Mitch Richmond: Teammate’s greeting with Kings was ‘Welcome to hell’

Kings guard Mitch Richmond
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When the Kings hired George Karl in 2015, Rudy Gay reportedly greeted his new coach with, “Welcome to basketball hell.”

Apparently, there’s a deeper history of calling Sacramento hell.

In 1991, the Warriors traded Mitch Richmond to the Kings for Billy Owens, that year’s No. 3 pick. Richmond recalls meeting with Golden State general manager Don Nelson

Richmond on The Habershow:

I walked in, and the first thing I said to him, I said, “I know you traded me. But don’t tell me you traded me to Sacramento Kings.” And he said, “I traded you to Sacramento Kings.” And I said, “Thank you. I really appreciate it.” And I turned around. And that was one of the worst days of my life, really.

Richmond wasn’t despondent only because he had to join the Kings. This deal broke up Run TMC – the Warriors’ high-octane trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. Those three reflected more on their time together on The Habershow. I highly recommend listening to it.

But Richmond also had reason to be leery of Sacramento. In six seasons since moving there, the Kings had a losing record every year.

Richmond:

It was unbelievable. I walk in, and the first thing I hear from one of the players, they go, “Welcome to hell.” And I’m like, “Aw, s—. Damn.” I’m like, “What? Oh my god.” So, I sit down. Now, I’m just sitting there. I have my clothes on and Spud Webb comes down sits right next to me.

Spud whispers to me and goes, “Man, I don’t wish this on nobody. But I’m glad you’re here with me.”

Coincidentally, Sacramento was playing at Golden State the next day. Richmond told the Kings he wasn’t prepared to play. Instead, he drove around Oakland. When he got home, he asked his wife the score of the game.

Richmond:

She wouldn’t even say anything. And I looked at it. We had lost by 61 points. I just started crying. I just started crying. I’m like, “Man, ain’t no way.”

I called my agent, and I – a young player, I didn’t even know the rules. And I called him, and I said, “Is there any way I can retire?”

I said, “Can I just retire and come somewhere else?” He said, “Ah, it doesn’t work that way.” And I was like, “Damn.” So, the story gets even worse.

So, the next morning – I just bought my house, and I already decided I’m not moving. I’m just going to drive up every day. You know what I mean? I’m just going to drive up. I’m just going to commute. Whatever. Why not? So, I drive up, and we’re supposed to have practice at like 10:30. I get there by like 9, trying to figure out, get there a little early. Walk in the locker room. No one is there. Ten o’clock comes. No one there. 10:30 comes. No one there. I’m still there. I stay there until noon. Randy Brown walks in, and I said, “Hey, what time practice?” He said, “Aw man, we’ve got two days off.” I said, “Two days offs? We just f—ing lost by 61.” Two days off – oh my god. I said, “Oh my god. Aw, aw.”

That year, I decided I wasn’t going to comb my hair. I wasn’t going to do anything. I didn’t comb my hair for the whole year.

Dick Motta was probably, it was the end of his career. He wasn’t really – it was crazy. We were only practicing like 30 minutes. And we sucked. I mean, we were so bad. And to be down at Sacrament and then, at that time, you see the newspaper. It’s all Golden State Warriors. I cried all that year. I mean, it was tough. It was really tough.

The Kings were awful. They actually lost that game to Golden State by 62. And it didn’t get much better. In Richmond’s seven years with the Kings, they had a losing record each season.

Maybe Motta was ahead of his time. Teams now deemphasize practice to promote rest. That loss to the Warriors was the second game of a back-to-back. When Jim Boylen called for a Bulls practice the day after a back-to-back last season, players nearly mutinied.

Of course, there’s a difference between deliberate load management and lazy habits. There’s little reason to believe the Kings knew what they were doing.

It hasn’t always been so bad in Sacramento. Eventually, the Kings traded Richmond for Chris Webber, who led Sacramento to some awesome seasons.

But the Kings went back to being horrid over a long, continuing period. Even now, they’ve lost six straight and just look dismal.

Some of it is isolated errors. Sacramento’s losing has transcended owners, coaches and players. But it also seems there’s a malaise ingrained within the culture. Richmond not cutting his hair is a telling example of the attitude. Buddy Hield called out the Kings’ reputation when agitating for a contract extension.

Several years after trading Billy Owens for Richmond, Sacramento traded for Owens to complement Richmond.

Richmond:

I kept the dream alive. I said, “I wouldn’t wish this on no one. But thank god you’re here with me.”

Just pass it down to the next guy.

Bulls extended coach Billy Donovan before season started

Denver Nuggets v Chicago Bulls
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Bulls’ fans are not thrilled with a 9-11 team sitting 11th in the East, outside the play-in.

Bulls’ management is not either, but they aren’t laying the blame at the feet of coach Billy Donovan — in fact, they extended him just before the season began, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic and since confirmed by Bulls’ media relations staff to K.C. Johnson NBC Sports Chicago.

