seat on the Kings' plane with the way this crowd wants his head.

THIRD QUARTER (Bulls 88, Kings 69)

More of the same. I'll spare you the details beyond a few lighthearted ones. Sergio Rodriguez blocked Brad Miller, which was kind of funny. Jon Brockman looked like a flying boxing Tasmanian Devil on one block attempt (and foul) on Taj Gibson, which was kind of fun to watch. Otherwise, I'm sure the Kings' plane has already been fired up. They, however, have completely stalled out.

HALFTIME (Bulls 67, Kings 43)

Not much has changed here at the United Center, except that Derrick Rose picked up where Luol Deng led off and has 19 points at halftime.

He posterized Donte' Greene on a dunk after a Brad Miller right wing special of a pass. Deng has 20 to lead all scorers, and the Bulls are shooting 60.9 percent. The Kings have 13 turnovers and are shooting 40.5 percent.

Not surprisingly, Kings coach Pau Westphal has used 11 players in an attempt to get something going. Nothing doing outside of Beno Udrih, though (he has 14 points). One of them is Jon Brockman who has returned from his lower back strain to play three minutes after missing the last two games.

FIRST QUARTER (Bulls 38, Kings 19)

So I asked Kings coach Paul Westphal about his team's loss at Minneapolis on Friday, inquiring as to whether he remained puzzled at how his team had laid an egg after competing so consistently for so long.

"With a team this young, I'm more surprised that hasn't happened more often," he said with a smile.

Well it's happening again tonight at the United Center, where the Kings are down 19 and have allowed Chicago to hit 17 of 24 shots (70.8 percent). It's not all Andres Nocioni's fault, but the Kings small forward is struggling badly in his first return to Chicago since being traded in February. He is 1 of 5 from the field and has let Luol Deng hit 7 of 8 shots for 14 points.

The Kings have hit just 7 of 17 shots and have seven turnovers. - Sam Amick

CHICAGO - Not to bore anyone from the media perspective for a moment, but today's game is yet another indicator that this team is eons more interesting than they were last season.

Unless the 2008-09 Kings were playing Houston (meaning a Ron Artest reunion) or Utah (Reggie Theus meets his old coach in Jerry Sloan) or a handful of other NBA cities, there just weren't many intriguing storylines. Yet tonight's game at the United Center will round out a road trip in which there were no lack of such tales to tell.

And after Saturday's point guard battle royale between Rookie of the Year candidates Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee, it will be just as interesting to see how Evans does against the reigning Rookie of the Year in Derrick Rose.

Yet no one will be as curious as John Calipari, the Kentucky coach who had both point guards at the University of Memphis in the last two seasons (both were one-and-done players). I caught up with Calipari on Sunday night for an Evans feature I've been putting together, and he made at least 72 comparisons between the two players in the course of a half-hour conversation.

Calipari will have to watch on his DVR unfortunately, as the Wildcats (and his third consecutive sensational point guard in John Wall) have a date with destiny to deal with. Should Calipari's team beat Drexel and improve to 12-0, it will be the 2000th win in the storied program's history.

His former players couldn't have crafted a more fitting intro to this matchup, as Evans had a game-high 24 points and game-winning layup against the Bucks while Rose had a career-high 32 points in an overtime home win over Atlanta on Saturday. Calipari, more than anyone, had seen these one-man shows at work before.

"Neither of them need ball screens to score," Calipari said by phone. "The value of players like them is that coaches want players who can get baskets on their own. (Opposing) coaches can stop plays (with defensive schemes), but coaches have a hard time stopping guys who score on their own."

Calipari had just spoken to Evans before we connected, and said he couldn't help but chide him about the latest development in his game.

"I said, 'Why didn't you tell me you could post up like that?" Calipari said. "When I posted you up, you couldn't score."

Kidding aside, Calipari couldn't be happier for Evans' early success.

"Wow, is he good?" he exclaimed. "He's come a long way."

* One final note on Evans. He continues to deal with the effects of right tendinitis, as evidenced by trainer Pete Youngman rubbing a Ben-Gay type lotion underneath his brace before the game on Saturday. He wore a brace throughout the game .

Also, Jon Brockman (lower back strain) and Sean May (strained right hamstring) are day-to-day and questionable, respectively. And in case anyone thought the Evans-Rose matchup was the only storyline in this one, you have another visit with former Kings Brad Miller and John Salmons and Andres Nocioni's first visit to Chicago since he was traded to Sacramento in February.

From The Bee

'Casspi earns starting role, spread in Sports Illustrated,' By Sam Amick

From Sunday's paper

'Evans wins battle of the rookies, and game on last shot,' By Sam Amick

'Jennings slow to be Bucks point man,' By Sam Amick

NBA Page: 'Wolves content to wait for Rubio,' By Sam Amick

From the Chicago Tribune

'Thomas can give quick boost to D,' By K.C. Johnson

'Kings at Bulls preview,' By K.C. Johnson

From the Arlington Heights Daily Herald

'Thomas' return a great chance for both sides to make things right,' By Mike McGraw

'Plenty of ex-Bulls could help team right now,' By Mike McGraw

'Salmons remains confident despite drop in production,' By Mike McGraw

TONIGHT'S GAME (By Sam Amick)

KINGS (12-14) AT CHICAGO (10-15)

When: 5 p.m.
Where: United Center, Chicago, Ill.
TV: CSNCA.
Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: The United Center is one of the few places in the league in which the Kings have had decent success, as they are 11-12 in the Sacramento era in the house that MJ built. And while they broke their eight-game road losing streak at Milwaukee on Saturday night, they could another road win in the worst way considering the Cleveland and Lakers are up next.

Bulls update: Chicago downed Atlanta 101-98 in overtime on Saturday at the United Center, giving the Bulls their third win in five games after a four-game losing streak. Coach Vinny Del Negro's job is reportedly on the line, and the Kings' start a stretch of games that will surely be considered must-wins for him as Chicago then faces New York, New Orleans, Indiana and Detroit.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.
13 Tyreke Evans PG
18 Omri Casspi SG
5 Andres Nocioni SF
34 Jason Thompson PF
31 Spencer Hawes C

BULLS

No. Player Pos.
1 Derrick Rose PG
15 John Salmons SG
9 Luol Deng SF
52 Brad Miller PF
13 Joakim Noah C

MILWAUKEE - Tyreke Evans deserves the credit.

He won the battle of the rookies against Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings, coming up huge with a game-winner for which I had the perfect angle while sitting on the opposite baseline. Bucks center Andrew Bogut bit so hard on his jab step hard that he almost wound up in the front row, and that simply didn't come through on the video highlights. It was a gorgeous, memorable, one-of-a-kind move on Evans' part that gave the Kings the win in a place where the home team had yet to lose to a team with a losing record (the Bucks are 9-5 at home).

But it also did one thing from a coverage standpoint: it took some of the spotlight off of Jason Thompson. And that's just not fair.

Thompson scored nine of his 22 point in the fourth quarter, and he continues to carry what one could argue is the heaviest load of any frontcourt player in the league. Considering coach Paul Westphal used his 10th starting lineup on Saturday night, Thompson never really knows who he'll be playing next to come tipoff time. But he has been producing on a consistent basis and is quickly earning major respect around the league.

Of all the shots that were huge for the Kings in this game in which 14 of the 24 lead changes took place in the final quarter, Thompson's three-point play with 2:40 was as big as any. With the shot clock winding down, Thompson slithered his way along the baseline and squeezed in a reverse layup that became a three-point play when he got the continuation call and pulled the Kings within one (89-88).

It came at the most crucial of times, as the Kings' spirits had appeared to be sapped by the night-long trend of Bucks' tenacity winning out. With 4:14 left, Spencer Hawes did his part and contested Andrew Bogut down low. Three offensive rebounds later, Carlos Delfino's layup tied it 85-85. Evans got caught in the lane and the jumpball went the Bucks' way, followed by a Delfino three from Jennings that contnued the momentum switch.

It didn't get bigger than his floater with five seconds left, of course, when Thompson was there to bail Evans out when his drive nearly drove him out of bounds. And by the time it was all over, Evans was more than willing to shell out some kudos Thompson's way.

"When I gave it to JT, I saw Bogut coming to help," Evans said. "I'd told JT, when I drive to pop middle because I couldn't see when Bogut was coming up and I didn't have anybody to pass it to. He did a good job of listening to me. WhenI drove, he popped up, and when I'd seen him, I gave him the dish."

Other than Thompson and Evans, no one was bigger than Beno Udrih. And after a 2008-09 campaign in which I grew so accustomed to seeing Udrih play so poorly, I'm the first to admit I never saw this coming. He hit 6 of 11 shots for 16 points, marking the 10th time in the last 12 games in which he has hit at least 50 percent of his shots.

He is shooting a career-high 53.3 percent overall and scoring a career-high 13.8 points per game. And while Udrih is averaging four assists per game, his 1.7 turnovers is quite the improvement considering he averaged 2.2 last season in similar minutes (31.1 to 30.2 per game).

Yet at the end of it all, it was obviously the Evans-Jennings show.

"It was a good game," Evans said. "He played good, and I played good. (Jennings) didn't go out there and force anything. He was playing the same way he'd been playing all year. If he saw the open shot, he took it. He made open passes, that's what I like about it. We didn't feed into the two Rookie of the Year thing, we just went out there and played basketball."

And both of them, truth be told, played the game remarkably well for a pair of 20-year-olds.

"That was a really fun game for us I think it would have been a fun game for any neutral observer," Westphal said. "But I'm sure the Bucks didn't have that much fun at the end.
"It was outstanding to watch those two young kids play like that. I thought Tyreke and Brandon Jennings were sensational in their own way. They're both very, very special, and they have a lot of great basketball ahead of both of those guys." - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 96, Bucks 95)

MILWAUKEE - Tyreke Evans may have spent much of the night getting burned by his own mistakes, but he burnt the Bucks in the end.

The Kings rookie's driving layup with 0.9 seconds left gave the Kings the win, with Evans' right jab step in the lane nothing short of a thing of beauty. Andrew Bogut's enormous frame slid to his left while Evans finished with his right hand. Bogut missed a jumper at the buzzer as the Kings broke their eight-game losing streak on the road.

It was the second straight wise choice for Evans, whose decision making was suspect all night. Seconds earlier, he drove the lane and passed back to Jason Thompson when he hit a defensive wall. Thompson's 6-footer put the Kings up 94-93.

In between, Brandon Jennings had found Ersan Ilyasova for a wide-open layup after the Bucks point guard picked up the loos ball as the Bucks led 95-94 with five seconds left.

In the end, Evans finishes with 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists and six turnovers. Jennings had 15 points on 4 of 11 shooting, nine assists, and just one turnover.


THIRD QUARTER (Kings 73, Bucks 72)

There won't be many times this gets written this season, but the Kings were better without Tyreke Evans. For a short stretch anyways.

The rookie simply got frustrated and tried to do it by himself midway through the third, when he was either forcing jumpers on zero-pass possesions or losing the ball in the lane or getting called for a charge. He came out with two minutes left, and the Kings finished the quarter on an 8-2 run.

Jason Thompson had a 20-footer and short jumper in that stretch, Omri Casspi had two free throws and Beno Udrih (14 points) hit a runner to put the Kings ahead with two seconds left.

While Evans has a game-high 18 points, he has just two assists and four turnovers.

SECOND QUARTER (Bucks 53, Kings 49)

Tyreke Evans scored the Kings' final four points, slicing through three defenders to cut the Bucks' lead to 51-47 then keeping it at four points (53-49) when he squeezed under Andrew Bogut and got a layup over him at the halftime buzzer.

Otherwise, though, it was a bad finish to a good half for the Kings. Spencer Hawes had a rough few minutes, getting blocked on two straight inside attempts, then fouling Bogut to put him at the line and cap a 14-3 Milwaukee run that put the Bucks up 50-45. Bogut has 13 points already, with almost all of it coming against Hawes.

Evans has 17 points on 7 of 12 shooting, while fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Brandon Jennings has seven points, five assists, three rebounds and one turnover. Jennings was clearly looking to distribute early, but that focus lasted far longer than I'd anticipated as he didn't take his first shot until there was 3:25 left in the second quarter. The three-pointer from the right wing put the Bucks up one (He got it over Hawes after losing Evans on a screen). He got to the line for two free throws shortly thereafter, then buried a 20-footer to put the Bucks up three.

It wasn't the first time he has waited so long to look for his offense, as Jennings went the first 28 minutes of last Saturday's home game against Portland without taking a shot. He wound up taking 17 shots in that game (hitting seven) and finishing with 18 points. Of course the ultimate example of his streaky ways was his 55-point game against Golden State on Nov. 14, when he didn't score in the first quarter and had 45 points in the second half.

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 21, Bucks 21)

Score Round One to Tyreke Evans in the Rookie of the Year bout.

The Kings rookie has eight points on four of seven shooting and two assists (two turnovers too), and has come with the sort of energy he didn't have last night. The Bucks' Brandon Jennings is obviously looking to get everyone involved and has done a nice job of doing so, as he has four assists and no turnovers. He is scoreless, however.

The Kings trailed 11-6 early after an Ersan Ilyasova jumper, but finished shooting 45.5 percent (10 of 22) while holding the Bucks to 39.1 percent shooting (9 of 23).

For a guy who says he doesn't like changing his starting lineups, Kings coach Paul Westphal has a funny way of showing it. He went with his 10th different lineup of the season tonight, with Spencer Hawes returning after two games off the bench and joined by Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Andres Nocioni and Jason Thompson. Only two of those lineups included Kevin Martin, meaning eight of them have been Westphal tinkering.

Evans continues to deal with the effects of right tendintis, as evidenced by trainer Pete Youngman rubbing a Ben-Gay type lotion underneath his brace before the game..

MINNEAPOLIS - So we've certainly talked about this matchup for some time, even if Kings' rookie Tyreke Evans and Milwaukee rookie Brandon Jennings hadn't seen each other yet in their new NBA digs.

I broke it down on last week's NBA page, making it clear that my Rookie of the Year vote is going to Evans at this point. So as the clock ticks in anticipation of tonight's Kings-Bucks matchup at the Bradley Center, we will switch gears toward the older folks on the Kings.

Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia.

I'll shed some more light on Martin's situation in Sunday's paper, but enjoy these clips of him getting shots up before the game at Minnesota while still wearing a brace. It was the first time Martin had shot before a game, although he has taken shots before a practice during the last week. Martin, of course, had a hairline fracture in his left wrist in early November that required surgery and was expected to keep him out at least eight weeks.

FOURTH QUARTER (Timberwolves 112, Kings 96)

MINNEAPOLIS - Maybe Slamson needs to start making road trips. Or perhaps the Kings should hired local artist David Garibaldi to travel with the team, ordering him to paint 'Arco Arena' over whichever venue they're playing in on that particular night.

Anything to make this team feel at home.

The Kings had their worst road loss yet tonight, falling to the lowly Timberwolves at the Target Center as their road record fell to 1-11. They couldn't shoot (39 of 91, 42.9 percent), and certainly couldn't defend (T-Wolves 47 of 86, 54.7 percent).

There was simply not enough urgency or energy from the Kings, who must now play at a difficult venue tomorrow (Milwaukee's Bradley Center) before playing at Chicago on Monday.

Evans finished with just 10 point on 4 of 12 shooting, four rebounds, eight assists and five turnovers. Donte' Greene didn't exactly rectify his situation, going 0 for 7 on the night.

Kevin Love had 20 points and 16 rebounds for Minnesota, while Corey Brewer finished with 20 points on 9 of 16 shooting.

THIRD QUARTER (Timberwolves 87, Kings 76)

At least someone finally showed some fire.

Andres Nocioni ripped into Beno Udrih for missing a defensive assignment late in the third quarter, slamming the ball after Nathan Jawai scored and forcing Kings coach Paul Wespthal to cal timeout. It mattered little, though, as the Timberwolves simply continued to make a mockery of the Kings' disjointed defense.

Corey Brewer is having a big night, slashing early to set up his outside game and burying jumpers recently en route to 18 points on 8 of 14 shooting. T Kings are shooting 41.7 percent (30 of 72), with Tyreke Evans having by far his worst game in quite some time. He is 3 of 10 from the field for eight points, four rebounds, six assists and four turnovers. The Kings have 14 turnovers in all.

SECOND QUARTER (Timberwolves 52, Kings 45)

The half ended in fitting fashion, with Andres Nocioni's three-point attempt nearly busting the backboard here at the Target Center.

The Kings small forward wasn't alone, as he and his teammates were combined 17 of 47 (36.2 percent) in the half. Nocioni is 3 of 8 overall and 1 of 5 from three-point range; Spencer Hawes is 1 of 4, Tyreke Evans 3 of 8 and Donte' Greene 0 for 3.

The Kings have made matters worse with 10 turnovers, playing sloppy and out of sorts almost the entire half. And right about the time they looked primed to make a push, Minnesota would push harder.

Case in point: Evans end-to-end layup on the break pulled the Kings within three with 1:20 left in the half, and Corey Brewer had answered six seconds later with his own full-court effort on a dunk. Minnesota has given the Kings 10 turnovers of their own, and the production has been balanced. Kevin Love and Brewer have team-highs with eight points apiece.

FIRST QUARTER (Timberwolves 27, Kings 22)

So it's not exactly buzzing in this building. A couple nearby personnel types from opposing teams joked that no one is bringing energy thus far - not the Kings, not the T-Wolves, the media, dancers, fans, not even the Wolfish mascot.

Nonetheless, Minnesota has been more on point offensively, hitting 13 of 23 (52.2 percent) with Al Jefferson and Ryan Hollins scoring a team-high six points apiece. The Kings have hit just 7 of 21 shots.

Spencer Hawes did not start for the second straight game, as Westphal went with Kenny Thomas in his spot and put Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Donte' Greene and Jason Thompson alongside him. The Kings trailed 13-8 early after hitting just two of their first nine shots. They pulled within one late (23-22), but couldn't answer when Sasha Pavlovic hit a jumper and Kevin Love had a layup on the break. The Kings had two shots rim out in the final 30 seconds, a runner from Omri Casspi and a three-point attempt by Sergio Rodriguez.

Hawes logged six minutes and has two points and two rebounds. - Sam Amick

December 18, 2009
Gameday: Kings at Minnesota

(BLOG UPDATE (1:49 p.m. Pacific): I forgot to mention that rookie forward Jon Brockman is likely out with back spasms. One less to big to help push Al Jefferson around.

MINNEAPOLIS - What better place to start a fire than this whip-out-the-winter-coat-and-hat locale?

It's cold here, of course, as it always is in December and the many months before and after. And while Spencer Hawes can relate to this feeling, his coach said it's time for the Kings third-year center to heat up if he wants his starting job back. While Westphal wouldn't indicate which lineup he'll be going with tonight, I was told that Hawes will come off the bench just as he did on Wednesday against Washington.

"The main thing we want from Spencer is continued aggressiveness at both ends,"
Westphal said at this morning's shootaround. "And I think that when he plays with a fire, he can be effective. And when he doesn't, he struggles. And so, we need him, and we want him to maximize his potential for his good and for the good of the team. That's what he needs to do."

The stat of most relevance here is blocks, as Hawes has taken major steps backward in his ability to help defend the rim and use all seven feet of his frame. He has just one block in the last six games. Hawes isn't the only young player Westphal is hoping gets back on track, though.

Westphal and I talked recently about second-year small forward Donte' Greene as well, and the coach discussed what he wants next from him now in the wake of some subpar play recently. Again, it's not all about one area, but Greene is scoring far less efficiently (and less in general) recently.

In an 11-game stretch between Nov. 7 and Nov. 29, he hit 44 of 80 shots (55 percent). In the eight games since, he is shooting just 39.7 percent from the field (25 of 63). His scoring average in that time is almost irrelevant, as it's more about Greene making the most of the chances that are there for him to take on the offensive end than it is scoring big on a consistent basis.

"It has been very impressive to watch where he has come from and where he is now, but we want to make sure he doesn't slip back to the land of more flash, less substance," Westphal said of Greene. "I think it's important that he keep concentrating on his fundamentals and his role on the team and I think that he can continue to show improvement. But if he thinks he has got anywhere now, that would not be a good assumption. You've got to stay hungry.

"Focus has always been the concern with Donte, and it needs to keep being the concern. He has to concentrate...He's somebody that definitely can score and we want him to score. But we're not measuring his effectiveness on scoring. He's not the No. 1 option or the No. 2 or even the No. 3 option. That doesn't mean he's not going to have games where it comes his way, but he's out there to play defense and supplement the offense. And if he starts having his priorities a little bit different, then that's not going to work so well for the staff."

The T-Wolves, of course, haven't forgotten how the Kings blew them out at Arco Arena on Saturday 120-100. We'll see in a few hours whether they get their revenge or if the Kings break their seven-game losing streak on the road.

"It'll be interesting," Westphal said. "They played us tough for two and a half quarters (on Saturday), and then we broke it open. So we know that they can be good. We know that we struggle on the road and that this is a tough place to win traditionally. We've got to play well, and we need it."

From The Bee

'Kings, T-Wolves going in opposite directions,' By Sam Amick

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune

'New Wolves tandem starts to jell,' (Jonny Flynn and Kevin Love) By Jerry Zgoda

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press

'(Damien) Wilkins throws in a speech,' By Ray Richardson

TONIGHT'S GAME

KINGS (11-13) AT MINNESOTA (4-22)

When: 5 p.m.
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minn.
TV: CSNCA.
Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: For as frustrated as the Kings were to falter late at Portland Tuesday and fall to 1-10 on the road, the Rose Garden is no easy place to fix a team's road woes and the Blazers - while disappointing thus far - are far from pushovers. That's not the case today, as the T-Wolves have been bad no matter the location as they are 2-11 at home and away.

Wolves update: As the Kings well know, a win at Utah can lift the spirits of a struggling team. They did it Nov. 7, then kept the momentum going as it sparked a three-game winning streak. But Minnesota had no such luck, upsetting the Jazz on their home floor on Monday then getting blown out by the lowly Clippers two days later at the Target Center (120-95).

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.
13 Tyreke Evans G
20 Donte' Greene SF
5 Andres Nocioni SF
34 Jason Thompson PF
31 Spencer Hawes C (This is no longer the case, of course)

TIMBERWOLVES

No. Player Pos.
10 Jonny Flynn PG
22 Corey Brewer SG
3 Damien Wilkins SF
42 Kevin Love PF
25 Al Jefferson C - Sam Amick

FOURTH QUARTER (Portland 95, Kings 88)

PORTLAND, Ore. - The road woes continue for the Kings, who failed to adjust to Brandon Roy's lockdown defense on Evans in the final quarter and are now 1-10 away from Arco Arena. The Portland guard focused on his defense after sparking the offense, as he scored four points to start the period during Portland's 9-2 run to start it.

Evans had just three of his 19 points in a fourth quarter in which he took just two shots, and the Kings scored just 15 points in the final period while hitting just 6 of 18 shots. Roy finished with 25 points and 10 assists.

Free throws were an issue once again, as Evans and Donte' Greene missed one apiece in the final 93 seconds that were key. The Kings are now 9-6 when leading entering the fourth quarter this season, but just 1-5 on the road. The Blazers are 2-8 when trailing entering fourth, and 1-5 at home.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 73, Portland 66)

Geoff Petrie is here tonight, and I'm guessing the Kings basketball president was smiling during parts of that third quarter.

After the Kings played a horrendous nine-plus minutes and saw the Blazers open the second half on a 23-11 to take a 66-65 lead, Petrie and everyone else at the Rose Garden saw why Tyreke Evans is considered superstar material.

Having hit a five-foot runner just moments before, he couldn't be stopped on two subsequent drives late while being a game changer on the defensive end as well. Evans' rundown block of Andre Miller's layup attempt sparked the fastbreak and led to an Omri Casspi dunk that capped the Kings' 8-0 run to end the quarter.

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 54, Portland 43)

The Kings are doing almost everything necessary to win on the road for the second time in 11 tries this season. Beno Udrih continues to carry the offense, as he has hit 6 of 10 shots and has 15 points.

He hit a three from the left wing with 2:27 left that was a reflection of the Kings' good fortune so far. Kenny Thomas had blown a layup and the inherent two points, but Udrih managed to improve the situation with his trey for a 48-40 lead. There was a lot of that grit and scrappy play from the Kings, who have 10 offensive boards and 15 second-chance points.

Udrih found Ime Udoka for a wide-open three 40 seconds later, his pass the latest smart basketball play that led to a 51-40 lead. Brandon Roy has 15 points for Portland, but the Blazers are shooting just 42.1 percent (16 of 38).

FIRST QUARTER (Portland 23, Kings 23)

The Blazers started hot, hitting six of nine to lead by as many as nine points early on. But Kings rookie guard Tyreke Evans woke his squad up midway through, driving for a layup after a killer crossover and stealing the ball seconds later. Jason Thompson hit the ensuing layup, followed by a Beno Udrih jumper that cut Portland's lead to 17-14.

Udrih did it again three minutes later, hitting a jumper off pick and roll to tie it 21-21. In all, the Kings - who tok the brawny route midway through with Jon Brockman, Omri Casspi and Ime Udoka running together - hit 10 of 20 from the field with Udrih's seven points leading the way. They also have four turnovers.

Portland has hit just 9 of 22 shots (40.9 percent), with Brandon Roy's seven points leading. - Sam Amick

PORTLAND, Ore. - Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof made it clear from the start of this season that 'In Geoff we trust' was still their mantra even after the franchise-low 17-win campaign in 2008-09.

And after Joe Maloof told Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski that they would "sit down soon" with Petrie to discuss a contract extension, I caught up with him this morning on the topic. There will be more in tomorrow's paper, but this is Joe Maloof on the state of affairs on that front.

JOE MALOOF

"I think we want to visit (extension talks) fairly soon, and we want to look at it within the next couple weeks. We'll sit down with Geoff, and discuss the state of the franchise, talk to him about his feelings on the team, how he feels about the situation and go from there and try to work a nice agreement for both parties. We want to sit down in Sacramento. I'll be there for rest of the month.

On whether he thinks the eventual negotiations present any significant hurdle to getting it done. Petrie is among the league's highest-paid general managers under his current contract that expires after this season, earning $4.6 million this season...

"No, I don't think there will be any tough negotiation. I don't think he even has an agent. We just have that kind of a relationship. I just feel very confident (it will get done). I feel that it's going to get done, and it'll be fair for both sides...The world's not the same as it was (business-wise), nobody in the country is doing business the way it was done before."

On the motivation to get it done now rather than the end of the season...

"I think the community really really loves Geoff Petrie. They like him. He has proven himself. He is one of the community. People like him. He does a lot in the community. I think we need to some good news, and I think good news would be to have Geoff sign.

"I think that he's a proven winner, he's got a talent like nobody else in the league at spotting great players. Nobody has been able to do things he's done through the draft - we had three rookies on the court the other night and two second-year guys and we're competing (against Minnesota) and won by 20 points. I think he wants to see this through. Like all of us, we go up and down. We understand that. That's part of the game. We're taking a few punches. That's alright, now we're going to start dishing some out." - Sam Amick

Say hello to Sergio Rodriguez day.

He's back in Portland for a regular season game for the first time since he was traded to Sacramento on draft night in June, and he returns as a contributing member of one of the league's most surprising teams. That makes for a fun trip for any former player of said team.

And while Jason Jones hit on that very topic in today's paper, there's plenty more to delve into as opening tip approaches. Namely, how did Sergio Rodriguez get a role on this team?

When the Kings and Blazers met in the preseason, it looked as if Rodriguez's request for more playing time outside of Portland would go unheeded once again even though his locale had changed. Beno Udrih was the clear No. 2 point guard, and the prospect of a No. 3 seeing real floor time with the lion's load given to Tyreke Evans seemed unlikely.

But then a funny thing happened: they all played too well to not play them. And Kings coach Paul Westphal began to reconsider his approach.

"As you add information as a coach, you can sift through things and learn how to use guys a little better," Westphal said. "I think early I didn't know how to use he and Beno together, and it evolved through practice that that seemed like a viable way to go. Beno was playing so well you try to keep him on the floor. And Sergio was playing so well in practice, he made me rethink the first, second and third point guard idea."

The main concern, of course, was the prospect of having two guards known as below average defenders making up 40 percent of your defensive unit. But after upping Rodriguez's minutes in mid-November, Westphal said the pros continue to outweigh the cons.

"Sometimes there are issues (defensively), but you just ask yourself, 'Is it a net-plus or not?" Westphal said. "Are we getting more out of the mismatch than they are? And when Sergio and Beno are rolling, they can be effective against most teams."

As Rodriguez said when he was starting to his his stride in late November, he is a much better fit with Westphal than he was with Portland coach Nate McMillan when it comes to style of play.

"I think that Sergio is a unique talent," Westphal said. "If you try to plug him in to some pre-determiend role, it's not easy for him. But if you, quote, let Sergio be Sergio I think that players love playing with him and they keep moving and keep their head up and they get the ball. He's a very creative passer who's not afraid to try to thread the needle. Some times that's a fault, but it also can be a big strength when he has it rolling.

"We talked a little bit (going into the season) about how I wanted him to be aggressive and take what he sees. Our initial meetings were like that. In general, nothing has changed. If you're going to be a creative player, then you have to be allowed to create otherwise what are you doing here?"


From The Bee

'Rodriguez brings flash, energy to his role,' By Jason Jones

'Kings dangle dollar beer to lure fans, to chagrin of some,' By Cynthia Hubert

From The Oregonian

'Blazers stay optimistic, look for answers after going 2-6 in last eight games,' By Joe Freeman

GAMEPLAN (By Jason Jones)

Kings (10-12) at Portland (14-11)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Rose Garden, Portland.

TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: It's back to the road, where the Kings have struggled all season. Sacramento is 1-9 on the road with six losses in a row since their lone road win, Nov. 7 at Utah. Things are always better for the Kings when Jason Thompson is playing well. He's averaging 20.7 points and 10 rebounds in his last three games.

Trail Blazers update: Portland is coming off a four-game trip in which it lost three of four. Injuries are a big problem for the Blazers. In their last game in Milwaukee, only nine players dressed for a game that went to double overtime. Even coach Nate McMillan couldn't escape injuries. He missed the trip after surgery on a right ruptured Achilles' tendon.

