On another wild night in Clipperland, one of the most entertaining parts had to be our pre-game press conference with assistant coach Kim Hughes, who was filling in for Mike Dunleavy tonight.
Hughes is a smart guy with a dry sense of humor. With all the crazy developments taking place before Wednesday’s game –Jason Hart and Brian Skinner coming down with the flu, Chris Kaman taking up until game time to decide whether his painful left arch would allow him to play, Ricky Davis potentially shutting it down for two weeks with a sore left knee — that sardonic wit really took the edge off of things.
I’ll try and convey just how funny, wry and engaging Hughes was in this account.
Q: How many times have you been the head coach?
KH: “This is the second time. The other was February of last year in Madison Square Garden. We got lucky and won.
Q: So if you win tonight, and go 2 for 2, think Mike will let you do it more often?
A: This isn’t about me, this about us getting a win.
The last time; Mike was sick and (TV announcer) Ralph Lawler said to me on the bus, are you nervous and I said, `About what?’ and he said, `You’re coaching.’
I said, `Oh really?’ That was about 4:30 in the afternoon.
“I thought I’d be really nervous and I wasn’t. It’s not that much different than people think. And … the power is a rush.”
Q: Did you ride the refs?
KH: “No, I don’t do that. My father refereed college basketball for 25 years and he said he’d break my neck if he saw me doing it. I’ll talk to them. I think it’s more effective to talk to them under your breath and talk to them like a man. I think you can milk calls a lot better (that way) than embarrassing them. I’m upset with them, but if you’re yelling they’re not listening to you.
Q: Will you stand up as much as Mike?
KH: “I’m not even comparing it to Mike. In the second half I won’t have to stand as much because they’re in front of us. I’ll stand in the first half because the defense is away from us and try to transfer the calls to our guys. We’ve got a situation where a couple of our guys don’t know our plays, actually, more than a couple. So we have to make it as simple as possible.
Q: How much will Zach play?
KH: That will depend on the status of Chris Kaman. He may not be able to play.
Q: What’s wrong with him?
KH: Do you have like an hour to talk about it?
Oh, physically you’re saying. He’s got a strained arch and I don’t know what the chances of him playing are. He’s in the training room getting treatment right now, he didn’t participate in shoot-around, he didn’t practice yesterday.
He’s actually been struggling with it for five games. If you notice he can’t jump any more. He’s been fighting through it. He’s missed a lot of short layups because he can’t finish at the rim. He’s been fighting it, he sat out two days, and he’ll get a cortisone shot tonight, which he’ll do either at halftime if he’s not playing or after the game if he’s playing.
He had a bone bruise in his ankle. This is a diferent injury. It’s on the bottom of his foot and its really more pain than injury. But it’s limiting his jumping and he thinks it affects his movement.
Q: Does this game being against Denver (where Hughes spent five years as an assistant) have any extra meaning?
KH: No not at all. I loved my time in Denver. I had a really bad last year, where I wasn’t able to work. But I lived in Denver 28 years and it was a good time for me. I liked George Karl, I loved Nene. A lot of their players are gone from when I was there.
But when I left I always told Mike you need to go get Marcus Camby because he’s so good, he’s so smart.
This is not a vendetta (game).
Our whole focus is: We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to find our chemistry, we’ve got to guard dribble penetration and we’ve got to be tougher.
Q: What happened in Denver in that last year?
KH: I was told by management that the coachign staff didn’t want me there. But a lot of the players would come up to me and ask me questions. Jeff Bzdelik told me, `I really want you on staff but I’m not able to’ and I believe Jeff. I think Jeff was being very honest with me.
And I don’t begrudge them because in all honesty I wanted Larry Harris to be the GM before Kiki (Vandeweghe) got there, so why would Kiki want me around. And I like Kiki, but why would he want me around if I wanted Larry Harris to be the GM. You want your own people and I fully understand that.
Q: What can Zach do for you tonight?
KH: He can score. He has a lowpost game, he can make a 15 footer. I was laughing yesterday and telling him, `you’re not a 3-point shooter’ because he took five or six of them in practice.
We have enough 3-point shooters on our team that shoot them and they can’t make them. That issue was addressed by him. He won’t be shooting 3s. He can score in any system. He’ll figure it out. We’ll keep it simple. In early offense, he can seal, get low position and score.
Whether (Kaman) is on the court or not. There’s nothing wrong with having two lowpost players on the court at the same time. Right now we can’t make an outside shot, so if we can post up I think Denver will double Zach and double Kaman and it’ll create an open shot for one of our perimeter people who are struggling.
Q: You guys are really short-handed?
KH: We’re used to it. As long as no one … has a torn Achilles’
Q: How do you think the three big men on the roster, Kaman, Camby and Randolph will shake out?
KH: If it was me, it might be a different answer than Mike. I think I would do Marcus and Chris (in the starting lineup), I believe you start your best defensive team. I think Mike may start Zach because we can’t score.
I can’t figure out why we cant make shots. Some of it is we take bad shots, we take too many 3s and we’re not a 3-point shooting team.
Q: What do you think of Zach so far?
KH: He’s a good guy. I’ve heard bad things, but he’s competitive, he works hard. Defensively he doesn’t know our rotations so I can’t judge his defense, it’s not fair.
I don’t think we should ever look at a situation where we should try to trade any of the three of them, I think we should keep them and go for it. I think it’s nice to have three studs down there. If you balance the minutes appropriately, you’ve got 32 minutes apiece.
Q: How will you guard Carmelo?
KH: Honestly tonight I may put Marcus on Carmelo because I think he can guard him.
Q: Yesterday you said you might put Mardy on him?
KH: I will. I like the idea that Mardy and Carmelo got into a fight back in New York. I remembered that.
He’s gotten severely frustrated against us in the past and I’m not going to let him play 1-on-1 basketball gainst us, he’s too good.