Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

December 12, 2008
A meeting of the minds and what it might mean

There just had to be more to the story. And considering I was the one chronicling the event as the Kings shocked the Lakers on Tuesday, that wasn't a good revelation to have.

Yet three days after the league's most downtrodden team had its way with one of the league's best, it appears I've found some clarity as to how energy, execution and pride returned for the Kings on that one night. And it clearly began in the small locker room inside the team's practice facility.

That's where the team had a meeting with players and coaches on Sunday afternoon, when complaints were lodged, grievances were aired and the question of whose job it is to motivate an unmotivated team was at the center of the discussion. Numerous veterans called on the coaches to have a greater impact, with John Salmons even telling a tale of his experience in Philadelphia with Larry Brown while voicing his opinion that it starts at the top. The coaches discussed the importance of veterans holding young players accountable, relaying lessons learned from the later stages of their playing careers. And while the meeting included plenty of negative moments, the end result and what it may have caused were undeniably positive.

"It was just about us asking each other, 'What are we, as men, going to do about this?' " point guard Beno Udrih said.

While the notion of team meetings and their potential impact is - in my opinion - an overused angle of sports media coverage, I will legitimize this one because it seems so sincere. It wasn't anything close to a rosy spin-job on the part of the coach, who offered no information about the meeting until asked and declined to talk in specifics because of the in-house nature of the session.

The only conclusion drawn by all involved was that this was a candid, no-holds-barred, no-feelings-spared discussion on dysfunction. And truth be told, even some of the players themselves weren't sure what it would lead to once they walked out of that room.

In attempting to quantify the worthiness this mini-event, I also considered frequency in the equation. This tactic is a rarity by all accounts, something that becomes contrived or pointless once it becomes routine.

"I think you can do it once, maybe twice, a year if you have a bad situation or a situation that's tough," Theus said.

While the background info about the meeting was found elsewhere, I leaned on Theus to discuss what it all meant and how it went down. I also matched his recollections with a few others to ensure that this was no PR stunt (I'm just a reporter not wanting to relay rhetoric doing his due diligence).

It was, quite obviously, only one meeting and only one game. But from a therapeutic sense, there is much to be said for the power of a clear mind. Going forward, as everyone in Kings Land likes to say, we'll see how much the collective couch session paid off.

Theus on the meeting

"We just had to clear the air about some things. When there's so much speculation, whether it be veterans, my guys, my (hot seat) situation - and my situation I think is a distraction also - it's important to clear the air and let them know so we're at least on the same page, that we understand.

"And that conversation goes full circle. It goes from OK to bad to OK again to bad to, now at the end, it's good. That's what you want to do in those types of situations. The thing we left the locker room with was that all this is great, but if you don't take that moment out on the floor with you, then we've just been wasting our time.

"I think it's an important moment for the team. My job, regardless of what happens, is to try to find a way to keep us together because that's what (Kings basketball president) Geoff (Petrie) wants and what (co-owners) Joe and Gavin (Maloof) want. They want us to stay together. What we talked about was, 'There is nothing that we can accomplish out on the floor together if we can't be together in that room.'

"To their credit, to the personalities and the intellect that's in that room, it's an easy group to talk to. When you do those things there's a lot of self-sacrifice and a lot of self-evaluation, and the maturity of saying, 'Well maybe I haven't been OK.' Maybe I've been doing something that's not cool. And that realization and togetherness, I think, helped keep the cohesion together on the team.

"Mostly everybody had something they had to say or they wanted to say. The thing that helped us a lot is that you have four coaches on this team that have been in that locker room (Theus, Chuck Person, Randy Brown, Kenny Natt). We all were able to shed light on our situation. Not light that somebody told you about or you read in a book, (but) these were personal situations that were very similar to what we are in.

"Randy talked about the end of his career. Chuck talked about his, and I talked about mine, and how it all works. (The vets mentoring and motivating the young players is) not the end of somebody's career, it's just so we keep focused on the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that we keep things moving forward, and that's all that matters." - Sam Amick



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