We got a chance to talk with Bryan of A Royal Pain. He writes a tremendous Kings blog, so make sure you check it out. Also check out his other site, Kings Forum.
1. Looking at your draft review, I see you were one of the guys that wanted the Kings to select Ricky Rubio. Tell us what you do and don't like about what you got and if you'd still deal Kevin Martin for Rubio.
I think a lot of people were more shocked than upset at the selection of Tyreke Evans, including myself. I watched Evans at Memphis quite a bit and thought he'd be a really nice player in the league, but, I still think we made a mistake passing on Rubio. The way the Kings roster is built, guys like Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson, and Kevin Martin all need to be set up for shots and that's something Rubio could have done with ease. Despite what a lot of people are saying, I really don't view Evans as a point guard even with his great ball handling skills but his ability to break down defenders one on one is a welcome addition to a team that had no ability to do that. With all of that said, I would personally walk Kevin Martin to Minnesota in exchange for Rubio. With Rubio, Evans, Greene, Thompson, and Hawes the Kings would have one of if not the youngest team in the league with such promise.
2. From a cap standpoint, the Kings only have a guaranteed payroll of about $47 million. Do you expect any activity in free agency, or do you think this team will stay young going into next season?
I actually made a mistake in my numbers and forgot to add in Mikki Moore's guaranteed 2 million dollar buyout situation the Kings are stuck with, so after playing with the numbers it looks like the Kings will have around 7 million in cap space to play with assuming the NBA salary cap drops this season as expected. With only 7 million dollars available, Bobby Jackson still unsigned, and Rashad McCants and Ike Diogu on qualifying offers, the Kings might not have any cap space if they bring back those three players. So, I don't expect anything large action in free agency this season. I do however expect them to look into trading Andres Nocioni and Kenny Thomas' 8 million dollar expiring contract.
3. Let's assume that the Kings don't change anything about their current point guard situation. Since this team is in a rebuilding stage, is it okay having Beno Udrih, Sergio Rodriguez and a combo guard in Tyreke Evans? While I know you'd like to have Rubio, I'm sure you could deal with that as the team develops.
In all honesty, we don't have much of a choice this season. Hopefully Evans will surprise us all and be more a point guard and floor general than we think, but I highly doubt it at this time. One thing with Beno - he did NOT get along with with Kenny Natt so it'll be interesting to see how well he and Paul Westphal get along and if it improves his game. Beno did play pretty well when Reggie Theus was coaching (as evidenced by that horrible contract he got) so we're crossing our fingers; it was more of a issue between player and coaching style than Beno playing over his head for 25-30 games during the Mike Bibby injury.
4. In the limited time that I saw the Kings last season, one of the guys I really liked was Spencer Hawes (if you haven't seen him play, watch this incredible mix). He's only 21 and a solid, young big man. I see a young Gasol, but a more athletic version and an even better shooter. Where does he need to improve and could he become an All-Star at some point in his career?
Spencer has spent a great deal of time working with specialists and at the University of Washington this off-season on his post moves, which is the one area he really needs to improve on. Like most young players, his footwork in the post needs help. Despite getting the "goofy white stiff" reputation in the media, he's actually far from that. He's not the most mobile guy but he can run the court extremely well and he has a great ability to recover and block shots from behind. He's still 21, so, his confidence can be a bit shaky at times but there is no denying the talent is there to be an all around big man in the league. If he ever does add a legit post game, he'll become a serious threat in the league when combined with his outside game.
5. Where do you see this team in five years? You think they still be in Sac Town then and how good will the team be?
With California having the financial issues they're having, keeping the Kings in Sacramento is going to be one tough process. The Kings do need a new arena in the worst way and getting the state and/or city to pay for it has been like pulling teeth. I'm not sure why the Maloofs (with all of the business ventures and contacts they have) haven't been able to strike their own deal and pay for it themselves (much like the San Francisco Giants did with real estate investments). The Kings do have a very preliminary agreement with the state that was passed a few months ago that gives them one year to fine a developer for the Cal Expo arena plan, but with California's budget woes - it's not looking good. As far as the actual talent on this team, it really is going to depend on the progress the players make. Tyreke Evans looks like a sure thing, Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes both did well this past season, and the Kings really improved their coaching staff. They're going to need to develop a bench in due time and hope Donte Greene emerges as a good player but the Kings do have some talent in the making. Let's not forget Kevin Martin did miss a good portion of the season this past year (and the time he did play he was never himself) so the Kings really weren't a 17 win ballclub. By no stretch were they a playoff contender but 25-28 wins would not have been out of the question. If the expectations from the youth pull through, the Kings should be back in the playoff picture year in, year out in 5 years.
6. Since the Kings had the worst record in the league last year, do you find it hard to be a Kings fan? Do you ever take heat from people about being a Kings fan?
It seems like it's a constant disappointment to be a Kings fan...so it can be hard, but I've been rooting for them since I was a kid and they were lucky to win 25 games a year. Most people assume since one is a Kings fan, they've only rooted for them since the Webber era but I've been a diehard since I was about 6 years old. I think I've started to bleed purple.
7. I've seen a couple funny prank videos come from the Kings in the past. Which one is your favorite and talk about how much and fun and chemistry this team has amassed.
The chemistry this team has off the court is great - I wish they'd be able to copy it onto the court though. lol. But they're definitely a funny bunch off the court. The most popular videos were the popcorn in the car videos, which were hilarious as well as the videos from the Donte' Greene show but I think the best moment was Jason Thompson's brand new Escalade was filled with popcorn. Everybody knew what went down other than JT, and Spencer Hawes comes out of the practice facility on the phone to the car dealership (pretending to be Jason Thompson) going "Oh dang, popcorn is the S'Calade...popcorn in the S'Calade...I got loads of popcorn is the whip son".
8. Do you know where Kevin Martin got that crazy shot of his and have you ever tried to emulate it? Being a pretty good three point shooter myself, I find it funny how these crazy looking shots are so consistent
As ugly as that shot is, it's actually got a near perfect release. How he ever gets the shot off though without it being blocked is one of the great mysteries of man.
9. Since the Kings fans are so great, how many down years do you think they can endure?
You know, we can deal with the losing for a while...we understand it takes time to rebuild. All we ask is that the players on the court go out there every night and play with heart and passion. In the past few seasons, other than Ron Artest and Mikki Moore, the Kings really lacked guys that would lay it all on the line...but the new collection of talent really has shown a different desire for the game and it's a nice change. I think Jason Thompson spent more time on the floor going for loose balls last season than Brad Miller did during his entire Sacramento career. Give us a reason to pull for you, and we will. Sacramento is one of the most loyal fan bases in sports.
10. Give your expectations for next season in one sentence.
It's going to be a season full of growing pains, but I think we'll start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Remember to check out A Royal Pain! Thanks again, Bryan!