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Breaking Beno to Salvage Him

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About a year ago, Ailene Voisin talked with Pete Carril about the state of the Kings. I'd love to point you to the interview, but The Bee's archives are but a nightmarish forest of 404s. (The quickness with which Bee URLs go bad is astounding in this day.)

Instead, we'll have to rely on the part I quoted for this here site at the time. Luckily, it's on one of more important players in terms of Carril's impact: Beno Udrih.

Q: You mentioned Udrih. What do you like about his game?

A: Just about everything except his defense. He's a little slow, but so is Mike Bibby. They remind me of Cal Ripken, the shortstop, guys who can't cover much ground, but they compensate because they have an idea what the guy is trying to do, where he's trying to go. Any slow guy is going to need help. But when Beno brings the ball up the court, you're looking at a point guard. Once that kid (Udrih) learns, figures out when you're shooting too much - and I know he's going to figure that out - he's going to be good. Figure out when you've got to penetrate and pass. And play better defense.

Defense has been Kenny Natt's most powerful bludgeon against Beno, a fact further emphasized in today's Voisin column.

But what he says is true. Deep down, he's all Jerry Sloan, all about defense. His priority is to convince Udrih that his on-ball defense must improve drastically, and immediately.

"That's where I'm challenging him," said Natt. "Send the message to the other coach. 'Hey, don't come at me like that.' Defense. That's where it starts."

Last year, Carril said Beno needs to be smarter to play better defense -- "they compensate because they have an idea what the guy is trying to do" -- and Natt wants Beno to play harder. Seems like a workable combination, if not a reasonable solution.

But the key for me is that Carril said he believes in Beno's abilities as a point guard on offense, that he just needs to get his shot selection right. Having Carril behind the scenes (he won't be sitting on the bench) should give Beno an advocate in Natt's ear. So long as Natt can keep his out-facing stance of reasonable Sloan-style demands toward the point guard, this whole thing -- Beno's struggles leading to his benching -- can turn out for the better.

Maybe I've gotten too optimistic based on one day of good news, maybe the Coachie Kool-Aid has been loaded with MDMA. But really, I think Beno -- and by obvious extension, the Kings -- will come out a much better point guard because of his battle with Natt. The coach is breaking him in pieces, and with the help of a genius Natt is going to put Beno's parts back together the right way.