The Sacramento Kings are trying to rebuild while remaining a playoff team for the ninth straight season. It's one of the hardest quinellas to pull off in the NBA. A brutal opening schedule combined with a major overhaul of the roster won't make the task any easier for coach Rick Adelman, who is in the final year of his contract.
In this week's issue of SI, Adelman makes it clear that the era of the Kings' motion offense is gone with the departures of passing big men Chris Webber and Vlade Divac. Adelman went into further detail in this extended interview, which he gave the day after Sacramento lost its opener 93-67 at Oklahoma City. A week later his comments remain relevant to the now 1-4 Kings.
SI: Is this likely to be your last year in Sacramento?
Rick Adelman: I've got one yearon my contract. I just look at it like the best thing for all concerned is to try to have a good year, myself included. It's different than in the past, that if I decided that's it, then that's it, and if they (management) decide that's it, that's it. It's a two-way street now, but I still think I owe it to the fans and owe it to the team to do the best job I can and win as many games as I can. I have no preconceived notion that I want a new deal. I'm just going to coach this team and see what happens.
SI: You've had a long friendship with Kings GM Geoff Petrie, going back to your days as NBA teammates. How did you react last season when you saw how a similar friendship between Minnesota GM Kevin McHale and coach Flip Saunders ended so abruptly when Saunders was fired?
RA: Friendship [only] goes so far. It comes down to the fact that you have owners involved, you have pressures, you have expectations -- whether they're real or whatever. The bottom line is going to be how the team doing and what's the best thing for the organization. That's probably where Kevin got to, and I'm sure Geoff, if he decides to get to that point, he'll get there, too. I understand the game. I understand what's going on. I've been under heat [in Sacramento] for a long time. When we won 60 games there was still heat. I understand the situation and I'm not go to worry about it at this point. I'm going to worry about winning ...
SI: You've been able to remain a playoff team while revamping the roster, but it has hurt your bench, hasn't it?
RA: You go through this so much as a coach. Whatever you have off the bench, I'm not going be one to chastise the players or take them down. I need to get what I can out of these guys. But everybody forms their own opinion. People talk about how we have so many more people on the bench now who can play. And I think what they're looking at is that we have guys who have had nice NBA careers and stuff. But are they a good mix? Are they going to come in and fit in? Or are we better off playing three big guys or, I don't know ...
As a coach and coaching staff, you look at your talent and you look at your team and you know what you have, and you've got to try to be realistic about it. But I think this is an unknown group because I don't know if the mix or the combinations that we have are all going to fit.
I always knew in the past that I had my starting group and then I had Bobby Jackson and maybe one other guy, and then I'd try to find one or two other guys to fit. Right now I've got a new starting five and we're trying to find guys that can fit. I wasn't surprised that we lost to New Orleans, I was shocked that we were so poor offensively and that we got beat by 26 even with the travel schedule. That's why I'm going to be interested to see what we do from now on. Our first six games are brutal ... but in some ways you're going to find out about the team. You're going to find out really quickly about them, and you're going to have to make decisions.
I do think the starting five is going to come together into a pretty decent unit, but I don't know about the rest of it and that's what we'll have to find out.
SI: If you're relying on your starters, are you worried about their durability after injuries last year to Stojakovic and Brad Miller?
RA: We're not as athletic as a lot of other teams; that's what we're facing. That's why we have to be good offensively. We have to be efficient so we're hard to guard and we stay in games. And we have to get better defensively somehow, and I think we can as a team because we have a smart group. But I think sometimes you get overpowered in situations. And you have to kind of mix and match and cover for some of the weaknesses that you have.
SI: When your team hits its stride, how will it look different from the Kings' teams of past years?
RA: I think it's going to be a lot more of a post-up game with Shareef [Abdur-Rahim] and Bonzi [Wells]. We're going to get them down there and we're going to go through them, but it's not going to be the cutting and the splitting and all that stuff. We can be a better pick-and-roll team. Most of our big guys can really pick and pop and shoot the ball facing the basket, and we have to take advantage of that. I think it's got to be the post-up game inside and have a lot more pick-and-rolls involved. We can't just play through our big guys. That's probably the key.
Brad and Peja and Mike, they've got to play at a high level. They've got to do more than they've done in the past. Peja's got to find a way to get his shots. He's got to find a way to get his shot when he has the ball. And Mike's got to be more of a distributor when he's on offense and not a scorer. They have to make adjustments for these other guys to be effective.