The Sacramento Bee's Sam Amick was kind enough to again answer some questions from his insider perspective as the paper's Kings beat writer. Over the summer, he did the same.
Here's the new edition, with the disclaimer that the questions were asked before the Artest situation blew up.
TZ: We've heard lots of scary stories from Vegas, and plenty of spin. Have you talked to the Maloofs about it post-ASW? They can't be happy with the negative press that's come out surrounding the virtual chaos on the streets, even if the word is that the hotel and events were all managed flawlessly. Do you get a sense the weekend hurt their chances to help Vegas get a team?
Sam Amick: I haven't spoken to the Maloofs about that since. But to be honest, I can guess what they'd say: "It was a rousing success and we think a team should be here." They had a wonderful time on their own, and were likely nowhere near observing the negative side of the affair. For a comprehensive smorgasbord of reactions, I'll point your loyalists toward Cleveland Cavaliers beat writer Brian Windhorst and his quality take and shamelessly plug my own experience.
Now in general, I think the weekend did hurt the odds of a team going to Vegas anytime soon. Word is that commissioner Stern was none too thrilled, and as we're seeing firsthand locally through the Ron Artest situation, image remains a huge concern for this league. To me, the litmus test of how bad things were in Vegas was the reaction of the locals and working force. As I drove to the airport on my way out of town, I heard a local radio personality essentially say they couldn't wait for this particular crowd to skip town. A valet parking attendant at the MGM Grand shocked me when he made a parting comment my way in the same regard that wasn't as politically correct. It was a touchy subject to discuss for PC reasons, as the large majority of the city's visitors that weekend were African-American. But the bottom line was this: the level of chaos and disorder created a situation the league must take into consideration.
TZ: Is their clear division in the locker room? You've mentioned Francisco Garcia is Ron Artest's closest friend - is he Ron's only ally? Are there two defined camps on the team polarized around Ron and Mike Bibby, or do you sense a much more fractured roster - every man for himself?
Amick: It's never as drama-filled as it may seem (yes, I know we're largely responsible for the drama factor). Ron and Mike's situation never seemed to be a personal thing, more about who was going to take the leadership role on this team, who was going to take the big shots, who was going to be the franchise centerpiece. It cracked me up how they both claimed innocence on the matter after things improved, this after they both took unsolicited and veiled shots at each other through our paper. There's been less every-man-for-himself lately, but that has been the story for much of the season. Bibby had his contract situation, Artest wanted to take on an even bigger role than last year, Martin was the rising star who wanted to keep his star on the rise, and so on down the line... When Brad Miller has played well, I think he's been the most positive and influential member of the team because he isn't concerned about his own status and knows what it takes to win with a collective approach.
TZ: Just how close were the Kings to making a move at the deadline?
Amick: Very close with Cleveland in the Bibby deal. Nothing else really transpired.
TZ: Is Eric Musselman, in your opinion, going to be around next year?
Amick: Check back in three weeks. If they can keep this winning streak going and make the playoffs, the late surge will obviously help matters. But beyond the results, another large factor is where he stands with the guys in the locker room. As Marty McNeal recently wrote, plenty of players are not on board. And this being a player's league, management will make a change if they think it will affect the productivity of the men they've invested so many millions in. Musselman has two years left on his deal that pays more than $7 million, so firing him would cost the Maloofs a pretty penny.
Again, many thanks to Amick for the insider perspective. It's interesting that he corroborated McNeal's statement about the locker room distrust of Musselman, and also regarding Brad Miller as a calming force.