Probable starting lineups

Kings

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans G

20 Donté Greene G

5 Andres Nocioni F

34 Jason Thompson F

31 Spencer Hawes C

Trail Blazers

2 Steve Blake G

7 Brandon Roy G

23 Martell Webster F

12 LaMarcus Aldridge F

10 Joel Pryzbilla C

- Sam Amick

So I barely squeezed in the old 'East-Coast bias' angle in Sunday's NBA page, with the lead discussing the fact that some folks still inaccurately think that Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings is running away with the Rookie of the Year award.

There is still some truth to that, but far less than there was about a week ago. The top-notch play of Kings rookie guard Tyreke Evans is officially being noticed, and there's no better indicator than the fact that he sits atop the rookie rankings for ESPN (ESPN Insider only), Sports Illustrated (which had the headline 'Jennings clear No. 1...' the week prior) and NBA.com.

There is still a long ways to go for all involved, and that includes the Clippers' Blake Griffin. The first overall draft pick out of Oklahoma continues to work his way back from a stress fracture in his left knee that has kept him out all season but still has a ways to go before his return.

But Grant Hill's advice applies at anytime, and to anyone. The 14-year forward who won the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year award dispensed some of his veteran wisdom when we chatted in Phoenix last week. His main point is that we are fast approaching Phase Two for all these rookies, who may have surprised at the start but who may have a tougher time doing so from here on out.

LOS ANGELES - It never gets old coming down here.

And, no, not just because I went from talking with the hoops version of Yoda one day (that being Kings assistant Pete Carril) to walking next to a real, live Yoda impersonator in front of Hollywood's Chinese Theater the next. Kings Land compared to Lakers Land is quite the contrast. So many more characters.

The point of the trip was to catch up with a particular character who was only visiting, that being former Kings coach Reggie Theus. Now an assistant with Minnesota (whose team plays at Arco Arena on Saturday night), we caught up on all things past and present for this story. As always, there was some interesting material that didn't make the print editions, not the least of which was Theus talking glowingly about this new cast of Kings that has surprised so many folks around the league this season.

He talked about how the team has added the sort of toughness he wished his players had when he was in charge and discussed a few individuals as well.

FIRST QUARTER (Miami 30, Kings 25)

Safe to say Paul Westphal didn't like the first quarter, but most of the Kings coach's displeasure was aimed at the officials who put them on the line five times (they made four).

The Heat shot 14 free throws (hitting 12), with superstar Dwyane Wade going 8 of 10 on his own. Westphal didn't quite think Wade deserved every attempt, yelling at one point late when he believed the officials put the wrong Heat player on the line, ""It's (Joel) Anthony...Get the right shooter. I know you're used to getting (Wade) to the line every time. Get the right shooter!"

On the good side for the Kings, they had just two turnovers. But Miami finished the quarter on a 9-0 run, with the Kings missing their last five shots in that stretch. Donte' Greene leads the Kings with 12 points, while Wade has 12 for the Heat. - Sam Amick

SECOND QUARTER (Miami 59, Kings 44)

Blame the back-to-back set of games and possible fatigue, or the officials, or perhaps an Arco Arena letdown that they've managed to avoid thus far. But the Kings are bad tonight so far.

That 9-0 Heat run to finish the first only got worse, with Miami hitting 11 of 18 in the second and shooting 57.6 overall. Wade has 16 points and five assists, while Michael Beasley has 13 points and Quentin Richardson has 11. The Kings are shooting just 39.5 percent, and Greene and Evans both now have 12 points.

This home crowd that has been very loud this season despite being sparse is suddenly quiet, with catcalls and boos (aimed at the zebras) filling the long moments of quiet. Kings forward Jason Thompson (three points on 1 of 4 shooting with six rebounds) needs to get him game going. He didn't do much against Phoenix last night, either, and his strong play in this early season was one of the biggest reasons for the surprising start.

THIRD QUARTER (Miami 88, Kings 77)

Evans scored 12 straight for the Kings at one point late and has 26 in all, but the Kings continue to trail. Omri Casspi's three at the buzzer brought them a bit closer to a potential comeback and cooled off a heated Westphal.

Before the three-quarters length pass to Casspi resulted in the welcome finish, Sergio Rodriguez turned it over trying to split the defenders and giving up an easy transition dunk on the other end for Dorell Wright. Westie, it's safe to say, was a bit testy. Wade has 24 points and eight rebounds, but it's the combined 28 points from Haslem and Wright that the Kings didn't see coming. They are 13 of 16 from the field combined.

FOURTH QUARTER (Miami 115, Kings 102)

Too many mistakes (most of all 20 of 32 from the line for the Kings) and too much Dwyane Wade (34 points on 10 of 16 shooting, 10 assists and five rebounds).

Too little Kings' defense, to be sure, as they allow Miami to shoot 58.6 percent overall and rack up 30 assists. Turnovers were a problem as well, with 15 of the Kings' 17 coming in the final three quarters. Evans led the Kings with 30 points on 10 of 19 shooting, while Greene had 21 points. - Sam Amick


- Sam Amick

Reporting from Phoenix...

FIRST QUARTER (Suns 35, Kings 26)

Imagine if the Suns had shot well...

Phoenix hit just 9 of 23 in the opening period yet dropped 35 on the Kings, who had some success by switching everything defensively (just as New York did in its win over Phoenix two games ago) but simply didn't capitalize on early opportunities or play a sharp enough game to this point.

It wasn't just six turnovers, but missed putbacks (most from Spencer Hawes, who has hit just 1 of 5) and tentative decisions that so often come on the road when you're a young team. Tyreke Evans had seven quick points and hit his first three shots. Jason Thompson has eight points and is playing very confidently and competently against Amare Stoudemire (three points, seven rebounds) offensively. The Kings hit just 10 of 24 shots in the period.

SECOND QUARTER (Suns 60, Kings 55)

Limiting turnovers, Sergio Rodriguez and the unflappable Kenny Thomas helped the Kings get back in this game.

They used a 12-2 run to pull ahead 51-50 with 2:53 remaining, when Andres Nocioni's three followed one from Rodriguez and one from Donte' Greene before to put them ahead. Thomas added a dose of physicality to help deal with Stoudemire (11 points, 13 rebounds) and Channing Frye (14 points), grabbing all 12 of his rebounds in the second quarter.

Similarly, Rodriguez had all eight of his points and three assists in the second quarter. Still, the Kings could - perhaps should - be ahead in this one. They had a couple unacceptable moments late in the second. First, it was good Greene reverting to bad Greene when he fired away on a contested three with Nocioni open to his right. Just one play, but a rhythm breaker when this team has been making the right play so often.

Last and certainly least was Omri Casspi's airballed three with seven seconds left in the half. Kings coach Paul Westphal had logically asked for the last shot, but Casspi's misfire was way too early and led to a Jason Richardson runner and a 4-0 Suns finish to the half. Evans has 12 points on five of six shooting, while Hawes is a brutal 2 of 10 from the field.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 83, Suns 82)

Thomas is continuing his revival party in a big way, grabbing six more boards in the third to give him 18 for the game. He's doing a phenomenal job on Stoudemire, too, as the forward has just three points since the first quarter. The Kings have just four turnovers since the first quarter and have managed to pull ahead. Pardon the lack of detail for this period, but the eyes need to be on the court a bit more.

FOURTH QUARTER (Suns 115, Kings 107)

After trailing by just one with a little more than six minutes left, the Suns showed that they are still the Suns. They buried five threes in the final stretch, with Channing Frye's starting the run and seemingly every late break going the home team's way. A 12-4 Phoenix run put them up 107-98 with 2:50 left after a Grant Hill jumper. Evans and Andres Nocioni combined for 41 points, while Steve Nash had 10 of his 32 points in the final period.

- Sam Amick

December 5, 2009
Gameday: Kings at Phoenix

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Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

PHOENIX - It's a tough game for the Kings under almost any set of circumstances, and no matter how well they've been playing lately.

But here are the Suns...at home...coming off two embarrassing losses to New York (blowout courtesy of former Suns coach Mike D'Antoni's Knicks) and Cleveland (never-close contest in which Shaquille O'Neal got the best of his old team in the first rematch after he was traded there this summer). Phoenix, I'm willing to bet, wants to start showing again tonight that its 14-3 start was no fluke.

And by the way, the Kings have lost seven straight games in Phoenix by an average margin of 24.4 points. The 48-point loss at Phoenix last season was probably the worst I've been a part of since coming on the beat in 2005. Yet for what it's worth, Suns coach Alvin Gentry says none of that history matters now.

In fact, at first he didn't believe me when I told him of the seven-game streak.

"It couldn't have been seven in a row," he said at this morning's shootaround. "Well, it had to be because it was (then-Suns player) Brian Grant who missed that shot...yeah, that was a long time ago. Geesh."

Credit Gentry with a keen memory, as the game to which he was referring was a 118-117 Kings win in Phoenix on Nov. 6, 2005 in which current Kings assistant Shareef Abdur-Rahim had Sacramento's final six points (23 overall with 12 rebounds). Grant, who was also a former King of course, missed a 16-footer at the buzzer that would have won it. D'Antoni, meanwhile, was denied his 100th victory. All of it, Gentry insisted, is irrelevant to the situation at hand tonight.

"I don't read one thing into that," Gentry said. "With these guys (the Suns), it's a whole different system, a whole different coaching staff (starting last season) and really some of the players are different. I don't think that really matters. These guys are playing with a lot of confidence. And I think right now they feel like they can go anywhere and feel like they have a chance to win."

As are the Kings, which means there is some hope for a more tightly-contested game than these have been in recent years.

"Yeah, I'd say (the Suns are dangerous because of the two losses)," Kings coach Paul Westphal said at his team's shootaround. "They have one of the best teams in the league, and they're angry, so I'm sure they'll be focused on playing their best basketball. They're the only undefeated team left at home, so we know that it is a big hill to climb."

Gameday coverage

From The Bee

'Westphal doesn't keep reserves in the dark,' By Jason Jones

From the Arizona Republic

'Suns host Kings, seek solutions,' By Paul Coro

KINGS GAMEPLAN (By Jason Jones)

KINGS (9-8) AT SUNS (14-5)

When: 6 p.m.

Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix.

TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: After winning four in a row at home, Sacramento faces the challenge of trying to win its second road game of the season. The Kings are 1-6 on the road after going winless on their last three-game trip. The Kings must limit their turnovers to give themselves a chance to win against one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

Suns update: After scoring more than 100 points in 17 consecutive games, Phoenix has been held under 100 points in its last two games. The Suns lost both on the road and will look to return to their high-scoring ways at home. Steve Nash has played well most of the season but wasn't at his passing best in the last two games.

Probable starters

Kings

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans G

20 Donte' Greene G

5 Andres Nocioni F

34 Jason Thompson F

31 Spencer Hawes C

Suns

No. Player Pos.

13 Steve Nash G

23 Jason Richardson G

33 Grant Hill F

1 Amar'e Stoudemire F

8 Channing Frye C

- Sam Amick

December 4, 2009
Kings gain national TV game

The NBA world has apparently noticed the Kings' surprising start.

The league just announced a few amendments to its schedule, one of which was the Kings' home game against Washington on Dec. 16. That game will now be aired on ESPN and tip off at 7:30 p.m. Pacific instead of 7, giving the Kings their first nationally televised game since the 2007-08 season.

The team that so many expected to be one of - if not the - worst in the NBA even before they lost Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia to injury is currently 9-8. - Sam Amick

FIRST QUARTER (Pacers 33, Kings 30)

Phenomenal first quarter for Tyreke Evans. So-so quarter for the Kings.

The rookie guard had 16 points in the opening period on five of nine shooting (6 of 6 from the line), but the Kings shot just 41.7 percent while the Pacers were 51.7 percent from the field. Danny Granger leads the Pacers with nine points. The Kings are off to a bad start from the turnover standpoint with six. And lastly, I like Tyler Hansbrough's game already. Tough. Edgy. Fundamental. Incredible motor. I'd pay to see he and Jon Brockman in an MMA match.

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 60, Pacers 57)

Well, the Kings' turnover problems only got worse, as they are up to 14 for the half. But the Kings finally woke up after a sluggish first quarter, then managed to hit 13 of 19 from the field in the second. Point guard Beno Udrih continued a ridiculous shooting tear as he has hit four of five from the field and has now hit 17 of his last 20 shots including tonight and the previous two games.

The Kings finished the quarter on a 15-7 run and have upped their field-goal percentage to 53.5 percent. The Pacers hit just 9 of 24 in the second quarter.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 88, Pacers 81)

Spencer Hawes hit two threes and a layup early in the quarter as the Kings pushed their lead to 76-64, but the Pacers - with the help of the officials - didn't let it get away. The zebras called four Kings fouls in about 10 second during one stretch, with the pace coming to a crawl and Indiana coming all the way back. The Kings finished the quarter strong, though, with an Andres Nocioni three late and a Jason Thompson layup on a nice feed from Sergio Rodriguez helping them regain the lead.

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 110, Pacers 105)

Jason Thompson's smile and shoulder-shimmy said it all - the Kings' winning streak has continued. The second-year power forward played as big a part as any, scoring 22 points on 9 of 17 shooting while helping deal with the physical Pacers crew. Evans leads the Kings with 26 points, while Spencer Hawes was the much-needed offensive addition with 21 points and seven rebounds. Danny Granger led the Pacers with 33 points.

Being injured has been good for Kevin Martin in at least on regard: he had time to go shopping for an agent.

Martin, the Kings shooting guard who is out at least eight weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his left wrist Nov. 2, said he will soon sign with agent Dan Fegan. Martin hasn't had an agent since his former one began working for the Kings, as assistant general manager Jason Levien was hired last December.

"I found the right representation for me after a year and half of debating," Martin wrote in a text message.

While Martin has four years and $44.1 million left on his deal including this season, he clearly sees reasons beyond the contractual to have representation. And Fegan, as anyone in the league is well aware, is one-of-a-kind when it comes to making sure his voice is heard and that his player has a say in anything and everything that relates to him. Fegan's last Kings dealings came in the summer, when he represented Ricky Rubio in the pre-draft process that didn't go as the Spanish point guard or his agent had hoped. - Sam Amick

Per the Kings, who would be justified in popping champagne today in Tyreke Evans' honor (even if he can't have any). It's been quite some time since a Kings player was recognized in this way or anything close to it. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, but don't be shocked if they actually have a representative at All-Star weekend this year (Evans in the frosh-soph game - Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson too?).

It was equally unsurprising that Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month(s), while Phoenix's Alvin Gentry was deemed Western Conference Coach of the Month(s) for his team's unexpected 14-3 start and Orlando's Stan Van Gundy was the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month(s) for not messing Dwight Howard & Co. up (the Magic are 14-4).

***

KINGS' TYREKE EVANS NAMED WESTERN CONFERENCE ROOKIE OF THE MONTH FOR OCTOBER/NOVEMBER

SACRAMENTO, CA ---- Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games played from the start of the season (Oct. 27) through November. Evans is averaging 18.8 points (44.6 FG%, 32.3 3pt%, 79.0 FT%), 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.33 steals, and 36.1 minutes per game in starting all 15 games he has played in this season. He leads the Kings in assists and is second in scoring. Evans becomes only the third Kings player to be named Rookie of the Month, joining Brian Grant (January 1995) and Lionel Simmons (December 1990 and February 1991).

Evans matched Lionel Simmons for the Sacramento-era rookie record of scoring 20 or more points in seven consecutive games, beginning the streak with a 32-point effort in the Kings' first road win of the season at Utah (November 7). In that same game against the Jazz, he also set a Sacramento-era single-game rookie mark with 19 free throws attempted. Evans and Cleveland's LeBron James are the only two players averaging 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game this season. The 6-6 Evans, drafted fourth overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, leads all rookies in free throws made (64) and attempted (81) and minutes per game. Among rookies, he ranks second in scoring and steals per game, third in assists per game, and fourth in rebounds per game. He also leads all rookies with nine 20-point scoring performances.

- kings -

HALFTIME (Kings 61, Knicks 51)

The Kings are hitting shots (51 percent from the field) and the Knicks are not (36.2 percent). Sometimes it's just that simple.

There's certainly more to their solid start, from the balanced contributions of Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni, and Tyreke Evans (33 points combined) to their ability to hold Danilo Gallinari scoreless in the first half. The Kings had just one second-quarter turnover after having five in the first, a welcome change for coach Paul Westphal after that's been such a problem area recently. - Sam Amick

An ESPN report this morning said the Kings are involved in talks for a three-team deal with Philadelphia and Boston that would include sending Kenny Thomas to the Sixers and bring center Samuel Dalembert to Sacramento.

And while a league source confirmed the Kings and Philadelphia have discussed a deal involving Thomas and Dalembert, the deal appears to be dead for the foreseeable future largely because of the Kings' lukewarm interest in the eight-year veteran who has two years and a combined $24.9 million left on his contract. Yet if it's up to Marc Cornstein, the talks won't stay quiet for long.

Dalembert's agent, who is clearly on the lookout for a better situation for his client, said Tuesday that his client would be a good fit for the Kings.

"I think it would be a good fit if he was here," said Cornstein, who also represents Kings point guard Beno Udrih and is in Sacramento today. "He can run the floor well, and this is a young running team. He can block shots, he can rebound. Those are his strengths. Those are the things he brings, and I think the skill set that he brings are things that the Kings can use. If he were to get here, I think he'd be a very good fit."

A Boston Globe report said the Celtics have no interest in Kings small forward Andres Nocioni, as was reported by ESPN. - Sam Amick

November 17, 2009
Gameday: Kings vs. Chicago

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***

The Kings' chances of extending their winning streak to five and continuing to protect the home floor have taken a hit - square on the right hip of Andres Nocioni.

The Kings small forward said at this morning's shoot-a-round that he's unlikely to play against his old team tonight. I've been told that second-year small forward Donte' Greene will likely get the nod. And while Greene is certainly in the best stretch of his young career, Nocioni had been playing very well too.

A Nocioni absence would certainly take away one of tonight's bigger storylines, but there are more. Former Kings Brad Miller and John Salmons make their first visit back to Arco since being traded to the Bulls in February. Miller said it has been a busy trip already, as he caught up with old Kings colleagues last night and even signed the final papers on the sale of his Sacramento-area home. He stayed there last night, just to make the most of that final mortgage payment.

As for tonight, Miller said he's less worried about how the game will go than he is the prospect of using the outdated and less-than-luxurious showers in the visiting locker room afterward. He also talked about his night out with third-year center Spencer Hawes and his new friend.

Interview here

The Bulls may have an identical record as the Kings (5-4), but they surely feel as if they should be at least 6-3 after a last-second apparent game-winning shot by Miller against Denver was called off by the officials on Nov. 11.

Otherwise, second-year point guard Derrick Rose isn't playing very well at all just yet for the Bulls. He'll matchup against Kings rookie Tyreke Evans as the University of Memphis products see who's the best former Tiger on this night. Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro would love for Salmons to start hitting a few shots to open things up for Rose, as Salmons is shooting just 31.7 percent from the field so far this season. - Sam Amick

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***

Nice time to revisit the Byron Scott storyline, huh?

I've got to admit it works out pretty well on this end. It's interesting stuff and a chance to elaborate and expand on his situation in New Orleans and how it related to the Kings over the summer. Meanwhile, the Kings are playing so well under Paul Westphal that you won't find many folks in town who wish they would've bought Scott out of his deal and brought him to Sacramento at the moment. This story was a tad more sensitive in the summer.

But make no mistake, as his agent of 24 years, Brian McInerney, made clear, Scott's interest was real. And the driving force was the fact that they knew long ago that Scott wouldn't be in New Orleans past this season. We wrote in the summer about how Scott had interest that was never reciprocated, but below is more background on what led to the chasm between Scott and the Hornets' ownership family (owner George Shinn, his brother-in-law/team president Hugh Weber and vice president/Shinn's son, Chad).

It had everything to do with the price at which the Hornets' success came. Specifically, it was the fact that his latest two-year extension ($5.5 million per season) came largely because he had a buyout for the 2008-09 season in his deal that they wish he never had, and bonuses totaling nearly $1 million in the season prior that - hypothetically - could have paid for just about all of the said buyout if he chose to walk. Can you say leverage, everyone? And resentment, too, perhaps.

Be sure to read the story first, as the below quotes are simply the ones not included in the piece in the paper...

November 14, 2009
Kings considering Okafor

A source with knowledge of the situation says the Kings are discussing a trade with New Orleans that would send Kenny Thomas to the Hornets and bring center Emeka Okafor to Sacramento.

The deal would be ideal for the Hornets, as Thomas' expiring contract worth $8.7 million is just the kind of contract that would trim their enormous payroll. The question, of course, is whether the Kings see Okafor as a big man solution worth the five years and $62.5 million left on his deal.

The 6-foot-10, 255-pound center who was the second pick of the 2004 draft out of Connecticut has averaged 13.9 points and 10.6 rebounds in his six-season career. He spent his first four seasons in Charlotte before being traded to New Orleans in late July for Tyson Chandler.

No deal is imminent and this is merely a discussion between the two sides at this point. - Sam Amick

November 14, 2009
Postgame comments

Kings gamer, By Sam Amick

Kings notesm By Ailene Voisin

Box score

There's obviously a legitimate buzz in the Arco Arena air with the Kings winning their fourth straight, but I'm opting for zzzs with the old postgame blog post. Read the above game story and notes to relive the experience, and then move on to see what everyone had to say afterward. The heavy lifting on this one comes from the Kings PR department folks who transcribed portions of these interviews. The team is being given a day off tomorrow, but I'll be back at work dissecting this one and assessing what it all means.

Head Coach Paul Westphal

"It's starting to get kind of loud in that building - I really like that. That was a very good team, a very tough veteran team. I thought we did so many good things defensively and on the boards particularly. We had way too many turnovers in the first half and kind of wasted some great shooting, but in the second half we cut our turnovers down and played the way you need to play to win NBA basketball games. So we put ourselves in a position to win. Then in the fourth quarter we only had two turnovers, outscored them and really showed some good togetherness out there. I was really pleased with the way we played."

On his team's ability to own the boards tonight:
"You have to give so much credit to Jason Thompson - he's the one getting all those boards and he's a hard man to keep off the boards. You can't expect to outrebound a team like that every night but it really is nice to have those kinds of stats in your team's favor. The way we've been doing it this year, we're turning into a pretty decent rebounding team."

When asked how they react when there are a lot of turnovers:
"We told them before the game to watch out for (Trevor) Ariza - he's got panther-like reflexes, he gets in the passing lanes and if you dribble near him he takes it from you. After he had five steals I think they believed us and they started watching out a little bit more for him. Yes, absolutely we try to fix things if we see that they aren't working and the players, to their credit, reacted - but it's not always easy."

Tyreke Evans

On their plan coming into game
"We just came out there and had to run, we knew that they were a physical team. They have a couple of guys who have been on their team for a while now. The game plan was to just go in there, rebound and run our offense. We had to try to get as many stops as we could."

On his play
"I'm just playing; in the first couple of games I was thinking too much. Since I was the number four pick, I was under a lot of pressure, and I was not getting out there and playing. I went out there and did that tonight and now I feel comfortable."

On having the game in his hand when it's on the line
"It is my dream, growing up and being a kid, you see the clock winding down and you want to be the one to take the shot and make the crowd go crazy. I had my chance tonight and let it fly and it went in."


Jason Thompson

"It is exciting and we know that our guys are young. We have to make progress sometime and I think that it is better now than to have it later."

On their streak
"I don't think that we are surprised, we have to set goals to play well. The media is telling us that we are going to be at the bottom of the (Western Conference), maybe the bottom of the league. It is just more motivation for us. Maybe it is tougher for the teams who were predicted to play really well and don't. We didn't have any pressure coming in and we still don't."

On his goals for himself
"I set goals for last year and I set goals for this year. I am just going to keep with it. The stuff that I am doing and the stuff the team is doing is working. We just have to stick to it."

On staying out of foul trouble
"I am just watching film and getting advice from the coaches. They try to tell you the terminology of playing through fouls, but you can't play through fouls if you are in foul trouble. Why not make it easier and just not get stupid fouls. If I happen to get one early, I know to not be as aggressive. I just have to adjust to what they give me."

Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman

On a disappointing first half

"They got it going and we gave up 63 (in the first half). You're not going to win in this league doing that on the road."

On trying to close the deficit

"Offensively, you have to be sure you get good plays. You can't rush things. You have to play together as five people. You get down the way we get down and then we can't make mistakes. Every possession is crucial."

On the Kings' strategy defensively

"It wasn't our offense. Put it all on defensive end because we didn't have any of it in the first half. You can't give up that kind of production from the other team and expect to win."

On the lackluster defense

"We were getting beat on penetration time after time. The concentration and the effort was not where it needed to be. The second half, we shored it up some. We are not going to win unless we come out with effort every night. We are not that good. Our guys have to understand that. I didn't like our effort the whole first half in a lot of areas."

On the Rockets having a similar make-up to the Kings

"They have some young talent and they played well tonight. They won three in a row and this gives them four straight wins. We knew ... we should have known it was going to be a tough game here."

Rockets Center Chuck Hayes

On how they fell behind in the second quarter

"The energy definitely wasn't there. We were blindsided by our own success on the offensive end, since we were able to score. The energy is not there and we are not playing any defense. Sooner or later, things are going to come back and backfire on us, and they did.

No, it was effort. Just the effort. The effort was there in the third quarter, you saw it. It just shows that if you dig yourself in a hole in the second quarter, it doesn't matter how hard you work in the third quarter, you still have to get out of that hole. Our effort for the rest of the game wasn't good enough."

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 30, Houston 30)

Tyreke Evans set an aggressive tone early, blowing past Trevor Ariza down the right side of the lane for a layup on the first possesion. The Kings held the tempo from there, hitting 13 of 25 shots (52 percent) while Evans had 12 points on five of six shooting. Their turnovers kept them from building an early lead, though, as they gave up seven to the Rockets' one. Ariza has 13 points for Houston, hitting five of eight.

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 63, Houston 52)

Count me among those who didn't see this coming, but the Kings are actually outmuscling the Rockets. Their 32-13 edge on the glass is the most obvious example of that, but you could point to the countless times Luis Scola has been knocked to the hardwood just the same.

Jason Thompson (14 points, nine rebounds) and Beno Udrih (16 points on six of eight shooting) picked up where Evans left off. Ariza "cooled" a bit (five second quarter points) and the Rockets went even colder as a collective unit (9 of 24 shooting in the second). The Kings had a bad finish, giving up a bonehead three-point play to Aaron Brooks near the end of the half that cut the lead to 11. Good start, though.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 82, Houston 77)

Seventeen turnovers and counting for the Kings, who had better get that under control if they want to pull this one out. They have almost every area going for them, except for the officials in this quarter. The Rockets started the third on a 19-7 run, with Scola scoring eight on his own.

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 109, Houston 100)

Kings win it on heart and confidence. Simple and cliche, but true. They've got a swagger that held out against one of the league's most disciplined and toughest teams. Thompson makes it five straight double-doubles, which doesn't truly reflect the nature of his stretch. He had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and that's been just about the outing every time out lately. Evans hits an absurd bank three-pointer late - after nearly falling to his knees when he outjuked himself - that symbolized this new day when the Kings are the ones getting big breaks late. More to come, but the 54 to 35 blowout on the boards was huge - as was the Rockets' inability to find a scorer not named Ariza. They shot 41.6 percent.

November 13, 2009
Gameday: Kings vs. Houston

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***

I know, I know. The starving Kings fanbase doesn't want to put a lid on the excitement around here of late - just let the good times spill all over and worry about what's next later. Well the Houston Rockets are just hours away, and they represent a reality that will test the Kings in ways they haven't been while winning four of their last five games.

They are 5-3, making them a winning team at the moment and one that demands a collective effort defensively lest they pick you apart from spots one through five (or even one through eight). From here forward, though, a favorable Kings' schedule that is currently ranked 24th in strength of schedule (.466 winning percentage among opponents) doesn't get too much tougher. In chronological order...

Chicago (4-4), Dallas (5-3), Houston (5-3), Memphis (1-8), Knicks (1-8), New Jersey (0-8), New Orleans (3-6), Indiana (3-3).

Beating a good team would make it four in a row and gain the Kings major kudos from the NBA nation. From there they have a real opportunity to make some early noise.

For those not heading out to Arco Arena, the Kings have launched a new-age way of enjoying the game at home. Their in-game TV companion involves social media, statistics, video highlights and other goodies. To read more about it, click here.

READ WHILE YOU WAIT

From The Bee

Israeli fans pin hopes on Casspi, By Ailene Voisin

Kings Notes (Westphal impressed by Rockets), By Sam Amick

From the Houston Chronicle

Rockets know wounded Kings are dangerous, By Jeffrey Martin

TONIGHT'S GAME

HOUSTON (5-3) AT KINGS (4-4)

When: 7 p.m.
Where: Arco Arena
TV: CSNCA.
Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: It's time to recall the forgotten part about the Kings' 2006-07 campaign: that team got off to a good start. After starting 8-5 under then-coach Eric Musselman, the Kings last had a winning record on Dec. 2, 2006 (8-7). Nearly three years later, they'll try to get above .500 again tonight.

Rockets update: If former Kings coach Rick Adelman can keep his team playing like this, he'll be a landslide Coach of the Year winner. With Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming out due to injury, the Rockets changed their lineup and their style and are one of the surprises of the early season so far.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.
19 Beno Udrih G
13 Tyreke Evans G
5 Andres Nocioni SF
34 Jason Thompson PF
31 Spencer Hawes C

ROCKETS

No. Player Pos.
0 Aaron Brooks PG
01 Trevor Ariza G
31 Shane Battier SF
4 Luis Scola PF
44 Chuck Hayes C

- Sam Amick

November 12, 2009
Weekly Kings chat

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Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

For those of you who missed it, we're going to start doing weekly Kings chats at 11 am (Pacific) on Thursdays. Sometimes it will be me on the chat, other times it will be Jason Jones or Ailene Voisin. Below is the first one this season. Feel free to hit the 'Replay' button if you care to see the discussion.

- Sam Amick

FIRST QUARTER (Kings 30, Golden State 29)

The Kings spoiled most of their good start, as the Warriors finished the quarter on a 9-2 run. Nonetheless, Omri Casspi's three three-pointers off the bench were key and welcomed considering the Kings shot just 37.5 percent in all (9 of 24). The Warriors have received a combined 15 points from Kelenna Azubuike and Monta Ellis, while Stephen Curry has been pretty bad so far (no points, no assists, three turnovers).

