Fresh start, same goal for Kings forwards
By Joe Davidson - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 5, 2006
Story appeared in SPORTS section, Page C1
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Two power forwards, one job.
Two veterans with different skills accustomed to starting for years at the "4" position, one common desire to be "the man" again.
But whether it's Shareef Abdur-Rahim bringing his ability to score or Kenny Thomas and his thirst for rebounds and inside scoring, the Kings know they have a wealth of talent at the position.
"We have proven veterans there," shooting guard Kevin Martin said. "It doesn't matter who gets the job. Kenny and Reef are both starters. It's the best power-forward combination in the league."
The Kenny-Reef debate is a replay of the last training camp. Both still covet the job, true to their drive and their years of starting status serving as résumé reminders. Coach Eric Musselman has made no promises, except that the job dangles for the taking.
Other candidates include veterans Corliss Williamson and newcomer Maurice Taylor, both longtime NBA starters, and a handful of long shots who at least covet a roster spot and that NBA paycheck.
Musselman has met with every player on his roster to go over roles, expectations, goals. He understands that players at this level have needs and desires, be it to start, to play a certain amount of minutes or to have a certain number of touches on offense. He wants his players to feel that they have worth, and that someone's listening.
"I've had more meetings already than I've had in a year," Musselman said. "We seek them out to come see us. Communication is vital."
And in Thomas and Abdur-Rahim?
Same theme. The "4" spot, please.
Abdur-Rahim and Musselman went to lunch to talk before the start of camp. Thomas had a late-summer dinner at Musselman's house. He brought dinner rolls and a menu of reasons why he should retain his role of starter.
Both shared the role last season. Abdur-Rahim had the nod early, then went down because of a broken jaw in December. Thomas reclaimed the starting spot he had during the second half of the 2004-05 season after coming West as part of the Chris Webber trade with Philadelphia.
Thomas played too well to be benched (averaging 9.1 points and 7.5 rebounds last season), and the Kings played too well down the stretch to tinker with the mix.
Abdur-Rahim admitted as much Wednesday.
"I feel like I'm the starter," said the veteran who averaged 12.3 points and 5.0 rebounds. "That wouldn't be me. I don't think it'd be genuine to say it didn't matter to me. This is my 10th year in the league, and for 9 1/2 years, I've been a starter.
"To say I don't expect to start or didn't approach camp thinking that, that'd be lying."
Thomas said he appreciated the chance to meet with Musselman.
"I still feel the same way (about starting)," he said. "It's what I've grown accustomed to. Coach likes the things I can do on the floor. When we met, I made some points. It was like talking to a friend. It was a great conversation. I didn't sugar-coat anything. He knows how I feel."
The free-agent signing of Taylor provides added depth to the position, though he may play mostly backup center. There's also Williamson, an 11-year veteran who can play either forward spot. And rookie roster long shots Louis Amundson of UNLV and Justin Williams of Wyoming, who hope they're not just here for practice fodder.
"Competition is healthy," Musselman said. "If you're in a comfort zone and you're not pushing each other, it's not a good thing. We went to lunch between practices, and our staff said, 'Wow, what a great competition. Kenny and Reef going at each other.' "
Musselman said it's far too early to make an announcement. But so far, good results.
"They've both done a good job for us," he said. "Mentally, they're in a good space."
About the writer:
The Bee's Joe Davidson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org