LOS ANGELES - So it's just a few hours before tipoff at Staples Center for the latest Kings-Lakers meeting. And in light of the Tuesday faceoff at Arco Arena in which the "MVP" chants for Kobe Bryant filled the building in the Lakers win, I fully expect that at least a few thousand Kings faithful made the trip to SoCal to return the favor.
There's only one problem: Kobe will still be the only MVP candidate on the floor.
What's that? You're still at home in Sac? Fine then. Feast on some Q&As before the game begins...
Question: What benefit did the Kings get from buying out Tyronn Lue's contract and waiving him? When Mike Bibby's trade happened and there was talk of trading Ron Artest to Denver for a first round pick, Eduardo Najera, and Linas Kleiza, and the whole deal went south because Denver did not want to part with Kleiza, why didn't (Kings basketball president) Geoff Petrie just sweeten the deal by adding Lue? The end result would have been a first round pick and Kleiza and an expiring contract to Sacramento for the rebuilding efforts, and Artest and Lue to Denver. Now Denver can pick Lue up for free (Lue has since signed with Dallas). – Andre, San Diego, Calif.
Answer: The Kings were certainly hoping to get something for Lue, whether it was a deal that would involve a second-round pick or – and this was the best-case scenario – a first-round pick. But none of the pre-trade-deadline discussions regarding his expiring contract of $3.5 million actually turned into a deal, and he was of no value to them at that point.
This was similar to the Jason Hart situation last year, when Petrie cut a guy loose for the betterment of his career. As for the Denver deal and possibly adding Lue, that wouldn’t have made the difference with Kleiza. The deal still wouldn’t have gone down.
Question: Why didn't (Kings coach Reggie) Theus hire Coachie (Pete Carril)? No, it is not a rhetorical question. Most of the elite teams in the league have some gray hair on the bench. Coachie is one man who can get inside K-Mart's (Kevin Martin’s) head and keep him focused.
I have a lot of gray hair and I have long felt that teams mirror their coaching. The usual Jekyl-Hyde team turned into a Hyde-Jekyl team tonight against the Heat (on March 2). Frankly, I think the pass Theus and crew have been getting should come to an end. I'd like to hear some comments from Charles Barkley on Kings coaching. – Richard Colby, Yuba City, Calif.
Answer: Barkley has been Theus’ most ardent national supporter all season, throwing him kudos at least a couple times while in the TNT studios and even joking that Theus just might make the ‘Fave Five’ on his phone (from those T-Mobile ads). As for ‘Coachie,’ you’re not the only one who feels that way.
His impact on Martin has been well-chronicled. And from a political standpoint, it would have gone a long way toward connecting Theus’ staff to the front office and possibly ensuring a smoother operation all around. The Kings’ exec has been close friends with Carril for years, but he has also not been the type to insist on whom his head coaches hire as assistants.
Question: Was it just me, or did Kevin Martin seemed to be playing very timid – or dare I say, scared – against Kobe (Bryant) in the fourth quarter (on Tuesday)? Almost every time he touched the balled he passed it away as fast as he could, never attempting to do anything with it. The one time he did try and drive, he missed an easy layup. I know Kobe was playing good defense, but that doesn't mean you should just take the rest of the night off, does it? – Kevin Grassel, West Sacramento, Calif.
Answer: As we later learned, his hand was in bad shape after he fell hard at the end of the third quarter in that game. That was the ailment that kept him out against the Clippers the next day. I’m sure the injury – combined with Kobe’s defense and the fact that Artest was taking nine shots in the period – had something to do with the fact that Kevin ended badly.
At the time, I thought the biggest factor was how he appeared to be completely out of rhythm after a stellar first three quarters. He sat for six minutes before coming in, which made little sense since both sides were treating this contest like a playoff game. Then he was getting hounded by Kobe, who took over like only he can.
Question: Ron Artest had no qualms about throwing Reggie Theus and the coaching staff under the bus earlier this week (with his comments after the March 2 win over Miami that resulted in a $5,000 fine), but how did he justify sitting out on a back to back against the Clippers? I wonder (no, I know) that Reggie will take the high road in his post game comments. Better yet, how do deal with all of this as a reporter? Love your work Sam! – Jim Mazzaferro, Elk Grove, Calif.