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 65, Warriors 54)

Tyreke Evans is on his way to another big night, having scored 20 points on 7 of 13 shooting and hit six of seven free throws. He's in a groove big-time, as is Jason Thompson (14 points, five rebounds). The Kings finished the half on a 16-9 run. Warriors Kelenna Azubuike, Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette have combined for 33 points. Kings winning boards battle 27 to 19.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 96, Warriors 77)

The last play of the quarter pretty much said it all: Donte' Greene inbounds alley-oop from left sideline to Jason Thompson, who jumps uncontested for the dunk at the buzzer to push the lead to 19. Yeah, the Warriors aren't exactly defending the rim. Beno Udrih continues another steady performance (14 points, five assists), while the Kings are taking care of the ball too (six turnovers). Jason Thompson has 19 points, 10 rebounds. Kings ended the quarter on a 24-9 run after their lead was cut to four.

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 120, Warriors 107)

An actual blowout. I didn't see last night coming, nor did I see this one coming. And here's the stat of the night: it's the first time since Nov. 7 and Nov. 9, 2008 that the Kings have won consecutive games. Udrih carries the Kings late, finishing with 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting with six assists. Donte' Greene and Omri Casspi were huge off the bench, combining for 29 points (Greene 17).

- Sam Amick

Game story (Evans flourishes)

Game notes (Nocioni relieved after win and reflects on DUI)

Box score

NBA Plus (Looking at Durant and the Thunder, who play in Sacramento Tuesday)

SALT LAKE CITY - Gavin Maloof mistook the media room for the owner's suite, but he was making the rounds pumping his fist nonetheless.

The Kings co-owner made the trip to Utah to see a game no one expected the Kings to win. But they did, and they did it with a few notes that didn't make the above-linked coverage.

* Injured players Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia looked dandy in their suits and did a fine job as male cheerleaders. Both guys were genuinely ecstatic after the win.

* Ime Udoka winds up with the best plus-minus of the bunch (plus-19) in his Kings debut. Feisty defender, glue guy and composed in ways the Kings badly need. Kings coach Paul Westphal jokes that Udoka proved training camp is unnecessary. Desmond Mason doesn't find it funny - wherever he was.

* Jason Thompson has another impressive outing - 12 points, 11 rebounds, five assists. Great frontcourt ball movement with Spencer Hawes.

* Donte' Greene's breakout was surprising in this sense: Omri Casspi was ready to roll. The rookie small forward had turned his left ankle recently and was questionable for tonight's game. But even after Casspi said he was good to go, Kings coach Paul Westphal obviously opted to give Greene a shot that he made the most of. Casspi didn't play. I'll chock this one up to Westphal taking the safe route with one player while utilizing a chance to get a guy out of the doghouse at the same time.

* Kings hit 11 of 19 threes, 27 of 32 free throws and shoot 49.6 percent overall. A welcome change for Westphal, who noted before the game that the Kings had averaged eight more possessions than their opponent but they obviously weren't doing much with them. Ranked 23rd in shooting percentage (42.37).

* The Jazz were awful after the first quarter, and except for a short stretch in the fourth when the Kings almost blew all of their 20-point lead as the offense came to a halt. Deron Williams couldn't do it alone (29 points, 15 assists, three turnovers).

Golden State (1-3) at Kings (2-4)

When: 6 p.m.

Where: Arco Arena.

TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: Now would be a good time for the Kings to remember what they learned in the preseason, that lowering their opponent's field-goal percentage and increasing their own rebounding numbers can make quite an impact on their competitive chances.

Warriors update: The Warriors have fallen to Houston, Phoenix and the Clippers. But just like the Kings, their first win came against Memphis in a game in which Anthony Morrow and Monta Ellis scored 24 points apiece. The Kings downed the Warriors 101-94 in the preseason Oct. 17 at Arco Arena.

Probable starters

KINGS

G Beno Udrih

G Tyreke Evans

SF Andres Nocioni

PF Jason Thompson

C Spencer Hawes

WARRIORS

PG Monta Ellis

SG Stephen Curry

SF Stephen Jackson

F Kelenna Azubuike

C Mikki Moore

- Sam Amick

SALT LAKE CITY - Not much to report pre-game other than Omri Casspi's decision to give it a go despite having turned his left ankle in the last few days.

Casspi said this morning that he was a gametime decision, then proceeded to give the thumbs up after his pre-game workout. As Kings coach Paul Westphal said, there's not much he and his team can do but keep taking the hits and keep coming back for more. We'll see how hard this hit is tonight...

Come on back later for quarterly updates...

FIRST QUARTER (Jazz 30, Kings 19)

Turnovers ruined the quarter for the Kings. They had seven in all, with almost all of them of the bone-headed variety. An Andres Nocioni traveling call. Spencer Hawes loses the ball on his own in the post. Sean May loses it in the lane. A Jason Thompson charge. A bizarre Tyreke Evans pass from the top of the key to the front row (intended for Thompson). A carrying call on Evans.

Combine that with Utah's 16 points in the paint and 60 percent shooting, and this one is making sense. Once again, Kings aren't shooting well (41.2 percent). Deron Williams has seven assists. The Kings, meanwhile have four.

SECOND QUARTER (Kings 55, Jazz 55)


Imagine that? Limit turnovers and hit shots and a comeback is born. The Kings had just one turnover in the second and hit 12 of 19 shots, with Donte' Greene returning from the abyss otherwise known as Westphal's dog house to score 10 points on four of four shooting (He had yet to score this season in a combined 10 minutes). While Casspi was ready to go, I got the feeling before the game that Westphal might use tonight as a rare chance to give Greene a chance even if Omri could go. He's taken advantage of it, hitting two open threes (key word being open), a layup and two free throws.

The Kings used a 19-4 run to tie it 43-43 on one of Greene's threes, but the run was sparked when a couple of dunks on the break for Evans got his game going. He has 17 points on 4 of 9 shooting and is finally getting to the line - and converting (8 of 9). The Jazz shot 8 of 19 that period.

THIRD QUARTER (Kings 85, Jazz 68)

Surprising stuff in the third, with Evans going off in his first breakout game as a pro and the Kings - all told - pulling off a 50-21 turnaround after they trailed by as many as 15 points. Evans has been spectacular (28 points, six assists, 12 of 13 from the line), and Udrih has been huge as well. The Jazz are ice-cold, and this crowd is letting them hear it. Evans left for the last part of the quarter with a bloody mouth, but the Jazz were the ones taking the beating. That's all for now. Gotta work on the game story.

FOURTH QUARTER (Kings 104, Jazz 99)

They held on, even if the Kings spent most of the entire last period in the hoops equivalent of the prevent defense. Shot clock violations or near violations were the norm, with a 20-point lead nearly evaporated if not for Beno Udrih's nifty runner in the lane with 21 seconds left. He split the double team, drove the lane and ball-faked Carlos Boozer to get there. Deron Williams hit a three with 17 seconds left to make it even more interesting, but it was too little too late. Evans has 32 points, seven assists. Big win for a young team. - Sam Amick

Let's go in reverse order here.

While much of today's story focused on Kings' commentator and KHTK personality Grant Napear, the topic remains Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin and the question of whether or not he is soft or injury prone. It should be plainly obvious that I stop at the latter and don't see him as the former for a host of reasons, not the least of which is an in-depth knowledge of the injuries he has endured that hasn't always been portrayed publicly.

There's a long conversation from that point on, too, with not nearly enough focus on the fact that Martin's own game - specifically, his ability and willingness to attack the rim and get to the free throw line at a ridiculous rate (second in the league last season in attempts at 10.3 per game and behind some cupcake named Dwight Howard) - contradicts this image. But in the interest of fairness, I wanted to share more of Napear's comments on the matter before quickly delving into the thoughts of Kings coach Paul Westphal, former Kings guard Bobby Jackson, Kings swingman Francisco Garcia and Martin himself.

And while the content of Wednesday's show with Napear and Mike Lamb is a tiny part of this equation, I figured I'd share their discussion on toughness as well (audio provided by KHTK). It's about five minutes into this hour of the show...

KHTK Sportsline/11-4

Napear (via cell phone from Utah)

Before we get into the direct quotes, Grant's overall point was two-fold: he thinks players should play if they can play (yet didn't answer my question about what qualifies him to determine when a player can play) and believes that the Kings' draft-night focus on acquiring tougher players was an indictment of all previous players, Martin included.

"I've learned over the last 20 years doing this I'm not surprised any comments I get. I've gone through it Bobby (Jackson), (Chris) Webber. A lot of times guys are listening second hand, or to what a caller says, and then it reflects on me.
"Chris and I talked on numerous occasions. Bobby approached me and we've talked. I'm in a difficult position here. I have to give my opinions on the radio. The first hour (of Wednesday's show) he was getting killed by callers. I said he may play tonight, it's not right to criticize when he might play.
"It really boils down to this. This is my opinion. This is Grant Napear. I was raised (to believe) you play until your going to do damage to your body. We're in a depressed economy, and these fans deserve to see these players play. Players have sat when they could've played. That bothers me. Now hen a guy has a broken bone in his body, that's a different story.
"I never questioned (Martin's) heart. All I said is if a player can play, he should play. There's nothing wrong with me making an opinion as long as it's an opinion based on how I feel. I went out of my way again on Wednesday (to defend Martin). I said he should play unless he's going to do further damage."

Asked outright if he believes Martin is soft...

"The label soft means different things to different people. We were a soft team (last season). When a team is scoring uncontested layups night after night, personally I look at that as a soft team. I have a problem with an athlete, and I'll use Ron (Artest) as an example, who will never be called soft but who didn't play how many times because he decided he didn't want to play...I don't change my stance on (Martin and his ankle injury last season) at all. If a player can play, I think they should play.

"I've been doing this 20 years, and I've seen a lot of players who can play in a game not play. If he feels that way, I wish he would have come to me. It's all about the fans. They pay money to see the guys play. I don't take anything back that I said."

JACKSON

Bobby was a crackup on this topic. While he and Napear are friendly again despite their 2004 run-in (read story if you don't know that part), he said the two support each other now and "attend each other's events" etc. Nonetheless, he was so intrigued by this topic he was offering advice on the reporting.

"If I was writing a story about him, I would want to know what makes him tick, why he says the (expletive) he says," Jackson said. "Especially when we're under the same roof. When I listen to other radio stations, it's like praising, praising, praising (of the players).

"Where does he come up with these questions and analogies of players being soft, who don't want to play, doesn't have heart? The only person who knows is the player.

"The most disturbing thing about it is that it's one of the Kings guys. Maybe can you respect him because he speaks what comes to his mind. Yeah, but me as a person if you're working for this organization, I think the best interests is to look out for the players and speak more positive than negative."

On in-house folks questioning Martin - and Jackson before him - for not playing...

"Of course the coaches, the GMs, the owners, they want us to play, not thinking about what it really is that we're going through and not taking into mind what we're going through and don't look at the outcome. People can say whatever they want about me, but until you've walked in my shoes and did what I've done, then you can't say anything. I don't know where it's coming from.

"We've got to do what's best for us. We have a short amount of time to play this game, so I know most of these guys in here and I know they're going to play their (butt) off. The softness (reputation) comes with not winning games. That's where that comes from.

"If (Napear) keeps doing it and then he tries to come up in people's faces, guys aren't going to talk to him. He's killing him on the low. They've let him do that for so long. Nobody from upstairs has said anything to him. He's been able to do that for so long, been able to rub people the wrong way and rub the players the wrong way because he doesn't have to interact with the players. He just sees them on the plane...Until somebody calls him out and says, 'Who do you work for? Do you work for the Golden State Warriors?'

"I wasn't alone (in his dislike of the way Napear handled his job). There were a lot of guys who felt that way. Yeah, I think a lot of guys have that feeling towards him because of the stuff he's doing now. The guy's is hurt. He played on a broken wrist.
"It's a sensitive subject. I know Kevin loves the game. I know he wants to compete. I know he wants to play every day. You see the numbers he puts up when he's on the court, and that's all you can judge him by is his productivity when he gets on the court.
"The people who haven't played don't understand. If they had played, they wouldn't say the stuff that they say."

WESTPHAL

The coach has obviously only been around Martin for a short time, but he weighed in the experiences he has had thus far.

"My experience is that he's anything but soft. There's a difference between playing hurt and playing injured. When you're injured, you can't play. When you have a sore something or other, and you're walking around acting like you're on your deathbed, that's one thing. But that's not Kevin. When you have injuries and the doctors say you can't play., that's being injured. Anybody that doesn't understand that, I can't help them."

GARCIA

The fifth-year Kings swingman has obviously been teammates with Martin for his entire career. And now, they'll be banged up bosom buddies for the foreseeable future...

"I got words for that (the notion of Martin of being soft). You calling him soft, he played with a broken hand. You can't call him soft. He played with a broken hand and had 30 (29 points against Atlanta Wednesday). He didn't have to play. The doctor just told him you'd be crazy if you played with that.
"Kevin's tough. We're just so little (he and Martin) we get bumped and we (get hurt). You could see that last game, he put tape around his wrist and played like that. There's nothing soft about that."

On why he thinks so many fans and, obviously, some media are down on Martin...

"It just comes with the territory. When the team is bad, they go to the best player. It just falls on Kevin. It's not his fault. He works hard, he's on top of his game right now like everybody sees. He played with his ankle last year. I was mad about (the criticism of Martin for his ankle) because when I was on the floor he'd come up to me and say, 'It bothers me but we're going to win this game.' I don't question his toughness. I'm the kind of player that if I think you're lying I'll let you know, but I never thought he was lying."

MARTIN

Oh yeah, him.

As for the injury itself, Martin had the option of putting a cast on his wrist (and most of his arm) or doing surgery. From what I'm told, the surgery is the better option for two reasons...

1) You avoid the atrophy that comes with a cast.

2) You can rehab and do some basketball activities (just not playing) within approximately two weeks of having surgery as opposed to waiting eight weeks until the recovery begins. It's a quicker way of getting back out on the floor.

"I thought you could play through that pain and get it (fixed) at the end of the season, but the specialist said that if you try to play we're going to come and tie you down and not let you go out there," Martin said. "Just because you develop a lot of other things in your wrists - arthritis, cysts, and things like that. Their recommendation was, 'you're not playing.'
"The thing they tried to say to me this morning was you can trade in 20 games, not risk it, and have another 10 years of your career instead of playing 20 games and then you can really mess it up and then it's a long process. I've got to go through 20 games, hopefully that's it." - Sam Amick

BLOG UPDATE: Martin will have surgery Monday and miss eight weeks. Here is the team's release...

" Sacramento Kings' guard Kevin Martin will undergo surgery Monday, November 9th at the UC Davis Medical Center to repair a non displaced hairline fracture of the navicular bone in his left Wrist. Dr. Robert Szabo will perform the procedure. Martin is expected to miss a minimum of eight weeks.

***

I just spoke briefly with Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin, who said he is not being given the option of playing through the hairline fracture in his left wrist.

It remains unclear whether he will have surgery or simply put the wrist in the cast, but Martin won't be returning to the floor anytime soon. He met with a local hand specialist this morning and had the MRIs examined and all involved said he had to allow the hand to heal. - Sam Amick

He wants to play.

Seventy-seven games with a hairline fracture in the left wrist that won't heal so long as he's having it pounded by fellow NBA types and will likely end up causing arthritis eventually. And Kevin Martin wants to play.

But there's a decision to make that won't be entirely made by him and sleep wasn't the answer, especially since he had a hard time getting any. I got in touch with the Kings shooting guard late last night, and he was wrestling over the decision that faced him.

He is scheduled to discuss the matter with the medical professionals and a local hand specialist this morning, at which point it sounds as if the only two options presented him may be to put it in a cast or have surgery. He sought the player opinion first, however, talking at length with Bobby Jackson and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson last night to discuss his situation.

Jackson could relate on numerous fronts, having missed significant time after fracturing a knuckle on his left hand on Christmas Day 2002 and later tearing a ligament in his left wrist late in the 2004-05 season that kept him out for four months. He knows what it feels like to be unfairly questioned, too.

Jackson, to review, was the warrior of a sixth man who somehow found himself being dubbed soft when his abdominal strain kept him out of the 2004 playoffs. Some of those same uneducated voices are the ones questioning Martin's heart now, just as they did last season when his left ankle bone bruise kept him out of 31 games. Equally unjust.

There are credibility issues all over this thing, but the fact of the matter is that much of the skepticism sprouts from in-house and spills over into the mouthpieces who set the tone with the fans. It's a big problem that could have big consequences. We'll get into that more in the paper.

For now, we'll leave it there. If I had to guess at this point, I say Martin will be out and the Kings will be out of luck. Even if Martin wants to play.

- Sam Amick

A quick bit of perspective on the Kings' signing of Ime Udoka today that my sources with knowledge of the situation say is a non-guaranteed veteran's minimum deal ($1.03 million) for the rest of the season (fully guaranteed on Jan. 10)...

The succession of non-interest to interest can be found on some of my old Twitter feeds, as the Kings went from not inquiring about him after he was surprisingly cut from Portland on Oct. 22 to possibly postponing talks to giving the thumbs down on Oct. 23.

Well something quite relevant has happened between then and now: Desmond Mason averaged 2.3 points on 27.5 percent shooting (11 of 40 overall) in nine games (five preseason, four regular season). While the Mason signing was largely about adding his perimeter defense, there was certainly the hope that his athleticism could translate into some added scoring as it has for most of his career.

That shooting percentage is especially alarming if you could get your hands on a Desmond Mason shot chart, as most of his misses came from close range and he has struggled mightily to finish even the easiest of looks. All of this, I'm being told, doesn't bode well for Mason considering all signs point to the Maloofs preferring not to have a 15-man roster (they have 15 now). And as a reminder, it looked like Andres Nocioni was going to be taking Mason's spot in the starting lineup tonight even before Udoka was added.

I talked with Mason about his struggles after yesterday's practice, and he had this to say.

"I'm just still trying to find my niche and fit in," Mason said. "The ball is going through a lot of guys, so for me it has to be a lot of cutting and offensive rebounds and guarding people and getting to the boards. That's what coach wants me to do, and that's what I'll do. When I get my opportunities, I'll take advantage of them."

For those unfamiliar with Udoka, here's the rundown from the team's release...

"The 6-5, 220-pound guard-forward amassed career averages of 6.0 points (42.8 FG%, 37.4 3FG%, 70.4 FT%), 3.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game through 227 games in five seasons with the Lakers (2003-04), New York (2005-06), Portland (2006-07), and San Antonio (2007-08 - 2008-09).

Undrafted after finishing his college career at Portland State, Udoka was signed as a free agent by the Lakers (8/13/03). Before joining the Kings, Udoka was with Portland during the 2009 preseason. His best year, statistically, occurred during 2006-07 when he averaged 8.4 points (46.1 FG%, 40.6 3FG%, 74.2 FT%), 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game starting all 75 contests he played in with the Trail Blazers." - Sam Amick

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***

After having the best game of his career in the Kings' home-opening win Monday, shooting guard Kevin Martin is questionable for tonight's game against Atlanta.

Martin missed shoot-a-round with a swollen left (non-shooting) hand (BLOG UPDATE, 4:25 P.M.: It's Martin's left wrist) and will be a gametime decision. He injured the hand during Monday's game when he landed on it after a fall, and sat out much of the Tuesday practice session icing it. X-Rays were taken but were negative.

If Martin doesn't play, that's not quite the starting lineup change coach Paul Westphal was looking to make. We'll see if this changes things, but I'd been told Spencer Hawes would start at center (pairing with Jason Thompson in the frontcourt) and Andres Nocioni would take over at small forward for Desmond Mason. - Sam Amick

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Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

Kevin Martin isn't on Twitter, so there will be no cyberspace battle with former player/ESPN analyst Jalen Rose in that forum. Rose won't be coming to Sacramento anytime soon, either, at least not as part of any nationally-televised game involving the Kings.

But it's safe to say there won't be any Martin Christmas card sent to the Rose household a few months from now, not with his recent declaration that the Kings shooting guard is simply not All-Star material. In the interest of full disclosure, I relayed Rose's sentiments to Martin on Tuesday as we discussed the current state of his reputation league-wide.

And while I shared part of Martin's comments in today's story - with Martin saying he didn't need Rose's respect and that he's worried only about winning - there was some comedic material left out.

Told of Rose's comment, Martin wasn't afraid to have some fun with the quasi-prediction.

"Was Jalen Rose ever an All-Star?" (Answer: no)," Martin said. "You know what Cedric Ceballos said to me in the preseason, is that the difference between a star and a scorer is wins and losses, so that's what I'm doing now. I'm finding ways to win in other (areas)...(Rose) may not have meant anything harmful if he was looking at wins and losses. If that's the case, it doesn't have to be a personal thing because I respect him as a player and don't want to get into that."

A pause and a grin...

"Besides, in my prime and his prime, I'd bust his (butt)," he said with a laugh.

READ WHILE YOU WAIT

From The Bee

Martin trying to be a more complete player, By Sam Amick

Thompson tries to limit fouls, By Jason Jones

From the Atlanta-Journal Constitution

Resilient Hawks bounce back, By Sekou Smith

Hawks blog: 'Pump your brakes,' By Sekou Smith

GAME PREVIEW

Kings' update: This team must get used to that sinking feeling whenever it peeks at the opponent's roster, and tonight is no different. The Hawks pose threats on every front and are far more talented. The Kings, however, could start a decent buzz in town if they can protect the home floor for a second consecutive game.

Hawks' update: Mike Bibby is back at Arco Arena for the third time since being traded from the Kings to Atlanta on Feb. 16, 2008. In his previous two visits with the Hawks, he had 17 points and four assists in a 119-107 Atlanta loss Feb. 20, 2008, and 29 points and four assists in a 105-100 Hawks victory Feb. 18, 2009.

Probable starters

KINGS

PG Tyreke Evans

SG Kevin Martin

SF D. Mason (I've since been informed it will likely be Andres Nocioni)

PF J. Thompson

C S. Hawes

HAWKS

PG Mike Bibby

SG Joe Johnson

SF M. Williams

PF Josh Smith

C Al Horford

- Sam Amick

GAMEDAY OPTIONS (Multimedia)

The game is sold out, so there's plenty of you who won't be able to actually come on over to press row and say hello. So why not join Join Jason Jones and I on this here blog for our pregame show starts at 6:45 p.m. Stick around during the game and share your comments and observations with others.

Those of you who are at the game can share your photos, too, by texting KINGSPHOTOS to 72737. We'll reply with details for e-mailing photos to www.sacbee.com/live. Standard text messaging rates apply. And if you insist on sending pictures of yourself watching from the couch, well then we just can't stop you.

Also, I'll be occasionally tweeting on my Twitter page, as will Jason on his page. And we need some more folks at our Facebook page as well - click here to join 'Kings Corner.'

READ WHILE YOU WAIT

From The Bee

Westphal brings unconventional style to bench, By Ailene Voisin

Nocioni is all-business, not buddy-buddy, By Sam Amick

In case you missed it in Sunday's paper...

NBA Plus: Larry Brown endorses Westphal and say he'd still be the New York Knicks coach if had been allowed to hire Westphal as his lead assistant, By Sam Amick

From the Memphis Commercial Appeal

Tempers flare as Grizzlies lose to Nuggets, By Ronald TIllery

Grizzlies postgame

GAME CAPSULE

Memphis (1-2) at Kings (0-3)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Arco Arena. TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: Rookie point guard Tyreke Evans practiced Sunday night at the team's practice facility and will likely play tonight after spraining his right ankle at San Antonio on Saturday. The Kings need him on two fronts: to help get a first win in his regular-season home debut and to entertain the sellout crowd.

Grizzlies update: The first two Grizzlies games made for a scout's nightmare. Memphis scored just 74 points in a 22-point home loss to Detroit and then 115 points two days later in an eight-point win at the FedExForum. The backcourt of Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo was the difference, so the Kings would do well to slow them down. Allen Iverson is expected to make his Grizzlies debut after missing the first three games because of a partial right hamstring tear.

Probable starters

KINGS

No. Player Pos.

13 Tyreke Evans PG

23 Kevin Martin SG

24 Desmond Mason SF

42 Sean May PF

34 Jason Thompson C

GRIZZLIES

No. Player Pos.

11 Mike Conley PG

32 O.J. Mayo SG

22 Rudy Gay SF

50 Zach Randolph PF

33 Marc Gasol C

- Sam Amick

KINGS LIVE CHAT

Join Jason Jones and I for the Kings' home opener Monday. Our pregame show starts at 6:45 p.m. Stick around during the game and share your comments and observations with others.

www.sacbee.com/kingsblog - as in, right here

SHARE PHOTOS

Share fan photos from the game. Text KINGSPHOTOS to 72737. We'll reply with details for e-mailing photos to sacbee.com/live. Standard text messaging rates apply.

***

Add one more to the list of people who need to continue learning about the new Kings coach.

That being me. From Rick Adelman to Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus and Kenny Natt, there was a staple of style that their Kings didn't practice after back to back games. So when I landed today from San Antonio, I headed for home to put together a story on Andres Nocioni for tomorrow's paper.

Anyways, Paul Westphal wound up holding practice for his team tonight. Nonetheless, we have a no-harm-no-foul situation. He was good enough to give me an update remotely, saying about an hour ago that Tyreke Evans is expected to play in tomorrow's home opener against Memphis despite spraining his right ankle Saturday at San Antonio. Evans practiced tonight, and told the media on hand that he will play.

A quick final thought here: I still can't get over how funny the Manu Ginobili-bat saga was. And since the SportsCenter highlights didn't do it justice on length of laughter, peek at these YouTube clips that show the extended chaos. Also, for those who missed it on Twitter, the Spurs put out a 'formal' injury report on the poor bat that you can see here.

Nothing will ever duplicate being there, though. Unforgettable. - Sam Amick
- Sam Amick

REMINDER: I'm tweeting during these games, too, so peek at the right side of this page to see those.

Blogging from courtside at the AT&T Center, front row two seats to the left of esteemed radio man Jason Ross...

PREGAME

I messed up the tipoff time, but we're about to get going here at 5:30 Pacific. Anyways, Kings coach Paul Wespthal half-jokingly said the most important adjustment tonight will be...let the drama and suspense build...hitting layups. Spurs' reserve big man Antonio McDyess is out with flu-like symptoms....Here we go.. - Sam Amick

FIRST QUARTER - Spurs 32, Kings 27

No way I'm going to try to capture that quarter on this forum, but that was some of the funniest stuff I've ever been a part of at an NBA game.

An actual bat breaks up play on three occasions, with Kevin Martin at one point chasing the thing - unintentionally - on a fastbreak and he goes reverse because he felt an unexpected presence. It wasn't DeJuan Blair, as he told me he thought it was a moment ago, but the bat.

So Manu GInobili then becomes an even bigger cult hero by Manu-chopping the thing with his bare left hand. Anyways, I had all kinds of game-related material I'd intended to share, but the action is back and all I offered was hijinx. So sorry...

I'm channeling my inner Westphal for a bit of mind-reading: "Of course Richard Jefferson starts hitting shots now!" he screams between his ears. Jefferson entered play just 4 of 16 from the field in his first two games with the Spurs, but is two for two so far.

SECOND QUARTER - Spurs, 61, Kings 45

Kings are letting this one get away from them early, as the Spurs ended the second quarter on a 21-8 run. Their chances at this point, one could say, are about as likely as the infamous bat returning (it has been terminated, I was told).

No surprise storyline from the Spurs, who have a combined 37 points from Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Ginobili. Parker has destroyed everyone the Kings threw his way (7 of 12 shooting, 16 points, five assists), from Tyreke Evans to Beno Udrih to Omri Casspi and probably a few others I missed. Spurs are shooting 61 percent.

That's not the only similiarity to the OKC opener, either, as Martin is once again without much offensive help. He has a very aggressive 16 points (5 of 10 shooting) and has actually been to the line tonight (he didn't last night), and hit 5 of 6 from the line. But Andres Nocioni is 1 of 7, Casspi is 1 of 4, and Evans is 1 of 4 as well.

THIRD QUARTER - Spurs 95, Kings 75

This has unofficially become a valuable Kings practice. They are trying new sets and lineups, praising each other when something works patting each other on the backs when things go wrong.

The entire period wasn't that way, though, as the offense was so discombobulated in the early third that Kevin Martin was trying to tell the coaching staff they didn't know the "one up" play and Tyreke Evans growing frustrated when teammates tried to tell him where he'd gone wrong. And by the way, I'm now being told that the bat was merely stunned and released. The Manu-chop was not lethal.

Spencer Hawes also awoke in the third, scoring 12 of his 17 points with a number of nice drive and dishes for dunks from Evans.

FOURTH QUARTER - Spurs 113, Kings 94

The only significant news of this period isn't good: Evans went down after driving the lane and left with a sprained right ankle midway through the fourth.

Also, it turns out the bat didn't make it after all.

REMINDER: I'm tweeting during these games, too, so peek at the right side of this page to see those.

Join the Kings Corner Facebook page here.

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

Took forever to get to San Antonio, as there are no direct flights. But here's the belated audio from last night's Kings loss at New Orleans.

Coach Paul Westphal, Kevin Martin, Tyreke Evans, Andres Nocioni and Jason Thompson discuss the loss...

First, though, just a heads up that I'll be giving quarterly updates and observations on a running blog post during tonight's game just like I did last night, so come on back.

Now the Kings have to move on quickly and we do, too, so here's some preview reading to keep you busy the next few hours before tonight's tipoff

READ WHILE YOU WAIT

From The Bee

Game story vs. Hornets

Kings notes

From the San Antonio Express News

Pop tinkering with Spurs chemistry, By Mike Monroe

Spurs' Blair returns to scene of 'crime', By Mike Monroe

Spurs-Kings preview capsule

TONIGHT'S GAME

KINGS (0-2) AT SAN ANTONIO (1-1)
When: 5 p.m.
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
TV: CSNCA.
Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: Like it or not, moral victories do matter to this team. And that was exactly what the Kings pulled off in New Orleans Friday when their toughness and improved defense nearly led to their first win. The same style is needed against the Spurs, who have been doing tough for years now.

