Iverson rolling along
While watching Allen Iverson play his third game with the Detroit Pistons, it just seemed unfathomable that he is 33 years old. Given the physical beating that he absorbs nightly? Amazing. I used to marvel at Kevin Johnson's fearlessness during his career with the Phoenix Suns. With his tongue resting on his lower lip, KJ relentlessly and fearlessly attacked the basket and routinely got knocked to the floor. I have all these images of KJ blowing past his defender, converting the basket, taking the hit, and adding the free throw. But he had a few inches and pounds on Iverson. Anyway, it was fascinating to watch the 6-foot, 165-pound AI again, and to say he was really, really good would be ridiculous. He was terrific. His creative, yet controlled performance was exactly what Joe Dumars had in mind when he swapped the steady, stately Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets. "I joked with Iverson the other day," Joe D. told me earlier Tuesday from his office. "I told him, 'I tried to trade for you in 2000, but I'm sure glad I have the 2008 version of Allen Iverson. You were a handful in 2000."
My chat with Dumars also reminded me of what a brassy executive he has become - not at all what most of us who covered the NBA during his playing career would have projected. Joe's game was smooth, steady, understated. He did everything well, and yet somewhat remarkably, recognized exactly what he needed to do to flourish (and win) alongside the dynamic, mercurial Isiah Thomas. But understated no longer. Consider that within the past few years, among other things, Dumars has done the following: Hired and fired Larry Brown; won a championship and been runner-up in the NBA Finals; acquired and contained Rasheed Wallace; hired and fired Flip Saunders; signed and refused to re-sign local product Chris Webber; and drafted and dumped No. 2 pick Darko Milicic. As for that draft clunker, well, even the Logo (Jerry West) missed once in a while.
Typical rookie mistake
Kings rookie Jason Thompson, who had an impressive first NBA start with 15 points and nine boards, was assessed a phantom foul as he elevated and attempted to block a deep baseline jumper by Tayshaun Prince with just under two minutes remaining. True, based on the replays, the power forward never made contact with Prince, except perhaps with a fingernail. Also true, there isn't a rookie in the league who hasn't been suckered into committing that foul. Next time, the 6-foot-11 Thompson needs to jump straight up, denyng the refs the opportunity to claim that he was leaning into the shooter. The rule of verticality applies, as they say, though rookies historically are allowed considerably less wiggle room.
Still, Thompson's candor - "Yeah, they got me on that once in the first half, too" - is another reason to like the potential frontcourt pairing with second-year center Spencer Hawes. I love the fact Thompson didn't whine about the call afterward, but instead talked about how he would react in the future. The more time I spend chatting with opposing scouts and coaches, the more I think the Hawes-Thompson pairing has the potential to be something special.
In other words, I don't think Geoff Petrie is disappointed that, say, Joakim Noah didn't "drop" to the Kings two drafts ago. As one coach told me recently, "the Kings got the better player" in the less celebrated Hawes. At this point, it certainly appears so. Hawes, who is only 20, has length, skill, attitude, and will gain physical strength as he matures. He couldn't ask for a better mentor than Brad Miller, either.
Miller off target, on point
Miller endured the worst shooting night that I can remember. His 2-for-16 effort featured every shot imaginable: blown chippies and dunks, botched driving layups, mostly, the short-arming of jumpers he normally hits. Yet though he struggled from the field, he scored with his insightful postgame analysis, as usual. "It was a little tough and it was a twist without having Kevin (Martin) playing," the veteran center said. "He is the guy who gets all of our free-throw attempts for us and slows them down. We were aggressive early on, pushing the ball. You can't really get into a halfcourt game with the Pistons because they know how to lock it down and get the extra help."
Unfortunately for the Kings, after they built their early 15-point lead, they seemed to sit on it. They stopped pushing the pace, and instead of advancing the ball quickly and getting into their early offense, they were left with Reggie Theus calling plays on virtually every possession. I didn't get a chance to speak with Reggie afterward because I was in the visitors locker room waiting to speak with Iverson, but it seemed odd, even given the injuries. Late in the game, Reggie just seemed determined to pound the ball inside to his post players, getting away from an effective pick-and-roll. I'll ask him about this when the Kings return from their road trip to the Clip Joint. I remain a firm believer that the Kings need to create transition opportunities, play at a faster pace, and utilize their athleticism and youthful energy if they want to ensure an interesting season. As we continue to see, they have plenty of talent to do that. To make this an interesting season.
Memories, memories, memories ....
This little tidbit is provided by Kings backup beat writer Melody Gutierrez: While chatting with Mikki Moore before the game, with a previous Kings-Pistons meeting on the television in the background, the one-time Pistons forward chuckled when Detroit coach Michael Curry's image flashed on the screen. "That let me know it's about time to retire and enjoy my money," Moore said jokingly. "He was actually my veteran. He helped me get through my stuff just like try to help J.T. (Thompson), Donte (Greene) and Bobby Brown. It's good to see he got the job. He worked very hard." Asked whether he envisions a similar career path, Moore shook his head. Yes and no. He envisions himself coaching, but is more intrigued with junior college, high school or the NBA Development League.