Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Opposing View - 2/6 vs. Sacramento

All season long, Sonics Beat will be consulting an expert on the opposing team as part our gameday preview. Today, we get two. Tom Ziller runs one of my daily NBA reads,, and Andrew Nicholson is the fine beat writer for Don't forget to check out the blog kept by Sam Amick, who covers the Kings for the Sacramento Bee.

Brad Miller has been on fire recently. What has been the key?
Ziller: Miller's been terrific all season, particularly the past few weeks. This string of big rebounding games has not, surprisingly, been a fluke - he got his 20/20 games against Emeka Okafor and Ben Wallace. He's been been working hard throughout the games, particularly in the fourth quarter, to establish position and go after caroms. It sounds simple ... but it's something Brad's lacked the the season-and-a-half. On offense, having Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin has clearly made a difference in terms of opening up the floor for him. When it was the Beno Udrih and John Salmons Show, Miller was much less involved. But he has a comfort zone with each of Martin and Bibby (separately and together as a trio) to make marvelous differences on offense.

Nicholson: Miller dedicated himself to eating healthy and a more stringent training regimen in the off-season, but he didn't stop there. Miller maintains a healthy diet, still works out daily and always hits the weight room on game days. When he was recently asked what else he has done besides 'eating better and working out?' Miller smiled and replied, 'You'd be surprised how much those things help.' The combination of the two has led to Miller playing with increased confidence. It's also helped that the Kings finally have a healthy starting five. I didn't want to regurgitate the story I just wrote on Miller this week, but for a more complete answer check out Miller's Seeing 20/20 on

True or false: Kevin Martin is the most underrated player in the NBA.
Ziller: I'll vote true every single time, even if it's false. Call me a homer. No, seriously: Objectively, Martin's got to be up there. He has the scoring credentials on a per-minute and per-game basis now to mentioned with the tip-top two-guards in the league, and he manages all those points with insane efficiency. He's threatening to go a third straight season with a True Shooting percentage over .600; the only guard whose done that in the last two decades is Reggie Miller. Martin's definitely the least well-known centerpiece in the league, I'll say that. His name is getting said more every day (typically the morning after he comes to your town), but few have a clue how good this kid is. (Oh, he just turned 25. He could score 30 a night within the next few years.)

Nicholson's Reply: True. Many basketball fans outside of the Sacramento region still don't know who the sharpshooting Kings guard is. But every scout and coaching staff around the league knows all about the Kings number 23. Had he not missed 17 games due to a strained right groin, Martin would very likely be in the Big Easy for the All-Star game. Despite that reality, Martin sees it as an opportunity to continue to study film, work on his game and grow as an all-around player. Or, as the reserved yet confident Martin has said, "I always want to develop and I don't even feel like I'm in my prime ... I feel like I'm getting there. I want to be a great player and that's what I'm going to work hard to do."

For the Kings to be threatening .500 despite the injuries they have suffered, what does that say about Reggie Theus' coaching job?
It says that Theus has been able to get the team to play hard and play together. More importantly, here is how Theus explained the team's success in spite of the adversity: "When I talk to guys about basketball, I think they read me, I think they understand," Theus said of motivating a blue-collar team. "We have a good communication line going and I think the trust is there for our staff. And they know for me, it's all about the game. But at the same time, it takes certain individuals to accept that. When these guys want to win, they want to listen. They want to do the right things. That's why we've been able to be successful. Everybody has done their part." For more on Theus' first-half of the season success in Sacramento please check out Theus Practicing What He Preaches on

Do you see the Kings making a move before the trade deadline?
Ziller: I think it's only a matter of time before Ron Artest gets moved. At this point, not even Reggie Theus would be discouraged by seeing Ron traded for spare parts (I think). The difference between Artest and John Salmons is evident, but Artest cannot be in the franchise's long-term plans and the swing position is the most well-stocked for the Kings. As for Mike Bibby ... that always seems to have more to do with the teams pursuing him than Geoff Petrie's own intentions. Which is to say I have no idea if he'll get traded. Watch for Mikki Moore and Miller as darkhorse trade candidates.

What don't we know but should about the Kings?
Ziller: The Kings are incredibly fun to watch, even (I'm told) for opposition fans. Martin is objective silk, Francisco Garcia would run through walls where none existed, Spencer Hawes is the second coming of Sam Perkins, Mikki has dunked on the capital city of every U.N.-recognized nation, Bibby can choreograph his 30-point explosions, and Miller/Salmons/Artest have hearts of lions. You saw about two minutes of it a few weeks ago; try to enjoy all 48 minutes of Sacramento's brand of barbarianism.

Nicholson: The Kings have one of the most talented benches in the league. A significant factor that made the Kings relatively successful in the wake of numerous injuries was the team's depth. John Salmons (15.1 points per game), Francisco Garcia (12.4 ppg) and Beno Udrih (12.6) could be starters for a number of NBA teams as they showed when the opportunity presented itself. Now they are the first three off the Kings bench. Following them are Seattle native Spencer Hawes, scoring combo guard Quincy Douby, athletic big man Justin Williams, defensive stopper (and a glue guy) Dahntay Jones and veteran Kenny Thomas.