Spurs update: Here's the bad news for the Kings: the Spurs were the first team to face the Hornets this season, and their 17-point win was nearly as ugly as the Kings' loss at Oklahoma City on Wednesday. San Antonio is a legitimate title contender, meaning this could still be a long night even if the Kings play well.

Probable starters

KINGS

PG Tyreke Evans
SG Kevin Martin
SF Desmond Mason
PF Sean May
C Jason Thompson

SPURS

PG Tony Parker
SG Mchael Finley
SF Richard Jefferson
PF Matt Bonner
C Tim Duncan

Blogging from New Orleans Arena, second row mid-court....

PRE-GAME

6:41 p.m.
Same starting lineup for the Kings, but one defensive adjustment coach Paul Westphal informed me about. Kings small forward Desmond Mason will be guarding Hornets power forward David West most of the night in what is Westphal's best attempt to keep Kings power forward Jason Thompson out of foul trouble.

Thompson simply must be on the floor, but he kickstarted his old habit of drawing quick fouls against Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Thus, Thompson will guard small forward Julian Wright and Sean May will be on his old teammate, Emeka Okafor.

FIRST QUARTER - Kings 27, Hornets 25

Well, that was much better. The Kings looked nothing like the team that trailed 39-22 after one quarter in Oklahoma City two nights ago.

Two defensive stops in one possession at the start set a good tone, and a Sean May-to-Desmond Mason alley-oop did the same on the other end.

The good: Hitting shots (12 of 26), with Tyreke Evans finishing the layups he missed the other day and even hitting two jumpers. Also, Chris Paul has two points and no assists. May five first-quarter rebounds after having none in opener.

The bad: Kevin Martin is 2 of 9 despite getting a number of wide-open looks from Evans' penetration. Spencer Hawes two fouls.

Team playing very well so far...

SECOND QUARTER - Kings 50, Hornets 50

It's only a half, but the Kings look like an entirely different team from the other night.

They're moving the ball (13 assists against six turnovers, tying their assist total from the other night), defending (Hornets 44.7 shooting) and rebounding (24-23 edge in that category). Andres Nocioni is making up for Martin's slow start (4 of 13 shooting) with 11 points on 4 of 5 shooting.

The job of guarding West was quickly handed to Jon Brockman instead of Mason, and the rookie has been very effective even though West is 4 of 6 from the field. Brockman has eight rebounds in 11 minutes. Beno Udrih apparently won't be riding the pine all year, as he has logged nine first half minutes and run the offensive nicely. Hornets coach Byron Scott used a lineup with Bobby Brown and Chris Paul v. Udrih and Martin and Paul was his typical agitating self.

As for foul trouble, Thompson is doing fine (one foul) while Evans and Udrih have three.

THIRD QUARTER - Kings 75, Hornets 72

Another very good quarter, but a bad finish.

Beno Udrih plays off Chris Paul in the final seconds, and he coolly pulls up for a three that cuts Kings lead in half.

Otherwise, though, this was potentially an identity-forming period. There was an edge from the Hornets that they'll always have so long as Paul is their point guard, but the Kings showed more than enough moxie of their own. Offensive boards, poked eyes, frustrated Hornets, interesting stuff from this bunch tonight. Toughness, for sure.

Smart quarter from Martin, who continues to shoot poorly (8 of 23, no free throws) but who capitalized on the Brown-Paul defensive duo a few times. The most notable one came with 3:17 left, when the two Hornets point guards doubled Martin on the left wing and he kicked it back to a wide open Udrih for a three and an eight-point lead.

This has become a very physical game and the field-goal percentages reflect that (low 40s for both team).

FOURTH QUARTER - Hornets 97, Kings 92

Emeka Okafor decided it wasn't to be.

The Hornets wouldn't lose their home opener, not against a Kings team considered so bad they would've been laughed out of their building by their home fans. So he had a spectacular putback dunk in the final minute, followed by a key block with 5.9 seconds left when Evans got lost in the lane and yet another block on a Martin three-point attempt with three seconds left that could have tied the game.

More to come, but I've got to hit the locker room now... - Sam Amick

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***

NEW ORLEANS - The Sacramento who?

There's a lot of that going on out here today, as the Kings are hardly the biggest name in the city this weekend. Eminem is preparing for his one and only concert of the year tonight and has picked N'Awlins. Kiss is performing at the VooDoo fest, I was told, with the Saints playing here on Monday night and, oh yeah, there's that whole Halloween thing too.

Scary stuff.

No lineup changes for the Kings, and we'll have to see if Beno Udrih gets a chance to play tonight. I spoke with him on his way to shootaround this morning and he was saying all the right things about the situation - "It's only one game; I have to respect coach's decision." Chris Paul has always smelled blood when playing Udrih, who struggles with his style of pressure point guard. Curious to see how Tyreke Evans handles that, too.

MULTIMEDIA ALERT

I'll be posting quarterly scores and observations on the blog tonight, and we'll be forgoing the live blog/chat we did on Wednesday until Monday's home opener.

Feel free to interact during the game via the comments section, and I'll basically be sure to give quarterly scores and otherwise use the blog as my public notepad.

READ WHILE YOU WAIT:

From The Bee

Because of back, Peja is backup

Kings notes

From the New Orleans Times Picayune

Hornets coach Byron Scott wants more from bench, By Jimmy Smith

New Orleans Arena turns 10 years old, By Jimmy Smith

Hornets not in trade talks with Golden State, By John Reid

Kings vs. Hornets by the numbers, By Jimmy Smith

TONIGHT'S GAME

KINGS (0-1) AT HORNETS (0-1)

When: 5 p.m.

Where: New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, La.

TV: CSNCA.

Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: The Kings were convinced this wouldn't happen, that they wouldn't be embarrassed almost every time out like they had been last season. But after Oklahoma City did just that on Wednesday night, they are badly in need of a spirited effort to alleviate fears of a déjà vu experience.

Hornets update: Speaking of humiliation, the Hornets were humbled by San Antonio in their regular season opener (113-96). It wasn't a new feeling, though, considering they're coming off a five-game first round playoff loss to Denver last season that called the entire team's future into question.
Probable starters

KINGS

PG Tyreke Evans
SG Kevin Martin
SF Desmond Mason
PF Sean May
C Jason Thompson

HORNETS

PG Chris Paul
SG Morris Peterson
SF Julian Wright
PF David West
C Emeka Okafor

- Sam Amick

October 29, 2009
Postgame reaction

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***

Game story

Game notes

OKLAHOMA CITY - I'll leave the breaking down of the game for tomorrow's paper, but this was ugly and unexpected for sure.

A loss was one thing. This was another (although how many times did I say that last season?).

I was prepped to upload my audio file of the night's interviews from the Kings locker room onto the blog, but the work has been done for me. And while I'd normally steer clear of pilfering another outlet's content, I'm claiming intellectual property on the following Kings.com material considering it's basically videos of my conversations. I won't hold my breath for the check...

First, though, here's my leftover quotes from Kings coach Paul Westphal, big man Jason Thompson, third-year center Spencer Hawes, rookie small forward Omri Casspi and rookie guard Tyreke Evans (all answers with no questions but it should make sense)...

OKLAHOMA CITY - So one of the front page headlines of the local "Oklahoman" newspaper reads, "Beat the Bad Teams" as a message to the Thunder in regards to the Kings.

That notion applies in the other direction, too.

Regular season opener on the road or not, this game is on the short list of winnables when you peek at the Kings' schedule. I'll have my eyes fixed largely on the Tyreke Evans-Russell Westbrook matchup for much of the night, as the Thunder's point guard will certainly be undersized against the Kings rookie but he poses plenty of problems on his own as well. There's not much to report from shootaround this morning, only that veteran forward Kenny Thomas did not make the trip because he has the flu. Kings coach Paul Westphal said he doesn't yet know if Thomas will join the team later on the trip.

Be sure to join me in a few hours on press row...

MULTIMEDIA ALERT: Kings Live Chat starts at 4:45 p.m. with a 15-minute pre-game discussion, then share your comments during the game and I'll jump in and out as I can at www.sacbee.com/live.

We'll live chat from the Kings' first game at Arco on Monday as well, begininning at 6:45 p.m. Sign up now for your e-mail reminder at the above web site.

READ WHILE YOU WAIT:

From The Bee

Kings Seek a Fresh Start, By Jason Jones

Petrie Unplugged, By Me

Hawes Has a New Role, By Ailene Voisin

Financing new Kings arena with seat mortgages is discussed, By Tony Bizjak and Ryan Lillis

From the Oklahoman

Kevin Ollie's NBA odyssey, By John Rohde

Thunder's key to success: Beat the bad teams, By Mike Baldwin

Kevin Durant at ease entering third year, By Darnell Mayberry

TONIGHT'S GAME (By Jason Jones)

KINGS (0-0) AT THUNDER (0-0)
When: 5 p.m. Pacific
Where: Ford Center, Oklahoma City.
TV: CSNCA.
Radio: KHTK (1140 AM).

Kings update: The Sacramento bench led a 104-89 rout of the Thunder last week in an exhibition game, but the Kings can't expect tonight to be as easy. At least Sacramento will have Kevin Martin in the lineup. He didn't play last week because of a sprained ankle.

Thunder update: Russell Westbrook is looking to emerge as a solid point guard in his second season. Westbrook scored a career-high 34 points in an overtime loss in Sacramento on Feb. 1. But Kevin Durant remains the player that makes this team dangerous.

Probable starters

KINGS: PG Tyreke Evans, SG Kevin Martin, SF Desmond Mason, PF Sean May, C Jason Thompson.

THUNDER: PG Russell Westbrook, SG Thabo Sefolosha, SF Kevin Durant, PF Jeff Green, C Nenad Krstic - Sam Amick

October 28, 2009
Petrie unplugged

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***

If we're talking about rebuilding, we're talking to Geoff Petrie.

He is, after all, the rebuilder.

The Kings basketball president and I sat down over lunch in early October to talk big picture about his team, and I've made it my personal mission to share all of that interview because, well, the fans don't often hear from him like this. He talked past, present, and future, with some of his thoughts in Sunday's season preview story and some more in today's Q&A that was in the paper.

But the blogosphere being what it is - unlimited space - you'll find below the audio file of the near 25-minute interview from Bella Bru in Natomas (pardon the background music) and below that the transcription of the entire interview. One disclaimer on the audio file: if you listen intently you'll hear two spots where the file was clearly edited, as a few irrelevant ramblings on my part were cut out. After all, if you're here you're here to hear Petrie.

And one note about the interview itself I found most interesting: When Petrie - who is entering his 16th season with the Kings - discusses his future, he has repeatedly said that he plans to continue to work beyond this season "in some form." This is a man who picks his words more wisely than most, and I continue to perceive that qualifier as a potential indication that he could be back next season as GM or perhaps as a guy with a different role. Pure speculation on my part and I don't think even Petrie himself knows the outcome, as we're all at the guessing game point right now. (Click 'read more' to hear/see interview)...

October 26, 2009
Let the wild rumpus start...

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***

Can you tell what kind of reading is going on in the Amick household these days?

Jackie MacMullan's compelling and controversial book on Magic and Bird (and Isiah Thomas, of course) is still sitting on the bedside table, while we continue to read "Where the Wild Things Are!" nightly and I'm actually upset that my three-year-old is too scared to see the movie. Man up, Red.

Anyways, there are plenty of Kings fans who may be afraid to watch the upcoming season too. Only time will tell if the fear is completely founded or if there will be enough entertainment along the way to at least get one thumbs up from whoever wound up replacing "Ebert & Roeper." With a little less than two days before the regular season tipoff at Oklahoma City, we offer a few tidbits to chew on like butter-bathed popcorn.

* While Kings coach Paul Westphal said at Monday's practice that he knew his starting five for the opener but didn't care to reveal it, I was told to expect to see the same lineup as the final two preseason games - Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Desmond Mason, Sean May and Jason Thompson.

Unless Westphal changes his mind between now and then, he's obviously following his own instincts as they pertain to his roster and not about to let some preconceived notion of the team's frontline of the future deter him. Hawes won't like this move at all, as he made clear the other night. The question now is whether it inspires him or kills his confidence. We shall see...

* As Westphal points out in the below interview, it may not have been a great thing that the Kings waxed the floor with the Thunder last week. You get a sense from this well-done video recap by the Oklahoman that there will be a revenge factor.. He also discusses Omri Casspi, and there are some interesting comments that didn't make it in my piece for tomorrow's (today's) paper...

* I chatted today with Lakers.com reporter Mike Trudell about all things Kings. To listen to our 17-minute chat as I drove out to Arco Arena for Monday's practice, click here.

* MULTIMEDIA ALERT: Join me Wednesday for a Kings Live Chat starting at 4:45 p.m. with a 15-minute pre-game discussion, then share your comments during the game and I'll jump in and out as I can at www.sacbee.com/live.

We'll live chat from the Kings' first game at Arco on Monday as well, begininning at 6:45 p.m. Sign up now for your e-mail reminder at the above web site.

* I keep getting questions about the Kings' TV sked, so here's the deal: all the games will be on Comcast. End of story.

* There are less than 1,700 tickets remaining for the home opener on Nov. 2 against Memphis.

The Kings are reporting that their Sellout 2009 Campaign continues to make significant progress, and the following is from their release on the topic...

"It's a lot of fun to see the Sacramento community come together in support of the Kings," said Chevo Ramirez, Regional Vice President of Wells Fargo and Sellout 2009 Committee member. "I'm so proud to be part of this amazing effort that will help get ARCO Arena rocking again."

On Oct. 13, the Kings and Mayor Johnson announced an unprecedented community-based campaign to sellout the Kings first two home games - matchups against the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 2 and the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 4.

In addition to Johnson, other members of the campaign Committee include: Bob Cook, Mike Daugherty, John Frisch, Matt Haines, Lloyd Harvego, Bobby Jackson, Gerry Kamilos, Sotiris Kolokotronis, Hayden Markstein, Arlen Opper, Randy Paragary, Chevo Ramirez, Tim Ray, Bruce Scheidt, Tim Stenvick and Allen Warren.

Fans can purchase tickets by visiting Kings.com, calling 888-91-KINGS or visiting the ARCO Arena Box Office today.

Speaking of bedtime stories, my morning flight comes early and I haven't even packed yet. - Sam Amick

October 23, 2009
Bobby Jackson says goodbye

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***

By the time Bobby Jackson took the podium to formally announce his retirement, it seemed as if there wasn't all that much to say.

He had talked publicly about hanging up the sneakers and putting on the suit, making the Friday press conference a mere formality.

Wrong.

The former Kings guard and one of the organization's most popular players showed once again why fans have always found him so endearing. Heart. And lots of it.

Jackson's farewell became an emotional one when he began discussing how his late mother, Sarah, wasn't there to see the man he'd become after she died of cancer in 2003.

Here's the fine work of our own Hector Amezcua, with video and some old shots of Jackson.

- Sam Amick

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***

NBA Commissioner David Stern just finished a conference call with reporters, and I asked him to give his updated outlook on the Kings' situation in Sacramento. The key and somewhat new point here is this: Despite the Maloofs' recent promises for patience and enthusiasm about the prospect of eventually getting a new arena in Sacramento, the time will come when that simply doesn't matter. The NBA, i.e. Stern and the Board of Governors, won't allow this thing to drag on so long that they have an antiquated market and a team playing in an absurdly-outdated building. Stern touches on the Board of Governor's patience level in the second part of Stern's comments below.

STERN

On his current outlook of the Sacramento situation...

"I think that there can be no questioning of the Maloofs' commitment to Sacramento - the way they've operated the team there, the way they've spent some significantly to explore alternative resolutions. I tend to be optimistic by nature. To me, I think if we can get the campaign going in its two prongs - that is to say, 1) what the mayor has said is that the arena is (outdated) and that we need to have a plan to replace it and the fans are supportive of the Maloofs. I think that (bodes) well for the future. I understand there's a campaign out to sell out the two opening games. I hope that happens. And I know that I spent a load of resources on looking into the Cal Expo and other potential plans. And so, I'm optimistic that they will have some movement.
"I don't think I would expect the board of governors to be eternally patient on this subject, given the fact that the NCAA apparently recently declared that it would not see Arco Arena as a place that they would have a regional tournament. I think the handwriting is on the wall for the building. What's not so clear it's what's on the agenda for its replacement. I'm cheered by the Maloofs' optimism and attitude, but at some point reality will take hold and I'm hopeful that that reality is a plan for a new building.

At what point is the Maloofs' patience irrelevant and how patient will the Board of Governors be?

"We like to focus on local options and how are ownership responds, but obviously we have a problem in Sacramento. But one of the good news potential is there's an opportunity to solve that problem, and I'm hopeful that it will get solved. I can't weigh it one way or the other. I'm taking my lead from Gavin and Joe, who seem enthusiastically engaged in the excitement of a new coach, a young team, potential sellouts for the first couple of games and the kind of community involvement that recognizes that the Kings are a precious community asset and everyone is rallying around it, I hope to get the board of governors to rally around it as well." - Sam Amick

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***

Bobby Jackson, the former Kings guard and longtime fan favorite, will be announcing his retirement at an Arco Arena press conference tomorrow.
As mentioned in Twitterland a while ago, Jackson will assume a role within the Kings organization as well. For now, click on the Twitter link for a few more details but be sure to check back later today for more on this post...

BLOG UPDATE (3:43 P.M)

I'm en route to the Warriors-Hornets game in Oakland tonight but wanted to get this up regarding Jackson. I spoke with him at length earlier this afternoon about finally hanging up the sneakers and delving into a new hoops realm. He discusses how pride played into his decision to retire and the remote - almost nonexistent - possibility that he would consider un-retiring, as well as his new aspiration to become a front office type rather than the coach he'd always said he wanted to become.

JACKSON

On whether it's true he'll be announcing his retirement...

"Yeah, I'm about to hang 'em up. I had a great career, I played 12 great years, longer than anybody imagined, making good money. I think the economy is the reason why a lot of guys are not playing right now. And I'm the type of guy who doesn't like sitting around waiting on anything. So I feel like I have an opportunity to do bigger and better things and pursue that. It's better than waiting on somebody to wait for somebody to call me and pick me up.
"I'm just sitting here. I'm not doing anything, so I'd rather do something else. I'm not saying I don't want to play. I feel like I still can play and I want to play, but it's not the best situation for me right now. I feel like I don't have to prove myself to anybody. It has just come to a situation where you have to pick your time to bow out gracefully. I could be like the rest of these...free agents out there waiting on teams to call them. But at the end of the day, I feel like if they wanted me to they would've called me over the summertime. I don't want to be one of those guys who is trying to hang on one more year or two more years, jumping from team to team.. I've been (traded) a lot, and it took a great restraint for me, pride-wise, to say, 'You know what, even though I feel like I can still play, to be like, (shoot) maybe it's time to hang it up and do something that's good for me and not have to wait on someone else.
"It'll be nice to not deal with the questions, whether I can still play or questioning my toughness or if I'm durable. All those things come into play. As a player, that's what you get questioned on - 'Do you think he'll want to play a lot of minutes? Will he be (OK) being a third guard? Is his body going to hold up?' You hear all those things, and you're thinking, 'Man, if they're saying that now, what are they going to say next year?'
"I want to be able to say I left on my own terms. I didn't get pushed out. Even though the economy is still bad. There's a ton of guys getting hurt right now. I think about that, but I also think about life after basketball. The 12 years I played won't come close to anything I do after basketball. That was a great time of life. It's time to go for bigger goals and move forward."

Asked if a good offer to return to the floor came along in the next few months if he'd pull a Favre and jump right back out of retirement...

"Nah, I don't think so, because once I dedicate myself to something and move past it, I don't move back. Not saying it couldn't happen, but I don't want to be one of those guys who keeps retiring and comes back out of retirement. That's just how I feel. You retire for a reason. If I had a chance to win a ring with one of the top contenders in the game, would I do it? I don't know."

On what his role will be with the Kings...

"It's going to be a lot of roles. No. 1, it will be helping in the community with the players, doing some scouting, all those things come into play. I thought I really wanted to coach, but I weighed my options and was like, 'Man, being a coach is like being a player.' You've got to travel and do all the things coaches do. I kind of want to be at home more, spend time with the kids because they're getting older. Learning from (Kings basketball president) Geoff (Petrie) and (vice basketball president) Wayne (Cooper), and trying to become one of the best GMs in the game, that's probably what's on my mind right now."

On his front-office aspirations and the fact that he'd always said he wanted to coach...

"For me, I could do both, but you can't wear two hats in this business as a coach and a GM...I can't tell you I'll never be a coach, but my main focus is being in a front office and turning this thing around and finding a solution for everything."

On the scouting aspect and specifically what kind of scouting he planned on doing...

"I don't know yet. I think that's something me and Geoff have to sit down and talk about, because we haven't really talked in detail about what they want me doing. We touched upon it a little bit, but other than that we haven't sat down and laid out in stone what I'm really going to be doing. Like I said, I'm going to be wearing a lot of hats, and I'm fine with it. I'm a very inquisitive guy. I want to know what everybody's job is, what they do, learn from the best - learn from Geoff, learn from Wayne, learn from (assistant general manager) Jason (Levien), learn from (director of scouting) Scotty Sitrling, (director of player personnel) Jerry Reynolds. You learn from all those (guys) because you never know what sort of position you'll be in down the road."

On what the official announcement tomorrow will be like for him...

"You're sad because every player hates for this day to come. Don't get me wrong. But also, you look ahead to the future and you see that you can walk away from the game when you wanted to walk away. Everything is in tact. My family is happy. I don't have to play to get another contract. It's a sad day but it's also a happy day because I'm still around basketball, I'm retiring when I wanted to retire, I get to work for an organization and franchise that I've grown fond of and try to get the community back involved in supporting the Kings and us getting out and playing the way we're supposed to play and putting a good product on the court. It's all those things." - Sam Amick

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***

It wasn't a planned prelude, but it was fitting.

While in Las Vegas last week for the Kings-Lakers affair, I attended the Blogs with Balls Convention that anointed 12-year veteran guard/ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose as its panel headliner. And as much fun as it was to hear the endless discussions about the drastic decline of the newspaper industry and meet bloggers who surely expect to be at the forefront of the sports media landscape in the near future here, I figured I'd say hello to Jalen too.

Turns out that was a good thing for Kings fans. Because in stark contrast to this morning's teleconference involving Rose and fellow ESPN analyst/former Kings guard Jon Barry, there was something good to be said in our short Sin City chat.

Rose is predicting Tyreke Evans will be the Rookie of the Year.

"I watched him a lot of Memphis, and first and foremost the kid can play," Rose said on Friday inside room 228 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. "He's going to get a great opportunity to be on a team that knows it's not going to the playoffs. (Kings coach) Paul Westphal will be an up-tempo coach, and that means more possessions - and more room for error - but it will also give him an opportunity to have those nights when he gets going."

Rose said other things, too, like the fact that he couldn't make it to Chris Webber's recent wedding in Atlanta but that he approves of the bride/Webber's longtime girlfriend "with an exclamation point (Sorry Jalen, us sports writers just don't like actually using exclamation points)." What later became clear is that I had stumbled on the one and only ESPN NBA contributor out of 53 who saw the ROY award shaking out that way (No, really, see for yourself - and who voted for Thabeet?).

Thankfully for the folks in Bristol - and not so much for Sacramentans - Rose and Barry got back on the same page when discussing the Kings' overall outlook. They weren't alone there, either, as eight of 10 ESPN folks who predicted regular season finishes has them as the worst in the West.

The setup question was pretty basic, asking them to share their view of the Kings' current state of affairs after the changes made in the summer.

ROSE: "Wow, I don't see Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Mike Bibby walking through that door anytime soon. Hmmm. I think it's going to be an uphill battle for that team, because they really haven't decided what direction that they really want to go in. And any time you're playing in the stacked Western Conference, the other teams aren't going to stand around and wait for you to get it in order. Tough sledding for the Kings.
"I hope for their fans that they can find a way to at least keep their franchise there. There's been a lot of talk that the franchise possibly will be moving - is forced to move, not forced to move, and what-not. I just hope that their fans can find a way to keep the team because they've had great teams in the past."

BARRY: "It's a real shame to watch to watch what's transpired in Sacramento over the past few years, when it was the most exciting place to play in the NBA, the best fans in the NBA for all those years. Then I'd seen a couple games last year, with a half-empty arena. It's difficult for me, because I obviously have a past there.
"This team is a long ways away. That's the bottom line. I think Tyreke Evans could be great, but anytime you judge a player who's (on a) team that's going to win around 20 or 25 games, who'll have an opportunity when his team is down to (score) big points, we don't know how great he's going to be...They just really don't have the talent level to compete, in any conference...especially the West. They've got some young talent. I think (Francisco) Garcia is out for the year, and he was coming along last year. They just don't have the talent level to compete. It's an ugly situation.
"Hopefully they can take some strides. They're going to get their younger players a bunch of minutes this year and with a few offseason moves - you've got to bring in some studs - and this team can get back. But it's certainly going to be a long season in Sacramento."

On how he sees the Kings' path that led to this point...

"The Vlade Divac tip to Robert Horry in the (Game 4) loss (of the 2002 Western Conference Finals). From that moment on, it was over. That seemed to do it. They were on the cusp of getting to the Finals. From that moment on, it's a piece here leaving, a piece here moving, some salary shaves, and this is where you get to. It's hard to get to the top, and it's a lot easier to get to the bottom. They've obviously found it a lot easier to get to the bottom."

Both guys weighed in on Kevin Martin as well, although I'm taking my chances that no one plans to publish that material as it will work well in an upcoming piece on the Kings shooting guard I'll be working on. Beyond that, there was plenty of chatter about the league at large. Among the most relevant was Rose's doom-and-gloom prediction that Cleveland may as well be known as the Mistake on the Lake again if LeBron James decides to leave this summer (that was me, and not Rose, bringing up the old nickname, for the record). Lucky for the Cavs' faithful, he doesn't see James going anywhere.

"I would guess that he would be staying in Cleveland," Rose said. "I just think that he can be everything to the fans in Cleveland for a long time, whether they win a championship or not. I also hope that he stays because their economy would take a huge hit based on the (context of the) other (pro) teams...If they don't have LeBron James selling that franchise and really being an ambassador for that town, a lot of people will suffer." - Sam Amick

October 18, 2009
Actual Kings action on "TV"

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***

It's been a rough preseason for the die-hards, what with no Kings exhibition games on TV and all.

Alas, Jason Thompson's big night in the Kings' win against the Warriors was captured in highlight-reel form on NBA.com. Before we get to the clip, I thought I'd share a short conversation I had with Warriors second-year forward Anthony Randolph. The LSU product is often mentioned in the same sentence as Thompson - yes, sometimes by me - because the Kings passed on him to get the relative unknown out of Rider University.

Then after Randolph blew up at summer league in Las Vegas, the dissenters grew louder with the opinion that he was the one who should've been in a Kings uniform. Well Randolph himself found that silly, and even moreso after seeing Thompson have such a productive outing against his team.

"He's a great player," said Randolph, whose 12 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes couldn't compare with Thompson's 20 point, 20-rebound outing. "You can't compare us because we're two different players. He had a great game tonight, so y'all should be happy with the pick y'all got."

No one was arguing with him after this one...

- Sam Amick

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***

The day may have ended with Jason Thompson boasting the best numbers of all - 20 points and 20 rebounds in a win over Golden State - but it began with him being jealous of Jon Brockman's numbers.

He wasn't alone, as a chorus of three that also included Donte' Greene and Sean May was jealous of the exploding number of Twitter followers Brockman was gaining. The joke that he gained some 3,000 followers during the timespan of the morning shoot-a-round wasn't that far off, as indicated by the ridiculous disparity between him and his teammates. At last count when this post was being written, it was Brockman with 60,485 followers on his page; , May with 4,605 on his page , Thompson with 6,612 on his page and Greene with 7,892 followers on his page.

It turns out Brockman wasn't alone, as the NBA had recommended two Kings player to Twitter to be mentioned on their 'suggested users' page. The other was Francisco Garcia, who is up to 63,165 and officially leading the team on his page. Nonetheless, this whole Twitter battle - which, yes, is so incredibly vain in many cases but mostly harmless fun here - inspired me to ask Brockman about his recent popularity.

But since I missed him in the locker room, we caught up after myself and Jason Jones interrupted he and May's post-game workout at the team's practice facility to get his thoughts. Brockman, who is incredibly beloved up in Washington and surely has the backing of the Huskies Nation, took the humble route when addressing his newfound status.

"I don't know why 60,000 people care about what a white kid from Snohomish, Washington is doing," he said while popping his head out of the back door for a tongue-in-cheek chat. "I'd like to thank the fans. We did this together."

Asked about his teammates' shameless requests to pilfer some of his followers, Brockman was ever so charitable. It hadn't stopped there, as his former University of Washington teammate Nate Robinson was apparently feeling jealous as well since Brockman has almost twice as many folks on his site as Nate the Great.

"My friends can be their friends, but ultimately it's up to them," he said.

For those unfamiliar with this platform, none of these followings compare to the NBA leader of Twitterland, Shaquille O'Neal. The Big Twiesel has more than 2.4 million lemmings on his list. But getting back to Brockman, it wasn't the first time he has had some fun with Twitter.

During his senior season, a rival Washington State player had been crank calling Brockman's cell phone incessantly but forgot to block the number. After Washington downed Washington State - with Brockman tallying seven points and 18 rebounds - he shared the player's cell phone number with his followers and implored them to call and gloat about the win. - Sam Amick

LAS VEGAS - This was going to be a handy audio file uploaded for your listening pleasure, but technology issues mean you'll now have the pleasure of reading the material.

After the Kings' loss to the Lakers on Thursday night, coach Paul Westphal had plenty to say about his squad's play.

WESTPHAL

General thoughts on the team's third preseason game...

"(The Lakers) are miles ahead of us, but I thought we had spurts of really good basketball, and we had spurts of getting schooled. It's all good. We can learn from them, learn from our mistakes, and learn from the good things we did. I thought the first half we were horrible at transition defense, horrible at pick and roll defense, and horrible at controlling our defensive boards, and they had a big lead. In the second half, we did better at both of those things. I like the way we responded.

