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The Other Side: Sacramento Kings

We stink, but at least we aren't the worst team in our conference. (Photo by Don Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

It wasn't too long ago that the Sacramento Kings were relevant. Before Phoenix (in the Mike D'Antoni era), the Kings were the high-scoring, run-and-gun team of the early part of this decade. They advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2002, but they haven't won a playoff series since 2004. Since then, the core of those teams either got traded away (Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby) or walked away (Vlade Divac), leaving behind and unrecognizable gob of players fumbling under the umbrella of NBA season ticket holders' least-favorite phrase -- rebuilding.

Bobby Jackson, a fan favorite and fixture of that era, returned last summer in the huge Ron Artest-to-Houston trade that signaled that the Kings are clearly not worried about winning right now. The Kings (10-32) started 3-4, but when their best player, Kevin Martin, was forced to miss 22 of the next 24 games with a sprained left ankle, the season went down the drain. Reggie Theus was fired and replaced by Kenny Natt on Dec. 14 and he has led the team to a 4-14 record.

Martin is averaging 27.4 points since returning on Dec. 30, but the Kings have gone just 3-8 since he came back. The Kings lost to the Denver Nuggets, on Tuesday night and they have lost two in a row at Arco Arena. Here is what you should know about the Kings before they host the Wizards tonight:

1. Brad Miller Is a Wanted Man
With Martin untouchable, the Kings don't have much that other NBA teams want -- except for veteran center Brad Miller, who doesn't fit with the Kings' youth movement. Miller was suspended for violating the NBA's drug policy and he has been dealing with injuries much of the past few seasons. But he could help several contenders with his passing and perimeter shooting. Miller is averaging 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds and has been rumored to be headed to Miami for Shawn Marion and Cleveland for Wally Sczcerbiak.

2. The Kings Are Still Smarting Over Stan Van Gundy
Is it the Curse of Adelman? Ever since the Maloof brothers, the Kings' owners, forced out former Coach Rick Adelman after the team made a first round exit in 2006, the Kings haven't had much success with coaches. Eric Musselman lasted one season. Reggie Theus lasted 104 games. But the Kings thought they had the perfect coach in the summer of 2007 -- until Stan Van Gundy jilted them at the altar and ran off with a prettier bridesmaid (Orlando). Van Gundy admitted last week in Sacramento that he wronged the Kings and mishandled the situation. As an apology, Van Gundy directed the Magic to set an NBA record with 23 three-pointers in an embarrassing 139-107 win over the Kings.

3. Pete Carril Is Already Having Second Thoughts
This has been a rough year for the Princeton offense in the NBA. Eddie Jordan got canned in late November. The New Jersey Nets abandoned it to implement the dribble-drive offense for Devin Harris. And the godfather of the Princeton offense, Pete Carril, came out of retirement this month to serve as a consultant for the Kings -- only to have some misgivings after just five games back with the team.

The Kings have gone 2-3 since Carril came on as a consultant. Sacramento has averaged 113 points compared to 96.6 in the first 37 games. But the 78-year-old coach won't be with the team tonight against the Wizards, and the misery of losing (just a handful of games) may lead him to decide to leave the team before the end of the month.

The Kings' players are equally frustrated and they have decided to take it out on -- each other. Rookie Jason Thomspon disobeyed orders to bring bagels and donuts and practice and had to suffer the consequences of having his SUV filled with hot, buttery popcorn. At least they are having fun, huh? Everybody but Thompson, that is.

By Michael Lee  |  January 21, 2009; 8:50 AM ET
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Next: Defense, Defense, Defense....


Follow the minutes and performance of Oden versus McGee this year.

That is, having gotten the minutes during real live NBA games, Oden's confidence and performance is starting to improve. 24/15 last night.

Virtually all teams think McGee has great potential, except ironically the team that drafted him.

It's going to hard for EG to live this year down with nothing to show for it, except another rookie in the draft who won't get any playing time.

Posted by: Izman | January 21, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

The game tonight will be tankerrific.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | January 21, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

You know everytime I read something like you just wrote, Michael, it makes me kinda of angry and so perplexed at why coaches do not understand that NBA champions are finely tuned UpTemPo Teams with good defense.

Teams that got on the doorsteps like Webbers Kings, Ewings Nicks, Iversons & Barkleys 76ers, Nowitskis Mavs, and many more were all good UpTemPo Teams and good Defense, but for some reason did not get the Rings.

Where this slow ball philosophy comes from and constantly playing players out of position and the wrong way is just Tyranny. This philosophy will not and never has won anybody anything.

How Abe Pollin, Ernie Grunfield, and the coaches who continually coach this way, can allow/continue this blood from a Turnip, hit your head against the Wall, losing philosophy is just downright amazing.

Michael, loosing is not what is really so bad, what is, is to have a philosophy that gurantees loosing.

To win a championship is Special and those that have gotten close should be commended. I think back when the Wiz/Bullets won theirs with Wes. They were a good Team that played some of the best basketball in the League. Back then, there was good coaching, but clearly from all the good Teams, the players on the floor controlled the games.

Why so many bad coaches today think they know better about winning on the floor than allowing the players to go out and do it themselves is why we have so many more bad Teams today as back then.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | January 21, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Good analysis and insight.

The only thing that I would add is that the Kings are challenged at the point guard position. Because of that lack they focus on B Miller as the distributor. Thus limiting his scoring and playing offensively. He can easily score a 30 point game if he isn't trying to make up for Beno's, who is really a scoring guard, inability to run the offense in a way that a #1 position should. He really is a #2.

This team should be getting a really good #1 position player. I understand why they took Jason in the draft as he is outstanding, but they have to get a good ball handler.

