I ran into Geoff Petrie at the Sacramento airport on Jan. 23, when I was headed to Los Angeles for the Clippers game and the Kings basketball president was heading out on a scouting trip.
His team had just posted its first three-game winning streak of the season, and I said hello with a positive comment of "Wow, three in a row, huh?"
Always the measured man, Petrie countered with cautious optimism.
"We've seen these kind of resurgences before," he said.
Little did we know we'd seen it again so soon.
With their win over New Orleans on Friday night, the Kings have yet another three-game winning streak and a chance to take it further while having won nine of their last 13 games. Starting with tonight's game at Arco against Chicago, seven of their next nine opponents are currently out of playoff position. There are quality teams in there, to be sure, but it's far from a juggernaut schedule in those next three weeks.
As for tonight, Bulls guard Ben Gordon is a gametime decision (sprained right wrist) and Chicago is without forward Luol Deng (tendinitis in his left Achilles). The Kings will certainly be thinking about the last meeting, when a Ben Wallace free throw was the difference in a game the Kings should've won.
EL FLACO SIN MINUTOS (loose translation: 'Cisco can't get playing time)
Kings swingman Francisco Garcia was out of the mix for the first time all season on Friday, logging a season-low six minutes against New Orleans.
Garcia's previous season low was 12, a mark that he had tied in the Kings' previous game against Charlotte. He is averaging 27.5 minutes for the season.
This is the sort of scenario everyone saw coming when the Kings finally got healthy, as they simply have too many guys who could argue they should be playing but just not enough minutes to go around. Specifically, it seems nearly impossible to keep Garcia and John Salmons engaged and involved simultaneously for any length of time.
Yet Garcia has been playing very well for quite a while now, and keeping him out of the loop for too long could mess with his confidence. If this trend continues, I have to think coach Reggie Theus is opting for Salmons over Garcia as a way to keep his squad from becoming too much of a jumpshooting team.
While both players can slash and get to the rim, Salmons may be one of the best in the league at wiggling his way through defenders in the paint and has attempted an average of just 1.6 threes per game (seventh on the team). Meanwhile, Garcia's three-point game has been his best suit this season, as he's hitting a career-high 39.1 percent from beyond the arc.
But with an average of 3.6 threes attempted per game, he's also fourth in three-pointers attempted behind Kevin Martin, Mike Bibby and Ron Artest, meaning Theus could certainly be deciding that four long-range lookers is just too many. Garcia leads the team by a longshot in overall attempts (161 to Martin's 135), but that's obviously because he's the only one in the bunch who hasn't been injured or suspended.
Nonetheless, in the first seven games after Bibby and Artest returned from injury on Jan. 16, the Kings took an average of 21.4 threes per game. It was a pace that would have them ranked sixth in the league if it were their season-long total. In all, they're ranked 17th with an average of 17 three-point attempts per game.
And while the Kings hit a scorching 43.3 percent overall in that seven-game stretch, Theus has talked numerous times about his preference for attacking the rim and not relying on the outside game. It seems pretty obvious that - even on nights when the threes are falling - that approach makes him uneasy in every way.
All that being said, Theus thinks too highly of Garcia's game for this trend to keep up much longer. He might have to tell the third-year player to focus on the other parts of his game - finding easy looks on backcuts, going to the hole and diving and dishing like he can do so well. - Sam Amick