Kings Blog and Q&A

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

April 22, 2009
Kings town hall BBQ offers plenty to chew on

A couple quick programming notes...

1) It takes a few coherent thoughts or a couple facts worth sharing to make a blog post worthy, but I'm using Twitter to share the more random and less substantive insights, info etc. To sign up, go here.

2) Best of luck to Melody Gutierrez, a classy and comical colleague who has left the sports department to take over the education beat on our news side (yes, still at The Bee). She'll be fantastic over there just as she was over "here," but she will be missed.

The versatile Jason Jones will be contributing in that capacity from here on out, just as soon as he's done covering the NFL draft. He's coming from the Raiders beat, so there is certainly expertise when it comes to covering a struggling club.

***

So it was quite an interesting night at the Roseville Sports Center, where season-ticket holders were on hand to hear from the Kings' powers-that-be.

And while I discussed this event in the context of the Kenny Natt situation in Wednesday's paper, we'll springboard from there to provide some additional coverage for the blogosphere.

The story linked above is required reading, if only because I won't be providing any further context here. So in supplemental form, here we go...

1) The Eddie Jordan factor (and the only item not directly related to the event)

He is not the only candidate. But he is, as far as I know, the only candidate who has been asked about the expected Kings opening on television. He was on Washington Post Live on Tuesday.

Here's the video...

...as well as some of the comments I transcribed from the video.

The show's new host, former Wizards beat writer for the Post Ivan Carter, asked the former Wizards coach about the prospect of returning to the Kings after he was their head coach during the latter part of the 1996-97 season (going 6-9) and all of the 1997-98 campaign (27-55). Jordan joked that he certainly doesn't appear to be going back to the Wizards, as Washington is reportedly planning on bringing Flip Saunders in for the position.

"That's one good thing about Flip going to the Wizards," Jordan joked with Carter. "I don't have to compete against him for some other jobs. I'm not going to compete against him for the Wizards (job), so Flip is out of the way as a competitor as far as getting another job. I haven't heard anything (about prospects), and it's disrespectful to even talk about other situations while guys are coaching."

Jordan was then asked specifically about the Kings' job that is so widely expected to become available and a possible return.

"You never know in the NBA," he said. "You just never know how things work. I haven't heard anything officially. I would think the teams that will make changes or will be looking for coaches are getting their work done now, their end-of-season work done now as far as exit interviews and evaluating their team and their staff. And I would think maybe some things would happen next week, not necessarily this week.
"You just never know. Some teams may wait halfway through the summer, (and) some teams may try to do something as soon as possible."

While I mentioned this in the story, it's worth repeating that the Kings have not reached out to candidates yet. That doesn't mean that a friend of a friend couldn't bounce an idea off a potential candidate, but people around the league who are part of this process and those in the know tell me that no efforts are yet being made by Kings representatives to begin the process. And, yes, that includes Ettore Messina.

2) Extra material from the BBQ

There was plenty of general material from the event that is worth sharing. So here we go...

A season-ticket holder asked if the Kings would consider having Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Doug Christie coach the team, at which point Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie revealed that Divac has had a standing offer for a coaching position for quite some time.

"(But) right now, his focus, his life is not on basketball, it's on trying to help people in his country," said Petrie of the former Kings center who lives in his native Serbia and is the government adviser on housing for refugees.

A season-ticket holder asked about the arena situation and whether building a new facility near Arco Arena or at the downtown railyards was off the table at this point, and was answered by Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof...

"They (the NBA, which is controlling the effort to get a new arena built) have really focused on Cal Expo," Maloof said. "It's ultimately going to come down to the developer, and he's going to be writing the checks and it's going to be between himself and the NBA. Our focus has been Cal Expo. We've spent close to $2 million in lawyers' fees, consultants, accountants. ... Will (the arena) go somewhere else (in Sacramento)? Who knows, but right now it's Cal Expo."

A season-ticket holder didn't have a question but rather a subtle statement. As PA announcer Scott Moak roamed the room taking questions written on small pieces of paper and reading them to the panel of Petrie, Maloof and team president John Thomas, he read the paper that said only, "Ike," as in Ike Diogu. Read here for context. Petrie answered in the context of whether the Kings will look to sign Diogu as a free agent when free agency begins in July.

