Whether it's covering the NBA at FanHouse or the Sacramento Kings at Sactown Royalty, Tom Ziller is one of the finest writers in the blogosphere (and infamous for his work with graphs, which is a skill of his). If you haven't made Ziller a must-read, do so now. You won't regret it.
A few days ago, I was able to ask Ziller a few questions to preview tonight's game between the Orlando Magic and the Kings.
What's life with Tyreke Evans been like? Please, indulge yourself if need be. Additionally, what does he mean to the franchise right now?
Life with Tyreke has been really, really different. At no point in the Sacramento era have the Kings had this sort of singular talent. The lean years were hosted by All-Stars at best (Mitch Richmond), and the glory era to start this decade featured a balanced roster, with Chris Webber the biggest name but certainly not considered a "franchise player" in his late 20s. Now, we have a franchise player. And he's 20 years old. It's unreal. He's already won our hearts and minds, and while we're still getting used to what this means for how the team is perceived and covered, what it means for our favorite incumbents and more, it's a fantastic change.
What has spurred Beno Udrih's career-year/resurrection this season?
Beno has credited the coaching staff with resuscitating his career, but that's a bit suspect considering how Udrih thrived under Reggie Theus in 2007-08 but regressed in Reggie's two months at the helm in 2008-09. To almost every fan, it's been a reversal of effort. Beno didn't play a lick of defense last season. This year, he's blocking Chauncey Billups jumpers! Either Paul Westphal has figured out how to motivate Beno perfectly, or Udrih himself did some soul-searching this summer and realized loafing through a five-year contract was no way to live.
This is Paul Westphal's first year as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings. What type of impact has he been able to make with the team?
With such a new roster, it's hard to tell where Westphal's impact stops and the news players' impact begins. But I think it's safe to say he's been a huge part of the team's rebirth. He isn't afraid to play anyone at any time. He has rotated Spencer Hawes between the bench and starting five, he's found a way to get production out of three rookies and two second-year players. He even admits when he's wrong -- in preseason, he called Omri Casspi a project. Omri is now (apparently) the permanent starter at small forward. The team defense still leaves plenty to be desired, but personnel has plenty to do with that, too. The coaching staff has been a plus for the first time since Rick Adelman left.
Kevin Martin, according to the Sacramento Bee, feels "ready to play" as of January 6th. When he returns, how will that impact the starting lineup (namely Evans)?
Martin should be a huge boon for Evans in two ways: Martin can shoot, which will relieve the paint clogging teams have turned to in order to slow Evans, and Martin can shoot, which will actually help Evans build his assist numbers. Currently, if Casspi is off and Jason Thompson isn't finishing, Evans can have a 4-assist game in which he dished out 15 potential assists. (Saturday's game against Denver is a perfect example.) Evans is only now beginning to work out a rapport with Hawes, but Reke's best chance at an assist most plays is the draw-and-kick. Martin shot better than 40 percent from three last season. It's a good match. (Never mind that in the instances Westphal has started an Evans-Udrih backcourt the defenses have gotten off the hook by guarding Evans with a two-guard and hiding the smaller PG on Udrih. Trying hiding, say, Derek Fisher on the 6'7 Martin.)
I like to thank Tom for taking the time to answer my questions.