He lauded reserves Kenny Thomas, Sergio Rodriguez and Andres Nocioni for playing "with hair on their chest" and was pleased with how Beno Udrih responded after a blown defensive assignment early on...

"He didn't rotate over one time and they got a layup, and in the second half (Udrih) did (rotate). I said, 'Just pretend you're Derek Fisher and draw a charge.' And he did. That's the play he got hurt on. Great coaching, huh? (laughs) But he's OK...I like the spirit of this team. They just have to take care of the dirty work that wins games."

On Tyreke Evans' defense on a night when he nearly the entire Lakers starting five at one point or another (really just Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, that I can remember, but there were more)...

"(Evans) needs to improve his conditioning a little bit. He's in shape, but 40 minutes against the Lakers is a different kind of shape.
"He's got some things to learn. But in general, he's a real presence out there. I thought he played with poise, and looked like he belonged out there...

On whether he got into the offense quicker than he had in Portland...

"We did a better job of (getting into offense quicker). Ten turnovers the whole night? I thought that was pretty good. We got to the line (atrocious 14 of 24). I thought offensively, there's some things we need to work on. But in general, we shared the ball a lot and played to our strengths a lot."

On the fact that after hitting just 36 of 86 shots against the Lakers, the Kings are now shooting just 40.6 percent...

"Hitting baskets is a big part of this game. You can't win without doing the dirty work - transition defense, pick and roll defense, limiting the second shots. But even when you do that, you can't win when you can't hit baskets either. I mentioned the free throws, and that's got to get better too."

On the fact that after praising Omri Casspi before the game, he issued 16 minutes to the rookie and zero to second-year small forward Donte' Greene.

"I didn't play (Greene) tonight. That's a fact. We played those other guys. I thought (Casspi) did pretty well. It's not like he's going to shut Kobe down, but he did a respectable job making Kobe take some shots that were tougher than they should have, so it was good."


TYREKE EVANS

On facing Kobe for the first time...

"It's Kobe. He went out there and played his game.

On where he's at defensively...

"I tried to play my best defense. I got a piece of everybody tonight - D. Fish, Kobe, Lamar. I went out there just playing hard and trying to do my best job as a defender."

On what he must improve on right now...

"Getting better at pick and rolls, I've been getting to the basket, but probably to pull up more in the paint because they had a lot of shotblockers. Coach wanted me to attack, but (he'll look to pull up more) just to save from getting beat I'll just try to pull up."

FINAL NOTES

* Not a good night for Desmond Mason, who hit just 1 of 5 shots and had two points in 17 minutes but did add three boards and four assists. Kings desperately need scoring from that spot.

* Very solid night from Jason Thompson, who had 19 points (9 of 17 shooting) and 14 rebounds in 37 minutes.

* For the second straight year at this annual Kings-Lakers preseason affair, the Maloofs were joined by boxer Floyd Mayweather. Joe, Gavin, George and mother Colleen were on hand.

* Chuck Person was there too. The former Kings assistant is with the Lakers now as Artest's shooting coach. It's a role he knows all too well, having now been with Artest in Indiana, Sacramento and with the Lake-show. Person - who was known as a tireless worker by Kings supporters and detractors alike during his Kings tenure - was fired along with then-head coach Reggie Theus midway through last season.

* I spoke briefly with Mitch Kupchak before the game, and the Lakers GM detailed how the Francisco Garcia injury was a wake-up call for his organization. Kupchak - who was clearly on the long list of folks who feel awful for Garcia - had all the team's exercise balls checked for holes or wear and tear or overinflation. They're not alone, as San Antonio has responded similarly as well.

* Garcia did not travel with the team. Kings assistant Pete Carril did, however, and appears motivated to continue doing so.

* Vegas is on its way back, baby - at least if this game is any indication. After drawing 11,090 fans last season for this game, there were 14,741 on hand on Thursday night. Then again, it just might have something to do with the whole championship thing and addition of Ron Artest yada yada...

* Kudos to Kings VP of Business Communications Mitch Germann for his job well done on a panel of the Blogs with Balls 2.0 convention Thursday. Good meeting so many folks who were previously no more than clever names on a web site or pseudonyms - Bethlehem Shoals, for example - when it came to my consciousness. Fascinating stuff and good discourse about a sports media landscape that is changing at an incredible rate (And bite your tongue Dan:).- Sam Amick

We've talked about the injury and the diagnosis, the implications and the potential legal fallout. Now we finally talked to Francisco Garcia himself.

The Kings veteran swingman who suffered a broken forearm near his wrist and significant ligament Friday spoke for the first time since having surgery and learning he'll miss at least four months. After dealing with numerous injuries last season and adding 13 pounds to his frame in attempt to toughen up this season, he faces a tough road to recovery.

- Sam Amick

October 13, 2009
Operation Sellout begins...

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof gathered some of the region's most influential businessmen Tuesday with a shared mission in mind: sell out the Kings' first two home games.

I'll have more detail on this venture in tomorrow's paper, but it's essentially a push to sell tickets at the big boy level and have more concentrated efforts to sell individual tickets sprouting from there. The campaign committee on hand included Mike Daugherty, John Frisch, Matt Haines, Lloyd Harvego, Gerry Kamilos, Sotiris Kolokotronis, Hayden Markstein, Arlen Opper, Randy Paragary, Chevo Ramirez, Tim Ray, Bruce Scheidt, Tim Stenvick and Allen Warren.

IMG_1533.jpg (Courtesy of the Kings)- Sam Amick

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***

Kings coach Paul Westphal wasn't looking to talk about Francisco Garcia's injury after Monday's practice, even if there might be a lawsuit on the horizon.

It was time to move on, he said, not because their deepest sympathies didn't remain with the injured veteran but because the season just won't wait no matter how unfortunate the circumstance. But it wasn't until I left Kings practice that I noticed the symbolic representation of Westphal's sentiment - the bright purple wall near the security entrance at Arco Arena.

I've written about this wall and what it means before, but the central point is that the organization's most prominent players are typically honored in that space. Yet after the latest version had Garcia sharing the wall with Kevin Martin, Jason Thompson, and Spencer Hawes, I looked up to notice this as I took the journey from the team's practice facility to the restroom...

photo.jpg

As always, it'll be interesting to see who they put up there next. If it's the same combination of four players, I've got to think it's Tyreke Evans, Martin, Thompson and Hawes. We'll see soon enough, as Tuesday's schedule of events includes a 12:45 p.m. press conference to announce an "unprecedented campaign to sellout the first two Kings home games," according to the team release.

The group that joined forces for this effort includes a campaign committee led by mayor Kevin Johnson and a "prestigious group of Sacramento business leaders," as well as Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie, and Westphal. - Sam Amick

I'm looking into this more for tomorrow's paper, but the Kings are clearly searching for answers surrounding the fluke injury to Francisco Garcia.

After the Kings swingman broke his forearm after a physioball he was lifting on exploded, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof told me this morning that the team is sending an e-mail to each of the NBA's teams today to warn them about these newfound dangers. Maloof's main intent was to protect the athletes and educate the masses about this frightening possibility.

He has taken measures on the homefront as well, mandating that signs are hung in the team's weight room prohibiting the use of the balls. - Sam Amick

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***

You knew the news would be bad, and it certainly was.

Kings swingman Francisco Garcia will miss at least four months of action after breaking the right radius in his forearm.

Per the team's release...

"Sacramento Kings' swingman Francisco Garcia underwent successful surgery this morning at the UC Davis Medical Center to repair a broken right radius in his forearm and ligament damage to his wrist. Dr. Mark Lee performed the three-hour procedure. Garcia will spend eight weeks immobilized in a cast. He is expected to miss a minimum of four months of action." - Sam Amick

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***

So I've typically steered clear of arena talk in this space, instead focusing on the sports side and not the business because A1 (as in the paper's front page) is the more appropriate place to share our reporting and revelations on that front.

But in light of fan reaction to today's San Jose Mercury News report, that rule needs to be broken to offer a bit of perspective. The story indicates that there have been discussions in 'recent months' between the Kings and the HP Pavilion folks about a move. None of this shocked me, as I spent a good amount of time in February trying to verify this very information.

It's the reason I took this shot at team president John Thomas, who wouldn't call me back to confirm or deny whether he had been the one making a 'scouting' trip to San Jose to investigate the arena situation down there. I had numerous people telling me that was the case, but didn't go with it because I couldn't get it confirmed on the other end.

But eight months later, it's clear whatever talks went on there and elsewhere haven't provided a feasible new plan in a new city for the Kings. The economy and fees involved in relocating (not to mention territorial rights with the Warriors in this case) mean it's not realistic anytime soon, hence ownership's declaration to me that they're not going anywhere. It just so happens that part of the Maloofs' patience here is the result of knowing the landscape elsewhere.

No one should be surprised that they have looked into other situations, as they are still business owners in a nonprofitable situation no matter how many times they tout their love of Sacramento. But I'm of the belief Gavin Maloof was telling the truth when he said they aren't going anywhere by next season and remain patient to figure out the newest arena plan from there. The tough reality, however, is that it remains equally true that they'll eventually leave if a new arena never comes.

The NBA doesn't want its teams playing in old barns like Arco, and they likely didn't want Gavin saying what he had said to me earlier this month because putting pressure on is sometimes the only way to spark action. But that action, as I see it, isn't happening here or elsewhere by next season. The Kings are here for now and the immediate future. Everything from there remains uncertain. - Sam Amick

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***

Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie didn't want to speculate about just how much time Francisco Garcia could miss with what he called a broken right wrist. And, well, there's hidden point there: there's plenty of time to get into that.

He'll be gone awhile because of a fluke injury on a physioball that burst during an exercise and will require surgery tomorrow morning. It was something that has certainly happened before but not always with an athlete whose healthy presence means so much to the company that's paying him $5.8 million this season. There was an outpouring of sympathy at Kings practice today, where Petrie decided to address the situation in our darkened media room.

As I said in my home in Twitterland, this obviously ups Desmond Mason's chances of sticking around for the regular season roster. He's been out both preseason games with back spasms, though, so he obviously needs to get healthy and show a few things. Also on the injury front, Andres Nocioni is day to day and didn't practice because of hamstring tendinitis, Spencer Hawes remained out with his sprained left ankle, Sean May was out with flu-like symptoms, and then you had Mason in limited action with the (back).

- Sam Amick

October 7, 2009
Morning after musings

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***

PORTLAND, Ore. - So my game story on the direction of the Kings' franchise and how Tyreke Evans fits in went hard in one direction - thumbs up.

It was a positive read on our first real look at this squad, but it certainly left out the long list of not-so-rosy Rose Garden revelations from the loss at Portland. And anyone who grew accustomed to reading this blog in the past knows this is where we keep the conversation going. Let's delve deeper...

* They lost. And that actually does matter. It didn't matter to me, as I was ready to extract insights, analyze lineups and offer the same preseason pass on outcome that is granted to all 30 NBA teams. Except that when I asked vice basketball president Wayne Cooper afterward if this was a thumbs up or a thumbs down, he spoke for the organization by replying, "Well, we lost."

The Kings want to keep this early buzz going and give fans a reason to stay tuned in. Tough to do when the games aren't on TV, meaning the majority of folks will peek at a box score and start formulating opinion from there. They really need to win some of these games.

* Also in the 'I know it's preseason, but...' category: 18 turnovers against 13 assists. Not exactly a good start on that front, considering assist-to-turnover ratio has been a huge concern in recent years. No Kings player had more than two assists.

That being said, it wasn't a matter of ball-pounding Artest or Salmons style as much as it was not executing on open looks (37 percent shooting). Sergio Rodriguez's Sacramento story didn't start off too well in this realm either.

* Rough start for Sean May, who had a very solid training camp and was given the PF start by Kings coach Paul Westphal. He fouled out in 14 minutes and had four points and four rebounds.

"There's probably going to be more games where I could be more offensive, but right now I'm just trying to figure it out," May said. "I'm trying to get Kevin (Martin) going, and certain guys you need to get going to win games."

After four years of injury-plagued seasons in Charlotte, May said it simply felt good to be on the floor.

"Donte' (Greene) said, 'How do you feel? You haven't played in a long time," May said. "And that's the truth. It felt great just to be out there running around, running through screens and just competing...Today was good to come out and struggle so now I know I have to put in more work and do better."

* Weird night for rookie small forward Omri Casspi.

Despite Desmond Mason being out with back spasms, he didn't get on the floor until there was 9:09 left in the fourth. He made the most of his time, though, playing until the end while hitting all four of his shots for nine points and grabbing two rebounds.

Casspi grabbed a rebound within seconds of entering, then hit a midrange jumper, had a dunk off a loose ball, a runner in the lane and a three-pointer from the right wing.

"Man he was ready," Westphal said. "I should have put him in earlier. The basket looked like it was six feet around for him tonight."

After a training camp in which Westphal made clear his opinion that no Kings player has longer to go to reach their potential than Casspi, the NBA's first Israeli said he's eager to win Westphal's favor.

"I was happy I went out there and played hard and did what I wanted to do and wanted to achieve," Casspi said. "It's hard to sit on the bench for three and a half quarters and (get) nine minutes at the end. You just go out there and start playing. 


"Coach is trying to figure out things, wants to see who's coming off the bench and he's testing a lot of stuff. That's what I'm going to do. Like I said from Day One, I'm going to take the open shots, do good defense, play hard, and hopefully (earn) a lot of minutes."

Martin, who has seen more of Casspi's game than any other Kings player considering he worked out with him this summer at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., lauded his play.

"He was just active, and anytime you're active good things are going to happen for you," Martin said. "That's what he's going to do - defend and be active on the boards. He played well. I'm glad the ball dropped for him tonight."

Red flags and all on the collective front, the measured optimism continued in Kings Land.

"I love the chemistry of this team, just guys' attitudes and a different makeup from past years," he said. "We've got guys buying into the system...We'll keep on building off things from tonight." - Sam Amick

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***

PORTLAND - Kings coach Paul Westphal said at this morning's shootaround that Desmond Mason is experiencing back pain and will not play tonight.

Fifth-year swingman Francisco Garcis will get the start. Mason told me he is dealing with back spasms and is heading to see a local chiropractor this afternoon. He is unsure if he'll be available for tomorrow's game against Portland at Arco Arena. - Sam Amick

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***

PORTLAND - You're not alone, Kings fans.

That may or may not help your mood this preseason, when the Kings' new product is being unveiled and developed and none of it will be seen on local Sacramento television.

But I've been soliciting other media folks from around the league to get a sense of the NBA-wide picture on this front, and it's not nearly as pretty as some might have assumed. Here's what I've found regarding 17 teams, with a disclaimer that I'm not fact-checking but merely trusting the folks who work in these areas. Feel free to add to the list, as I'm off to shoot-a-round in Portland and can't finish the job at the moment. Thanks again for the heavy lifting from PBWA members, and Facebook and Twitter contributions.

The 'Friends in low places' crowd (no games televised, Garth)

Sacramento, Portland, Golden State, New Orleans, San Antonio, Utah,

The 'It could be worse' category

Memphis (none locally, one vs. Dallas on Mavs' owner Mark Cuban's HDNet)
Phoenix (none locally, one on ESPN)
Atlanta (none locally, one on ESPN)
Charlotte (two),
Minnesota (two)
Washington (three),
Cleveland (two locally, one on NBATV)

The Joneses (tough to keep up)

Houston (all games televised locally)
Dallas (four locally and three on owner HDNet; sked shows two on NBATV as well)
Toronto - (all but one game televised)
New York - all games televised
Lakers - all games televised - Sam Amick

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***

If it were anyone other than Spencer Hawes, the notion would be absurd.

Revenge based on a preseason game? Please.

But this is where Hawes has more in common with Michael Phelps than his looks, as they are both known to find inspiration from slights both real and perceived. It's a common trait among so many great competitors, Michael Jordan (did you see his vindictive HOF speech?) chief among them. Hawes may not have gold medals or championship rings, but he has that.

Which is why I'm guessing he isn't pleased with today's announcement from coach Paul Westphal that he will be coming off the bench tomorrow at Portland.

A year after Hawes' struggles against Greg Oden in the 2008-09 exhibition openersounded all kinds of premature alarms that irritated him to no end, the third-year center will not get his chance to share the floor with Oden from the start this time around.

Westphal said he plans on having Sean May share the frontcourt with Jason Thompson instead of Hawes, with Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin and Desmond Mason rounding out the starting five. Hawes said all the right things afterward and may have meant them. I'm not buying it, though.

"I didn't know that (he was coming off the bench), but that's (Westphal's) decision," Hawes said. "We'll see. I'd say (it surprised me) a little bit. It's not my decision."

So the Kings say there were 4,500 fans at Saturday's open practice at Arco Arena, which means only one thing.

There were 12,817 locals who missed out.

Nights like these won't come along too often this season in this setting, with the energy all positive and the outcome irrelevant and the basketball entertaining from beginning to end. Jon Brockman had a mini-coming out party. Tyreke Evans looked like an NBA stud. Kevin Martin looked like a healthy Kevin Martin - ditto for Desmond Mason. Sean May hit from outside and was a glue guy on both ends. Beno Udrih reminded those in attendance that he is a talented, if complicated, fellow. Kenny Thomas looked hungry, nearly diving over press row at one point to go for a loose ball and sparking a standing ovation from those who were there. Coach Paul Westphal continued to be ever-so-gracious with the fans.

Ubiquitous Kings PR man Chris Clark has a worthy recap of the action here, and I've included the Kings' live-streaming video at the bottom of this post. As for my own contributions, I was writing this piece on the team's attempts to re-grow its fanbase before deciding to catch up with Kings co-owner Joe Maloof courtside. It was little more than a friendly chat, but you can get a sense of the good time that was had by all. More importantly, Brockman's new nickname is revealed by Maloof as well.

The practice, in its entirety...

- Sam Amick

October 3, 2009
No TV for preseason

BLOG UPDATE (3:39 pm): The lack of an agreement with News10 simply means there will be no regular season games on that channel. But the change that relates to the preseason is with Comcast, as that's where preseason games were previously aired. That's a Kings decision based on finances to not air the games there.

News10 - which just put out its own story here - has shifted the focus of its relationship with the Kings in a way that doesn't include airing games.

***

We'll have more on this tomorrow's paper, but there will be no Kings preseason games on TV.

The Kings and News10 did not come to an agreement on a deal, so it's all radio and newspapers (online too) in the exhibition season. - Sam Amick

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***

Just a reminder that the Kings are holding an open practice tonight at Arco Arena.

The 7 p.m. event requires pre-printed tickets (parking is free), so click here for that. Also, those who can't make it out can watch by clicking here as the team is streaming the event live.

TODAY'S COVERAGE

'Nocioni likely to return to bench' - Amick
'Mason's knee looking good' - Jones

- Sam Amick

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***

As early training camp stories go, this one was a nail-biter for the Kings.

The prized rookie had an MRI on his left knee Wednesday that left his new bosses on edge, but the good news came later that afternoon when a bone bruise was revealed that was far better than, oh let's say, a torn ACL. What's more, Evans said today that he was supposed to ease his way back into practice but simply couldn't help himself on Wednesday night. He went full bore in the scrimmage, and doesn't plan to stop anytime soon. (Newly-popular disclaimer on all Evans' interviews - turn those speakers up! He's a quiet one.)

- Sam Amick

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***

KHTK's Carmichael Dave takes a lot of grief for not being a SERIOUS sports media personality.

God forbid.

But as he shows in his nine-minute interview with Beno (you'll get the Benjamin part later) Udrih from media day, he's not just a one-player pony (Ron Artest) when it comes bringing some comedy into this world. Dave is joined by the station's Sean Cunningham and local sports writer Tony Harvey in the chat. Enjoy...

Click here to hear the interview.

Of course I was on hand to provide the much less light-hearted look at Beno's situation in Wednesday's paper. - Sam Amick

September 30, 2009
Evans practices

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***

Take a deep breath Kings fans.

This will be in tomorrow's paper, but I figured there might actually be a couple folks who will sleep easier knowing this info tonight: Tyreke Evans is already back in action.

I was told he looked good and wasn't limited by the bone bruise revealed by today's MRI. Surprisingly, Evans wound up being the third biggest story today, with Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof making headlines in two significant areas (you'll have to wait for those). - Sam Amick

September 30, 2009
Evans has bone bruise

Tyreke Evans' pro career will have to begin on the training table.

The Kings rookie had an MRI Wednesday afternoon which revealed acute patellar bone bruise in his left knee and is considered day to day. Evans had experienced soreness during Tuesday's workouts and the team took the safe route and ordered the MRI.

With the disclaimer that I'm no doctor, I learned a bit about bone bruises while researching Kevin Martin's ankle injury last season and know they can certainly make for tricky recoveries. We'll know more tomorrow, as there is no more media availability today. - Sam Amick

September 29, 2009
Tyreke Evans sits out scrimmage

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***

Kings highly-touted draft pick Tyreke Evans had a rough first day of training camp Tuesday, as numerous sources close to the team tell me he sat out tonight's scrimmage with a knee issue.

While we'll surely hear more about it tomorrow, no one seems to be overly concerned just yet. I was told that he had been dealing with a lingering groin problem of some sort and may have impacted the knee in a secondary way, and wouldn't be shocked if they did a precautionary MRI tomorrow. It now makes sense why I had been told earlier in the day that he didn't do the team's conditioning test, as he was clearly laboring because of this problem. - Sam Amick

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***

His is the most influential question without an answer, and so Geoff Petrie didn't flinch in the slightest when it was asked.

The Kings basketball president knows he has one year left on his contract and no extension on his desk. He also knows that he's not about to start negotiations through the media.

"It's really not an issue right now, I don't think, of much consequence," Petrie said at today's media day. "The job I have today is the most important job and it's not something I really spend a lot of time thinking about. Our relationship (betweeen him and Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof) is really strong. We've been through so much together through the years. To me, it's a non-issue. It's obviously a bridge that has to be crossed, but right now it's a bridge too far."

While there are some who wondered how long the 61-year-old Petrie would want to continue in this capacity, he made it clear that it's his hope to remain on board beyond 2009-10. He also said there have been no discussions of any kind regarding an extension between himself and the Maloofs regarding his future.

"I want to continue to work in some form," he said. "I have tremendous roots and ties here in Sacramento. That's all the more reason to do a good job now."

I'll have more from Petrie in tomorrow's paper, but his comments served as the lone substance to an otherwise-light-hearted affair. Beno Udrih didn't wage war on his bosses, even though they spent the summer trying to hire folks to take his job through the draft and trade for Sergio Rodriguez. I had a long chat with Udrih that will be shared in Wednesday's paper.

There were plenty of laughs, including Tyreke Evans sharing the fact that he already has his own bobblehead before even playing a minute of NBA time. I didn't hear the back story on who made it and whether it will be the next Carls Jr. Happy Mean add-on, but Evans seemed to get a kick out of it.

As camp competition goes, Melvin Ely will be one to watch in the next few weeks. He badly wants to make this team as he has family nearby and knows the region well from his days at Fresno State.

The Kings ran a live UStream of Media Day, too. And if you watch this, you're a bona fide super fan.

- Sam Amick

September 28, 2009
(Social) Media Day

The real Media Day is hours away, when reporters like myself get back in the daily routine of the more conventional parts of the job.

Ask questions. Get answers. Write stories.

But it's not just about that anymore, so consider this is a Bee press release on the latest fringe elements of our coverage. Let's get social...

FACEBOOK PAGE

We present the 'Sacramento Kings Corner (SacBee)' page, which will serve a number of functions.

(Become a fan of the page by clicking the link above)

It will link to our stories and blogs via RSS feeds, which is to be expected. But it will also become the first place to go for postgame or postpractice video - even before it's up on the blog. If I'm Joe Average Kings Fan, that becomes even more interesting this season considering there is no longer any pre- or post-game TV coverage of Kings games (part of the layoffs).

We can certainly chat it up with the fans in there, with you sharing your insights or rants and us offering quick commentary that isn't limited to 140 characters a la Twitter. What's more, I'm going to have some fun with it from a technology standpoint, sharing random shots and videos home and road that don't necessarily have a place on the blog. Fans can share their photos too (not sure about videos), so the interactivity should be fun.

YOUTUBE CHANNEL

This may wind up being redundant, as I'm trying to get our new YouTube Kings channel to feed directly into the Facebook. Nonetheless, the most direct and quickest way to see our Kings material in the video realm is by subscribing to the channel.

TWITTER REMINDER

The Twitter portion of our presence has been strong for some time, but that doesn't mean we don't need new friends on that front.

To follow me (sam_amick), click here; to follow Jason Jones (jejones_sacbee), click here.

PLAYER SALARIES PAGE

This isn't a new element, just an updated one.

After securing the down-to-the-dollar numbers on Kings player salaries a year ago, the page went untouched as the team's roster most certainly did not. At long last, we have the new numbers for the players old and new. And for those who accused us of trying to stir the public's pot by publishing this info, you couldn't be more off-target (and I can say that, as it was my project with a huge assist on the web front from Phillip Reese).

I just grew tired of seeing inaccurate Kings salary numbers on other web sites, as fans often drew erroneous conclusions from the erroneous info. Everyone knows pro athletes haul in exorbitant paychecks, even on teams like the Kings that are near the bottom of the league in payroll. Sparking a larger discussion on our society's injustices, while a valid one, was not the intent. - Sam Amick

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

We chronicled the past and peeked at the future of Sean May in today's piece, but there was much more, shall we say, meat to the story that we didn't get into.

The chubby chapter.

May talked at length about his reputation as a human balloon, capable of growing and shrinking with a few hefty breaths during his playing career. To his credit, he couldn't have been classier chatting about the topic. He's seen the chatter, heard the critics, knows about all the jokes, and shrugs his burly shoulders at all of it.

The microfracture surgery, May said, was solely to blame for his tipping 300 pounds in 2008. It's life in the 260s now, with nothing but excitement about what he can do without the unwelcome weight.

"The stigma has always followed me," May said. "But the one thing is, you've never heard me get upset about it, never heard me (complain) about it. You've just never heard that from me because I don't care. It doesn't bother me.
"I know me. I know my game. People who watch me play - If you didn't even hear a weight and you watched me play, you wouldn't think that he's too heavy. But as soon as you hear a number, this connotation comes in your head. It's just been that way."

The number in college, May said, was higher than his scale reading now.

"I was heavier at (University of North) Carolina, like 270," May said. "(The focus on weight) is also with the knee surgery, that scares them. When Sacramento came to me (about his weight clause), My agent asked me, 'Do you care if they put a weight clause in your contract?' I was like, 'I don't care, as long as it's not something where he's got to be 245.' I'll never get to 245. I haven't been that since eighth grade. I just don't care (about the clause). I want to play basketball."

September 26, 2009
Training camp roster released

College football? Nah. Sunday's Week Three of NFL action? Please. You know this weekend was all about the highly-anticipated release of the Kings' training camp roster. Relax, already. Here it is...

Forward Melvin Ely is the obvious eyebrow-raiser in the bunch, as the player taken 12th overall in 2002 by the Clippers is yet another log thrown upon this bonfire of Kings' camp competition. The big man hardly came up big in his last two seasons in New Orleans (83 games played combined, approximately 12 minutes per in both seasons), and the irony here is that former Kings forward Ike Diogu was essentially signed by the Hornets this summer to fill the role Ely was hired to fill.

***
(Jersey number, name, position, height, weight, birthdate, where from, years of experience)

40 Jon Brockman F 6-7 255 March 20, 1987 Washington R

18 Omri Casspi F 6-9 225 June 22, 1988 Israel R

33 Melvin Ely C-F 6-10 261 May 2, 1978 Fresno State 7

13 Tyreke Evans G 6-6 220 Sept. 19, 1989 Memphis R

32 Cisco Garcia G-F 6-7 195 Dec. 31, 1981 Louisville 4

20 Donté Greene F 6-11 226 Feb. 21, 1988 Syracuse 1

31 Spencer Hawes C-F 7-1 245 April 28, 1988 Washington 2

23 Kevin Martin G 6-7 185 Feb. 1, 1983 West. Carolina 5

24 Des. Mason G 6-5 222 Oct. 11, 1977 Oklahoma State 9

42 Sean May F 6-9 266 April 4, 1984 North Carolina 3

5 Andres Nocioni F 6-7 225 Nov. 30, 1979 Argentina 5

10 Serg. Rodriguez G 6-3 176 June 12, 1986 Spain 3

7 Lanny Smith G 6-3 190 Oct. 30, 1984 Houston R

9 Kenny Thomas F 6-7 245 July 25, 1977 New Mexico 10

34 J. Thompson F 6-11 250 July 21, 1986 Rider 1

19 Beno Udrih G 6-3 205 July 5, 1982 Slovenia 5

*** - Sam Amick

September 24, 2009
Kings PSA

PSA, as in Public Service Announcement. Not PSL, as in those quizzical personal seat licenses the Raiders used to sell and then wonder how in the Al Davis hell the Coliseum was empty.

We are here not only to entertain but to inform, and so here is some timely and relevant news regarding the Kings and ticket sales. The organization is working hard on all fronts to make sure they don't finish last in the league in attendance again, and the promotional push is ramping up as Monday's media day approaches.

The Kings will hold an open practice Oct. 3 at Arco Arena, with fans encouraged to download their free tickets to the 7 p.m. event on the team's web site.

The hope from there, of course, is that their emaciated fanbase is actually willing to pay to see this group.

While tickets for the team's three home preseason games are already on sale, individual tickets for the regular season home games go on sale Saturday. The newest wave of ballyhooed youngsters will be promoting the push, as rookies Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi and Jon Brockman all have meet-and-greet appearances on Saturday.

* Evans, the University of Memphis product who was taken fourth overall in the June draft, will mingle with fans at Dairy Queen at the Roseville Galleria from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

* Casspi, the Kings' No. 23 pick and first Israeli player to secure a guaranteed NBA contract, will be at Folsom Live 2009 on Historic Sutter Street in Old Folsom from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

* Brockman, the former University of Washington forward taken 38th overall by the Kings, will be at " A Day in the Zone" at Discovery Park from 2 to 3 p.m.

Fans who purchase tickets online to the Kings Nov. 2 home opener against Allen Iverson and the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday will receive a voucher to pick up an autographed photo of their favorite Kings rookie at the game. The Kings have also added three-game and five-game plans to their packages, the former starting at $76.50 and the latter starting at $127.50. Go to Kings.com or call 888-91-KINGS for more information. - Sam Amick

September 22, 2009
That's Mr. Jon Brockman to you

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

Let's talk Jon Brockman. Or, as he's known on his Twitter page, Mr. Jon Brockman.

