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HtOST: Ziller on Speed Racer, Salmons and the 'D' In Sacto

A Daily Babble Production: How the Other Side Thinks

There isn't much to be thrilled about for Sacramento Kings fans right about now.  Their team has the worst record in the Western Conference, it isn't playing well at either end of the floor, and the Kings are now in the midst of an interim coaching era.  But no matter how erratic the action on the floor, the Sacramento faithful still have a rock of consistency on these here Interwebs.  Sactown Royalty's Tom Ziller is as good as any in the blogging business.  I always enjoy catching up on his thoughts on site and talking hoops with him via e-mail.  Today, he chats with the Babble about the ups and many downs of a long season in Sacramento.

SW:  A long time ago, I said some really stupid things about Kevin Martin.  As we did with Third Quarter Collapse's Ben Q Rock regarding Jameer Nelson last week, you've got as much space as you want below for a good ol' "I'm not saying 'I told you so,' but hold on to your seats while I do exactly that."  What makes Speed Racer so effective, and how would you like to see his game develop in the years to come?

TZ: I told you so.

No, but seriously: He's just a smart scorer.  This season, his lingering bone bruise on his ankle has limited his effectiveness going to the hoop, but he remains one of the more creative scorers in the league.  He just takes good shots most of the time.  He has impeccable quickness, moves well off the ball, and he can actually fire the trigger rather quickly, given the funky wind-up.  He knows how to draw (and sell) fouls.  He's a better playmaker than he looks (Consider the level of finisher he is typically passing to).  He really needs to figure out how to stop traveling twice a game (it's a specific move on the perimeter that gets him), he needs to improve his reads on defense (though I'll note his lateral quickness has been destroyed by the ongoing ankle soreness) and he's not getting as many rebounds as he could (and has in the past).
SW:  It's hard to imagine this season has been too enjoyable for folks in Sacto.  The team is 10-36 overall, 26th in offensive efficiency and 30th in defensive efficiency and has already gone through a coaching change.  What's been the biggest problem so far?

TZ: There's no commitment to defense on a quarter-to-quarter basis.  No one is anchoring the defense; the best man defender (John Salmons) rarely helps (unless he's stabbing at a passing lane), and only Spencer Hawes has had any luck blocking shots.  The backcourt defense has been awful, and the frontcourt is a mix of old/unathletic (Brad Miller) and young/not savvy (Hawes and Jason Thompson).  The team has locked down some opponents for a span, but never for a full game.  The offense should get better soon, once Martin heals and Hawes figures it out (he's close). But the defense looks hopeless.

SW: Speaking of that coaching change, we've seen several across the league this season for any number of reasons.  Did Reggie Theus deserve the door early in his second season, or was he merely the victim of poor personnel and an injury to Kevin Martin?  How have things changed under Kenny Natt?  Who would you like to see as the coach for this team in the long term?

TZ: I would have been OK letting Theus ride out the season and in fact lobbied against change.  But it's fine.  He wasn't the long-term leader this club needs, precisely because he had a really hard time teaching/preaching defense and personal responsibility.  The roster is malleable enough that you need teachers and stern hands on the bench, and Theus was neither.  Kenny Natt actually provides a little of both, which has been good.  He seems a lot more open to outside help than Theus would have been; the franchise has been able to bring Pete Carril back to help (something Theus would not likely have been comfortable with), and Shareef Abdur-Rahim is spending every practice with Hawes and Thompson.  Natt could very well coach the team next season, and as of now I'm cool with it. Otherwise, someone who teaches and enforces team defense would be my wish.

SW: Talk to me about John Salmons.  Is this a guy destined to put up lofty stats for bad teams for his career, or is he the real deal?

TZ: Salmons is good.  He's the type of defender who can really guard a guy one-on-one (he shut down Michael Redd during a big fourth quarter a few weeks back) but isn't so helpful on team defense.  On offense, he dominates the ball a bit.  He can create on anyone any time ... but his style is anathema to a fluid motion offense.  Sadly, Brad Miller and Martin thrive in a fluid motion offense.  I think he can be a positive factor on a good team -- I think he'd be a great fit in Denver (over Dahntay Jones), Portland (Nicolas Batum) and San Antonio (Michael Finley), actually.

SW: Three positives to come out of the Kings' season so far?

TZ: Thompson, Hawes' shotblocking, and the return of Carril.

SW: -What is Geoff Petrie's long-term plan for this team?  What should it be?

TZ: Get cap space, trade for or sign a star, develop the youth.

SW: Time for the Babble staple, word association: just the first word, phrase or thought that comes to mind, please:

Brad Miller: Dip 'til I rip
Kevin Garnett: <<screams>>
ARCO Arena: echoes
Jason Thompson: beast
The Celtics' visit to Sacto: MEMORY REDACTED
Ron Artest: fiery.
Beno Udrih: ...
Kings fans: coping
Gavin and Joe Maloof: really f'n rich

SW: Score prediction for tonight's game?

TZ: 1,278-76.

Tom didn't clarify, but I'm going to go ahead and presume that he's leaning the green's way on this one, although there is always the chance that he's going with the super-optimist's perspective for the black and purple.  Thanks to TZ for joining us today, good luck to the Kings and their fans, and here's to a Celtics victory.

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