Answer: I have Ron’s explanation for sitting out the Clippers game in a blog post that will follow this one, but it’s definitely not easy covering him sometimes. In that situation, it was just too hard to ignore the fact that nearly everyone around the team (and some on the team) was extremely skeptical about his absence. On the flip side, you let Ron explain himself when that times comes (as I did in today’s paper and the subsequent blog) and call it a day. Hopefully, a fair, balanced and accurate day.
Question: What is the scoop on Kenny Thomas? I see him sitting on the bench, suited up, game after game, but he never gets in the game. Is he injured? Thanks. - Janet Vavra, Antelope, Calif.
Answer: I covered the Kenny Thomas existence a while back, but I could see where some fans are confused if they happened to not pick up the paper that day (shame on you). Here’s that story. As a short aside, the word from back then remains the same now, which is that Thomas will continue to sit until he is likely to either be traded this summer or bought out. Also, he continues to work with renowned shooting coach Buzz Braman and keep his game sharp with plans for a revival elsewhere down the road.
Question: Sam, why did the Kings dump Dahntay Jones and keep Anthony Johnson, who is basically awful? For a team that lacks athleticism, they had it in Jones and they let him go and it is hard to take. Thanks - Steven Rapaport, Stockton, Calif.
Answer: It’s a numbers game. They had to make room for Johnson, Tyronn Lue, Shelden Williams and Lorenzen Wright to make the Mike Bibby deal work, and they weren’t about to cut draft picks or players with more guaranteed money. Jones is certainly athletic, but he was cheap, too, and on a one-year deal. They didn’t see him making any significant difference in the big picture.
Question: If Gilbert Arenas opts out, what are the chances the Kings will go after him? - Zach Gregory, Elk Grove, Calif.
Answer: ‘Gil’ would be a phenomenal addition, except that the Kings won’t have any salary cap space this summer (when he is expected to opt out) and will be happy with their free agent signings if they can lock up Beno Udrih. This is still a team gearing for 2010. That’s when they should have cap space galore and make a serious run at some of the biggest names in the game.
Question: Hey Sam, I really enjoy these blogs, man. My question is about the upcoming draft. Who do you think the Kings should take a look at? We obviously have little chance of landing (Memphis’ Derrick) Rose or (Kansas State’s Michael) Beasley, but some websites have us taking (Nevada 7-foot center) JaVale McGee. After watching his highlight tape on Youtube, he seems like an Andrew Bynum-type of player. I think it would be great if the Kings could land him. – Daniel, Tucson, Ariz.
Answer: Daniel, I’m not quite ready to break down draft prospects yet, but you have me on alert that is fast becoming a priority. Then again, I should’ve hit that mode already since the Kings’ pick is improving every day.
In general, though, they continue to be in need of a big-time power forward and could be looking for a small forward if Artest is traded this summer. A big like McGee could be attractive, too, especially if he could aid the interior defense that’s been so bad lately.
Question: You'd think I could let questions like this pass, but it is my inquisitive nature I guess. Why are you riding commercial instead of on the Kings’ charter plane? Gee, I know you are thinking, 'What a stupid question.' However, somewhere deep in the recesses of my tiny little brain I thought I remembered that beat writers rode with the team. Look at all the beat writers that ride with future presidents of the United States of America! How else do we get the cold hard facts? This is one way newspapers get paid for all the free advertising. Isn't it? – Richard Colby, Yuba City, Calif.
Answer: Two solid questions in one Q&A session Richard! Well done. Yeah, it’s quite the misnomer that beat writers fly with the team, but it hasn’t been that way for quite a while. The beat guy used to fly with the team in the old days, and I don’t know the exact period when it changed but I believe it was in the last 15 years. The thinking, from the newspaper’s standpoint, is that flying with the team threatens your ability to objective.
What’s more, I’m not sure how we could pull that off even if we chose to fly with the team. By the time I’m done working after most road games, the team has already jumped on their plane and sometimes even landed in their new city. I’m all-commercial, all-the-time. I don’t stay in the team hotel, either. - Sam Amick