Near the end of my conversation with Joe Maloof yesterday at the Palms for the lengthy Q&A in today's editions of the Bee, I asked what he thought about Geoff Petrie's suggestion that the Kings would benefit at some point from purchasing the Reno Bighorns, their affilate in the NBA Development League. Joe completely agreed. Speaking, of course, of a future investment - the Kings co-owners already have enough financial issues with the Monarchs and Kings, and an outdated arena - he embraced the concept of a developmental league as a vehicle to oversee the progress of, say, a Donte Greene. "Yes, yes," he said, adamantly. "we would look at buying them. I've seen what it's done for Donte. He's been up and down there, but he's getting training, teaching, an opportunity to get big minutes. I think all the young players - and you know what I love about Donte Greene? I love the way he accepted going down there for five games. He wasn't like, 'I'm better than the D-League.' He's 20-years-old. He's smart enough to realize, 'Hey, I've got to work at this if I want to do well, if I want a career.' And he has that attitude. I'm really proud of him saying 'I want to go down,' instead of throwing a tantrum and acting like he's too good.' So I told Gavin, 'I love his attitude.' And that's the D-League. So, yes, I like it a lot. I think it would be very good for us to have complete control over them (Bighorns) at some point."
More Maloof musings ...
After catching up with Joe in the coffee shop - pun intended - and immediately noting his physical discomfort even four months after his double knee replacement surgery (and subsequent stroke), I understand where he's coming from when he says he should have listened to the people who had advised him to take it one knee at a time. Actually, I was pretty shocked at his condition. He isn't as gaunt as he was when he made an early-season trip to Sac, but he still seems pretty miserable. He continually stretched his legs and rubbed his knees, grimacing. When I asked how much pain he was experiencing, he shrugged and said the knees stiffen up, and he tries to keep them as loose as possible.
A few minutes later, when we were making the short walk to the hotel exit, he had to stop and momentarily sit down at a slot machine. He massaged his knees, and then we continued.
Overall, though, I was surprised at his good spirits and his candor. It had been years since I had spent that much time with Joe, just sitting and talking, asking questions and getting answers, without his friends or handlers hanging around and interfering. It reminded me of when his family first bought the Kings and he and Gavin still had that immensely charming "aw shucks," small-town air. On Sunday, seated in a quiet booth in the back, he was funny, pensive, and even nostalgic for the days when the Kings were the toast of Sacramento and he and Gavin were beloved and competed with our celebrity governor for the headlines. To his credit, he also laughed and acknowledged his public relations and personnel gaffes, refused to apologize for being passionate and involved, and said he finally understood that pro sports owners of losing teams invariably catch the wrath of the fans. He reminded me of the old Joe, before the fans and we media types ruined him!.
Thoughts of Larry Miller
Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller has long been one of my favorites. We completely disagree on politics and other matters, but I always appreciated the fact that he respects the opinions of others, bought the Utah Jazz when the franchise was in jeopardy of being relocated, and I particularly enjoyed his quirky, small-town, if intrusive personna. Who else - and where else - could someone get away with this:? Until his illnesses of the last few years, he frequented his own stall alongside the players in the locker room, retrieved shots for his players during warmups, and participated in the huddle during introductions. I lways thought it was so quaint, and so unique. Maybe it's a chic thing. Larry is always quick with the quotes, too. He can shoot his mouth off with the best of them, often much to his regret. But you have to love his passion, his loyalty to the Jazz and his community. Quite the character. Here's hoping for a full recovery.