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12. Sacramento Kings
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Theus has gone from laid-back player to hard-nosed coach.
David G. Pierre/AP
Fast Fact
In 11 years with four teams Shareef Abdur-Rahim has been on the losing side 551 times in 824 games played, an average of 50.1 losses per season -- the worst average among active players with at least four years of service.
Telling Numbers
Record: 33-49 (11th in West)
Points scored: 101.3 (8th in NBA)
Points allowed: 103.1 (24th)
Coach: Reggie Theus (first season with Kings)
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An odd choice of coaches won't stop the slide of this once-proud franchise

With the hiring of Reggie Theus as coach, the owners of the Kings -- also known as the owners of the Palms Casino Resort -- seem to be moving the franchise closer to Las Vegas, in a figurative if not literal sense, and not just because Theus is a UNLV product. During 13 seasons as a big guard with six NBA teams, he demonstrated a Vegas-style flash and dash on and off the court: trash-talking and fancy-passing, fur-wearing and club-hopping.

So what did Theus do after the Maloof brothers, Gavin and Joe, lured him from New Mexico State? He went all Bob Knight. "I'm not trying to be a jerk," Theus told The Sacramento Bee. "All I want to do is set some parameters. The players know they were irresponsible last year."

Theus banned cellphone use from the team bus, which is tantamount to banning, say, oxygen from the lives of these young millionaires. He instituted a curfew on the road. He ran his players' tails off in practice while openly questioning their defensive effort from past seasons, particularly that of Mike Bibby.

Theus says that as a player he most respected the coaches who were toughest on him, and he conjured up San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Utah's Jerry Sloan as guys who have gotten it done the old-school way. Whether veterans such as Bibby and Ron Artest want tough love from their coach remains to be seen. So far Artest has bought into the rules and regs -- he calls them "very reasonable," though he expects the coach to also be "flexible" (the volcanic Artest's definition of flexible perhaps being more flexible than most's) -- but Artest's history suggests at least one revolt before the season is over. And Bibby, when upset, is capable of playing 82 games in a permanent sulk.

Changes were needed at Arco Arena to be sure, but the ol' Vegas guard is rolling the dice with this one. -- Jack McCallum

Issue date: October 29, 2007

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