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BradMiller52 10-07-2006 06:29 PM

Team Intesity During Practice Pleases Coach(bee article)

Kings Notes: Team's intensity during practice pleases coach

By Joe Davidson - Bee Staff Writer

Last Updated 12:56 am PDT Saturday, October 7, 2006

Kings coach Eric Musselman said he again was delighted with the hustle of his team on Day Four of training camp.

Everyone remained active in the morning drills, down to the last elbow. Swingman Francisco García left practice early to get stitches in his mouth after taking a shot from center Brad Miller.

And there might be some smack residue that lingers. Miller still cracks on García for how he tried to free the ball from the backboard and rim during a game last season -- only to land on Miller's foot. García was slowed by that ankle injury the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, free-agent big man Maurice Taylor sat out most of the running and scrimmaging drills to tend to a strained calf. He has worked extensively with strength coach Daniel Shapiro, trying to get into shape.

"I've never had an injury like this before," said Taylor, entering his 10th NBA season. "I don't want to do anything stupid to hurt it even more. It's very frustrating. I want to contribute."

More Taylor -- Before signing with Sacramento on Tuesday, Taylor also considered San Antonio and Phoenix. He said he signed a one-year, guaranteed contract with the Kings for the veteran's minimum of $1.06 million. With all 18 players on the roster having guaranteed salaries, the Kings are within $300,000 of the luxury tax threshold of $65.42 million.

"It's a team that kind of needed a post player, needed another big guy," Taylor said. "I don't really necessarily keep asking coach whether I'm going to play, because I'm going to let my play speak for itself."

Front and centers -- The addition of Taylor to help back up Miller in the post doesn't necessarily mean journeyman Loren Woods is suddenly out. For starters, Taylor and Woods offer different games. Taylor is a scorer, and Woods is a defender.

"Loren has had some really good stretches for us," Musselman said. "In one (scrimmage), he blocked three straight shots."

Louie, Louie -- Well after practice, with nearly everyone in the showers or already on the freeway, Ron Artest worked with rookie forward Louis Amundson and went over a few things. From positioning himself to score inside to the game's mental approach, the accomplished veteran had a wide-eyed audience.

"Oh yeah, it's great," Amundson said. "I'm a fan like everyone else. Anytime you can get advice like that, it's cool. He told me some things he does and how to stay focused."

Amundson said he was disappointed that his free-throw percentage plummeted at the end of practice, when, dogged by fatigue, he missed seven shots, which meant the team had to do sprints.

"It's frustrating," he said. "You don't want to make your teammates run. Then you start thinking too much, and that doesn't help."

Get used to it, guys -- It doesn't appear that many folks like the new NBA ball with a different look and synthetic feel. Shaquille O'Neal said it looks as if it came off a rack from Toys "R" Us. Others wonder if shooting percentages will go down, to which Miller joked about Shaq, "Is his free-throw percentage going to go down?"

Said Kenny Thomas of the new ball: "You have to adjust to it. We don't have a choice, of course."

Gun-free -- Artest said he tried to reach his pal and former Indiana Pacers teammate Stephen Jackson by cell phone after learning that Jackson fired shots into the air with a handgun in apparent self-defense outside a nightclub early Friday.

"I hope he's OK," said Artest, who added that athletes tend to be celebrity targets. "I don't want to have to carry a gun. I don't want to have one. I'd rather go through my whole life without one."

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