Like it or not, The Kenny Thomas Show is back on local TV for the next few weeks.
Last night, I listened to Grant Napear and Mike Lamb discuss Kenneth Cornelius on KHTK for a short while. Kenneth says he's accepted his role as a bench player. Grant diagreed, saying that KT has accepted that he's not the starter, but hasn't accepted that he shouldn't be the starter.
Kenneth shouldn't be the starter when Shareef Abdur-Rahim is good to go; let's lay that out now. Something like 88% agreed before the season started in a Sacbee.com poll. I'll venture to say that the first 27 games of the 2005-06 season did little to change that - Reef has been a stud on both ends, and Kenneth has been lackluster at best. Here's a comparison of each's shooting numbers and per 40 minute rates so far this season, courtesy of Knickerblogger's stat page:
Shareef 55.5/60.5 18.6 10.9 3.6 2.3 0.8 1.0
Kenny 43.8/49.3 13.4 13.3 3.0 2.3 0.6 0.8
Even adjusting for the disparate minutes (Shareef gets about 35, Kenneth 18), Julius has far surpassed KT's production in every category but one - rebounding. Unsurprisingly, the Kings as a team are in the bottom third of the Association in both offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding percentages. (We're planning a post later today or early tomorrow specifically about rebounding stats and why hoops media does a disservice to fans by trying to rationalize their current way of scoring the glass.)
So can Kenny's insertion into the starting lineup help the team by preventing extra chances for opponents and creating extra chances for the Kings?
It's tough to project. Kenneth has only been a starter on the Kings for 16 regular season games (15 last year, plus Tuesday night). Last year, Brad was injured while Kenny was in town, and Brian Skinner (a much better rebounder than B-52) started many of those games. Without many samples of the Brad-Kenny-Peja frontline, we don't know how much the rebound percentages should improve. (Add in that Peja is in-and-out with nagging injuries, and he could be traded any day, and you have insurmountable uncertainty.)
It's clear that Kenny should the offensive rebounding numbers. A solid third of all his career rebounds came on the offensive end (and closer to 35% in Sacramento, actually). In his Sacramento career, Brad's percent of rebounds coming on the offensive end is 27%. (No doubt, that's due to his role in this offense. Miller is actually lowest among starting centers this season in this metric, if the wonderful Get Buckets Brigade's questionable "Who Wants to Be John Hollinger" device is correct.)
Despite Tuesday's win, The Kenny Thomas Show didn't help the rebounding one iota is his first start this year. You may look at the bare numbers - 43 Clipper boards to 40 for the Kings - and say, "Hey that's not bad." But it was. Real bad. Sacramento's offensive rebounding percent was 13.5, and they allowed the Clippers an offensive rebounding percent of 23.9. That's mediocre defensive rebounding and absolutely crappy offensive rebounding.
Kenneth's shooting stroke didn't immediately come alive when he was placed in the starting lineup - he went 3-9. He did manage to pull down seven rebounds in 31 minutes, which is good. He was very Shareef-like as far as turnovers, assists and blocks go. He got manhandled on defense, but Elton Brand will tend to do that to undersized opponents.
If this episode of The Kenny Thomas Show is going to work, though, he has to improve the rebounding situation substantially. He's a regression in every other facet of the game. Maybe, with improved rebounding at the cost of a bit of offense and defense, this team can beat slower paced teams in the league. (Nevermind that the next three opponents - Boston, Philly and the Clippers Part II - are among the more higher-tempo teams in the league.)
The best thing that can happen? Kenneth thrives, boosts his value back to where it was in the offseason and gets traded once Shareef is healthy. It's the best thing for Kenny, it's the best thing for this team (since KT has shown he can't be a game-changer from the sixth man spot) and it's the best thing for the state of New Mexico.
And really, what value is anything if it's not good for the state of New Mexico?