Keith Smart

Sale of Kings means needed front office, coaching changes


Whatever happened with the sale of the Kings, one thing was a lock — big front office changes and a coaching change were on the way.

Now that the deal is done and the Kings will be staying in Sacramento, don’t expect it to be long before you see changes — Geoff Petrie and Keith Smart out as coach. Everyone around the league knew they were lame ducks the second half of the season.

Sam Amick at the USA Today confirmed that, although he put it more kindly and suggested possible replacements (remember, new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is selling his minority interest in Golden State to buy the Kings).

If Kings coach Keith Smart is not retained as is expected, then Warriors assistant Michael Malone – a former assistant in Cleveland and New Orleans who sparked dramatic defensive improvement at each of his NBA stops and has interviewed for several head coaching vacancies – is expected to be a candidate.

Longtime Kings general manager Geoff Petrie is not expected to be retained either after the team’s 28-54 campaign, and one possible successor who would certainly bring name recognition was on hand on Thursday night. Warriors’ legend Chris Mullin, who called Game 6 as a television commentator for ESPN, was in the team’s front office from 2004 to 2009 and said he would be open to discussing the situation in Sacramento. He has met Ranadive several times but said they had not yet discussed the possibility.

Malone, along with Brian Shaw and Kelvin Sampson, is one of the hottest assistant coach names to move into the big chair. With the Warriors now out of the playoffs, look for him to have series of interviews, but he would be a good choice.

The Kings front office likely will become more advanced stats friendly, something we saw with the Warriors and in places such as Memphis. Almost all teams use them now, just to varying degrees, but look for the Kings to move up that curve.

There are some good pieces — DeMarcus Cousins, if you can get him focused, Isaiah Thomas, even Marcus Thornton — but there is a lot of work to be done. The team needed a new direction and energy, and they are about to get that.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
1 Comment

I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
Leave a comment

Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.