I hope to do an expanded piece on this during the season, but I don't think Kings fans realize the Brockman love fest that went on in the Seattle area during his time there. And while most of the adoration was surely because the guy dives for loose balls and welcomes all knee scrapes, it's also because he's pretty much Mr. Meat and Potatoes with a side of All-American.

I chatted with the Kings rookie forward about that side of him today, when his love for fishing and penchant for eating large quantities of pancakes were the topics of discussion. Both areas were already public knowledge, as a Brockman Tweet on Aug. 24 was better suited for the Outdoors channel than NBATV and an FSN halftime segment last season showcased his devouring dominance. Be sure to watch until the end, as the player known for challenging his teammates to be their best has a challenge for his new fanbase. (Be sure to at least watch the pancake video first - 'devouring dominance' link)

Brockman may be a rookie, but it seems he's a vet when it comes to the media game. And he certainly wasn't impressed by this little old Kings blog - not after being a correspondent for Jim Rome during his final Huskies season.

As for the actual Kings session that I observed today, we'll leave that to tomorrow's paper. Plenty of time to examine this group. - Sam Amick

September 22, 2009
Back to work...

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

The NBA player's transition from summer fun to hitting the floor again used to be a story told on media day, when guys like me played the part of 5th Grade teacher and repeatedly asked 'How was your summer?'

But now there's YouTube, which means you don't even need to box anyone out in a media scrum to have a window into their world. Witness, Spencer Hawes...

The Kings' third-year center was so dedicated this summer he was doing cardio everywhere, including the sideline of his alma mater's upset over USC last weekend. (BLOG UPDATE, Sept. 22, 6:53 pm: What I'd thought was a random video shot by a Huskies fan that had gained YouTube traction was, in fact, content shot by Ben of Blazers Edge and published on Sactownroyalty in this post. I'm all about hat-tips, of course, so let that be known)

Hawes eventually joined his teammates in Sacramento, where most of the team has been running every day in the voluntary program that precedes the start of training camp on Sept. 29.

I'll be heading over to the practice facility today to take a look for myself and see how guys are coming along. Normally, I wouldn't have much interest in the work that's taking place over there these days. But this is far from a veteran-laden team, meaning chemistry and work ethic and a good early start are all more important than ever. This team needs to make its own breaks (and avoiding breaking anything of the physical sort) if they have any hope of surprising the masses who expect so little from them this season.

Kings coach Paul Westphal said as much when we spoke last week.

"We've had 10 guys (working out), and then Cisco (Garcia) has been here as well," Westphal said. "Tyreke (Evans) and K9 (Kenny Thomas) are coming soon and Beno (Udrih) and Noc (Andres Nocioni) are around corner. It's getting close.

"This is a real good sign to see these guys bonding and enjoying what they're doing, and working hard. Without the hard work, it means nothing. (Fifth-year Kings strength and conditioning coach) Daniel Shapiro has done a great job of getting them the conditioning and an opportunity to enjoy it and to interact with each other. This is a good thing right now."


I'll share some observations and have something in tomorrow's paper on the matter, so come on back. - Sam Amick

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

Just Desmond Mason's luck, the Kings didn't cap their roster at lucky No. 13 after all.

Geoff Petrie's prediction/declaration that his team would have 13 players this season was followed two days later by the signing of Mason, so pardon me for not being sure what to make of all of it. What's more, Mason - who has a non-guaranteed deal and will have to prove healthy and productive in order to become No. 14 - adds another log to the wingman jam while the position of greatest need - that being center - is the fire that remains untended.

But after all, it's been hazy around here for some time now, so just hold your breath and wait for the smoke to clear. Because Kings coach Paul Westphal says so...

"So much of how this is going to look when the smoke clears is based on competition, and the more competition that you can provide these players, the more you're going to find about them, about who can rise to the top and who deserves the opportunity to play and learn from their mistakes and who deserves to sit and watch and learn," Westphal said today. "You can learn a couple different ways."

In other words, give him a little bit of time before shooting off the flares.

September 17, 2009
Mason signs with Kings

Anyone looking to discuss the Mason addition and what it means, feel free to ask questions or sound off in Twitterland.

***

Just as the Kings looked content to start their season with 13 players on their roster, they have instead added an affordable and athletic talent to the mix.
Nine-year veteran Desmond Mason is expected to be signed to a non-guaranteed one-year deal for the league minimum of $1.18 million today, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. His deal is what's widely known as a 'make-good,' with Mason needing to still be on the roster on Jan. 10 to have his entire salary guaranteed. The Associated Press first reported the story that Mason would be signed, but did not indicate contract terms.

UPDATE: (2:03 p.m.) Mason's agent, Roger Montgomery, has just informed me that Mason has signed the deal and already left town to get his life organized before returning to Sacramento.

The former Oklahoma City swingman is coming off one of his toughest seasons, having hyperextended his right knee on Jan. 28 against Memphis and missed the second half of the season. He has averaged 12.2 points throughout a career in which he has played in Seattle, Milwaukee New Orleans and Oklahoma City. The Kings have long had their eye on Mason, having attempted to trade for him in 2005 in a deal involving Kings forward Kenny Thomas. The season prior was Mason's best, as he averaged 17.2 points for the Bucks.

Not long after the Kings and Bucks talked about Mason in October of 2005, he was sent from the Bucks to the then-New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets for center Jamaal Magloire, an unconditional first-round pick in 2006 and cash. He returned to Milwaukee in the summer of 2007 when he signed as a free agent, then averaged 9.7 points and 28.8 minutes per game while playing in just 59 games. He was traded to Oklahoma City last summer in a three-team trade with Cleveland also involved.

His addition will add some real intrigue to training camp, as he now joins a list of players fighting for minutes at the wing spots that already included Kevin Martin, Tyreke Evans, Andres Nocioni, Francisco Garcia, Donte' Greene, and Omri Casspi. Mason is going to turn 32 next month, so don't expect the same high-flyer who was drafted 17th overall by Seattle out of Oklahoma State. But the man has long been known for his highlight-reel material, and the Kings can only hope he has just a little bit left.

- Sam Amick

September 15, 2009
Kings sign Brockman

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

As expected, the Kings signed Jon Brockman today.

The move brings the roster to lucky No. 13, with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie telling me Monday that he didn't anticipate it growing from there. All of Seattle will surely rejoice, as Brockman is nothing short of revered in the Emerald City. Let training camp begin... - Sam Amick

September 14, 2009
Garcia injury update

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

Yes, it's only September and the thought of an injury update right now seems a bit absurd.

But Francisco Garcia went through much of last season with lingering injuries, one of which (fractured right ring finger) he repeated again earlier this month while playing with the Dominican Republic national team. So in the smallest of significant ways, it actually mattered this afternoon when the Kings announced that Garcia's injury is not serious and he can resume full hoops activities next week.

It matters because this team has less room for error or ailments than any other in the league, and they surely need a veteran like Garcia to be free to shine and shoot with all his digits - and everything else - in working order. Combined with the news that Beno Udrih's injury is also minor means Project Maximize Potential can begin in earnest when camp begins on Sept. 29. - Sam Amick

September 14, 2009
Brockman to sign soon

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

Per the previous blog post, Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie told me this afternoon that second-round pick Jon Brockman will be officially signed either later today or tomorrow morning.

The team is getting an updated physical on Brockman, the University of Washington bruiser who was taken 38th overall. As a side note, Petrie mentioned that it's his preference to keep the roster at its current count of 13 players (once Brockman is signed). Translation: Don't expect the late addition of a backup center to the roster, and don't expect any camp players to win a job unless they put on an absolute show next month. - Sam Amick

Follow Sam and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee.

***

The Seattle Times is reporting that University of Washington product and second round pick Jon Brockman was signed by the Kings today, although I've yet to confirm the news and a Kings official I checked with said he has no reason to believe this is the case.

Considering Brockman's latest Twitter update around 7 a.m. today had him halfway here from Seattle on his drive, the pen may not have actually hit the paper just yet or maybe the two sides haven't agreed at all. Nonetheless, it was/is a matter of when and not if, with sources who have knowledge of the contract talks telling me the holdup was related to whether to guarantee one or two years (and by extension the money in those years, of course).

I'm curious to hear of the outcome and will share that once I do. After all, signing second rounders and rookie free agents is where the negotiating goes on in the NBA because of the league's rookie salary scale which predetermines salaries for first rounders (with wiggle room of 80 percent to 120 percent of that figure up for negotiations and the structure - two years guaranteed, two team options - also preset). As such, I figured it'd be worth finding out what the fellow second rounders near Brockman (No. 38) signed for this summer or if they signed at all just to get a peek at that picture. It's not the only relevant info, as the Kings should really only care about how Brockman fits on their roster and what they think he deserves at this point within the context of their own financial situation. Nonetheless, it's interesting to size up the different deals.

Pick No. 31. Jeff Pendergraph - signed by Portland, no terms known

BLOG UPDATE (Sept. 22, 9:08 a.m.): Pendergraph terms - Three years, $2.1 million (Compensation Protection for 2010-11 season is none but increases to full if a) he plays in 10 or more 2009-10 regular season games, b) he plays in 50 percent or more of the team's 2009-10 playoff games - Blazers are already in?! - or c) Blazers have not cut him on or before July 25, 2010; Compensation protection for 2011-12 season is none but increases to full if a) player plays in 41 or more 2010-11 regular season games or b) Blazers have not cut him on or before June 30, 2011.)

32. Jermaine Taylor - signed by Houston, four years for $3.3 million (4th year team option, third year not guaranteed)

33. Dante Cunningham - signed by Portland, two years for $1.2 million (both guaranteed)

BLOG CORRECTION: For some unknown reason, I originally wrote Cunningham's salary as $2.4 million. Fixed on Sept. 22.

34. Sergio Llull - not signed by Houston (Rockets have his rights but he's playing with Real Madrid)

35. DaJuan Summers - signed by Detroit, two years for $1.2 million ($500,000 guaranteed in second season)

36. Sam Young - signed by Memphis, three years for $2.7 million (third season is a team option)

37. DeJuan Blair - signed by San Antonio, four years, $3.8 million ($500,000 guaranteed in third year; none guaranteed in fourth unless he isn't waived before Nov. 1, 2012 at which point it's fully guaranteed)

BLOG UPDATE (Sept. 22, 9:10 a.m.): No. 38: Brockman signed for one year at approximately $457,000 of guaranteed money and no team or player options thereafter.

39. Jonas Jerebko - signed by Detroit, two years for $1.2 million (second season half guaranteed but goes to full if still on the roster on July 1, 2010).

40. Derrick Brown - signed by Charlotte, two years for $1.2 million (second season has $100,000 guaranteed and $200,000 of $762K if still on team on Sept. 1, 2010; fully guaranteed on Nov. 1, 2010).

In this economic landscape, the cost of doing business simply isn't what it used to be and teams are tightening their respective wallets in situations like these. Saving a few (hundred thousand) bucks on second-round or rookie free agent deals is a good way to throw a bone to the bottom line, and something the Kings haven't done much of late. Making matters worse, their most recent players of this ilk haven't produced much while they were here or stayed around long to earn their money (see 2008 free agent rookie Bobby Brown and his two-year guaranteed deal for $1.17 million).

And while Brockman has already earned positive reviews and seems to be a favorite of first-year Kings coach Paul Westphal, he's still an unproven second rounder who - one would think - sits behind Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes, Sean May and Kenny Thomas on the big man depth chart. For what it's worth... - Sam Amick


September 4, 2009
Injury bug hits early

A quick social media reminder...

Follow myself and fellow hoops scribe Jason Jones on Twitter - sam_amick and jejones_sacbee. If we hear tidbits or have brief insights that don't quite merit an actual blog post, this is a good place to get added Kings/NBA reporting/commentary. Also, it's an easy place for us to answer reader questions quickly and promptly (like, say, in 140 characters:) For the ultra lazy, you can see my Twitter updates along the lower right side of this page.

***

Since Sean May signed with the Kings in early August, the "no news is good news" mantra didn't jive with so many fans who wanted this team to improve its underwhelming roster in these late summer months.

But the old saying has proved true once again in this case, as the purple news cycle has been kickstarted this week by injuries to two key players. We talked about Beno Udrih's left knee strain in today's paper, and we'll elaborate on the impact of that ailment in a minute here. But after there were reports out of Puerto Rico that swingman Francisco Garcia had injured his finger while missing time in the FIBA Americas Championship, the Kings announced today that the productive sixth man has a fractured right ring finger and will not play in the remainder of the tournament (BLOG UPDATE 5:36 p.m.: As I was writing, DR was eliminated from the tourney by Canada).

Garcia - who labored through the same injury late last season after breaking the right ring finger on March 3 against Indiana - will return to Sacramento late next week to have the finger re-evaluated. All of which means Daniel Shapiro and Pete Youngman will have their hands full in what is an already-busy month for the Kings' fifth-year strength and conditioning coach and longtime trainer, with Udrih and Garcia needing rehab of various sorts from the start.

While neither injury is being deemed serious at the moment, there is a legitimate chance for lasting implications on both fronts. Garcia suffered through last season with a lingering injury (his calf) and surely hopes this one doesn't pester him for months to come. He will have no shortage of small forwards looking for minutes with starter Andres Nocioni, second-year Donte' Greene and rookie Omri Casspi, so any stumble at the start is undesirable. What's more, he had been playing very well for his Dominican Republic team (see stats here).

Speaking of whom, I caught up with Casspi today by phone from Bradenton, Fla., where he's going the way of Kevin Martin with his offseason training routine at the IMG Academy. Having returned from his homeland after the recent visit with our own Ailene Voisin, he said he is doing all he can to be in fantastic shape come training camp, and he plans on joining the Kings' voluntary conditioning program on Sept. 11.

"This is more of an individual feel (than his previous training in Israel)," Casspi said by phone. "In all my career, I've never had one summer off (because he previously played with the national team). I can work on my stuff and get better as a player, get stronger and work on my body. It's a new experience.
"Everything we do is a first time for me, so in the beginning it was very hard for me to adjust. You're working twice a day playing basketball and lifting in the end. I was dead for three days, couldn't even move. It was just different for me. It's great. I love it here. It's the best thing I could ever imagine. I want to do this every summer now. I have a lot of room to improve on my body and my game."

Meanwhile, Udrih - who has never been the top of the training camp conditioning class to begin with - now finds himself looking to get healthy right about the time his teammates will be looking to take his job. By default, he remains the starting point guard (read the company line here), but rookie Tyreke Evans is waiting to take the ball and run with it while new addition Sergio Rodriguez will be looking for substantial minutes as well.

A quick sidenote on Rodriguez that I forgot to mention along the way: Considering the Kings stand to net approximately $1.1 million for trading for him, any production is gravy. Sources with knowledge of the situation informed me the Kings were paid $2.9 million in the trade and Rodriguez will make approximately $1.8 million next season (he has a qualifying offer in 2010-11). They also acquired the 38th pick in the deal, of course, otherwise known as unsigned former University of Washington forward Jon Brockman. I can't see Brockman securing a whole lot of guaranteed money when he does eventually sign, but that would hypothetically cut into the savings.

As for Udrih, I spoke with his agent, Marc Cornstein, today and have this update.

"It sounds like he just has a minor tweak of his knee," Cornstein said. "It doesn't seem all that serious, but unfortunately the timing is right before the championships start Monday. In all likelihood - it's not 100 percent - but in all likelihood he won't play in Poland (for the Euroleague championships) but he should be ready for (Kings) camp (on Sept. 29) with no issues...It's only two or three weeks (recovery time) they're saying. But he is disappointed that he went through all this and won't have a chance to play with the (Slovenian) team."


When Kings shooting guard Kevin Martin dropped an Obama comparison in discussing the rock star treatment he received during his trip to Surabaya, Indonesia this week, he was quick to make it clear that this wasn't the hyperbole speaking.

"That's no exaggeration," he said.

By all indications, Martin was speaking the truth.

The treatment he received in the local newspaper was something else, so we'll start there. Talk about a warm welcome...

Click here to see front page mast

And an even warmer send-off...

Click here to see full-page ad with well-wishing notes from players

There was much more than that, too (which didn't make it in the story).

So as to avoid getting in hot water with the bosses, this blog post was written on the way out the door to vacation. I'll be out of commision for a while, but had a few final notes before departing.

* Per today's Kevin Martin story, I was given more information about the trip to Indonesia he'll be making in August.

Azrul Ananda is not only a fellow Sacramento State graduate, but the 32-year-old commissioner of the DetEksi Basketball League. The DBL is the largest student basketball competition (junior high and high school) in the country, and Martin will be joining the first ever Indonesia Developmental Camp which was organized by the DBL and the NBA. They'll be in Surabaya, Indonesia, where previous NBA events included visits from Indiana's Danny Granger and the Knicks' David Lee (currently a restricted free agent).

As for Martin and his mindset, it was clear in our 30-minute interview that he's encouraged by the recent Kings moves. He seemed encouraged in general, relieved that his ankle is feeling good again and enjoying the routine discussed in the story. He's in Sacramento now, though, as his basketball camp at Capital Christian starts today.

* There's still more material to come from Vegas, as I have an Omri Casspi story that will be published soon.

It could be days or perhaps weeks, but it appears likely that the news of Sean May joining the Kings will eventually transpire.

It could still fall through, but there are strong indications that the fifth-year, 6-foot-9 forward will be added to the Kings' roster on a one-year deal worth the league minimum for veterans of $884,881. The Kings would get a slight discount on the deal ($59,384) per the league's collective bargaining agreement, as the league helps foot the bill on veteran's minimum deals that are just one season. In the end, the Kings would pay $825,497 of May's salary.

"There is strong interest on both sides, but nothing has been formalized," said his agent, Bob Myers, of the Wasserman Media Group, by phone this afternoon. "Hopefully we'll know soon."

It's unclear what the hold up is, although the Kings have made a habit out of taking their time on all personnel matters during this offseason and really have no reason to rush. They could still be considering other free agent options, but the prospect of Ike Diogu returning seems unlikely unless his perceived price tag lowers.

According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, two-time D-League Coach of the Year Bryan Gates will be added to the staff of Kings coach Paul Westphal.

Gates has coached the Idaho Stampede since 2006, although he was with the organization in various roles as early as 1997. His Stampede team won the 2008 D-League championship.

While Gates was being considered for an assistant job almost immediately after Westphal was hired on June 9, his name wasn't called when the Kings coach added Mario Elie, Jim Eyen, and Truck Robinson to his staff in the subsequent weeks. Gates, however, indicated to News2 in Boise, Idaho that he still believed he had a chance.

"I feel very comfortable with everything that's happened," he told the television station. "They've been very up front and honest about everything and I'm okay...
"I love the Stampede, everybody treats us great. I don't really want to leave. It's going to have to be a great pasture on the other side."

Gates has already been spending some time on the other side, watching Monday's Kings game with Westphal and much of his staff before interviewing with the head coach on Tuesday. Former Clippers coach/director of player development Neal Meyer was among the candidates for the job as well. - Sam Amick

The chatter about two-time NBA Developmental League coach of the year Bryan Gates potentially joining Kings coach Paul Westphal's staff that has been around for a while, resurfaced via Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski yesterday.

Sure enough, the Idaho Stampede coach met with Westphal in Las Vegas to discuss an assistant post on Tuesday. Westphal told The Bee's Jason Jones in Vegas that he would be adding one more coach to the staff, although he did not indicate who that would be. And while my sources tell me that former Clippers assistant/director of player development Neal Meyer is also in the running (as well as at least one other candidate, I believe), Gates is already looking the part.

I didn't notice this until a day after it came out, but our own Jose Luis Villegas captured this shot of Gates already looking the part of Kings assistant at summer league Monday while watching the action with Westphal and other Kings folks. He's the one in the light blue shirt on the left.

Bryan Gates.jpg

And for what it's worth, Meyer is working with Cleveland this summer league in Vegas and is a candidate to be added to the staff of Cavs head coach/fellow University of San Diego alum Mike Brown. Meyer worked with new Kings assistant Jim Eyen with the Clippers previously.

HAWES ON MISSING SUMMER LEAGUE: "It's...more of a suggestion-type thing rather than a requirement."

So third-year center Spencer Hawes missed summer league, and we'd been hearing a number of reasons for why that was the case.

But thanks to Bob Nakutin from Hoquiam, Wa., who e-mailed to alert us that the rumor about Hawes keeping his commitment to attend a kids camp was true. Hawes was the featured guest at Hoquiam High School, where his mother, Lisa Reynvaan Hawes, was a 1974 graduate. Per this story from "The Daily World" in Aberdeen, Wa., we discover Hawes' whereabouts and hear his take on missing summer league. I'm not too sure this will clear his name with the Kings higher-ups. - Sam Amick

Donte.JPG
Photo by Jose Luis Villegas - see entire slideshow here

***

Donté Greene wants a time machine.

He said as much last week in Las Vegas, where the process of improving his game for the future continued at summer league but the Kings second-year small forward couldn't help but look back. During a long and candid interview inside his Palms hotel that resulted in Sunday's piece on his life and still-stalling career, Greene talked about a number of things that didn't make the story.

But the part about wanting to turn back time stuck with me the most, as even the most candid of athletes typically steer clear of admitting regret. Yet Greene didn't hesitate at all, discussing his decision to leave Syracuse after just one season and wondering what might have been if he had stayed. To review, he was drafted by Memphis with the 28th pick and traded to Houston that night before coming to the Kings in the August trade that netted the Rockets Ron Artest.

"It's been a long road, a lot of shoulda, coulda, wouldas," Greene said. "I wish I would've done this, wish I would've done that, wish I had me a time traveling machine. All kinds of crazy stuff. My family has definitely been there, told me to hang in there. It's just been a lot of tough things going on and off the court with me.

LAS VEGAS - Better late than never, but here are a few chats I had after the Kings' second summer league game against Golden State. (to see the rundown of their overtime loss, click here).

Kings second-year forward Jason Thompson talks about his play...

Kings rookie small forward Omri Casspi discusses his summer league experience thus far...

- Sam Amick

LAS VEGAS - Pardon the lack of blog presence for the last 36 hours, but there was much time spent on old-fashioned journalism as I put together a Donte' Greene piece that will run in tomorrow's paper.

It meant there was a delay on a number of fronts, including my intent to share information about how fans can view the summer league games. It's online only viewing this year, with a $14.99 fee granting you access to all of the games either live or in archived form. Even if you missed the Kings' first two games (or any others), you can pull them up after the fact. For those interested in doing so, go to this website to sign up.

Also, for those who aren't already on our Twitter path, click here to start the stalking and follow Kings and NBA chatter. - Sam Amick

LAS VEGAS - The coverage continues here from summer league, where we've already discussed Spencer Hawes' decision to not take part and other news and notes from the first day.

Now The Bee has officially arrived on location as it pertains to the blogosphere. But before we get to first day video interviews with all of the team's draft picks, a few additional tidbits of relevance.

* Regarding Hawes, the reasons for him not playing that I've heard include a wedding he attended, a camp he had to make an appearance at, a groin that was bothering him and an abdominal strain that bothered him last year and was apparently a tad touchy again recently. I haven't spoken to Hawes, but Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie cited only a "family commitment" and coach Paul Westphal referenced something with his "leg" as well as other personal matters.

Petrie said he has not spoken directly to Hawes about the matter. And for the record, he said he was unsure whether Hawes might play when he arrives Monday. Westphal said he didn't expect Hawes to play, and that he was coming to offer his teammates support.

His longtime friend, former University of Washington teammate and new Kings teammate Jon Brockman, meanwhile, said no one should question how hard Hawes has been working on his game elsewhere.

"I've been working out with him almost every day in Seattle," Brockman said after Wednesday's second practice. "He just had some other stuff going on that he could not miss, and I think he's a little banged up just from - he's been working really hard.
"He's been working really hard in the weight room and on the court, so you know I'm a little disappointed (he's not here) but I think we'll get a chance to see him here at some point. I think he'll be down here in a little bit."

Now on to the videos...

Tyreke Evans, the former Memphis guard who was taken No. 4 overall by the Kings in the June 25 draft, discusses his first day on the job. That day included the signing of his contract.

Brockman, who was taken 38th overall and impressed in his first day, talks about how he went 7-0 in the day's scrimmages.

Omri Casspi, the Israeli small forward who was kept off the court because of red tape, talks about his anticlimactic start.

- Sam Amick

Pardon the delay regarding the last pick, but the Kings took University of Washington forward Jon Brockman with the No. 38 pick that they received from Portland.

We'll have more on him later (and in tomorrow's paper), but there is an introduction below in the meantime.

- Sam Amick

The Kings selected Israeli small forward Omri Casspi at No. 23, adding a versatile wingman to their roster who will become the first Israeli to play in the NBA.

We'll have more on him later, but here's my chat with Casspi from the predraft combine in Chicago last month.

- Sam Amick

By Sam Amick
samick@sacbee.com

The Kings selected Memphis' Tyreke Evans with the fourth pick of today's NBA draft in New York City, adding the 6-foot-5 guard to a roster so badly in need of more talent.

By many accounts, Evans was among the most talented - if not the most talented - player in the draft. And while he is not the conventional point guard the Kings sought, he is a dynamic scorer who led his University of Memphis team at the point guard spot last season and can also play shooting guard. After the Clippers selected Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin, Memphis selected University of Connecticut Hasheem Thabeet, and Oklahoma City took Arizona State guard James Harden, the Kings took Evans their other top candidates who were still available in Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, Davidson guard Stephen Curry and Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn.

Earlier today, the Kings agreed to terms with Portland to acquire Blazers point guard Sergio Rodriguez in exchange for their No. 31 pick, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. The Kings will also receive Portland's No. 38 pick and cash considerations.

Here's a video interview with Evans that took place after his first workout in Sacramento, followed by a highlight reel below.

The Kings have agreed to terms with Portland to acquire Blazers point guard Sergio Rodriguez in exchange for their No. 31 pick, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. The Kings will also receive Portland's No. 38 pick and cash considerations. - Sam Amick

Not to put a damper on the excitement of draft day, but it appears there's a grave element to the Kings' prospect evaluation process that had gone largely unnoticed among Kings fans and media in Sacramento until today.

Memphis guard Tyreke Evans, who is believed by many to be the leading candidate for the team's No. 4 pick in the draft that is just hours away, was the driver in a 2007 shooting in which his cousin, 18-year-old Jamar Evans, killed 19-year-old Marcus Reason from the passenger seat of the car. Tyreke Evans was not charged after a police investigation, but the story resurfaced Tuesday when Jamar Evans was sentenced to nine to 20 years in jail after pleading guilty to third-degree murder and firearm charges.

A league source who has spoken to the Kings regarding Tyreke Evans said they have been aware of the tragedy and the prospect's role in it throughout the evaluation process, so it seems certain that they have taken that into account regarding their pick. The Kings issued a short statement when contacted as well, by way of text message from Kings vice president of media relations/basketball operations Troy Hanson.

"We have conducted extensive background checks on all of the prospects we are considering." - Sam Amick

So first, the cliff notes on what I'm hearing: Not a lot.

In the days leading up to the draft, the Kings were far from Wizards - literally. While I was repeatedly told the phones were ringing off the hook in Washington (which had the No. 5 pick before trading it to Minnesota), the team just below them - the Kings - seemed less primed to make a move. I don't see the search for a veteran point guard (by way of trading the No. 4) paying off. The more likely scenario is the packaging of the two later picks (No. 23 and No. 31) to move up.

As for who the Kings pick at No. 4? It's still sounding like Memphis' Tyreke Evans, but today and the in-house discussions that are going on do truly matter. Davidson's Stephen Curry may be the safe pick, and I almost wonder if he winds up being the guy with the understanding that the Kings love his offense and simply plan to add defensive pieces elsewhere to shore up that weakness (they love Louisville's Terrence Williams). Syracuse's Jonny Flynn still has fans among the team's decision makers and makes sense to them on a lot of fronts.

Lastly, Ricky Rubio. If the anti-Rubio sentiment that was so prevalent in the Kings camp over the last few weeks was actually all smoke, then Cheech and Chong would be proud. But there are strong basketball arguments to be made that he would be the best fit based on need, and the business and what his presence could do to help the bottom line is certainly being discussed.

Moving on here, I wanted to share a couple comments from Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie from last night that didn't make the paper real quick as well...

On whether he'll trade the No. 4 pick: "You're always open to listening, but right now we're prepared to make the pick."

On the fact that Petrie nor anyone else truly knows which player will wind up being the best down the road: "Whatever happens in this draft tomorrow, there is not going to be any absolute truth - only some people will say there is. The absolute truth will come down the road, when the truth becomes more self evident. If anybody wants to say they have the absolute truth, it's up to other people to accept it or not."

Now, to the logistics of the day. For those not content to watch from their couch at home, the Kings are inviting all fans to attend a draft party at Arco Arena from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Petrie will speak with the crowd before the draft and after the first round selections. Coach Paul Westphal will be there, too, along with some celebs apparently.

As for our Kings blog party, the action will be on Twitter unless something of more substance unfolds (at which point there will be more blogging before the picking begins). Follow me by clicking here, and be sure to add fellow Kings/NBA writer Jason Jones to your lineup by clicking here. For the lazy folks out there, there is a direct Twitter feed from my page along the right rail below. Enjoy... - Sam Amick

The old line about how 'It beats digging ditches' still rings true every day on this job, but there are those rare days in which you almost feel like grabbing a shovel instead.

It would be simple, if nothing else. No shame in that.

As for today's shift, there was some shame. It was necessary shame, of course, with grown men huddled outside the Kings practice facility waiting hours to talk to an 18-year-old. Yes, he wasn't just any 18-year-old, but the fact that it was Ricky Rubio didn't make the process any less painful for those who endured it.

The pain was eased, however, when the wait paid off.

I was able to arrange a one-on-one meeting with Rubio at the airport just before he left town, just after the Spanish point guard had finished his workout and visit with the Kings. The exclusive chat can be seen in two parts below. Apologies on the quality, as this came from the cell phone camera and there are two parts because, well, the phone rang halfway through. We'll start here, and I'll share some information and observations regarding the workout after the clips.

