Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who recently retired because of knee problems at age 31, looked a little uncomfortable Monday during media day. The veteran power forward is joining Reggie Theus' coaching staff, primarily to work with the frontcourt players. But he looked as if he would rather be wearing a Kings uniform than a suit and tie - understandably. Who wouldn't prefer to play games for a living rather than worry about preparing scouting reports, analyzing videotapes, worrying about player-coach relations, etc.? Oh, well. It still beats working a real job.
Asked if he should be addressed as "coach," the soft-spoken Abdur-Rahim laughed. "Just call me Shareef."
The former Cal standout was convinced to take the coaching position by Kings president Geoff Petrie, a terrific NBA player who was similarly forced to retire prematurely because of knee problems. Petrie was a co-Rookie of the Year with Dave Cowens, and before he retired age the ridiculous age of 28, established himself as one of the game's great scoring guards. So he can empathize. He also took a different path than Abdur-Rahim. Admittedly emotionally ill-prepared to remain in the NBA in a non-playing capacity, he pursued other interests, business and real estate among them, and eventually returned to the Portland Trail Blazers in the front office.
Pointing to the problematic left knee, Petrie said he still experiences occasional discomfort. "But not as much as I do other parts of the body," he said, with a grin. As the youthful-looking, 60-year-old executive often notes, aging is not a pleasant experience.
The boss likes what he sees
Petrie is known for carefully selecting his public comments - and for his creative analogies, metaphors and one-liners - but to those who have spent a lot of time in his company, he is actually pretty transparent. Unlike many of his NBA colleagues, he isn't very accomplished at serving up the b.s. So, it was interesting to note his mood Monday: for the first time in a while, he seems genuinely upbeat about the direction of the team and the upcoming season. He believes he has a talented young corps that can be developed while competing for a playoff berth, in essence, one that is starting to resemble a team with pieces that fit. Plus, pieces that pass the ball.
Petrie seems intent on returning to the days when the Kings might have been defensively challenged but were fun to watch. And there is no doubt that he has allies in Kevin Martin, Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes, etc., all of whom are adamant about playing a very specific style - as Larry Brown would say - of playing the "right way." Think cutting, passing, teamwork, fast breaks, and a minimal amount of one-on-one basketball.
Hunting, fishing, whatever ...
Miller and Reggie Theus spent the past few weeks on separate hunting trips - Miller to Kentucky, Theus to New Mexico. Theus, who often uses the bow and arrow, said he discovered archery during his playing days in Sacramento, and is encouraging his teenage son, Reggie Jr., to pick up the sport. "It's just another thing that we can do together," said Reggie Sr. Theus also loves to hike, but says his son has absolutely no interest in tents, sleeping on the ground, etc. Hey, I hear him. Nothing wrong with spending a day on the trails, then hitting a Marriott for a jacuzzi and room service ....
Missing in action
One of the funniest lines of the day was provided by a local journalist, commenting on Joe Maloof's absence. (Joe loves this stuff). When it was mentioned that the Kings' co-owner was still pretty miserable and recovering in Los Angeles from double knee replacement surgery necessitated by old football injuries, the newsy type quipped, "What, from his Pop Warner days?"
Taking up for his older brother, Gavin Maloof later responded, feigning indignation, "No, not Pop Warner. Joe was a safety at the University of New Mexico. We all played football in college. I'm not saying we were very good ..."
Gavin added that the eldest Maloof sibling had lost 30 pounds during his rehab, and "is looking pretty skinny. Wait till you see him."