After Joe Maloof was good enough to answer so many of my questions the other day, maybe I should have him answer reader e-mails one of these days just to mix it up a bit. Until then, here are a few of my takes in what is a long-overdue Q&A session...
Question: What does the hiring of (former Indiana CEO Donnie) Walsh in New York (as the new Knicks team president) do to the chances of (Ron) Artest opting out and going to New York? – David, Sacramento
Answer: I’ve wondered that myself (check the bottom of this blog post), but I can’t help but think it lessens the chances. I’ve been a believer (with very good reason) in the notion that Artest would like to play there. But just to be sure of my own opinion, I asked someone who knows Walsh very well whether he would rejoin with the player with whom he enjoyed some wonderful years (those top-notch Pacers teams) and some not-so-great times (the 2004 brawl in Detroit). The answer: “Probably not.” From having talked with Walsh about Ron before, I can say that he's among the many people around the league who see Artest as a delightful guy who you want to succeed as a human but who you know will always make things hard on himself and those around him.
Question: Is it me or is (Kings coach Reggie) Theus finally starting to see the value of Martin? It seems to me that he has had a limited offensive game plan in the past and focused exclusively on Artest and to some degree (Francisco) Garcia's three-point shot while calling plays primarily for them.
Is he finally starting to understand how to use Martin and (John) Salmons? This has seemed to be a very real weakness in his game plan. It may be improving for Martin, but I don't think for Salmons. It seems they have to create their own points instead of having plays called for them. – Mike, Sacramento
Answer: Ever since the coach and the player started working together, Kevin has been playing phenomenal. I’m not saying anything over the edge, considering he just got done averaging 26.3 points on 47.1 percent shooting overall and 38.2 percent from three-point range for the month of March. He followed that, of course, with Tuesday’s game against Houston in which he scored 27 points on 8 of 14 shooting. Even with the team being out of playoff contention for so long, it’s a huge positive for the organization that Martin is finishing strong.
Salmons, meanwhile, is the only Kings player this season who has both helped and hurt his own reputation. The conclusion that league executives will likely draw from his season is this: If we’re going to start him, then he’s worth looking at, but not to come off the bench. His inability to produce as a reserve has been perplexing, although his defense is always a much-needed asset no matter how many minutes he plays.
Question: How come Anthony Johnson has not received more playing time? Do you think with this recent win we will see more of him? – Julie, Lodi, Calif.
Answer: Julie asked this before Beno Udrih was hurt, but I think the question is still relevant. To me, Johnson may as well be the spokesman for the in-house struggle that has gone on with the Kings this season. While Geoff Petrie and ownership appear to want to see all the young guys and are not consumed with winning, Reggie Theus and his staff have been placing a heavy premium on wanting to win and want to use veterans like Anthony to do so.
Question: Hi Sam, You are doing a great job my friend but something is bothering me. That kid Shelden Williams is a bust. They need to cut him loose and keep (Johnson) from the Hawks. He was great (against Golden State on March 18) with 13 points and 13 assists. Also, is there a chance the Kings could keep Ron Artest next season and maybe get another superstar in free agency like Agent Zero (Washington’s Gilbert Arenas)? Thanks – Ron Woodbridge, Calif.
Answer: There are no cutting ties with Shelden unless they trade him this summer, as he has one year left on his contract. What’s more, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof made it pretty clear recently that he wants to see what Williams can do. He had a few bright moments against Houston on Tuesday and is still trying to get in game shape. If that game against the Rockets was any indication, though, he needs to work on his hands big-time as he wasted a couple of gimme-buckets by dropping nice passes from his teammates.
As for Agent Zero, the Kings are over the salary cap and will be working with only the midlevel exception (approximately $6 million) and a couple other small exceptions this summer so they’re out of the running for a guy like Gilbert.
Question: If you were Geoff Petrie, would you definitely re-sign Beno Udrih? And how would you handle the Ron Artest situation in the context of developing the young talent the Kings have right now? – Darrell Northam, Woodland, Calif.
Answer: I would re-sign Beno if only because you don’t have a plan B and he’s a darn good Plan A. That being said, Beno isn’t helping his cause at all right now with this prolonged absence. While I’ve spoken with him and he’s expressed much frustration over the back strain lingering , the fact is that a player with a reputation for being injury-prone is always going to look at with skepticism. Instead of finishing the season strong and having the Kings campaign for him as a Most Improved Player candidate, he’s in danger of leaving the lasting impression – to the Kings and all around the league – of being banged up.
As for Artest, there are those who think they should’ve traded him a long time ago if only to delve headfirst into the rebuilding. I’m on the fence, but I do think his presence has played a big part in the Kings qualifying as a team that isn’t sure if it’s rebuilding or still trying to reload. And as Artest fully knows, his presence has hindered the likes of Francisco Garcia and John Salmons quite a bit.
Question: What are the chances Artest returns next season? Thank you! – Derek, Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Answer: For those who didn’t see the latest story on that situation, here is where Ron’s future stands as he sees it.
Question: With “playing for next year” the motto for the finishing weeks, why is A. Johnson playing the point over our younger players? Is that a sign that they have their answers? – Phil, Sacramento
Answer: Not at all Phil. I really don’t seeing AJ getting signed by the Kings this summer, but his playing time is a reflection of Quincy Douby’s situation. The second-year guard went into summer league last summer with the objective of becoming a point guard. He said he could do it. The front office folks thought it was at least worth a shot. What happened, though, was Douby missed the July session with a back problem and his reputation as a talented scorer who doesn’t have a real position was cemented even more. – Sam Amick