Ben Howland probably expects the worst anyway, but when contacted Thursday afternoon and asked about his point guard, Jrue Holiday, who earlier in the day had worked out for the Kings, the UCLA coach was caught by surprise. And he didn't sound very excited. While Holiday cited Howland among those advising him about whether to stay in the 2009 NBA Draft or return to college for his sophomore season, Howland knew the one-time prep sensation had spent the previous few days in Florida, but said he had no clue about any audition with the Kings. Holiday, who is moving up on draft boards, is expected to work out in Phoenix early next week. Howland went on to to speak glowingly of his freshman, both as a player and an individual. But, no, he won't be stunned if his talented playmaker turns pro. "Jrue and his family will look at everything and make the right decision," said the coach, adding that "both his parents are coaches."
Ricky Rubio Can Just Say "No"
I am continuing to hear confirmation of the news - first reported by DraftExpress - that Ricky Rubio has no interest in playing for Memphis or Oklahoma, the teams that will draft at Nos. 2 and 3, and that his agent, Dan Fegan, is trying to position the Spanish point guard in Los Angeles (1) or Sacramento (4). This could get very interesting. While there have been numerous examples of players discouraging teams from drafting them or forcing trades (Kobe Bryant, John Elway, Kiki Vandeweghe and Eli Manning, among others), Rubio has unusual leverage because he has to buy out the final two years of his contract with DKV Joventut before he can play in the league. The NBA team wanting to draft him can only contribute $500,000 toward the buyout, which means the youngster has to produce an amount estimated at $7-$10 millon, depending on the exchange rate.
Not that the Kings are strangers to extricating their first-round draft choices from sticky situations, by the way. The club's attorneys helped Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu gain their releases from their respective teams in Greece and Turkey.
A Final Word on the Kenyon Martin/Joe Maloof Spat
Watching the Denver Nuggets' victory over the Lakers earlier tonight reminded me that I have neglected to mention that Joe Maloof and Kenyon Martin are buddies again. Or, at least, that they're no longer publicly spewing venom toward one another. For those who might have forgotten, Martin tagged Spencer Hawes with a nasty forearm to the chest during the Kings-Nuggets game during the final week of the season. Hawes crumpled to the floor, grabbed the knee that already has been subjected to arthroscopies and microfracture surgery, in serious discomfort. He flew home the following day for tests, but before results of the MRI were revealed - nothing broken, nothing torn - the Kings' co-owner blasted Martin, calling his act "thuggery" and urging the NBA to take stronger measures against players who commit hard fouls on opponents who are airborne. Martin ripped right back, saying among other things, that he had no intention of apologizing to the Kings or their owners, and that Joe Maloof should be more concerned with his 17-win team.
"What I didn't know," Maloof said the other day, "until I talked to Spencer later, was that Kenyon apologized to him after the game. I had no idea. When I popped off ... I was just worried, and I reacted. And Kenyon was right. I do (laugh) have more important things to worry about."
Before Mark Cuban got into his own tiff with the rugged Nuggets forward during the Denver-Dallas playoff series - that thug word again - Maloof said he had Kings publicist Troy Hansen relay his apology via the Nuggets. "I want to personally apologize," said Maloof, "and we're planning to talk after the playoffs. I don't want to be a distraction." And you just know Maloof was delighted with Martin's crucial late-game contributions in Game 2 against the Lakers ....