The issue of youth vs. vets resurfaced at Monday's practice and is examined in my piece in today's paper about Mikki Moore being taken out of the starting lineup.
But there were some interesting takes from all involved that I saved for the blog, from the views of coach Reggie Theus to Moore to Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes. We'll start with Hawes, who seems to have a pretty good feel for this situation.
"There's a fine line you've got to follow, especially with the situation we're in now where we're playing young vs. playing the vets," Hawes said. "It's not something you can figure out overnight. It takes time and going back and forth."
Now, it's state-the-obvious time as we take a peek at a few reasons no one should be surprised if the move toward youth continues even further...
* It's a tough sell to management to get so little production from your starting power forward, no matter how legitimate the discussion of Moore's intangible value.
According to 82games.com, the Kings rank 29th in the league in terms of scoring at the power forward spot. And while that includes all the Kings' power forwards, Thompson has played a large portion of his minutes at small forward and Hawes has done the same at center.
And then there's PER, the John Hollinger (via ESPN) stat that puts per-minute statistical production into one number (league average of 15). It's anti-Moore math by definition, since it in no way quantifies intangibles like setting good screens, being a solid help defender and a good energy and locker room guy.
But it is also an increasingly relevant gauge and hard to ignore when your starting power forward is ranked 59th among power forwards (10.80) while the guy you're putting in his position (Hawes) has a mark of 16.78 and is 16th among centers. As an aside, Thompson's PER is 15.78.
Until recently, Theus' argument about Moore and his impact on the defense was holding water because the team was far worse on that end without him in the four games Moore missed with his ankle injury. But allowing an average of 112.3 points in the last three games while falling to 28th in points per game allowed (105.4) and 29th in opponents' field-goal percentage (47.79) hasn't helped on that front.
And by the way, Mikki himself is well on his way to rolling his eyes at all these numbers by now. That's not a knock, just the candid truth from a guy who plays on feel.
"I'm not a big stat guy," he said on Monday. "Most of my stuff comes from playing defense and setting screens, getting guys open, offensive rebounds. That's about it. But you can't go out there and just keep losing, losing, losing and (be worried) about your stats."
* With the way Thompson played in the first couple of weeks this season, I doubt any of Theus' bosses would have minded if he were put in the starting lineup right then and there. Yet recently, he's gone from being a guy who averaged 27.4 minutes in his first 15 games to averaging 18 minutes in the last four games (albeit while battling serious foul trouble).
* In light of the roster, injuries, lack of defense, occasional lack of energy etc. and the way the first month went overall, Jim Mora should be a postgame guest speaker every so often just to chime in with his infamous rendition of "Playoffs?!" The more out of contention this team gets, the less justification Theus has to rely on the vets.
* Theus - and most of the NBA at large - is very high on Hawes' progression. And while the coach explained Hawes' lack of playing time Saturday against Dallas as connected to Hawes having "reverted" offensively by going to too many moves in the post and trying to do too much, he sung his praises before tipoff.
The discussion focused mostly on where Hawes was as a defender, with The Bee's Scott Howard-Cooper asking Theus about the relevance of Hawes' gaudy block statistics to the state of his real progression on that end. Hawes, for the record, entered Monday tied with Boston's Kendrick Perkins for second in the league in total blocks (37).
Theus on Hawes
"I think he's doing extremely well. I think he's gotten a lot better. I think even his fouls are a good thing to the point where those will eventually change for him if he keeps playing that way, if he stays aggressive, and if he gets a little bit better with his positioning. ... I think he's doing really well, but I think he's still got a ways to go to be a great team defender. Going after every shot has not only helped us as a team, but it has helped him in the way he's perceived now.
On how different he is defensively as compared to last season
"I think he's more aggressive. Last year, when he was over on weak side of balls, we showed him tape after tape after tape about (how he wasn't) going after blocked shots. And this year he's going after them. As I've said, too, I never thought Spence got to be 100 percent last year after his (knee) surgery.
"I've told Spence this, said 'You're in a good place playing-wise. Your consistency level is much better now than it ever has been since you've been in this league.'"
As for what some of the others are thinking, delve in ...
Moore on becoming a reserve (which he's done plenty before, if you consider he started seven times in the 303 games before his breakout season in New Jersey)
"Me and coach had a meeting this morning. He said it wasn't about me playing bad or anything like that, but he said he'd rather have my energy coming off the bench. With us losing, he wanted some new blood in the starting lineup but he said it's not (set) in stone.
"I'm not going to argue with coach. If that's what you think is going to work, I'll go with it. I'm not going to call my agent and (complain) about it. I'm going to let you do what you've got to do. I'll put myself to the side for the team. I'll come off the bench. If it stays like that, hopefully I'll get Sixth Man of the Year.
Moore on how his situation and Theus' aren't all that different
"He's just like me. I've got $6 million on the table. That's a big jump from ($6 million) to $2 million (which is what he's guaranteed if he's cut by June 20, 2009) and not knowing if you'll have a job. We're both on the hot seat, to tell you the truth. And I'm one of the vets on the squad. That's why I try to put a lot on my shoulders. I'm playing and my ankle's not 100 percent, but you know I've got to be out there. If you've noticed, I'm not dunking like I normally do because I can't get lift. But with me sitting on the sideline, I just can't help it." - Sam Amick