NEW ORLEANS 112, KINGS 105
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Although I had seen Andres Nocioni play in person on numerous occasions, both in the NBA and international competitions (Athens Olympics, Tournament of the Americas in Puerto Rico, World Championships in Indianapolis), I was really impressed with his overall game in his Arco Arena debut earlier this evening. I was reminded of how physically he and his Argentine countrymen Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola attack the game. And it's not as if they aren't skilled. Nocioni is just a basketball player. He can pass, shoot, run the floor, make plays, and defensively he gets into the body of his opponent. He is fun to watch.
Stop the whining, please
Jason Thompson's recurring foul trouble is becoming worrisome. Most worrisome is that he actually believes he's being victimized because he's a rookie. Undoubtedly there is some of that. (Against the Hornets, he was called for his third foul less than four minutes into the game). But I agree with Jerry Reynolds and Grant Napear - and I can't believe the words are actually spilling out of my laptop - that he needs a reality check. During the telecast Saturday night from Dallas, both announcers scolded Thompson for his constant overreaction to foul calls. And as Reynolds noted at halftime Monday night, the referees' calls are accurate the vast majority of the time. (That fourth quarter of Game 6 against the Lakers in 2002 was an aberration, believe me). Based on the replays I look at, he consistently is guilty of reaching, using both hands on an opponent's body (and not being very subtle about it), and continuing to draw attention to himself with his angry, frustrated gestures. The refs are human. Make them look foolish at your own risk. I asked Geoff Petrie the other night what was going on, whether he was troubled about the situation, and he said the matter had been raised with Thompson on a number of occasions.
Thompson has been and remains a real bright spot, but he is one stubborn young man. He doesn't know the league nearly as well as he thinks he does, a la Spencer Hawes a year ago.
Close to home
I caught up with Peja Stojakovic after the game, and was surprised to see his mother, Branka, and brother Nasha, among the large crowd of people chatting with him near the baseline seats. It turns out that Nasha, who underwent a life-saving kidney transplant during Peja's tenure with the Kings, got married, and stayed in town. Branka was visiting from Belgrade, and because of her improving English, we were certainly able to communicate better than in the past. On my trip to Greece in 1998, to watch Peja play his final games in the Greek League before signing with the Kings, his mother was so sweet. And I know this because ... while I was having lunch with the family at this gorgeous mountain top restaurant in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, she kept smiling broadly, patting my check, and saying, "Peja, good boy."
A final goodbye
Before the game, Kenny Natt, who worked as an assistant for the late Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller, said he was hoping to attend memorial services in Salt Lake City this weekend. As I wrote in my column in last Sunday's Bee, Miller was one of the league's enduring, endearing, if occasionally out of control characters. I could go on and on, but, I already did. What a loss for the league. One NBA executive told me the other day that Miller, who refused dialysis in his final days, and was aware of his impending death, called several of his league colleagues to say goodbye, among them NBA Commissioner David Stern. Just a guess, but the death of one of the league's exceptional and longest-tenured owners is going to hit Stern hard.
POSTGAME VIDEO (Courtesy of the Bee's Melody Gutierrez)
Kings forward Andres Nocioni talked about what kind of player he is following the Kings' 112-105 loss to the New Orleans Hornets tonight at Arco Arena.
Kevin Martin said the Kings are taking the necessary steps forward with a roster of new players. Martin set an Arco Arena record for most points in a quarter by totaling 24 points in the fourth period against the Hornets.