Sunday, December 21, 2008

At Center Court with Tom Ziller

Recently, Graydon and I were commiserating by email in wake of the New Orleans loss. In a sleep-drunk haze, I channeled the spirit of random adolescent absurdity by asking, "Who would win in bar fight: Henry Abbott or J.E. Skeets?"

Graydon, kind soul that he is, was nice enough to play along.

His initial reaction was to award points to Abbot, whose cleanly shaven head suggests an inherent ability to withstand punishment. For me, Henry's IMG footage displayed the heart of a manic warrior-child. Think Tyler Durden. Think Jack Bauer.

Still, Skeets has an impossible to discredit Steve-Nash-with-a-bloody-nose feistyness to him. Confusing matters further, Graydon couldn't divorce the hypothetical from its context: a bar. Skeets is resourceful. Look how much play he gets from his first two initials. J period. E period. How's that for milking it? Who knows that he wouldn't go all Jason Bourne and fashion a how to cocktail guide into a fearsome weapon? We were stuck.

As I counted the sheep of the inaugural hoop bloggers PPV event, my little typing machine beeped. Graydon's final thought: What about Ziller?

The mighty Tom Ziller. Tom Ziller, whose Sactown Royalty is the flagship of excellence for team-specific basketball blogs. Tom Ziller, whose league-wide musings have made Fanhouse a must-stop destination for hoopophiles everywhere. Tom Ziller, who kindly stops by 48 Minutes to answer a few random Kings questions in advance of tonight's game.

TV: In comparison to Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt has a greater sense of professionalism and vision. Is Natt more than an interim option? Is he simply a placeholder for next season's retread?
TZ: It's been made pretty clear the team will let Natt run out the season. He certainly has an opportunity to win consideration for the job. The conventional wisdom holds that the front office wants a more offensive-minded boss with a track record of success as a head coach. But at the same time, Natt is established as a good assistant coach and if he can show he's reached the players and understands what it will take for the team to succeed, I think he'll be a candidate for the job. (It doesn't hurt that he'll likely be cheaper than [Flip] Saunders.)
TV: The Kings have a difficult-to-shape roster. Kevin Martin, Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes are, or project to be, legitimate NBA starters. The jury is out on Donte Greene and Bobby Brown, but each shows promise. Beno Udrih, John Salmons, and Francisco Garcia are rotation-quality players, but Petrie has no reason to treat them as sacrosanct--they join the rest of the roster as possible "we're glad to know ya, but had to move you" guys. In your estimation, where does Geoff Petrie go from here?
TZ: I think Brad Miller is clearly the first domino to fall, with Mikki Moore close behind. Hawes' arrival has tightened up the big man rotation, and Thompson has shown he can be a legit NBA player. The point guard situation is worrisome -- the ink on Beno's contract isn't even dry and almost every fan is drooling over Rubio and Jennings. Salmons is an interesting case. Conventional wisdom holds that he's a bit too old to fit in Sacramento's long-term future (he is 29) and just not as good as the Kings need for a swingman starter. But his contract is fantastic, and Greene isn't ready to be a full-time starter. I think the Kings will hold onto him until there's an easy replacement, either by trade or ascension. (Also, I think the team feels more comfortable with both Martin and Garcia at the two, although both have played quite a bit three.)
TV: Maloof meddling aside, Geoff Petrie is a good GM. Occasionally, however, he pulls a head scratcher. For example, I can't get my mind around Beno Udrih's contract. The Spurs gave him away for an imaginary draft pick. He has his moments, but mid-level money? Really?
TZ: You have to understand the situation: the Kings had no other point guards on the roster, except second-round draft pick Sean Singletary. Basically, it was Udrih or Chris Duhon. Udrih played well last season and showed sparks of brilliance in a few games (including a home match against the Spurs). The Kings weren't going to get Udrih for less than the full mid-level. Obviously, Sacramento would have preferred to be able to negotiate with Udrih some, but there really wasn't any other option. I think if the Kings would have landed Russell Westbrook or Jerryd Bayless in the draft, they might have called Udrih's bluff. But that didn't happen.
TV: What things do you look for in games the Kings should lose?
TZ: There are three players we watch incessantly: Hawes, Thompson, Greene. For Hawes, we're looking at rebounding, defense and shot selection. With Thompson, it's defense and his offensive moves. Greene ... I could watch him core an apple. He's an absolute joy.
Stop by Sactown Royalty for the latest in Kings punditry, including some thought-provoking back and forth on Gerald Wallace's possible return to Sacramento.

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