Why the extension? Because Donovan and head of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas have a tight relationship, Johnson writes.

Karnišovas’ continued belief in Donovan centers on Donovan’s leadership and communication skills. The two men talk virtually daily and there’s never any misunderstanding in their shared, direct conversation — even when the subject matter becomes difficult.

And not everything has been or continues to be smooth sailing for the Bulls, who have played without Lonzo Ball since January and are off to a 9-11 start in a season with modest outside expectations.

No details about the length of the extension were made public.

This is a decision about stability. Donovan is a solid coach and the front office trusts him. That’s enough to get some extra years on your deal in Chicago.

The Bulls’ issues are not because of Donovan, it’s more a roster that has a “playoff team but not much more” ceiling — a ceiling that is lower this season due to injuries forcing constantly shifting rotations. The Bulls are especially hamstrung without the defense and transition play of Lonzo Ball (still out after another knee surgery). Chicago has defended well this season without Ball (10th in the league), but the offense is bottom 10 and misses the easy buckets Ball helps get with his passing and transition (plus he can knock down some 3s). Donovan has done a respectable job with the players he has.

That is good enough in Chicago to get a few more years.

Three things to know: Luka Doncic looks like an MVP, but can he keep this up?

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Luka Doncic looks like an MVP, but can he keep this up?

Luka Doncic vs. Stephen Curry.

The schedule makers gave us a showdown of early-season MVP candidates but also two guys who have had to carry a massive load this season, waiting for their teams to come together around them. Curry has gotten more of that lately as Klay Thompson has started to find his legs and some rotation shifts have improved play off the bench.

Luka is still on a Brunson-sized island waiting for help. Tuesday night that island got smaller when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of the Warriors’ Jordan Poole.

That just meant more Doncic, and he reminded everyone why nobody wants to play the Mavericks in the playoffs with a 41-point triple-double (12 rebounds, 12 assists).

Doncic was a force of nature, although Curry had his chance in the final 10 seconds but got called for traveling (a call the Warriors disputed).

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas, but this was the Luka Doncic show.

Doncic has been asked to carry a massive load for Dallas this season. He has a usage rate of 38 through the first quarter of the season, a number that would rank in the top-10 all time (right around 1987 Michael Jordan and 2006 Kobe Bryant).

How long can Doncic do this without starting to wear down? Without risking injury? Sure those other players like Jordan and Kobe got through the entire season, but they also didn’t make the kind of playoff runs Dallas is hoping for. Coming off EuroBasket, Doncic entered this season in the best shape he has ever been in to tip-off an NBA campaign, but there have already been stretches where he has started to look worn down. Then there are nights like Tuesday when he carries the Mavericks to a win and looks unstoppable.

Doncic is young, but asking him to carry this load also puts a ceiling on how good this team can be. Curry is getting that help. Giannis Antetokounmpo is also putting up historic usage percentage numbers this season, but Khris Middleton will return to the Bucks and take on some of that load. The Mavericks touted Christian Wood as an answer, but he is coming off the bench and his defense does not have him in Jason Kidd’s good graces. It’s a one-man show more than ever in Dallas.

If the Mavs want to win in the postseason, it can’t just be the Luka show. But during the regular season, some nights that is enough. At least until he wears down.

2) Damian Lillard to return Sunday, not soon enough for Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers miss Damian Lillard (calf strain, his second this season) — they are 1-4 in the current five-game stretch without him, playing their worst defense of the season. The latest of those losses — a come-from-ahead loss to a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard or Paul George — was maybe the team’s worst loss of the season. Anfernee Simons put up 37, the Trail Blazers led by 18 in the second half, and yet they collapsed against a team whose best offensive weapon was Nicholas Batum (32 points).

The good news for the Blazers is Lillard is due back on Sunday, reports Chris Haynes of TNT.

If you didn’t watch the late game on TNT, you missed a battle of two teams trying to keep their heads above water while their star (or stars) sit out injured.

Portland is still 11-10 on the season but has struggled this past week. What was ugly about Tuesday’s loss was the team just let go of the rope. This was a winnable game, but when it got tight they let go.

Powell scored 22 points in the fourth quarter and took over to get the 13-9 Clippers another win.

Los Angeles has done it against a soft schedule, but they keep finding ways to win until their stars return. Nobody is sure how good this team ultimately can be, but Tyronn Lue has got his squad defending and finding ways to win until everyone does get right. It’s an impressive coaching job.

3) Karl-Anthony Towns out weeks with calf strain (likely more than a month)

The MRI is in and Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports Towns likely will miss 4-6 weeks.

Not good, but it looked a lot worse when it happened.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his stats are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

The Timberwolves are not off to the start they thought they would be, and if they don’t figure out a way to win without Towns the next month this season could get sideways on them.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavericks still win behind Doncic’s 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).