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Scapegoats A Thru D

Update at the bottom.

Everyone wants to blame someone after last night's brutal loss. And yes -- that was brutal. Never mind that Denver is good; Sam Amick of The Bee describes the littany of conditions that should have given Sacramento a chance. But this is a rare occasion in which I don't totally agree with Amick's analysis of the problems that led to the loss.

Amick cites Kevin Martin's shooting: 8-of-19. Martin had 25 points. His True shooting percentage was 59% ... which is his season average and one of the best in the league among top scorers. Among 20 ppg scorers this season, only Amare Stoudemire, Chris Paul and Carlos Boozer (in limited minutes) score more efficiently. Martin was damn efficient on offense. Most teams that watch their top scorer throw in 25 points on 21 shooting possessions -- that's a game that should be competitive. When Martin has an average-for-him game, his offense is not the problem. (And let's not forget that Renaldo Balkman, while a half-step or so slower than Dahntay Jones, is a defensive role player.)

Brad Miller gets a mention in Amick's story, and Sam does admit this was B-52's worst outing of the season. ...


That's a far bigger reason for the loss than Kevin Martin's offense. And we all know this. And while no one wants Miller's trade value as high as possible more than I (except Spencer Hawes, perhaps), it needs to be shouted from a mountaintop that Miller was simply awful. Uninterested on the defensive end, unwilling to move, pass or shoot on offense, unable to keep up once the Nuggets started to run. He was a disaster wearing concrete blocks for sneakers, completely outplayed by every other big that saw playing time -- Chris Andersen, Kenny Thomas, Mikki Moore ... all of them.

In Amick's story, Kenny Natt says this:

"Somewhere, some way, we're going to find enough players with this team that want to play and listen and play hard," Kings coach Kenny Natt said. "When guys are not digging in and playing their heart out, those are the things that I – as a coach – cannot deal with."

Brad Miller played the entire third quarter and 3-1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter. Holding players accountable for effort ... and playing a complete f'n zombie for 15-1/2 of the 24 second half minutes -- this is not adding up. Not to damn Natt, who has really done something with a renewed Beno Udrih, but this is the path Reggie Theus and Eric Musselman traveled.

Theus promised discipline ... and then gave Ron Artest free reign over the team and showed up late for the team bus himself. Musselman promised structure ... and had one of his top offensive weapons (Miller) still unclear of his role in March. You sell me tickets to the gun show, I want a gun show. This ain't a gun show. The product isn't matching Natt's sales pitch.

Ta' hell with trade value. Anyone willing to trade for Miller knows what they'll get. Dude's played 21,000 minutes as a pro. Larry Brown has seen him, Gregg Popovich has seen him, John Paxson and Pat Riley have seen him. Yanking him for Hawes in the third when Brad's tossing up 2/3/3 ... that's not going to change anything come February. If he's not going off as he did last week, bench him. We'll be a lot more content if we see that garbage time line-up come in when the margin's less than 20 points. (And on this team, I think the bench unit actually qualifies less as a garbage time line-up than the starting five in some cases.)

Even though B-52's got 1-1/2 feet out the door, he needs to be held responsible for tainting the rest of the roster. I'm not trying to blow anything out of proportion or get apoplectic here, but efforts like that really set everyone back a few steps. It's unacceptable, and if Miller plays so disinterested he really should not be on the floor. Tough love won't work on Miller the way it worked with Udrih, but making a statement that effort is a prequisite for playing time sends the right message to Hawes and Donte Greene. (Jason Thompson needs no such message. Dude came out of the womb hustling.)

UPDATE: OK, I should have checked the Bee's blog before posting this, because Amick lit Miller on fire over there:

In the media room, the reaction from a few locals who have watched their share of hoops over the years wasn't quite so kind. One observer said of Miller's outing, "It just doesn't seem like he even wants to play anymore." And another added: "It's like he wasn't even out there. I feel like I don't remember him playing."