Kings' Beno Udrih Blames Coaching For 17-Win Season
A candid, borderline cheerful Beno discussed the abominable 17-win season with Sacramento media Monday. And his opinion on what went wrong was impossible to misinterpret: blame coaches Reggie Theus and Kenny Natt.
"Sometimes last season, I didn't know if I was a small forward or a point guard," the 6'3 Udrih said. "We were definitely confused. We didn't have roles."
The Kings signed Udrih to a five-year, $30 million extension before the 2008-09 season kicked off. Udrih had joined Sacramento as a minimum salary free agent the season prior when Mike Bibby went down with a sprained thumb and the back-up plan at the point guard position -- current New Zealand league stud Orien Greene and swingman Francisco Garcia -- didn't work out. The fan and media perception was that after inking his big contract, Udrih lost the fire that drove his solid 2007-08 Kings debut.
But Udrih insisted Monday that coaches never really put the team -- or the ball -- in his hands.
"As a point guard, am I just supposed to dribble past half-court and pass the ball? That's how it happened, because everyone wanted the ball, and the coach didn't set roles," Udrih said. "Coaches have to set roles."
The point guard made a point to note how differently the team under Theus -- who was fired in December -- and rookie coach Natt had been run in comparison with the Spurs teams coached by Gregg Popovich Udrih played with to open his NBA career. Udrih never seemed sentimental about his time in San Antonio, where he clashed with Popovich over minutes, until experiencing the dread of a cellar-dwelling team.
Udrih missed out on Eurobasket due to an injury suffered during tournament preparations. His Slovenian team qualified for the 2010 FIBA World Championships. Udrih said Kings medical staff checked out his knee Monday morning, and everything came up roses.
He hardly seems ready to relinquish the starting point guard role believed to be the birthright of rookie Tyreke Evans. In fact, he hardly seemed ready to admit Evans is even a full-time point guard.
"I just see Sergio [Rodriguez] and I as being the real point guards, the pure point guards," Udrih said. "I see Tyreke as playing the one and the two, as a combination." Kings coach Paul Westphal wouldn't commit to a starter at the position, though Evans starting at point guard during Vegas Summer League and Kevin Martin is the incumbent at two-guard.