Kings (5-12) at Jazz (10-6)
Scoring: Kings 11th (99.3), Jazz 10th (99.4).
Shooting: Kings fourth (48.2 percent), Jazz third (48.4).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (104.8), Jazz 11th (95.9).
Shooting defense: Kings 29th (47.7 percent), Jazz tied for 16th (45.3).
Assists: Kings ninth (21.1), Jazz first (24.9).
The links: Jazz coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News.
The almanac: On this date in 1992, Cavaliers coach Lenny Wilkens was involved in his 2,500th regular-season or playoff game as a player or coach, joining Don Nelson at that plateau. On this date in 1992, Larry Brown of the Clippers recorded his 400th coaching victory.
"It's bad timing," the coach said. "Bad timing."
Not terribly critical, but not letting Miller off the hook either. Diplomatically critical. That probably translates into Theus being 100 percent bothered and not wanting to publicly bury one of his veterans on a night when Theus tore into players at halftime and then again after the Kings snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and handed the game to the Nets. Reggie could easily have said "Emotions are part of the game" or some such line, except that he was very on edge and not interested in giving Miller an out.
It may not even be about Miller specifically (then again: one-point lead in overtime against a bad team playing the second night of a back-to-back, taking a frustration tech rather than walking away, maybe it was all about him.) It may just be the latest example of a team lacking leadership.
A heartless start to the season that was so bad, it looked like April and a team playing out the schedule. Defenders not giving a foul near midcourt to stop a breakaway. The poor discipline of defenders leaving their feet against jump shooters. The worse discipline of defenders being told to stay up on a guy, don't allow a three-pointer, and then backing off and having their man hit a three-pointer. That was Bobby Jackson, one of the best vets, in a critical situation against the Nets. He later accepted blame for getting the proper instructions and not following them.
The Kings have precious few players who will get in the face of a teammate with the kind of accountability good teams need in the locker room. That was apparent again Wednesday and it's relevant again tonight, because help may be on the way with the possible return of Francisco Garcia.
Garcia is policeman No. 1. He will call out a teammate behind the scenes, one of the few who will metaphorically grab someone by the collar and make a point. But he has been out all season with a strained calf, and it's hard to have the same juice when you never play.
The first quote Sam Amick had from Theus in the story in the paper today that focused on Garcia's potential 2008-09 debut: "His competitiveness is something we need desperately. It's his attitude. He's one of the leaders on this team, a verbal, emotional leader."
The Kings have missed the mind-set as much as the talent, in other words.
Jackson is a leader. He's good with the accountability factor.
Miller will assert himself. He's vocal in huddles. But he doesn't do much calling out.
Kevin Martin is growing into the role. He said he wanted to be more of a leader this season, Theus said he expected Martin to be more of a leader, and everyone seems pleased with how that is developing. Martin's quiet personality does not lend itself to much collar grabbing, though. Playing hurt, as he did before finally being forced out by the ankle injury, is leadership. It sets a great example. But it's not much for the police work that is obviously needed.
Maybe Spencer Hawes, who plays with a chip on his shoulder, will grow into the role. Maybe not. Seeing where talent is leading is much easier than projecting a personality. But Hawes has the right attitude.
It only takes a few vets, but so far, one of those few for the Kings has yet to play (Garcia) and another (Martin) is new at asserting himself and has missed more games than he has made. The Garcia return that seems imminent will be a major help. Nothing, though, alters the fact that a roster filled with nice guys is not always such a good thing.