Gilbert Arenas isn't expected to be at Arco Arena on Friday night, which is a good thing for the Kings for more reasons than the obvious.
If they can beat Washington without its still-ailing star, that will mean 33 wins for the season. And one more after that, of course, will mean a whole lot of relief from the Kings coaching staff.
While head coach Reggie Theus has never hidden the fact that he would like to improve on last season's mark of 33-49, the feat is about much more than the simple concept of improvement. It's about the reality that new coaches often see winning as the easiest means to job security, which certainly applies to this first-year coach who has one season left on his contract and a a team option for the third season. It's about the fact that Theus and his staff have been working with the Kings' front office for all of nine months, a far cry from the days when Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie was teamed up with longtime teammate and colleague Rick Adelman. It's about the fact that the awkwardness of the challenge that continues to face Theus - that of the youth movement which coincides with the desire for a strong finish - has left some uncertainty about exactly how he and his assistants will be judged. But with 34 wins, that pressure - whether real or perceived - will be lifted.
"We’ve been trying to do what we can to get the young guys some time on the floor, but yet do what we can to win a game and finish strong and keep the veterans engaged," Theus said before Wednesday's win over Memphis. "If they get the wrong message, then they sort of back off this time of year...You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say, ‘Hey we’re going to work on the youth movement here,' and expect your veterans to play. You can’t have it both ways. In sports, a lot of it is an attitude and a focus.
"It’s still a funny animal in the sense that you’re developing guys and you want to finish strong. I know Geoff (Petrie)…wants to finish strong. I know that. But he also wants to develop young guys."
INJURED OR HURT?
Theus has grown frustrated recently with having to so often deal with a limited roster. Injuries and ailment that would typically be played with if the playoffs were still a possibility have suddenly become enough to keep some players off the floor, no one moreso than Ron Artest. The small forward admitted after downing the Grizzlies that the team's current plight has played a part in his recent decisions to either not play or decide if he could go late on gamedays.
“If it were playoff time, I’d be playing (every game),” Artest said. “(But) I can push through it."
For the umpteenth time, Artest hit on the fact that he was never a fan of Theus' goal of simply reaching the playoffs or the strive for .500.
"I set goals of winning a championship, and Reggie thought that was a little steep," he said. "The coach and player didn’t see eye to eye." - Sam Amick
Beno Udrih is a jovial sort, almost always in good spirits whether it's in the locker room or even on the floor.
But the Kings point guard was visibly frustrated before tipoff against Memphis, walking toward his locker and sitting slowly and cautiously into his chair.
"How goes it," I asked.
"I've been better," he said.
Udrih said the back tightened up against Houston on Monday and hasn't improved since, which doesn't bode well for a quick return. As for Spencer Hawes, the rookie center who sprained his left ankle in the second quarter and didn't return is also a question mark now. He is day to day, although Theus said he was told that the swelling wasn't severe and the injury may not be too serious. - Sam Amick