This clip begins with Rubio discussing how he hasn't picked up a ball since his Euroleague season ended nearly a month ago...

Now regarding the workout, the sentiment that Rubio was underwhelming was qualified by some (including Rubio) with a disclaimer that the format simply didn't show what he could do. And while I heard similar comments to this Chad Ford report regarding the lack of a wow factor (not impressive athletically, mostly), I had one person who isn't a huge Rubio backer say he was pleasantly surprised by his shot and that it was crystal clear Rubio is a true point guard.

Now the on-floor action wasn't the only relevant part, as Rubio spent more than two hours inside the facility after the workout was over. We were told he was having lunch at one point (not sure who was at the table), and then informed that he was taking a shower. At one point, some of the prospects from the morning's workout with Pitt's Sam Young left the building to head for the airport and couldn't help but chuckle at the media absurdity on display (again, the shame thing). Yet with all due respect to Sam - who has a great name and could be a great pick at No. 23 - he's just not the guy fans are curious about right now.

Now to hit on a final point on this matter, a source close to Rubio said the agreement between him and his current team, DKV Joventut, to reduce his $6.6 million buyout had a small hiccup but should still be finalized soon. All indications remain that it is not an obstacle.

Lastly, the hierarchy of prospects for No. 4 as I understand it is this (yes, knowing full well that smokescreens are everywhere and attempting to work through them): Memphis' Tyreke Evans above Syracuse's Jonny Flynn, with more to be discussed about Rubio and Davidson's Stephen Curry. And sure, I'll keep throwing UConn center Hasheem Thabeet in there as a maybe even if no one thinks he'll be there and even though he rebuffed the Kings and everyone else for a workout. - Sam Amick

The Ricky Rubio red flags continue to fall, as the news that his buyout situation is almost resolved is followed by news that the Spanish point guard will work out in Sacramento today.

I've been told by a source close to Rubio that the above report is accurate, that he will fly from Los Angeles to Sacramento today and get on the floor to give the Kings a taste of what could be to come. This comes on the same day on which the Kings have their last scheduled workout, as Pittsburgh's Sam Young heads a group today that consists mostly of late first round or second round prospects.

To review, Rubio didn't work out during his Sacramento visit last week after getting sick and eventually visiting with Oklahoma City (which picks third) in LA.

Ricky Rubio's situation is about to get less complicated.

According to a source close to Rubio, the $6.6 million buyout of the Spanish point guard's contract with his current team, DKV Joventut, will likely be reduced today or tomorrow to an amount where "he knows he'll be able to make the payments," the source said. The resolution of that element of the Rubio equation will, in effect, clear a major obstacle for teams that are considering drafting him Thursday but have concerns about when he would join their team. And that, of course, includes the Kings.

Assuming the details of the arrangement are finalized soon as expected, Rubio would plan on joining his team at NBA Summer League in July just like the rest of the draft field. Yet while Rubio's Kings visit in Sacramento last week was the first with any NBA team in America as they continue to look at options for the fourth pick, they are no longer alone in that regard.

Rubio visited with Oklahoma City representatives on Saturday in Los Angeles, where the Thunder (who pick third) was allowed to examine his DKV Joventut contract just as the Kings had before them to gain a better understanding of those particulars. While Memphis (which holds the second pick) had visited with Rubio in Spain before the Kings or Thunder, the Grizzlies - nor any other team - did not see the contract. There could be more visits to come, however, as Rubio's camp will surely explore all options in the days to come.

Rubio's eventual NBA team is only permitted to pay $500,000 of a buyout, meaning the rest of the undetermined amount will be paid by Rubio. Because he made approximately $97,000 last season with DKV Joventut, his representatives had asked an arbitrator to settle the matter while claiming the buyout is disproportionate to his salary. They also claimed Rubio never signed his contract when it was drafted when he was 16, although he reportedly did sign an addendum last season. - Sam Amick

Consider this the one-man weigh in for the heavyweight bout, even if Sunday's Point Guard Battle Royale involves a bunch of relative lightweights who pound the hardwood instead of other men's faces.

Davidson guard Stephen Curry is in the Kings' conversation, one of four players I've been told will be discussed for the No. 4 pick by what remains an undecided Kings' front office and scouting staff. The others are Syracuse's Jonny Flynn, Spaniard Ricky Rubio, and Memphis' Tyreke Evans, two of whom will be on hand tomorrow (Flynn and Evans) to share the floor with Curry and see who can win the latest round in this fight to be fourth.

BLOG UPDATE: Quick disclaimer, UConn's Hasheem Thabeet gets a look if he is unexpectedly there as well.

I caught up with Curry at his hotel early this evening, when he talked about everything from how he would fit in with the Kings to the fact that he extended his workout schedule to include Sacramento after it appeared he would end it in Washington (No. 5 pick).

- Sam Amick

Just as the notion of Ricky Rubio in a Kings uniform is seeming less likely by the day, there is this unsurprising news: he is moving on.

A source with knowledge of the situation said Rubio was visited in Los Angeles today by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have the No. 3 pick in the June 25 draft. This matters mostly because Rubio's visit in Sacramento this week came with unspoken terms, an understanding of sorts that a Rubio promise on the Kings' part could have stopped his American tour with just one concert. But that clearly never happened, and certainly not only because Rubio was unable to get on the floor Thursday when he fell ill.

So he continues to interview away, certainly hoping to not fall below the fourth spot if only because that $6.6 million buyout has to be paid for somehow. There has been talk of a second Sacramento visit, but I'm not sure that's plausible now since he is believed to be headed back to Spain on Sunday. - Sam Amick

USC guard Demar DeRozan worked out for the Kings today, flashing his above-the-rim game and continuing to show why he could wind up being a top five pick.

He won't be picked at No. 4, however, as the Kings have not the positional need or patience to let his game develop over the course of the next couple seasons. But there are plenty of folks around the league who think he'll wind up being one of the best pros from this draft. I didn't videotape any of the action because, well, the portion we saw just wasn't that action-packed. This is DeRozan afterward, however, reiterating that he believes he can jump higher than Vince Carter (at the 3:15 mark) and talking about the June 25 draft.

Before we go the tape, though, it's official now that the Kings will hold their second blockbuster point guard workout on Sunday. Memphis' Tyreke Evans and Davidson's Stephen Curry will now be joined by Syracuse's Jonny Flynn and Saint Mary's' Patty Mills. Florida's Nick Calathes and Florida State's Toney Douglas will also take part. In the spirit of good competition, I've been told that Flynn and Mills both asked their way into this particular workout in a fearless attempt to show their stuff against the very players they're competing with for draft position.

- Sam Amick

BLOG UPDATE: Most of Porter's comments didn't 'make tomorrow's paper, so I've added them to the end of this blog post.


I'm not the biggest fan of mini-blog posts, but it's a necessity since I spilled the Terry Porter beans on Mike Lamb's KHTK show minutes ago.

The former Milwaukee and Phoenix coach told me today in a phone interview that he would not be joining the Kings as an assistant to head coach Paul Westphal. Porter said he did speak with Westphal about the job, but his current plan is to sit next season out while continuing to survey the landscape. He is being paid through next season on his Suns contract after being fired midway through last season. More in tomorrow's Bee...

ADDENDUM...

Porter was fired midway through the Suns' 2008-09 season, with a 23-18 record that clearly wasn't enough to keep owner Robert Sarver and GM Steve Kerr content.

His was a tough situation, with Porter entering as the coach to follow Mike D'Antoni and his high-octane offensive ways and implement a defensive approach that simply didn't fit so much of the personnel. And after he provided an update on the fact that he wouldn't be coming on board as a Kings assistant, Porter touched on his firing and whether he thought it was fair.

"Coaches know you get hired and you get fired," he began. "Am I disappointed? Yeah. Anybody who has played this sport or been in any situation or job where they thought they'd like to be given a fair chance would be. It didn't turn out that way long enough.
"You know, it is what it is. It's the wonderful world of NBA coaching. I'm more concerned on the next phase, on my family."

On his upcoming relocation away from the Phoenix area (he didn't say where the new home court would be) and how he is getting plenty of family time now...

"You do get a chance to reconnect with your family somewhat. Coaching is such a grind, a 24-hour demand a lot of the time. There's a lot of people pulling at you, a lot of people you've got to touch bases with. When you don't have that, it's an abrupt stop. You need to reconnect with the family, and that's always nice too."

On whether he's willing to be an assistant in his next NBA job or if he is only interested in head jobs...

"I really just have to see when (job opportunities) come. I left Milwaukee and got a chance to be an assistant in Detroit with Flip (Saunders). It was a great experience, and I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot. I was blessed being in a situation where you're going to learn. You never stop learning." - Sam Amick

We already knew it was a big weekend at the Kings practice facility with Saturday's workout of USC's Demar DeRozan.

But the team just announced that Sunday's workout with Florida State guard Toney Douglas and Davidson point guard Stephen Curry will also include returnees Tyreke Evans (Memphis guard) and Nick Calathes (Florida guard). Keith Clark and Courtney Fells will also take part. The fun continues in a big way on Monday, when Pittsburgh forward Sam Young will be the big name in a multi-player workout. - Sam Amick

After experiencing seemingly-seamless travel from Spain to Los Angeles to Sacramento in recent days, there is an unexpected delay in the Ricky Rubio road trip.

The Spanish point guard who arrived Tuesday afternoon has become sick today, meaning an afternoon hoops session at the Kings practice facility is not expected to take place. Rubio, who is here only to gauge the Kings' interest in him at the No. 4 spot in the June 25 draft, may attempt to give it a go tomorrow morning. Or, of course, he may not.

After Rubio watched the Kings' workout with lesser prospects this morning and had lunch with Kings folks immediately after, a sore throat and fatigue have changed the itinerary. Per draft rules, he can only stay 48 hours and must be gone around 2 p.m., so that's the time frame with which he and the Kings have to work.

After the two sides had appeared to get off to such a successful start with dinner last night, the value and impact of the trip is obviously hard to assess at this point. It obviously would have been ideal if Rubio would have flashed his game for the Kings' brass, and that could still happen. But it could be a non-factor as well, as decisions like these are made from mountains of data of which this is merely a decent-sized ridge. - Sam Amick

BLOG UPDATE: I've added a transcript of Rubio's interview below the video.

Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio was kind enough to spend some time with The Bee during his Sacramento visit, cramming the one-on-one interview in between his physical at the UC Davis Medical Center and his dinner with Kings officials downtown.

In a hotel chat that came with a few logistical and technical challenges, the below video comes with one disclaimer: our photographer, Hector Amezcua, was videotaping without my knowledge. That doesn't really matter until the midway point, where I fumble with my handheld video cam while not realizing until after the fact that I didn't need to be taping at all. It's a comical moment in an otherwise interesting eight minutes.

After coming from Spain just days ago and then from Los Angeles to Sacramento today, Rubio does not have any other visits scheduled on his trip. The next day could very well determine whether that remains the case, so it's a vital time for this high-profile prospect in that respect. We'll obviously weigh in on his visit and whether he's headed to Sacramento in tomorrow's paper (read story here). Also, there is a transcript of the interview below the video (just click on 'continue reading')

BLOG UPDATE: Rubio has arrived. Let the visiting commence.

According to three sources with knowledge of the situation, Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio will arrive in Sacramento this afternoon.

Rubio, who is a candidate for the Kings' No. 4 pick in the June 25 draft, flew from Spain to Los Angeles in recent days and will now spend parts of two days deliberating with the Kings about their interest in him as a player. While he is expected to visit with Kings officials tonight and spend time on the Arco Arena grounds tomorrow, it is unclear how much - if any - basketball-related activity will take place. Rubio - who continues to deal with the sticky buyout situation from his current professional contract with DKV Joventut - mentioned his visit on his Twitter page as well.

Also, Davidson high-scoring point guard Stephen Curry told reporters in Washington D.C. today that he is heading to Sacramento this weekend for a workout. The Washington Post's Michael Lee relayed word on that front. - Sam Amick

June 15, 2009
One fan's perspective

He's not just a fan. He's Tom Ziller, he of Sactownroyalty blog fame and KHTK glory.

In the wake of the Paul Westphal hiring and the reality that the fan voice has never been more important for the Kings, Ziller will join Carmichael Dave tonight on "The Show" from 7-9 p.m. on 1140 AM and KHTK.com (Dave is filling in for Jason Ross). Ziller and I spoke the other day for the piece about Westphal becoming official, and I'd been looking for an excuse to share more of his thoughts that appears to have now arrived.

Thus, here are his thoughts that didn't fit in print. I may do unconventional blogs like this on occasion, getting outside of Bee box and checking in with the folks who matter most to the Kings and their future. Feel free to agree/disagree with Ziller's take in the comments section. A quick teaser before we move on: I may have another one coming soon involving an old friend.

Ziller on Westphal hiring (quotes that weren't in the story)...

"I think there could have been so many more infinitely poorer decisions made. Obviously Westphal wasn't the favorite of most fans, I think. When it all started, there was a huge backing for the Eddie Jordan nostalgic contingent, of which I honestly was part of it...They could have chosen someone like John Whisenant, who would've really upset a lot of the hardcore fans."

On whether he's the right guy for this mix of players...

"It's obviously an offensive-minded team, so you need a coach who has an offensive system of note. I think a major failure over the last three years has been sort of a lack of offensive identity. (Eric) Musselman..I thought his biggest failure was on the offensive side, where Brad Miller - three quarters of the way through the season - was saying that he didn't know his role on offense when he was the most important offensive player in terms of being a facilitator. And then Reggie Theus didn't have a system - the owners called out his lack of a system a month into the season last year. I think implementing some sort of offensive scheme or offensive principles will definitely help the product on the floor." - Sam Amick

We ask the above question because we all know who won the battle off the floor, even if Ricky Rubio wasn't around to defend himself against Brandon Jennings.

Chances are, Rubio wouldn't have been able to stop Jennings no matter where he was.

The 19-year-old is simply too quick. That was the prevailing impression among those who watched Jennings play. The viewing audience was just like the majority of hoops fans out there, largely unfamiliar with Jennings game because he left to play in Italy after playing his high school ball at Dominguez Hills in Compton and the esteemed Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. But as he faced off mostly against Syracuse's power-packed point guard Jonny Flynn, Jennings impressed in a big way during the full-court scrimmage.

Unreal press conference with Syracuse's Jonny Flynn and - more importantly for these purposes - Italian professional/Oak Hill Academy product and Compton born and bred Brandon Jennings. Jennings and Flynn went at each other in a mega-workout that also included UCLA's Jrue Holiday in his second workout with the Kings.

And after Jennings showed off his game in a big way on the floor, he went about making huge headlines off of it. He was asked about Rubio and the fact that he isn't likely to work out for teams and will only interview, while Jennings is taking on big-time prospects The first Rubio mention is around the 1:30 mark, but it gets real juicy around 5:05, when Jennings is asked about the one time he faced off with Rubio (Flynn is on the left, Jennings on the right)

Enjoy...

This second video is more focused on the workout. Jennings wasn't shy here either, pointing out that his team beat Flynn's and how Flynn wanted to go again...

JENNINGS ON RUBIO

Q: How did he (Rubio) do and how would he do to compare to the other guys in college now?

A: "Well when I was playing he only zero assists and two turnovers, you know you tell me how that was."

Q: How many minutes was he (Rubio) playing?

A: "We had about even minutes, I had 12 points, about six assists, that was the most I ever played was 30 minutes. I was a little winded but I still think I got the best of him."

Q: How would he compare to the college freshman for example?

A: "Well put it like this, if he was in a workout with me, Jonny Flynn, Drew Holiday, (Ty) Lawson, and Stephen Curry he wouldn't even be at the top."

Q: Do you think he's all hype?

A: "Yeah because he played in the Olympics, been playing pro ball since 14, you know there it is right there. His stats you know 26 minutes, having 16 points, seven assists, nine steals in 26 minutes, and you have all that? You know, I really don't know, I can't wait to play him though."

Q: Is it safe to say you think should go before Ricky Rubio in the draft?

A: "Yeah, I think I'm a better player think he is, I can shoot the ball better than he can, you know the only time I have seen him do something is when he has a homerun pass or something like that. I think the dude is just all hype. I can't even front you know, I'm just going to be real with you guys." - Sam Amick

We'll be streaming the press conference of new Kings coach Paul Westphal on Friday at 1:30 p.m.. Meanwhile, Bee sports editor Bill Bradley and columnist Marcos Breton will be taking questions and making observations in a live blog.

I will try to join in after the presser. To watch the press conference and join in on the conversation, go to www.sacbee.com/live.

I'll likely wind up Tweeting somewhere in there, too, so feel free to follow me here or fellow scribe Jason Jones here. Jason will be covering the monstrous workout in the morning that includes Syracuse's Jonny Flynn, UCLA's Jrue Holiday and Italian League professional/Oak Hill Academy product Brandon Jennings. - Sam Amick

Here is the press conference from yesterday, with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie discussing everything from the hiring of Paul Westphal to the Kurt Rambis situation to the draft that is two weeks away.

Below we have the radio portion of this blog, from my interview with the Rise Guys yesterday to the Rambis interview in its entirety from yesterday. I only had a small portion of the Rambis interview in yesterday's post, but there was more discussion at the end in which Rambis talks about how he and his wife came to a decision on the matter followed by a few more not-so-subtle digs at the Kings to boot. Also, be sure to check out the surprise announcement from Kings draft prospect and Memphis guard Tyreke Evans at the end of this post.

Westphal, by the way, will be introduced to the media/public tomorrow and sharing the spotlight with the mega-point-guard-workout that includes Syracuse's Jonny Flynn, UCLA's Jrue Holiday (his second Sacramento stop) and Italy's Brandon Jennings. If you missed our one-on-one interview with Westphal from the night he learned he was hired, read it here.

June 10, 2009
Rambis speaks out

Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie shared his views on the Kurt Rambis chapter of his team's coaching search earlier today, and now the Lakers assistant has shared his.

Speaking to the "Petros and Money Show" on Fox Sports Radio, Rambis had this to say. A transcript of the interview is below, or click on the MP3 file to hear the interview.

Rambis.mp3

"I really did not want to focus on it (the Kings' coaching situation). They put some sort of timetable there. I understand that they wanted to move forward in their coaching search, but really what it came down to was that they have a bunch of young players on their team. It's a project team. As it stands right now, that team is - particularly in the Western Conference - is a ways away from winning.

"They have holes in their roster, and they certainly have to improve as a ballclub if they expect to win. And I was just looking to be involved with that team for a longer term than what the Sacramento Kings were looking for. I think that that's basically what it came down to. I like the Kings organization, I like Geoff Petrie as a general manager. The Maloofs are good owners, but my vision and their vision just didn't coincide, so I decided to turn their offer down and they moved in another direction."

PROGRAMMING ALERT: We just posted my Q&A with Paul Westphal from last night - read it here.

Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie addressed a report that the coaching job was offered to both Kurt Rambis and Paul Westphal before Westphal became the guy. I've already shared my reporting on the matter in this blog post, but here is Petrie's response with questions in between.

His first statement on the matter...

A: "The way we approached this hire was that we had a compensation structure that was basically a pre-qualifying type of...commitment that was going to be needed. So all of the people who we talked to were either told ahead of time or immediately after in their interviews what this structure was. And in order to have a chance to be offered the job, there needed to be some acknowledgement that that structure would be acceptable, which is not unlike a lot of jobs that get put out there. The job could not have been offered to somebody who hadn't said that that structure was acceptable. The only person who was offered this job was Paul Westphal. That's the bottom line.

Q: How much thought did you give to riding this thing out until after the Finals, just because Kurt had seemed so loyal to the Lakers and not wanting to deal with this process during the Finals?

A: "I just think that we gave everybody enough time to examine, analyze, mull over. It wasn't a situation where you told somebody about this and then said, 'We need an answer in 24 hours.' There was no gun, really, put to anybody's head in that form. I guess the question was, 'How much time do you need?' And I think we gave everybody adequate time to formulate their own sense of whether this works or doesn't work. At some point, you want to have a coach, we liked them all very much and decided that Paul was the best."

Q: You had mentioned Paul's enthusiasm for the job, which he showed from the beginning and continues to show. Was it revealing to you at all how Kurt decided to handle the process? Did that say something to you about his interest level?

A: "That was up to each individual person to try to come to grips with on their own. I think we gave everybody adequate time to reach some point where they could be definitive one way or the other, and we weren't prepared to wait any longer."


I'll have much more in Thursday's paper, as I had long conversations tonight with agreed-in-principle Kings coach Paul Westphal, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof and Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie.

But before we put this story to bed for the time being, I wanted to answer one of the more relevant questions that probably shouldn't wait.

Did Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis turn down the job before it went to Westphal?

I was tracking Rambis' status very closely all along and until the end, and here's what I was told by sources who know.

There was 27 days between Westphal's interview and his hiring, with the main obstacle in between the fact that his leading candidate competitor, Rambis, was involved in the playoffs and making it very clear all along that he wouldn't be distracted by the Kings' process. The obviousness of that reality and what it says shouldn't be forgotten.

Yet after Petrie had to convince Westphal to stay in the race late last week, he had pressured Rambis' agent, Warren LeGarie, for an answer regarding what it would take to entice Rambis to take the job. That answer came this afternoon in the form of an e-mail from LeGarie, which was essentially a non-answer insisting that they needed more time and simply couldn't commit to anything.

Without a commitment on the Rambis front and with the fact that - as Petrie told me tonight - third candidate and Boston associate head coach Tom Thibodeau had pulled out of the race earlier in the day, the desire to get a deal done with someone whose desire to be in Sacramento was no mystery rather than head further down the rocky Rambis road won out. There had been rumblings all along that Rambis had serious doubts about the job on a number of fronts and may not have taken it unless the expected salary ($1.5 million per in two guaranteed seasons) increased significantly, and it became clear at the end that Petrie preferred the security of a guy he was also high on whose interest was indisputable and whose terms had been agreed to (at least the basic structure of the terms) weeks before.

"(Rambis) was a great candidate, and certainly being involved in the Finals and the responsibilities there can make it a little bit challenging," Petrie said. "But we felt we needed to move forward. We felt we had three terrific candidates and decided to go with Paul."

As a final note, Westphal said Wednesday is his anniversary and he will remain put in Los Angeles to celebrate the occasion. As such, a press conference won't likely happen until Thursday or Friday, I would think. - Sam Amick

As a follow-up to the breaking news on the Kings' hiring of Paul Westphal, I wanted to share the confirmation of the news.

I just chatted with Westphal by phone, and he had this to say (and a lot more to come)...

"I'm just very excited about the opportunity. I have been looking for a good opportunity to get back and do what I like to do and I think that the Kings present an exciting challenge for me and I can't wait to get started.
"I'm really happy I got the job, and whatever winding turns it had to take - I don't even know all the winding turns that it took - I'm just happy that they decided I'm the guy for them and I can't wait to get started."

I also talked with Kings co-owner Joe Maloof, who had this (and more in tomorrow's paper) to say...

"I think we've got a gentleman who has a wonderful reputation around the league. He's had a great winning percentage, over 62 percent of his games he's won in the NBA. He has been an experienced coach in the NBA.
"We knew that he was very strong offensively, and that he had all those great teams that scored a lot of points, but you don't get into the NBA FInals (as Westphal's Phoenix team did in the 1992-93 season, losing in six games to Chicago) if you don't teach defense as well. He went through some of his ideas on defense, which made a lot of sense to us."

Maloof went on to break down some of the finer points of Westphal's pitch, which I'll get to in subsequent blogs and, of course, tomorrow's paper. - Sam Amick

UPDATE: Westphal and Kings co-owner Joe Maloof have confirmed the decision to The Bee - read here.

By Sam Amick
samick@sacbee.com

According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, the Kings will hire former Phoenix and Seattle head coach Paul Westphal for their vacant head coaching position.

Westphal is believed to have agreed to a deal for two guaranteed seasons at $1.5 million per with the third season a team option worth $1.7 million.

BLOG CORRECTION: Upon further review, the third year is worth $2 million

There are likely incentives in the deal that could reward Westphal if the Kings improved even moderately from their franchise-worst 17-win campaign in 2008-09.

The decision brings an end to a Kings coaching search that lasted 47 days and came with similar twists and turns as the ones that had come before. It began with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie calling for experience over experiments, setting parameters that the Kings' fifth coach since 2006 would have to be have had "some level of success" as an NBA head coach. Eddie Jordan and Westphal were the first candidates, both of them easily meeting the qualifications and kickstarting the process with interviews on May 12 and May 13, respectively.

Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis eventually entered with a second group that also included Boston associate head coach Tom Thibodeau, just about the time Jordan was bowing out voluntarily. Despite being seen as a frontrunner largely for his ties to Petrie and the organization, Jordan was hired by Philadelphia on May 29. Just a day later, Thibodeau was interviewed by the Kings in Las Vegas and was followed the next day by Rambis' interview in Los Angeles.

Throughout the later stages of the process, Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof and Petrie repeatedly made it clear that Rambis, Westphal, and Thibodeau were all impressive in their interviews and that they were all being seriously considered. And while Rambis was believed by most to be the front runner, sources say discussions between the Kings and his agent, Warren LeGarie, stalled for too long while Westphal waited for a verdict.

With the Lakers in the midst of the NBA Finals against Orlando, Rambis was adamant that he remain loyal to the Lakers and focused on the task of winning a championship. Westphal, meanwhile, had grown impatient enough that sources say he was close to pulling out of the race. In the end, however, he was alone at the finish line.

Memphis guard Tyreke Evans has made his Sacramento stop, working out at the team's practice facility floor on Tuesday in what was his first of five workouts.

The dynamic scorer who could wind up being the team's selection at the No. 4 spot seemed to impress, with a lot of chatter about his physicality, length and the general sense that he simply looks like a top-notch NBA talent. Evans said the fact that he did a one-man workout wasn't a case of him being afraid of the competition, but that he couldn't match schedules with the players who he would typically face off against. Whether he's alone or sharing the floor, there is certainty in his potential yet certainly questions about his shooting ability, which can be seen in the below workout video and heard in the interview below that...

The Kings have announced their updated workout schedule, and Friday will surely be a doozey.

The team that is on the prowl for a point guard has convinced three of the best in the draft to face off, as UCLA's Jrue Holiday will come in for a second time and be joined by Syracuse's Jonny Flynn and Italy's Brandon Jennings.

After today's workout with Nick Calathes , DeMarre Carroll, Wayne Ellington, Damion James, AJ Price, and Terrence Williams, here is the list ahead in its updated state (the new stuff is post-June 10). Also, I've included video to Friday's faceoff at the bottom of this post.

Compelling Game 2 in LA last night, not to mention a possible step toward simplification of the Kings coaching search.

The official stance remains that all three candidates are still in the running, but it's Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis and former Phoenix and Seattle head coach Paul Westphal who come with the complications. And a Lakers sweep, it's safe to say, would be embraced by all.

With his focus squarely set on winning a title, Rambis has made it clear that he refuses to be distracted by the Kings' situation. Couple that with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie's history of not wanting to step on other team's toes, and that means the situation is on hold (translation: no negotiations to know exactly what it would take contractually to land Rambis). Meanwhile, Westphal continues to wait while wondering exactly what to make of it all.

There were rumblings late last week that Westphal might pull out of the race, and it says something that he remains. If Westphal happened to pull out, this search would be without the only candidate that legitimately fulfills the initial parameters of experience and success. And then some. (To be fair, Rambis was 24-13 in his partial season as Lakers head coach in 1998-99, with a series win over Houston and a Western Conference semifinal loss - by way of sweep - to San Antonio)

Today's workout featured Wake Forest forward James Johnson and Louisville forward Earl Clark. We'll have more on them in tomorrow's paper, and Jason Jones will likely be blogging later to touch on the others who took part (Levance Fields, Marcus Landry, Leo Lyons, and Dionte Christmas).

Here's a short part of the interview with Johnson and Clark below. Both players are expected to be taken midway through the first round, meaning they aren't likely to become Kings unless there's some movement on draft day (which there could be) or if they fall to No. 23. I didn't take any action video today, but should be able to link to the team's video later.

- Sam Amick

The Kings' second workout has concluded (the first included UCLA's Jrue Holiday). Check out video of the workout and some of the interviews that followed.

The session included forwards Robert Dozier (Memphis), Omri Casspi (Maccabi Elite, Israel), and Jeff Adrien (UConn), with guards Greivis Vasquez (Maryland), Darren Collison (UCLA), and Tyrese Rice (Boston College). Collison and Casspi are seen as late first round or early second round picks and the most likely possibilities for the Kings. Click on the links on the players names to learn more about them.

We'll start with the coaching search, which I update in this story but wanted to touch on further in the trusty blog.

For starters, there's the qualifier on Kings co-owner Joe Maloof telling me there would be a decision "pretty quickly." A few moments after making that statement, he reverted back to the same old desire to have a coach in place before the June 25 draft. That's obviously a ways off, and certainly doesn't qualify as quickly in my book.

Now as for the more recent chatter about the search, there were some relevant thoughts from Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie that couldn't fit in print but are worth touching on. For the first time since the Kings interviewed Tom Thibodeau, I had a chance to ask Petrie about the fact that the Boston associate head coach simply doesn't fit the parameters that were set forth in the beginning - "no more grand experiements," as he had said - because he has no head coaching experience.

"No, that's true," Petrie quickly acknowledged. "He doesn't fit the total profile that I'd talked about, but I was impressed with him the last time (he interviewed two years ago) and he was somebody that Joe and Gavin (Maloof) had really wanted to talk to. In terms of experience, the breadth of people he has worked for is all very good."

Now on to the ongoing draft coverage...

DRAFT CENTRAL

There's just no reason for any of the material being produced on the draft to be lost on folks who always want more, so let's get our aggregating on. (Omri Casspi video below as well)

At the risk of sounding like a blogging Bee commercial, our web site is pretty snazzy sometimes. Specifically, I'm a fan of the feature that allows readers to "recommend" a particular comment and have it displayed more prominently than the rest.

While peeking at today's story on a couple of the Kings' big man possibilities in the June 25 draft, I noticed this salient thought from "Iloveeveryone."

