Sports

Kings' communication breakdown can easily be fixed

SACRAMENTO -- So much nonsense. Such wasted energy.

While the Sacramento Kings are playing their most entertaining basketball in many, many, many, many months, finally offering a flicker of a promising future, behind the scenes they're threatening to dissolve into a sniping, sniveling mess.

Remember last year? Who wants another last year?

That was all supposed to go away with Eric Musselman. Instead, too many of the Kings are behaving like so many brooding little boys.

The head coach continues to impress, while continuing to make rookie mistakes, often while reminiscing about the 1980s.

The club's image-conscious young star publicly says one thing about his return from a groin injury while his agent chimes in with another version that, in essence, accuses the coach of questioning the player's toughness and undermining the team's medical staff. The veteran point guard is disgruntled because he doesn't appreciate his coach's venting to the media either, but also because he anticipates being traded by the Feb. 21 deadline.

Meanwhile, the team president maintains his customary distance from his coach and his coach's missteps, with the season's most formidable challenge -- that of incorporating Kevin Martin, Mike Bibby and Ron Artest together into the lineup -- expected to present itself within days.

"Got any ideas?" Reggie Theus quipped before Saturday night's 111-105 loss to the visiting Indiana Pacers.

Well, since he asked, the Kings could probably start by speaking with one another instead of relaying messages through emissaries, agents, media members and assorted minions. And besides directing the dialogue, the almost painfully shy Geoff Petrie needs to be a more forceful and engaged leader, for obvious reasons. The last thing he wants is another season characterized by locker room discord, chronic coaching/player feuds, and a toxicity level that seeps onto the court and leads to another protracted offseason coaching search.

Petrie chose Theus.

Now coach him.

Theus, who had absolutely no NBA coaching experience before he was hired, and whose biggest mistake thus far remains his failure to hire a seasoned bench assistant the caliber of Tex Winter, Del Harris, Bill Bertka, etc., simply has too much potential to waste. The reformed actor/commentator has a terrific courtside demeanor, a quick mind and a knack for the fast recovery.

He started off badly by chiding Bibby about his shaky defense, but seemed to repair the relationship before the longtime Kings floor leader tore tendons in his right thumb. He imposed a cell phone ban and became among the biggest offenders, eventually relented so all parties could chat away. He embarrassed players by benching them immediately after mistakes, but after repeated stares and considerable grousing, began biting his lip and saving his impassioned scoldings for the locker room.

Here are a few more examples of the Theus potential that is commanding attention around the league: The defense is dramatically improved, the effort is consistent, a discernible (if still sloppy) style of play is developing. Additionally, for an organization in rebuilding mode and attempting to build a new arena for a franchise some of us have described as charismatically challenged, the personable, cooperative Theus has been an immense asset.

"Nobody is perfect," a somewhat subdued Theus acknowledged Saturday. "Everybody makes mistakes. The article today (in Saturday's Sacramento Bee), about minutes and doctor's stuff, it wasn't ... I just went to the players. I told Kevin to have his agent call me.

"We've been waiting for this problem to come back. At some time or another, you have to let the players and the game dictate what happens with that."

Asked whether he and Petrie discussed the changing rotation and the challenges ahead, Theus hedged.

"Nothing point blank," he said, "but Geoff is really good about that. If he thought there was a problem, he would talk to me. He has an open door policy."

Guys, it's really not that hard. Make the call.

  Comments