Posted by: mbshults | January 21, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Izman, I like your comment in the comparisons of McGee and Oden. I was one that said at the beginning of the season that EG had found a diamond in McGee.

I predicted that he would outshine Oden and eventually be the best of his draft class.

I made that prediction after we knew that BH would be out.

However, why this organization will not give McGee a fair chance on the floor as other promising rookies have been given is mind boggling.

The circumstances and makeup of this Team demands that he get major PT.

Oden right now has the build and strength over McGee, but when it comes to raw talent, performance and smarts, McGee is way better.

I would bet than any other Team in the League would give a Talent like McGee more consistent PT, even Orlando with Superman, than this coaching of the Wizards.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | January 21, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Larry- you hit the nail on the head, could not have been said better. At this point we have to ride the Abe train until he goes to the phone booth in the sky and EG either wises up or gets kicked out we are doomed to a certain degree. Like you stated, players make it happen but our handicap is in both areas, coaching and players. Not stating either one is entirely at fault but it is definitely a combo of the 2 being dysfunctional

I am willing to bet tonight we will lose and give another batch of scrubs 'career nights"

go wiz
matt from

Posted by: WizardsExtreme | January 21, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Unlike some, I blame coaches and not EG for this. I can't blame him for not playing JM or NY or for starting DS even though he was playing poorly.

EG isn't responsible for DSong at the 5 or injuries, either. I'll always believe that this team could have won 40 games with proper coaching. I find it hard to blame the players when they have no idea what the philosophy is. Are we a Princeton team that relies on halfcourt offense? Are we a running team that wants to score on the break? Are we a team that runs standard sets and tries to keep scores low so we can win with defense? Are we switching on picks or staying with our man?

(On a side note, I saw AB staying with Biedrins rather than switching and he defended him rather well. Biedrins has ape arms and can touch the top of the backboard without jumping, though. I saw a few rebounds where he reached up without really jumping and snagged balls away from our guys. Hard to stop a strong guy like that from getting rebounds even if you have position.)

I've said all along that the pieces don't fit if we want to have a defensive team. Thing is, we shouldn't be trying to be a defensive team at this point unless we're willing to make serious substitutions (like sitting CB or AJ). We oughtta focus on our strengths. Like LarryinClinton says, we should be uptempo with a dose of defense.

Posted by: original_mark | January 21, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse


Excellent article on defense in today's paper. Its the primary problem. The wiz can't defend the rim, can't defend the paint, can't defend the 3pt line.

Last year we couldn't defend the 3 pointer, but at least a team had to be relatively hot from outside to make us pay. Goes to show how much of a loss BTH was, where now 3pt defense is not our biggest defensive liability.

I like the accountability AB is showing:

"I need to talk to Brendan and see how he was able to protect the rim like last year. He is a very smart player and always seems to be in the right place, and I need to figure out how to do the same to help the team. I need to try and protect the rim more."

I just hope it turns into results, much like his self-criticism about his lack of intensity in going after rebounds did. But defending the rim is not something you just pick up.

And its about time Ivan wrote some positive words about AB, even if it was still a bit sideways...

A positive development, however, is that AB was in the game down the stretch... Baby steps. Golden State beat us with threes instead of layups and putbacks... Not every team is gonna heat up from outside down the stretch like they did. So if this becomes a permanent change (AB instead of DSong at the 5 down the stretch), and if AB can learn to protect the paint a little better (he's miles better than DSong, but BTH is miles better than him), then we will have a chance to pull out some of these games we've been giving away.

Posted by: jones-y | January 21, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

And one other thing, could you imagine some coach pulling Wes Unseld out the game because he made a mistake, or Bill Russell,
Majic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kareem, Oscar, Laimbeer, Rodman, Duncan, Maverich, Chamberlin, Cousy, and many, many others.

Sure all of these guys are great players, and they all were once rookies, but I can asure that they did not become great sitting on the bench and being jerked from games for no good reasons.

They were all allowed to play. You will never know what you have by keeping it on the bench. And even worse, what little PT you give is restricted to some inept concepts you think they ought to be doing instead of letting them play and make mistakes.

Let me say, or just chew on this a little bit. John Peter Ramos had the size and supposedly some skill, but he never got a fair chance to prove anything with the Wizards.

Some may argue that he was a dud, but you cannot make that argument based on gametime play in the NBA with the Wizards.

I am sure that John Peter Ramos would have been a better player than Gheorghe Muresan.

Pecherov may also be considered a dud, but he has not been given a fair chance to prove otherwise.

If you spend the time and effort to draft someone and pay them salary, you owe to the player and especially the organization to see if they can play and be productive in real live NBA Games.

What is happening with JaVale McGee is the final straw in not developing your rookie/young players. Ultimately, this flaw is gonna shine real hard on your General Manager.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | January 21, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Least I do not have season tickets to this woeful team. Seems like other team's players get injured and out for a game or two whereas we lose players for entire seasons. Yes, Tony K, the curse is on us.

But looking at the entire area's pro sports teams, we have had MORE than our share of long term injuries. Skins, Nats, Wizards. Capitals have had injuries but no season ender.

With our luck we will have the #1 pick and end up with another Kwame. And if I hear from EG that the player is a prospect and "a few years away from big PT", think we will have to picket his office.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | January 21, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I love the ridiculous lead-ins by Ivan "The Wizards face one of the worst teams in the NBA" which is similar to describing the Knicks as "woeful."

Hey Ivan - wake up!

The "woeful" Knicks have more than twice as many wins as the Gizzards and Sacramento has a better record as well.

Ivan, in the future, please consult the standings where you will see our Gizzards are now tied for the least number of wins in the NBA.

Posted by: nativedc | January 21, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

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