SACRAMENTO -- Reggie Theus, once again, was faced with a dilemma, trying to win games and keep veterans content while attempting to develop his team's young talent.
And that, once again, meant Quincy Douby was stuck on the Kings' bench.
As the Kings' first-year coach gesticulated his way through Sunday's 120-107 victory over Seattle, the second-year guard leaned back in his chair most of the night. He finally entered late in the third quarter.
But Kings co-owner Joe Maloof doesn't want Douby or the other young players to wait anymore. In a wide-ranging phone interview in which he talked about this season and the future, Maloof sent a strong message to Theus: Play the young guns more, or put the organizational mission at risk.
"They've got to get their minutes; they've got to play," Maloof said. "If you don't develop your young guys when you have an opportunity to do it, it's going to come back to bite you in the future. Because now, you don't know whether or not they can play. That's what Reggie needs to find out. He needs to find a way to get these young guys in there. This isn't criticizing. It's just my opinion."
It still was a strong opinion, much of it regarding Douby and second-year forward Shelden Williams. Douby, drafted 19th overall in 2006, hasn't played much, largely because of Theus' desire to use a conventional point guard with more of a defensive mentality, 11-year veteran Anthony Johnson.
Yet even as the Kings spent March with no real playoff hopes, Douby played 10 minutes or less in 11 of the last 15 games, including one game in which he saw no action.
Sunday, Douby played four minutes and Williams seven. Kevin Martin's 31 points and a strong defense that held Seattle to 42 points in the second half led the Kings.
"We have a big investment in some of these young players when we signed them, and I want to know if they can play," Maloof said. "We think they can because we have a lot of confidence in Geoff Petrie and what he's been able to do in the draft. So I never count one of his players out. Never, never, never."
On the day when the Kings matched last season's victory total of 33, Maloof -- who raved about Hawes' development -- said he understands the desire of his first-year coach to win and "establish himself." Not, however, at the expense of the overall objective.
"We know what the vets can do," he said. "We know what Brad (Miller) can do. We know what Ron (Artest) can do, Mikki Moore. They've all been terrific -- (John) Salmons, all those guys. It's kind of a balancing act. You've got to try to get the young guys in there, and at the same time, he's trying to win. He's just doing the best he can right now."
Theus said the balancing act isn't easy, considering the challenge of keeping his veterans "engaged" and his locker room stable.
"I agree we have to play and develop our young guys, and I thought that's what I was doing," Theus said. "Spencer's minutes went up enormously. Let's not forget that we've got other young guys who have to continue to develop.
"It can't be about Quincy Douby. It can't be about Shelden Williams. I can totally understand Spencer's (minutes) going up immensely, which I've done. But it can't be about those guys. I want those guys to play, but it's very hard as a first-year coach ... when I'm judged on a lot of different levels, it's very hard to put guys in a game that's going well, and you put them in the game, and the game goes south. What am I supposed to do?
"It's a tough balance because I know the message from my bosses is we want to win and be in every game, and we want to develop our young guys. Sometimes, it's difficult to have both cut and dry."