The best laid plans of mice and Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal have gone astray.
Certainly, the coach and front-office had an image entering training camp of what they wanted their team to look like when it opens its regular season Oct. 27 in Minneapolis.
Center Samuel Dalembert’s left adductor strain has come as a huge surprise as did the diagnosis this week that he’ll likely miss four to six weeks. The guy had played every game in each of the past four seasons.
However, he’d been a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, not the Kings. And as former Sacramento Bee colleague R.E. Graswich mused, there is that concept of Arco Arena being built on ‘Indian burial grounds.’
Dalembert didn’t make it to the preseason before sustaining his injury. The seven-footer was expected to contribute a badly-needed defensive and rebounding presence in the lane.
However, currently it appears first-round draft choice DeMarcus Cousins appears to be the man in the middle with Jason Thompson and perhaps Darnell Jackson seeing time in reserve.
Kings President Geoff Petrie said Friday morning his team likely will not keep the maximum of 15 players.
“It’ll be difficult for us to keep more than 14 given the design driven by necessity,” Petrie said in his inimitable way.
Translation: The Kings aren’t paying for a 15th roster man who likely wouldn’t see a lot, if any, playing time. And there is no guarantee the Kings will keep 14.
Jackson could be the benefactor of injuries that have sidelined Dalembert and second-round pick Hassan Whiteside.
All concerned indicate Jackson has been impressive.
“He’s been very consistent day-to-day,” Petrie said of Jackson, who has played with Cleveland and Milwaukee since attending the University of Kansas. “He’s obviously been well coached. He’s another guy who hasn’t had much of an opportunity. So other than your draft preparation, it’s been hard to get a read on him. But he’s a man in there.”
Jackson’s new teammates enjoy playing with him.
Francisco Garcia says Jackson is more fun to play with than against.
“He goes hard all day, everyday,” Garcia said of Jackson. “He’s just a beast. That’s why we call him ‘D-Block’ because he plays defense on that block. He’s a good teammate, too. He’s always looking out for you. He’ll have your back on and the court.”
At that point, Cousins walked by on his way out of the locker room and Garcia was asked if that’s who banged against Jackson.
“He doesn’t want to bang with D-Block,” Garcia said of the rookie. “Nobody wants to bang with D-Block. (Cousins) doesn’t want any of that.”
The Kings acquired Jackson and a second-round draft choice from Milwaukee July 21 for Jon Brockman.
Jackson was claimed on waivers March 25 by Milwaukee from Cleveland. Bucks General Manager John Hammond spoke highly of Jackson’s work ethic. That’s somewhat unusual for an executive to be so effervescent in the praise of a player just traded.
Jackson, who is listed at 253 pounds, said he weighed 290 pounds when he joined Milwaukee. He credits the Bucks’ staff from head coach Scott Skiles on down for helping him regain focus.
“I know what my role is,” Jackson said this week. “I’m not going to go out and jack up 10 shots in the first quarter. My job is to play defense and if I’m open, knock down that jumper, because I can make that shot. I need to try to get my teammates extra possessions.
“When I first got (to Milwaukee), I was like, 290 (pounds). Coach Skiles, coach (Adrian Griffin), coach (Bill Peterson) and coach (Joe) Wolf had me in their facility every day.
“The biggest thing I have taken from there from coach Griffin and coach BP is I have to stand in a defensive stance every time. I have to move my feet and coach BP used to always tell me I have to master the little things.
“So when I’m out there on the court, I’m not worrying about getting a shot off. I’m thinking about stances, and sliding my feet, blocking out, showing on the screen and running the floor hard every time. They helped me develop my game there.
“I like to win, so I’m going to do the things that help the team win. I’m just trying master the small things. I don’t need highlights. My job is just to play hard every time.”
Jackson sounds like a keeper as does Luther Head, a young veteran guard. Like Jackson, Head is trying to make the team. Neither has a guaranteed contract.
The Kings have a need for perimeter shooting and Head’s lowest three-point shooting percentage in five NBA seasons is 35.1 with a high of 44.1 percent in 2006-07 with Houston.
Head has been solid with the Kings and Westphal has delivered strong reviews.
“Luther has played well,” the coach said. “He’s been a pro.”
Said Petrie of Head, “He’s been productive off the ball and he has a history of making shots.”
Head said he’s establishing a comfort level.
“I’m starting to get comfortable with everything,” said Head, who’ll turn 28 Nov. 26. “I’m getting comfortable with the team, the offense and with myself. I’m just playing. A couple of years ago, it might have been different. But now, I just play. I’m not thinking about not being on the team. I’m on the team. I’m in the game. So just play.”
That’s what the Kings are attempting to do – just play – and they’d like to do it with as much good health as they can acquire.