"In the last two and a half, three games of the season, he played exceptionally well," Petrie began. "He scored the ball inside, rebounded. This is his fourth team in four years. He was drafted by Golden State, traded to Indiana, traded to Portland, and ended up here. Based on his play, he'd certainly have to be part of our ... discussion going into free agency.
"Because it's the fourth year of his contract, he can be made a restricted free agent. But in order to do that, you have to give what's called a qualifying offer, which is 125 percent of his current salary. If you do that, it gives you the right to match any other team's offer. That's the pro.
"The con of it is that because of where he was drafted, the qualifying offer is around $3.7 million. You not only have to evaluate the three games at the end of the season that he played, but you have to factor in some of where he has been before that. He's an interesting player. He scored the ball down in the paint, which is something we still need to get better at. We'll take a real hard look at it when we get there."

Petrie also indicated that the draft could play some part in Diogu's future, which obviously means that landing Blake Griffin means Diogu can expect to play for his fifth team in five seasons.

As a final anecdotal note, Gavin asked Petrie a question at one point about whether he agreed that the offense looked much better in the latter stages of the season. He then immediately praised the presence of Kings consultant Pete Carril and sparked one of the loudest cheers of the night from the group that is clearly on board with "Coachie."

3) Catching up with Gavin

Before the event, Gavin spoke with the media about the state of the team and the upcoming draft.

"There's a lot of talent in this draft," he said. "This could be a turning point for our franchise. We're extremely excited about it. I know the fans are. Better days are to come."

On how committed the organization is to rebuilding now...

"We're here to win, to spend the money to get the talent," Maloof continued. "We're not looking for midlevel (exception) guys. We're looking for greatness. That's what you have to get in this league. To really win a title, you need two great players and a very good player. That's what our goal is."

On who's next as Kings coach...

"Right now, we still have a coach, Kenny Natt, and we haven't had a chance to discuss it with Geoff. ... Right now, Kenny is our coach and we'll go from there."

On whether the delay on determining Kenny Natt's future was deliberate or circumstantial...

"It's kind of on Geoff's timetable. Geoff's been out of town. ... His daughter had a child. He's been out of town, preoccupied, and Joe (Maloof) is not here. He's still ailing a little bit with his knees. It's just a matter of trying to get together. Hopefully we'll see the situation (resolved) sooner (rather) than later."

Maloof, who mentioned that the organization's decision to discount season ticket prices marked the first time it had done so in 10 years, was affable and comfortable throughout. He jokingly said the Kings' new slogan is "Nowhere to go but up," then expressed optimism for the future.

"You've got to forget last year. It's history. We have to look forward, be positive about the prospects for this coming year."

Maloof also said that they are in discussions with Chris Webber's agent, Aaron Goodwin, to orchestrate Webber representing the team for the draft lottery in Secaucus, N.J., on May 19 when they find out whether they'll pick first, second, third or fourth. That idea was first pitched on the night of Webber's jersey retirement, and Maloof said he expects it to transpire.

Finally, he talked about the recent Board of Governor's meeting in which the discussion of a rules change took place as it pertains to video replays. The impetus was the Kings' loss to San Antonio on April 12 in which Michael Finley's three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left clearly came after the shot clock had expired.

Because league rules dictate that replays can occur only in end-of-game situations or to determine if a shot was a two-pointer or a three, the Spurs were gifted the win. Then with a huge smile on his face, Gavin laughed about the fact that the loss wound up moving the Kings from the 25th spot in the draft to No. 23 with the pick that they'll get from Houston (from the Ron Artest trade).

4) Catching up with Petrie

First of all, he had the line of the night by a long shot. While discussing the upcoming draft, Petrie - whose daughter just gave her dad his second grandchild over the weekend in Portland, Ore. - made a comparison that earned him big laughs.

"Having just had a grandchild, it's like your team right now is getting pregnant for next season," he quipped.

Otherwise, he talked in general terms about the draft (for those who missed it, Petrie talked much more extensively about the draft process in a recent interview we had). League executives aren't permitted to discuss individual players who are entering the draft, although newspaper columnists like Ailene Voisin are.

"Given the season we had, that's the reward at this point," he said of the draft. "We have some needs in some different areas, and I don't know that we're going to get all of them in one player anywhere. Depending on where we end up, if we end up with No. 1 we'll take who we think is the best player and go from there."

On whether there is a consensus No. 1 (Translation: You picking Blake Griffin, Geoff?)...

"There's a lot of draft information out there," he said. "And if you brought it all up, you could probably figure out if there's a consensus or not."

On the value of events such as these...

"It's a chance to be really open and discuss how things look at least in this moment in time," he said. "We're trying to communicate not just that, but how much we appreciate (the season-ticket holders') ongoing interest in the Kings and in the NBA." - Sam Amick



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