The Other Side: Sacramento Kings
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.
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