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

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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.

Report: John Paxson to remain in power with Bulls

Bulls executive John Paxson
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The Bulls are reportedly looking for a general manager to replace Gar Forman.

But the other half of GarPax – Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson – apparently isn’t going anywhere. And of course neither is president/CEO Michael Reinsdorf, son of owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

A source familiar with the situation told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that there could be multiple people hired, as the power structure is still being determined.

Paxson and Reinsdorf are still running the show, with Paxson still considered to have a valuable seat at the table no matter what title they come up for him.

Even if it appears that Paxson will be taking a background approach, the source said don’t believe it. The Reinsdorfs still have 100 percent faith in him leading the direction of this organization.

Evaluating individual members of a front office can be extremely difficult from the outside.

But Paxson didn’t cover himself in glory when he effectively declared the Bulls, after going 27-55 in 2017-18, were done tanking. Chicago went 22-60 last season and is 19-36 this season.

The Bulls need an honest assessment of where they are. They’re not good and probably not that close to being good. They have a few interesting young players – Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. But even with a high pick in this year’s draft, Chicago’s young core isn’t strong enough to assume it will rise into a quality team.

Though Paxson has supported Jim Boylen, the Bulls could probably use a new coach.

More importantly, they must understand that remaining at the bottom and securing more high picks is their best path forward. Drafting well would accelerate the process, but drafting is hard. Sometimes, you need more bites at the apple.

Of course, that will require a patience Chicago has rarely shown.

Knicks’ former player, G-League GM Allan Houston could get promotion

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There was a time when former Knicks All-Star player Allan Houston was seen as the rising front office star of the team. Since then, he has risen to assistant GM (before the Phil Jackson era), survived multiple management changes, and bounced around to different roles, most recently as the GM of the G-League Westchester Knicks.

Now he could be seeing a promotion under soon-to-arrive team president Leon Rose, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

As Leon Rose prepares for his imminent takeover, Garden constant Allan Houston has emerged as a candidate for a front office promotion, a league source told the Daily News…

According to a source, Craig Robinson, the current Knicks’ vice president of player development, has already had his responsibilities cut. Robinson, who is Michelle Obama’s brother, was hired by his Princeton buddy Steve Mills to oversee a comprehensive player development initiative…

The future of GM Scott Perry is unknown but it’s worth noting he has a strong relationship with Rose’s confidante, William Wesley.

Nobody knows exactly what the Knicks front office will look like after Rose officially takes the reins (he is still finishing up commitments to his CAA clients before coming over). We know William “World Wide Wes” Wesley will not have a role with the team, staying with CAA, but he will likely still have Rose’s ear. There will be a host of changes.

A deep house cleaning is in order in New York as the Knicks need to change their culture, not just their players. There is a lot of work to be done to develop players and build a foundation that will attract star players — right now the Knicks are not that kind of draw.  Houston apparently is going to get a chance to be part of whatever is next.

Steve Kerr says Stephen Curry will play this season once healthy

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“What’s the point? The Warriors have 12 wins, the worst record in the NBA, and are not sniffing the playoffs this season, so why bring Stephen Curry back this season at all? Why risk the injury? Why not tank?”

Steve Kerr has no use for that attitude.

Curry started practicing with the Warriors again on Wednesday. He will be re-evaluated the first week of March and could return to play soon after — and Kerr wants that. He wants Andrew Wiggins to get used to playing with Curry. Kerr defended the idea at Warriors practice on Wednesday (quotes via Monte Poole at NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It’s important for Steph and Andrew to get to know each other and to play together,” coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday night after practice at Chase Center. “It’s important for Steph to play without all of the guys we’ve lost who are not going to be back next year: Kevin (Durant) and Andre (Iguodala) and Shaun (Livingston). Steph in many ways has depended on those guys as sort of a giant security blanket.

“For a guy who is so skilled and talented, this has still been a team effort over the years. And he’s been blessed with some of the smartest players and most talented players in the league…

“He’s perfectly healthy. If the point is he might get hurt, what’s the point of ever playing anybody? I guess the argument is we’re not making the playoffs. So, are we not trying to entertain our fans?”

Kerr wants to build some familiarity and some momentum heading into next season. They might win a few more games, but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not going to hurt the Warriors in terms of position. Beyond that, this is a down draft — in our podcast last week, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons — so Warriors fans may want to temper expectations about how much help this draft can provide.

Curry wants to play, he’s healthy, he should play. Load management has a role in the league, but this is not it.

Target score ending likely returns to All-Star Game next year

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It seemed obvious this is the direction the NBA would go after the most competitive All-Star Game in recent memory, after it generated an incredibly positive buzz. Now we have some confirmation.

A league executive told Zach Lowe of ESPN that yes, it’s highly likely the target score idea will be back next All-Star Game.

It is a “good assumption” the NBA will use a target score to end next season’s All-Star Game after experimenting with the concept for the first time Sunday, Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, told ESPN on Wednesday in New York…

“The intensity popped,” Spruell said. “The guys really bought in…”

If the NBA uses the target score at next season’s All Star Game, they may tinker with the rules so that the game cannot end on a free throw, Spruell said. They have already discussed taking points away from any team that commits a shooting foul on a potential winning shot instead of awarding free throws, Spruell said. They could also force that team to remove the player who committed the foul and replace him with someone else for a certain number of possessions, Spruell said.

If this were used in a regular-season NBA game, then essentially sending a player to the “penalty box” after a foul on a game-winning attempt would have some impact. In the All-Star Game, not so much. For example, if Kyle Lowry had been sent to the bench after fouling Anthony Davis, then Nick Nurse could have replaced him with Jimmy Butler or Trae Young or some other elite player. It’s not that damaging.

Removing points makes more sense.

While the Elam-style ending was a success in the All-Star Game (and next season they may bump the point total up from 24, even though it took 15 minutes of game time to play the quarter, because that is an outlier for the All-Star Game), it’s not coming to the NBA. Which means it’s not coming to the G-League either, Lowe was told. A discussion about Summer League doesn’t seem to be on the table, either.

Where could the target score ending pop up? If/when the NBA starts playing a mid-season tournament, Lowe was told — and those playoff games could be just 40 minutes. Also, the G-League showcase every December makes some sense, Lowe was told.

The target score ending was a huge hit in the All-Star Game, it only makes sense to bring it back. But for the NBA, it will remain more special occasion gimmick than a daily part of the league.