Musselman's future with Kings in doubt

Updated: April 19, 2007, 4:08 PM ET
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Eric Musselman was hired to coach the Sacramento Kings when the team decided that eight straight playoff appearances weren't enough to save Rick Adelman's job.

After failing to take the Kings to the postseason in his first year at the helm, Musselman's job is already in jeopardy.

Following the earliest ending to a season in Sacramento in nearly a decade, Musselman and team president Geoff Petrie are set to begin evaluations of what went wrong this season.

"My office is right next door to Geoff and sure Geoff and I will talk like we do every day," Musselman said. "Geoff will meet with the players and I will meet with the players and we'll start focusing in on summer league and get ready for the draft."

While Musselman said he expects to be back following a 33-49 season, that's no sure thing. The Kings could decide to let him go and pay him the reported $5 million he's owed over the final two years of his deal.

This is the second head coaching job for Musselman, who was fired by the Golden State Warriors in 2004 after two straight losing seasons. Musselman spent two seasons as an assistant at Memphis under Mike Fratello before being hired in Sacramento.

This was fifth straight season the Kings' record has declined since their trip to the conference finals in 2002 and their worst record since going 27-55 in 1997-98. That marked the team's 13th straight losing season since moving from Kansas City to Sacramento for the 1985-86 season.

The Kings then made the playoffs eight straight years under Adelman, whose contract was not renewed following a first-round loss to San Antonio last season. This season, Sacramento couldn't even make it that far.

"I think everybody has a bitter taste in their mouths," forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim said. "We would have liked for things to go better for us this year. Nobody liked the way things ended up. I think all of us would like to come back and redeem ourselves."

Musselman's return to head coaching got off to a bad start before his first regular-season game when he was arrested for drunken driving after an exhibition game back in October. Musselman later pleaded no contest to the charge and served a two-game suspension in February.

That wasn't the most noteworthy legal issue for the Kings. Ron Artest was arrested March 5 on suspicion of domestic abuse after an altercation with his wife. He was briefly excused from the team and later pleaded not guilty to the charges.

That was just one of many issues revolving around Artest, whose second season with the Kings did not go nearly as smoothly as his stint in the second half of the 2005-06 season following his trade from Indiana. Along with the arrest, Artest had locker room tirades, trade demands and retirement threats.

Dealing with Artest is just one of the key personnel decisions this offseason for Petrie, who must improve a roster full of veteran players past their prime.

Of the team's top six scorers, only Kevin Martin is younger than 27 years old. Martin had the biggest scoring increase in the league this season, nearly doubling his output from 10.8 per game last year to 20.2 this season.

"He had a great season. He gets my vote for most improved basketball player," Lakers star Kobe Bryant said. "He's improved by leaps and bounds."

Outside of Martin, there's not a lot of young players to build around. Francisco Garcia, the team's first-round pick in 2005, showed signs of ability but averaged just 6.0 points and 17.8 minutes this season. Last year's top pick, Quincy Douby, was unable to crack the rotation and it's unknown whether he can be counted on as a contributor.

But the rest of the roster is filled with aging players like Mike Bibby, Brad Miller, Abdur-Rahim, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson. The team lacks the excitement it had when it was one of the league's best earlier this decade.

Bibby is the only player left from the 2001-02 team that missed the NBA Finals after a Game 7 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. He turns 29 next month and is no longer the star he was during that memorable playoff series.

Sacramento looked into dealing Bibby at the trade deadline and he could also choose to opt out of the final two years of his seven-year, $80 million contract.

"I'm not even thinking about that right now. I have a long summer ahead of me and I'm going to relax with my family," Bibby said. "A lot of things have been going on. It was a tough season for everybody."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press