"Instead of focusing on drafting a big, how about focusing on signing Ike Diogu to help out our front line rotation. We already know what we got in Ike, and if the new coach can keep that fire lit under Ike from the end of the season, Ike can be a great player. Our current/could be front court is Spenc, Jason, Donte, and Ike. While it may not currently be 'great', it has potential to be a 'great' front line. I would much rather see the Kings take a good wing player or even another PG with the #23 pick. The #31 pick will just be traded or eventually cut/waived. Sign Ike!! He is the key to our front line rotation."

It's a valid point. Yet while Diogu certainly impressed in his final two games of the season, it certainly doesn't mean the Kings won't ponder possibilities like Tyler Hansbrough or Gani Lawal. For one, there's the age factor (Diogu is 25 compared to 23-year-old Hansbrough and 20-year-old Lawal) and the question of whether older is considered better from the standpoint of who can contribute quicker or if younger with more upside is the choice because of the bigger picture at hand. More importantly, there's the money factor: while no one sees the Kings picking up Diogu's qualifying offer of $3.9 million (at which point he would become an unrestricted free agent), he'll certainly cost more than a No. 23 pick ($972K in first of two guaranteed years) or a No. 31 pick (negotiable).

From there, there's plenty to debate about Diogu's skill set as compared to the others. Yet that situation will unfold, so we'll instead say hello to Hansbrough and Lawal. Be sure to peek at the actual story, then check out these interviews that were taken at Chicago Predraft Combine.

HANSBROUGH

LAWAL

- Sam Amick

June 2, 2009
Workout updates

The Kings have added to their workout schedule, with Arizona State shooting guard James Harden set to work out in Sacramento on June 10.

They also added Dionte Christmas to Friday¹s session and added Robert Vaden to Saturday¹s workout.

Also, the Gani Lawal workout that he said was taking place on Wednesday didn't transpire and I'm not sure if it will be rescheduled. The Kings saw him in Chicago and Oakland, so that may be plenty. I discuss the possibility of Lawal or Tyler Hansbrough being picked at No. 23 or No. 31 in tomorrow's paper. Be sure to check the blog late tonight or tomorrow morning for videos from Chicago of Hansbrough, Lawal and Omri Casspi as well.

Here is the workout list in its updated state...

Thursday

Jeff Adrien,Omri Casspi, Darren Collison, Robert Dozier, Tyrese Rice, Greivis Vasquez

Friday

Earl Clark, James Johnson, Levance Fields, Marcus Landry, Leo Lyons, Dionte Christmas

Saturday

DeJuan Blair, Josh Heytvelt, Jerel McNeal, Tyler Smith, Marcus Thornton, Robert Vaden

June 8

Nick Calathes (this doesn't add up since he is reportedly forgoing the NBA to head for Greece),

BLOG UPDATE: Scratch that question from the record, as a wise reader commented below that they could simply draft him to get his rights and - come to think of it - save a few bucks in the process by not having to pay one of their three picks this season. It's Rudy Fernandez style, which could also wind up being the case for Casspi.

DeMarre Carroll, Wayne Ellington, Damion James, AJ Price, Terrence Williams

June 9

Tyreke Evans

June 10

James Harden

- Sam Amick

It could be an interesting few days ahead as they pertain to the Kings coaching search, as Monday's interview with Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis in Los Angeles appears to have served as the final step before a decision is made.

There's no reason to think that more candidates would be added to the list that includes Rambis, Paul Westphal and Tom Thibodeau. And judging from the conversations I had tonight, I'd call it a close race between Westphal and Rambis with Thibodeau bringing up the rear. To be clear, that's more of a sense on my end than it is an indirect statement from anybody of relevance in this situation.

Now before I move on to sharing my chat with Kings co-owner Joe Maloof following the Rambis interview, I wanted to add a few tidbits regarding Westphal. I focus on him only because there has been some spirited debate back and forth among fans regarding the notion of him as the next coach.

The Kings announced their workout schedule through June 9. Here it is, with schools and positions to come when I'm not writing for tomorrow's paper. Google away...

Thursday

Jeff Adrien, Omri Casspi, Darren Collison, Robert Dozier, Tyrese Rice, Greivis Vasquez

Friday

Earl Clark, James Johnson, Levance Fields, Marcus Landry, Leo Lyons, Player TBD

Saturday

DeJuan Blair, Josh Heytvelt, Jerel McNeal, Tyler Smith, Marcus Thornton, Player TBD

June 8

Nick Calathes, DeMarre Carroll, Wayne Ellington, Damion James, AJ Price, Terrence Williams

June 9

Tyreke Evans

June 1, 2009
Rambis interview today
BLOG UPDATE: Regarding the interview, I've been told Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof will be on hand and Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie - who is back East dealing with a personal matter - may join in by conference call.

Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis is being interviewed in Los Angeles today for the Kings head coaching position, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

Rambis will be the fourth candidate to be interviewed for the position, joining Eddie Jordan (who has been hired by Philadelphia), former Phoenix and Seattle head coach Paul Westphal and Boston associate head coach Tom Thibodeau. - Sam Amick

More to come...

I wanted to post a quick blog here regarding two topics: draft workouts this week and the Sacramento Professional Basketball League that starts tonight.

We'll start in reverse order. The best summertime hoops action in Sacramento officially starts tonight at Capital Christian High School (7 pm tip). As we've chronicled in years past , this event typically has some big name players involved who can be seen for a cheap price ($7).

I'm still waiting to hear who will be taking part tonight (in the game between Buggy's All-Star and Showtime Basketball), but it's usually a mixture of "local" pros (from Matt Barnes to Bobby Jackson to Kevin Martin), local high-level college players who have gone on to play overseas and the area's best high school players. I highly recommend it if you're looking for something to do on a slow evening, and it runs from tonight until June 25 (schedule info can be found here).

Now on the draft front, the Oakland workouts take place today and tomorrow, but the Kings are expected to resume their individual workout schedule in Sacramento on Wednesday. While I was in Chicago for Predraft Combine, a handful of prospects mentioned their workout times with the Kings. Here they are...

(Quick reminder: the Kings have the No. 4 and No. 23 picks in the first round, and the first pick in the second round at No. 31)

* Marquette senior shooting guard Jerel McNeal, who is seen as a second-round pick, said he has a workout in Sacramento "in the second week of June." He interviewed in Chicago with the Kings.

* Omri Casspi, a 20-year-old small forward who is attempting to become the first Israeli to play in the NBA and is seen as a late first-round or early second-round pick, said he will work out in Sacramento on Thursday. The Kings interviewed Casspi in Chicago. I caught up with him as well, and will have more on him in tomorrow's paper (tentatively).

* Gani Lawal, a Georgia Tech big man who did it all for the Yellowjackets, said he will get his chance to prove himself to the Kings in a workout on Wednesday in Sacramento. He interviewed with the Kings in Chicago. He would be a candidate for the No. 23 pick.

* Wake Forest small forward/power forward James Johnson, who is seen as a mid first-round pick, said he will workout in Sacramento on "June 5 or June 6." He also interviewed with the Kings in Chicago.

The Kings have been far more open about their workouts this year than in the past, so this stuff won't likely stay a secret for much longer. - Sam Amick

Editing stories in the newspaper business can be thankless work, with writers too often not saying a word when copy desk folks get it right (which is 99 percent of the time) only to scream indignation when there's a rare mistake.

But sometimes the imperfect (but wholly vital) process can produce a laugh, as was the case with my story on some of the Kings' point guard prospects today.

Two separate thoughts about how 1) Syracuse's Jonny Flynn was a former teammate of Kings small forward Donte' Greene and 2) league executives are impressed by Flynn, somehow became a hybrid sentence that was worth a chuckle...

"Kings small forward and former Syracuse teammate Donte' Greene said there is little doubt among team executives that Flynn will lead, produce and entertain..."

Since I clearly can't convey the point, well, clearly, and since Flynn is a well-spoken youngster on his own, we'll just go ahead and let him explain why he would be a good fit for the Kings if they A) picked him surprisingly-high at No. 4 or B) traded down to get him a bit lower in the June 25 draft. This is one in what will be occasional video from the NBA's Pre-draft Combine in Chicago that concluded on Friday.

Be sure to look at Sunday's Bee for Part 2 of the look at possible point guard picks (who attended the Combine, which means no Ricky Rubio or Brandon Jennings).

CHICAGO - Tom Thibodeau is in Las Vegas today, where he will add to his resume' with yet another head coaching interview and likely disappear from there.

No one I've spoken to sees him as the eventual Kings head coach, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't show up and make his pitch anyway. On his end, it's a no-brainer for any lifelong assistant. On the Kings' end, maybe they'll pick up a few defensive nuggets during the chat that can help with that cause for their team.

From there, Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis is expected to come into Las Vegas soon for his interview. And while I've been told that he is a more realistic candidate for the post, I would tend to disagree with Phil Jasner's assertion that he's a "likely front-runner" for the post.

Paul Westphal is still in good standing, with a significant edge in almost every category the Kings have made relevant. There's his record (267-159), which stands alone when compared to his competitors for this post. There's his vibe with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie, who had no prior relationship with Westphal but who seemed to gain a quick comfort level with him. And as we said would be the case all along, there's the financial factor.

Long before Eddie Jordan was signing with Philly for a three-year guaranteed deal worth $2 million, $3 million and $3.1 million, Westphal's camp was agreeing to handshake terms of a deal that fell more in line with what Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof preferred. According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, Westphal's price tag will be $1.5 million per season.

Could Rambis come in and wow his way into the lead spot? Absolutely. But Westphal, to be sure, is the man out in front. - Sam Amick

CHICAGO - Check out tomorrow's paper for a breakdown of Kings' point guard possibilities on the higher end of the draft, with a follow-up for Sunday's paper looking at point guards in the lower levels (the disclaimer is I left out guys who weren't in Chicago like Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings).

But just six of the Kings' 18 requested interviews at the Predraft Combine were point guards (or at least 1-2 guards), so there will be plenty of more prospects to get into from here. On the overall front, I spoke with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie about the three-day event on his way out of town.

On whether the lack of scrimmages this year made it more challenging to get a better feel for prospects...

"I don't think it's made it any more challenging. I think there was value here, at least for us. Having the three picks and being able to do the number of interviews that we did (and with) the format of the drills...it's just one more chance to see players do something. You get another sense of their actual size and what not....It's one more look. No amount of information is too much, and it's more information.

On the interviews with players, which lasted approximately 30 minutes each and wound up totaling 17. There were four for the Kings on Wednesday, nine on Friday and four on Saturday...

"At some point, you have to make the best judgment that you can on talent. And then all these other things play in after that...You're trying to give everybody a fair chance (in the interviews). I think there's some merit and virtue in giving all the players a chance to answer a lot of the same questions, but sometimes that may lead other places. It was good. I don't know that (players) prepare for something like that, but I was really impressed with the overall thoughtfulness and quality of the answers that they all gave."

On whether the Combine helped him get "a good grip" on what the Clippers, Memphis, and Oklahoma City plan to do ahead of the Kings before their first pick at No. 4...

"I wouldn't say that. I'm glad we don't have to make a decision today. There's more work to do." - Sam Amick

CHICAGO - It's 2009, and the NBA just handed the media two pieces of paper connected by a staple. But because the papers hold the official measurements from Predraft Combine - and with no answer as to why this information couldn't be transmitted in digital form - someone has gone to the trouble of transferring said info. That someone was going to be me until I noticed that DraftExpress was a little quicker on that front, so click here to see the breakdowns.

Of most relevant to the Kings (at least at first glance) is the confirmation that Tyreke Evans (Memphis point guard/shooting guard) is a physical freak. He stands 6-foot-4, yet has a wingspan of 6-11 1/4. That's just plain old ridiculous, and the Kings were high on him before that news came out. Those wings could come in handy slowing down opposing offenses at the top of the defense or helping clog passing lanes.

On the flip side, UConn's Hasheem Thabeet isn't the 7-3 monster everyone said he was. He is 7-1 1/4 without shoes on and 7-2 1/2 with shoes. - Sam Amick

CHICAGO - It's going to take some time to sift through all the interview material that's being compiled out here.

Some of it will be in the paper soon and some down the road a bit, but there's no reason we can't share some of the more humourous/interesting/surprising nuggets regarding draft prospects by way of Twitter. So for those looking for morsels of information along the way, follow me on Twitter by clicking on this page. - Sam Amick

CHICAGO - As I pound away transcribing interviews inside the Windy City Westin for pre-draft camp, the next significant event in the draft process is just around the corner.

Time-wise more than geographically-speaking, of course.

The list of players for the June 1 and June 2 group workouts in Oakland has been released, so I figured I'd share before getting back to the goings-on out here. The Kings will be among the teams in attendance, with approximately two-thirds of the league believed to be represented. For now, you're getting names only for the sake of expediency. Feel free to Google the players to learn more.

June 1

Group 1: Joe Ingles, Damion James, Marcus Thornton, Sam Young, Jeff Pendergraph, Luke Harangody,

Group 2: Jeff Teague, Eric Maynor, Patrick Mills, Derrick Brown, Taj Gibson, TBD player

June 2

Group 3: Terrence Williams, Chase Budinger, Dionte Christmas, Ater Majok, Tyler Hansbrough, Gani Lawal

Group 4: Omri Casspi, Austin Daye, BJ Mullens, Luke Nevill, Darren Collison, Daniel Hackett

- Sam Amick

The pre-draft camp isn't what it used to be, but it's here nonetheless.

Starting Wednesday night in Chicago, the event that included scrimmages among the prospects until this year begins. Quick backstory here: The complaint among teams in the past was that agents of the top-tier prospects consistently kept their clients away from pre-draft camp for fear their stock would fall if they had a bad showing against a "lesser" player, so guys like Blake Griffin would be nowhere to be found. So now the big names are back, but the most interesting aspect is gone: the actual playing.

It's all workouts and weigh-ins and interviews - those between the front office types and the players as well as the media and the players. I'll be there for the festivities, hoping to copycat the Kings in their lineup of requested sitdowns. Here's their wish list, as follows ...

Omri Casspi (Maccabi Elite, Israel), Earl Clark (Louisville), Darren Collison (UCLA), DeMar DeRozan (USC), Tyreke Evans (Memphis), Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), James Harden (Arizona State), Jordan Hill (Arizona), Damion James (Texas), Gani Lawal (Georgia Tech), Ty Lawson (North Carolina), Eric Maynor (VCU), Jerel McNeal (Marquette), Jeff Teague (Wake Forest), Hasheem Thabeet (UConn), Greivis Vasquez (Maryland), and Terrence Williams (Louisville).

The media gets no viewing party like the old days, meaning we not only don't see the players in action but also won't be on hand to watch GMs talk shop at what has historically been an active time for trade talk. I'll have more on location, trying to gather all that is there for the taking.

I also wanted to give a quick coaching update. It sounds like the Tom Thibodeau interview could be Saturday in Las Vegas, but I don't believe that's for sure. Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis, to review, won't be interviewed until the conclusion of the Western Conference finals with Denver. Rambis, however, is reportedly out of the running for the only other vacancy in Philadelphia. And fellow Kings candidates Eddie Jordan and Paul Westphal patiently wait ...

As for the teaser about Greene, the soon-to-be second-year player told quite a tale on the radio today about his Memorial Day weekend. Listen here(about six minutes long). - Sam Amick

The Kings announced today that the interview with Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau will be later this week.

The team didn't disclose the day or location of the interview, nor have I heard the particulars just yet. I had heard that Thibodeau would be at pre-draft camp in Chicago this week (Thursday and Friday), which would make a meeting simple considering Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie will be there as well. Or, of course, the group could head off to the Palms in Las Vegas as they so often do.

Thibodeau and Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis are part of the second wave of Kings candidates, with Eddie Jordan and Paul Westphal waiting in the wings after they interviewed on May 12 and May 13, respectively. Rambis' interview will not take place before the Lakers' Western Conference FInals with Denver are completed. - Sam Amick

Since the Kings next draft workouts in Sacramento aren't expected until early next month, Jrue Holiday is getting quite a dose of the spotlight from Kings fans.

And so we continue with the show...

We've already discussed the UCLA point guard (and other prospects, and Ricky Rubio) in this column, this blog post, this post, and this post, but below is a five-minute video of his actual workout with the Kings Thursday courtesy of the team.

- Sam Amick

Anyone who has peeked at the many mock drafts that are out there knows that Jrue Holiday's name isn't typically anywhere near the top five.

So after the 18-year-old who spent one season at UCLA worked out for the Kings on Thursday afternoon, I asked if he could honestly see himself deserving the call when they make the No. 4 pick on June 25.

"I see myself as a No. 1 pick," Holiday quickly responded. "That's what I'm shooting for. I'm shooting for the best, shooting for the stars. The sky's the limit. That's what I'm going for. The Clippers have (No. 1 pick). That's right at home."

Of course he could settle for No. 4 too.

"I think it'd be great (to wind up in Sacramento)," Holiday said. "I heard that they need a new point guard. That's what I'm here for. I'm definitely here to run the team and distribute the ball to Kevin Martin and (Francisco) Garcia. I think I could really fit in here."

Ailene Voisin will have more on Holiday in tomorrow's paper, but here's the cliff notes on the Kings' first draft workout that also included guards Aaron Jackson (Duquesne), Josh Akognon (Cal State Fullerton), Brandon Ewing (Wyoming), forward Tremaine Townsend (Cal State Northridge), and center John Bryant (Santa Clara).

BLOG UPDATE (4:23 p.m.): Per the below post, Lakers PR man John Black said Petrie and Kupchak spoke and permission was granted. The one caveat, according to Black, is that the interview would not take place until the Lakers are either between playoff series or have been eliminated by Denver.

Just as Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof indicated on Tuesday night, his team appears to be in the process of setting up Round Two of the coaching search with Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis and Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau.

I just spoke with Lakers vice president of public relations John Black regarding Rambis. He said that Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had played phone tag today, but the assumption on that side was that the Kings were calling to request permission to speak with Rambis. Black said permission would be granted. I should be able to get a more definitive word in a few hours and update this blog post.

As for Thibodeau, Boston general manager Danny Ainge just relayed word that the Kings called regarding the defensive guru this afternoon for permission. The irony, of course, is that Ainge himself pointed out just a few days ago that because the Celtics are out of the playoffs and Thibodeau's contract is up this summer, no permission is needed. If nothing else, though, it could be a matter of respect to call Ainge on the matter.

Both coaches are also being considered for the Philadelphia head coaching vacancy, with Rambis having already interviewed and Thibodeau expected to do so soon. - Sam Amick

Coverage in print: Story, sidebar, Voisin column
***

Gavin Maloof just kept going.

With a mob of media around him at the back of Center Court restaurant on Tuesday, the Kings co-owner and casino man whose team so badly needed a premier pick in the draft lottery kept insisting he wasn't mad at Lady Luck.

Sure they had drawn a pair when they needed a royal flush - being awarded the worst of all possible options with the fourth pick - but this hand wasn't completely lost.

"(Kings basketball president) Geoff (Petrie) is going to come out with a rabbit in the hat, but you don't even need a rabbit with the fourth pick," Maloof said. "You're going to get an impact player there. In the NBA, normally your impact players are top five. And then after that, it gets a little dicey. But again, this is the first top four pick we've had in 18 years, so this is new ground for Kings fans. It's something they can get excited about and help take our franchise to the next level.
"My mindset going in was that this was a win-win for us. Twenty six other teams wish they had our pick. I look at it that way."

Just as Gavin was providing his pep talk for anyone who would listen, Kings director of player personnel Jerry Reynolds was reminding the masses that even the most-seemingly predictable of drafts can be unpredictable.

At the table inside Chris Webber's Center Court restaurant in Natomas, Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof sat with their mother, Colleen, near a bowl of faux ping pong balls while awaiting their fate in the draft lottery across the country in Secaucus, N.J..

And while the party favors were all inscribed with the Kings logo next to a "#1,", their hopes for the top pick did not transpire as they were assigned the No. 4 pick in the June 25 draft.

After a moment of silence at the table, Gavin Maloof collected himself and said, "That's all right. That's all right. We'll get somebody good."

The Clippers, who had a 17.7 percent chance for the top pick, were awarded No. 1. They were followed by Memphis and Oklahoma City. The Kings, who had the league's worst record, had a 25 percent chance at the top pick. - Sam Amick

Things are getting going here at Center Court with the lottery coming soon, but there's news already.

Gavin Maloof just told The Bee that the Kings will be expanding their coaching search to include Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau and Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis. More to come...

Eddie Jordan is no longer the only candidate for the Philadelphia job, as the 76ers last week requested permission to speak with Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau.

That could obviously impact the Kings search, as Jordan remains in the running with Paul Westphal and it remains unclear whether more candidates will be brought in. For what it's worth, I just spoke with Boston GM Danny Ainge, who said the Kings have not contacted the Celtics about Thibodeau. As Ainge pointed out, permission is no longer needed now that the Celtics are out of the playoffs and any communication could be direct between the Kings and the lead assistant so widely respected for his defensive teachings. Thibodeau's contract expires this summer with Boston.

While Thibodeau does not fit the Kings' parameters of a coach who has previous head coaching experience in the NBA, the then-Houston assistant was a candidate two years ago before the job went to Reggie Theus. - Sam Amick

There's one day left until the Kings learn where they'll pick in the June 25 draft, and Chris Webber and the Kings have themselves quite the mutually-beneficial relationship going on tomorrow.

With the lottery taking place in Secaucus, N.J., and set to begin at 5 p.m. Pacific, the former Kings forward will be representing his former team while holding a party in his restaurant back in Sacramento. The event will include Kings director of player personnel Jerry Reynolds and KHTK personalities Mike Lamb and Grant Napear, with Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof expected to be in attendance as well.

Fans can receive an e-ticket that guarantees access to special reserved seating at the party through Kings.com. There will - according to the team's release - be a family fun zone with a bounce house, basketball hoop, balloon artist and face painter, and music by DJ Armon. The restaurant is located at 3600 North Freeway Blvd., Sacramento. Call 916-419-4667 if you need to call.

Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie won't be at the event, as he is still in Spain watching draft prospect Ricky Rubio. While Petrie planned on having two Rubio viewings on this trip, the dazzling point guard who is in the playoffs with his DKV Joventut team left Saturday's game with an injury after just 10 minutes of action. Today, however, he had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a win while playing 30 minutes. - Sam Amick

Wayman.jpg

Even though I never knew the man, my heart dropped when I heard the news this morning. Wayman Tisdale, 44, had left us way too early.

I had heard the stories from the old Kings days, read the stories about his fight against cancer and seen the stories that surely inspired.

And every time a day of yard work at home meant I would slip on the t-shirt that commemorated the beginning of basketball in Oklahoma City, my one memory of Tisdale and his joyful spirit would come rushing back.

On Nov. 1, 2005, in Oklahoma City, the accomplished jazz musician and beloved Oklahoma Sooner was asked to perform the national anthem for what was sure to be a powerful evening. Hurricane Katrina had moved the Hornets out of the Bayou, with the organization relocating into a city that already knew a thing or two about tragedy and was ecstatic about the team's new arrival.

With the lights dimmed and the arena electric, Tisdale - who had saxophone accompaniment - picked up his bass guitar and met the moment. He carried the tune that came with no vocals, the performance a musical delight and just slow enough for the mood to build and no one wanting it to end. It was a special touch on a special night from someone who so many said was a special man. Our condolences to the Tisdale family. From those who knew him to those who wish they did, he will be missed. - Sam Amick

The Kings coaching search is back in neutral, mostly because basketball president Geoff Petrie is back in Spain until Tuesday's draft lottery day but also because there is much to deliberate.

Ailene Voisin summed it up well in this post, and the undecided options remain as such...

a) Offer Eddie Jordan the job (which obviously hasn't happened)

b) Wait and see how the Philadelphia situation plays out with Jordan, who interviews Friday. He is reportedly more interested in the Sixers job and has yet to find anyone who doesn't understand why.

c) Offer Westphal the job (which obviously hasn't happened)

d) Wait until the Tuesday draft lottery to see if - depending on whether Kings get first, second, third, or fourth pick - the job might become more attractive to other candidates, then bring more coaches in. (Or, of course, just bring more coaches in for the sake of bringing more coaches in)

LAS VEGAS - I spoke with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie a while ago about the today's interview with Paul Westphal and wanted to share before running off to the airport.

PETRIE

"(The interview with Westphal) was good. He was impressive. I thought he had a really good working knowledge of our team as it currently exists. We went through a lot of important things, style of play on both ends of the court and he talked about his development as a coach. He had a close involvement with the renaissance of the (Phoenix) Suns in the early 90s and a long-term involvement with Phoenix. He's an impressive guy."

On whether Westphal's absence from a head coaching spot in recent years (he last coached Seattle in 2000 before coaching at Pepperdine for five seasons, then becoming a Dallas assistant under Avery Johnson and later the Mavericks' vice president of basketball operations).

"He was on the bench with Avery Johnson down in Dallas, he broadcast games for both the Lakers and the Clippers. He hasn't been detached from the game, and I don't think you forget about coaching when you've been involved with basketball - anyone who has been involved with basketball as long as he has."

On what's next

"We're going to talk some more, (Kings co-owners) Joe (Maloof) and Gavin (Maloof) and I, and at some point we'll decide what direction we're going to go, whatever that is. It's still open-ended I'd say at this point. We're going to talk some more and decide where we're going to go from there."

On whether he had much of a prior relationship with Westphal...

"I haven't had any personal experiences (with him), other than that I competed against him and at a distance, as a player to some extent."

Gotta go... - Sam Amick

LAS VEGAS - Round One of the Kings coaching interviews is over, with no sign yet as to whether there will be a Round Two.

But after Eddie Jordan made his pitch on Tuesday and Paul Westphal followed suit today, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof indicated that there won't be a quick resolution to this process no matter the extenuating circumstances.

"I think what's next now is that we've had two wonderful interviews with two very successful guys that have had great success in the NBA, and I think the next step is that (Kings basketball president) Geoff (Petrie) is going to go to Europe (Spain) to see (Ricky) Rubio play in the next couple of days (on Thursday)," Maloof said by phone. "And when he gets back I'm sure we'll get together again - Geoff Petrie and Gavin (Maloof) and I - and discuss what our next step is going to be."

Specifically, Maloof said the fact that Jordan is scheduled to interview with Philadelphia on Friday won't impact what happens from here on the Kings end.

"No, I think that's great that Eddie is getting another interview," Joe Maloof said. "That's a tribute to him, but I don't think that's going to affect us one way or another."

We'll have more coverage in tomorrow's paper about Westphal's interview... - Sam Amick

As a follow-up to the previous post, I've been informed that the Eddie Jordan interview with Philadelphia is on Friday. - Sam Amick

LAS VEGAS - Eddie Jordan is gone from the Palms, heading East again and scheduled to repeat this interview process again with another team in the coming days.

Unless, of course, the Kings bring the whole courting process to a halt with the right kind of offer. And rest assured, they aren't alone in the Jordan sweepstakes.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Philadelphia has scheduled an interview with Jordan for later this week. While the exact day is not known, the fact that there has been contact makes Jordan different from fellow rumored candidate Doug Collins. When Jordan and I spoke last night, it certainly sounded as if he expected to talk with the Sixers folks in the coming days unless the Kings made up his mind for him.

Paul Westphal is in today for his interview, so be sure to check back in for updates. - Sam Amick

May 13, 2009
Jordan makes his case

LAS VEGAS - Eddie Jordan had a few minutes to chat before heading off to a late-night dinner with Geoff Petrie, and that alone should be a reminder that he's in a class all his own in this Kings search.

Having just missed catching up with him on the casino floor, I caught Jordan by phone and he was more than willing to talk about the interview that had just gone down with the team's basketball president and Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof. Here are his thoughts that didn't make today's story, followed by the extensive thoughts of Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof. To review, the interview took place inside a room in the Palms Tower of the hotel. Jordan's case has been made and is over with, while Paul Westphal is up tomorrow.

Below is the extra material that is not in the story. Also be sure to read Ailene Voisin's column on the situation. Lastly, the early opinion from the fans is looking good for Jordan.

EDDIE JORDAN

On the Kings' unofficial mantra of "nowhere to go but up" and whether the reality of almost-certain improvement makes this an appealing job...

"No. 1, there's no guarantee that things are going to get better. There are no guarantees in the NBA. The NBA is a tough league to win in. You've got to have the main guys developing. You've got to have the main guys healthy. You've got to get through an 82-game schedule. There's no guarantee. As soon as you think that things can get better, sometimes they don't. You just have to put in the hard work, have a lot of trust, and you know sometimes you have to have good luck.

"It's going to be exciting to see the lottery next week. Let's see where everybody is going to be as far as picking. That'll be exciting. And I just want to take it step by step. Go through the process, get to know Joe and Gavin and the roster. They had good ideas, we had great discussion, great dialogue. We'll see if there's an offer, if they're going to interview other people. That sort of thing."

On whether Jordan's firing in 1998 plays any part in his desire to return to Sacramento...

"I told Geoff and the Maloofs this, I said, 'It worked out for the best for everybody.' Rick Adelman was a terrific coach, they were a terrific team, they did some exciting things in the NBA. I went on to help (then New Jersey head coach) Byron (Scott). Byron and I were part of the Nets (NBA) finals team two years in a row (2002 and 2003) and I got a head job (in Washington) and got to the playoffs four years in a row, did some things in Washington they hadn't done in 20 some-odd years, so it was the right decision. Pat Riley told me when I was let go (from Sacramento) that it was just a bump in the road. He said, 'You're a terrific coach, a lot of good things are going to happen. It's just a part of the journey, just a bump in the road. That's exactly what it was."


GAVIN MALOOF

On how he perceived Jordan before meeting him for the first time and how the interview changed his perception...

"I knew his playoff record, four out of five years (qualifying for the) playoffs in Washington. I knew he was well liked in Sacramento, and the people in the organization all liked him personally. And I think Geoff has a fondness for him as well. That's kind of what I knew. And what I found out was that it's probably all true (laughs)....It was a good interview, and I really haven't heard a negative comment about him to be honest with you."

On what Jordan said about the current Kings...

"He likes our players, likes all the young guys that we have, thinks they could be very coachable. He's very impressed with Spencer (Hawes), Jason (Thompson) and of course Kevin (Martin) as well. He showed us defensive sets and what he did, offensive philosophies, spacing and all that.

On the topic of defense and the perception that teaching it is a weakness for Jordan...

"(The Wizards) had a really good defensive team two years ago. They played (well) against Detroit (in the playoffs). I think that's kind of the misnome