HOUSTON - The good news: Spencer Hawes isn't one-dimensional anymore. The bad news: Spencer Hawes' best dimension seems to have disappeared.
He is one of their core weapons. That much has been established in the big man's second season, which is good on the developmental front but not so rosy when it comes to the question of whether he can produce on a consistent basis. And while there were a number of other reasons the Kings fell at Houston on Friday night, Hawes' inability to find an offensive rhythm as he shot 3 of 13 overall and was 0 for 8 in the third quarter played a large part. It's been that way of late for Hawes, who has hit 35 of 102 shots (34.3 percent) in his last nine games. If there was a stat for persistence, he would have racked up those numbers, as he never hesitated to try to score inside no matter how many times Yao Ming wouldn't let him.
"I don't think I've been shooting well the last couple of games, but I think there are other parts of my game I try to focus on," he said before Friday's game. "In the past, if I wasn't scoring, I wasn't doing anything, because I let that impact all facets of my game. Now I realize that if my shots not falling, I can still contribute by blocking shots, setting guys up, rebounding and other areas."
To that end, he had nine rebounds and two blocks. He's still among the league leaders in total blocks, having entered the Rockets game tied for fourth with 49. And his defense continues to draw praise for how far it has come along. But while the Kings logged another loss in the 'valiant-effort' department, Hawes' off-night from the field revealed once again that they simply don't have enough weapons that can be counted every time out on to shoot actual bullets instead of blanks.
On this night, point guard Beno Udrih played his way into that category as well, hitting just 1 of 5 shots for two points in 27 minutes before leaving for good in the fourth quarter with a sore left hamstring (status unknown for tomorrow). So long as Kevin Martin remains out, Udrih's scoring is a must even more than it is for Hawes. Yet he has now scored a combined 10 points in the last three games.
THE JOYS OF REBUILDING
Kenny Natt warned you. The Kings interim coach talked about 10-man rotations and explained how they would be necessary on some nights to get all the relevant players floor time while trying to see who was hot and who was not and somehow manage to not lose a grip of the game in the process. The task itself, though, is tougher than reading that run-on sentence.
So in the latest outing, the Kings had worked mighty hard to be three points down with 2:26 left in the third. Except that Donte' Greene hadn't played yet. And well, Greene needs to play. And heck, John Salmons needs a breather at some point so the rookie comes in for a spell. And then he stays in the fourth quarter, when it's Bobby Brown, Bobby Jackson, Greene, Mikki Moore and Jason Thompson on the floor to start the period and the three players keeping you in the game (Udrih, Brad Miller and Francisco Garcia) aren't there to keep it close. Fast forward to the 10:55 mark of the fourth, and the three-point deficit has grown to 11 and it's getting out of hand quickly.
"Sometimes that happens with substitutions," Natt said afterward of the third quarter. "That's where we have to do a better job of keeping an eye on that. It kind of gave them a little momentum again. But again, we didn't fold. We came back and played hard. Those are the types of mistakes that we'll have to correct and try to get better...We have to keep an eye on it and make sure we don't lose momentum in the process."
ARTEST ON MARTIN
It's three reunions now between preseason and tonight and that means it's officially time to move on, but not without Ron Artest revealing which of his former Kings teammates he continues to keep in touch with and how he was inspired by Kevin Martin.
"Kevin always calls me," said Artest, the Houston small forward who was traded from Sacramento in August. "I call him every once in a while. Kevin's going to be a friend for life. Kevin helped me re-energize and rejuvenate my career."
How so, Ron?
"When he was there, he was always working hard," he continued. "When Reggie Miller left (Indiana when Artest played there), nobody really did the things that Reggie Miller did. I see a lot of Reggie Miller (in Martin). He's actually better than Reggie Miller, but the only thing Reggie had on him was he was a better team defender than Kevin." - Sam Amick