Steinmetz: One and done for Musselman? 

Every once in a while, we take a look up I-80 east to Sacramento, where former Warriors coach Eric Musselman is finishing up his first (and perhaps last) season on the Kings’ sideline.

Sacramento will miss the playoffs for the first time in nine years, and it was obvious after a trip up to Arco Arena last weekend for the Kings-Warriors game that the hometown fans are not at all pleased.

Musselman may end up taking the fall, and he might even deserve it. The Kings’ effort has been inconsistent all season, a sure sign there is likely trouble below the surface.

But Musselman was in a bind from the start. And though he probably didn’t know it at the time, there was going to be little he could do to change the Kings’ fate this season.

Sacramento’s mix of players and chemistry isn’t right. It’s hard to envision any coach solving those issues.

President of basketball operations Geoff Petrie put together a team made up of young players who wanted to run and three or four veterans who didn’t.

The real issue in Sacramento is that Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Brad Miller aren’t what they used to be — and they’re not turning back the clock anytime soon. Ditto for halfcourt-oriented Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas.

After a honeymoon last season, Artest became a distraction in 2006-07. The off-court issues were one thing. His penchant for monopolizing the ball was another. Bibby was up and down all year, starting poorly, bouncing back in the middle and fading toward the end.

As for Miller, he appeared hopelessly out of place. Not long ago, he was one of the best passing big men in the NBA. But now, age and lack of athleticism have conspired against him.

Things wouldn’t be so bad if Petrie had stockpiled young talent ready to take over. To date, only Kevin Martin has shown that he’s ready for that kind of responsibility.

The Kings’ young players — Quincy Douby, Justin Williams, Francisco Garcia and Ronnie Price — are OK, but that’s about it. It’s hard to see greatness in any one of them. Unless Petrie has some magic in him this offseason, the Kings are looking at a lean 2007-08 — and beyond.

When Musselman was coaching in Golden State, he led the Warriors to 38- and 37-win seasons, a high-water mark at the time. But in the process, he alienated players and management.

Maybe that happened again in Sacramento and he deserves to go.

But the bigger issue for the Kings is their roster, which from afar looks like a hodgepodge of mismatched personnel. Joe and Gavin Maloof, owners of the Kings, may very well fire Musselman later this week.

But unless Kings management addresses the roster and its lack of talent, the new coach is going to have the same problems Musselman did.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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