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How to Play the Kids

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The latest tete-a-tete in Kingsland comes from Joe Maloof, who went to the media to insist youngsters Quincy Douby and Shelden Williams get more minutes down the stretch. Reggie Theus pushed back with this quote in The Bee:

"I want those guys to play, but ... it's very hard as a first-year coach - when I'm judged on a lot of different levels - it's very hard to put guys in a game that's going well and the game goes south. What am I supposed to do?"

I think many/most of us agree with Maloof -- we'd love to see QD and Shelden. But I can also understand Theus's angle. Remember: The Seattle win (which a TiVo malfunction kept me from viewing, dagnabbit) was the team's 33rd win of the season. Objective #1 for the season was to finish with 34 wins, to turn around this vessel, heading toward the edge of the Earth since 2005. One more win, however meaningless in the real world, would be hugely inspiring for these troops and these coaches.

Last night's game (judging by the play-by-play) seems to have been assured about midway into the fourth. QD and Shelden came in with two minutes to go. I'd argue those potential 4 lost minutes are useless -- garbage time isn't going to teach us more than we already know (which is that QD can shoot and occasionally drive and that's it, and Shelden can rebound and block shots and occasionally score and that's it). Meaningful observations need to come in the first quarter, the second quarter, the third -- whenever the game's in doubt.

If Shelden doesn't chase a ball up 12 with a minute left, that tells you nothing. If he doesn't chase a ball up 2 with a quarter left, you can record that note. You've got to put these guys in positions to succeed or fail...

... but you also need one more win, no matter what. The Kings have two more games against teams outside the playoff race: The Clippers at ARCO on Thursday, the Blazers at ARCO on April 11. Portland's good. The Clippers have smoked Sactown this year. The other foes are beatable (especially Houston tomorrow; the Kings have been strong in hosting the Rockets for two years now). It'd be fantastic if Theus got the win soon, so he could reasonably give Williams 20 minutes a night and reduce Kevin Martin to 20 minutes to fit in more QD and Francisco Garcia time (even though Flaco is older than Martin). Artest could probably use less playing time for the benefit of the kids... I'm not holding my breath. We know Brad Miller could use some rest this time of year; one more run with QD at the point while Beno Udrih's hurt wouldn't be a problem.

But he's got to get that win first. How do you blame Theus for refusing to risk a 33-win season in the name of more minutes for middling prospects? Let's revisit our preferred rotations once Win #34 is on the board. (I wish Joe would have waited, too.)