Kings Blog and Q&A

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

January 6, 2009
Opening tip: The end of the Spencer Hawes-Joakim Noah debate

Kings (8-27) at Bulls (14-20)

Scoring: Kings 21st (96.2), Bulls 11th (99.5).
Shooting: Kings tied for 21st (44.3 percent), Bulls 23rd (44.2).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (105.4), Bulls 26th (103.3).
Shooting defense: Kings 28th (47.6 percent), Bulls tied for 19th (45.6).
Rebound differential: Kings 27th (minus-3.5), Bulls 24th (minus-2.1).

The links: Bulls coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Daily Herald.
The almanac: On this date in 1951, the Indianapolis Olympians defeated the Rochester Royals 75-73 in six overtimes, the longest game in history. On this date in 1991, the Trail Blazers recorded their 600th consecutive home sellout at Memorial Coliseum. On this date in 1995, Lenny Wilkens of the Hawks passed Red Auerbach for No. 1 on the career coaching win list. Wilkens puffed on a victory cigar in postgame tribute to Auerbach.


The timing is obviously very bad. Spencer Hawes missed the last four games because of a strained abdominal muscle and before that got pulled from the starting lineup, so praise is an awkward fit.

But Sacramento plays Chicago tonight and the Bulls drafted Joakim Noah at No. 9 in 2007 after considering Hawes and the Kings drafted Hawes at No. 10 after considering Noah -- and wow.

Talk about a reality check of how things could be so much worse. Not quite a season and a half into a career is no place to make a conclusion, but Hawes is 1,000 times more skilled on offense, as expected, and 100 times more mature, and if anything the numbers are on the conservative side.

Noah is a major knucklehead and Hawes is a hard worker with a passion to play and on an obvious uptick this season. That's been clear even in the muck of shooting 33.9 percent and averaging nine points per game in December as the job of starting power forward eventually was returned to Mikki Moore -- Hawes also averaged 7.4 rebounds the same month and held his place near the top 10 in blocks.

The backslide on offense is a slump. Slumps happen to everyone and they especially happen to 20-year-olds in their second season. His offense will be fine. But the 7.4 pushed Hawes' season-long rebounding average to 7.2 boards in 28.8 minutes and that translates to 8.8 per game with starter's minutes of 35 an outing.

A little less than nine rebounds a game is not stellar for a No. 1 center, his eventual role as Brad Miller's successor, or power forward. But it's good -- 15th in the league at the moment -- and very good for someone who was supposed to be years away from being able to handle himself in the mosh pit. And that's from a guy who missed much of his rookie campaign with a knee injury and would be a college junior.

(The Kings have fact-based hope that their center will be in the top 15 in the league in blocks and rebounds by his third season, with passing skills and a court IQ that already surpass a lot of veterans, and fans are turning on him?)

Noah, meanwhile, has been mouthy and unfocused and generally tripping over himself at every stage.

His numbers: 32 games, 11 starts, 18.2 minutes, 49.1 percent from the field, 4.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.28 blocks, 0.9 assists.

Hawes' numbers: 31 games, 18 starts, 28.8 minutes, 43.6 percent from the field, 11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.74 blocks, 1.5 assists.

It's easy to see in retrospect why a lot of teams liked Noah heading into the draft and the Kings in particular: energy guy, potential difference maker on defense, offensively a zero but will win games with blocks and stops and hustle. The opponent's best big? That's Noah's man to keep off the scoreboard and the glass.

In that setting, he is exactly what the Kings need and why it would have been interesting to see what they would have done if the Bulls drafted someone else at 9 and Noah was on the board at 10. Sacramento desperately needs defenders and desperately needs energy, and there you have the perfect complementary piece to go with the offense the Kings thought was in place.

Here on Earth, though, Noah has been more headache than contributor and hasn't been able to stay on the court for Scott Skiles, 56-game interim replacement coach Jim Boylan or Vinny Del Negro. Three coaches and the same problems -- it's not the coach.

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