SALT LAKE CITY - Bobby Jackson played only 12 minutes. And if he wasn't Bobby Jackson, any beat writer in his right mind would wander right past his locker on a night like this.
After all, plenty of others played a far bigger role in the 120-94 drubbing from Utah on Friday night. But he is Jackson, which means he's sure to be candid and insightful and a fairly decent barometer for the locker room at large. So we talked.
The Kings guard had his voice heard in the game story when he disagreed with coach Reggie Theus' opinion on a lack of leadership, but there were some other interesting thoughts that didn't make it in the paper as well. Namely, the veteran said he's grown tired of hearing the team's various injuries being used as an excuse for poor play.
"Everybody uses the excuse, 'We ain't healthy, we ain't full strength,' but what's healthy got to do with effort?" Jackson began as he got dressed. "What's healthy got to do with playing defense? We shoot the ball, and everybody wants to ... shoot it and not get back on defense. Nobody wants to take a foul and everybody wants to take a jump shot. It ain't about leadership. It's about effort and having pride in yourself as an individual and as a basketball player."
There wasn't much for the Kings to be proud of in the second half. And suddenly, the bigger picture is changing again. For as much credit has been heaped upon this team when it has been valiant in defeat, the numbers game is starting to catch up here and threaten to change the outlook.
Eight losses in nine games is what it is, a streak bad enough to put them 5 1/2 games back from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Regardless of whether the organization's aspirations to compete for a postseason spot were realistic, the fact remains it was a stated goal.
Now? Take a peek at that schedule and tell me where you're putting any part of your paycheck on a win. Saturday night it's Dallas, with the Mavs having lost to the Lakers on Friday after five straight wins and the Kings in danger of losing six straight at home for the first time since late in the 1997-98 season.Then it's a rematch with the Jazz (home), Denver (home, won nine of 12), Lakers (home, and fairly hard to beat), Lakers (away, and thus even harder to beat), quasi-respites against the Knicks and Minnesota and then four straight road games in Portland, Houston, New Orleans and San Antonio. It keeps going from there, but you get the idea.
If there isn't even an outside chance at making that playoff push, everything changes. Theus' status and the way in which he's judged. The futures of Brad Miller and Mikki Moore, both of whom are the next logical trade pieces and who become obstacles to the youth movement if the priorities are shifted heavily in favor of development over competing. It's changing quickly around Kingsland, and not for the better.
* Kevin Martin had yet another spirited workout before the Utah game and looked ready to roll by my untrained eye, but he's not expected to play Saturday. Tuesday against the Jazz is a real possibility.
* Kings swingman Francisco Garcia was a shell of himself in his return from a strained right calf, but no one could blame him. He missed two exhibition games and 17 regular-season contests, a span of 41 days. Needless to say, it will take him some time to get in shape.
"I'm gonna give it a go," he said before logging 12 mostly quiet minutes. "I didn't get to practice, so we'll see. I waited. I've been patient. But it's time to see how I am. I feel good."
I asked Garcia if it was safe to say he's out of shape.
"Of course, of course I'm out of shape," he said. "We'll see when I get tired how it feels." - Sam Amick