Rick Adelman coached the Sacramento Kings to eight straight playoff appearances during his tenure with the team from 1998-2006.
On Saturday, the most successful coach in Kings history returns to Sacramento for the first time as Adelman’s Houston Rockets go for their fourth straight win against his former club.
Adelman helped turn around a Sacramento franchise that had posted 15 consecutive losing seasons before his arrival. He won 395 games with the Kings, including a franchise-record 61 in 2001-02, when Sacramento made its first Western Conference finals appearance in 21 years.
Despite Adelman’s success, the Kings decided not to renew his contract after the team’s second consecutive first-round playoff exit in 2006.
Since the Adelman era ended in Sacramento, the Kings have reverted back to their losing ways, going 38-59 under two different head coaches, including 5-10 this season under first-year NBA coach Reggie Theus.
After sitting out last season, Adelman joined the Rockets in May. His first season in Houston has had its ups and downs as the Rockets (9-8) opened with six wins in seven games before a six-game losing streak. They snapped that skid with three straight wins, but lost 113-94 at Golden State on Thursday.
“They kept attacking us,” said Adelman, who also coached the Warriors for two seasons before he got the Kings job. “We have to respond better.”
Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming - averaging 25.0 and 21.7 points, respectively - combined for just 21 points and seven turnovers while shooting 9-for-26 from the field in the defeat. Houston is 2-6 when McGrady scores fewer than 20 points or doesn’t play.
“(The Warriors) did a great job of taking Yao and myself out of the game,” McGrady said. “Every time we touched the ball we had two guys hanging off us. Even before we touched the ball we had two guys hanging off us.”
The Rockets will try to get back on track against a Kings team they swept in 2006-07. McGrady averaged 35.0 points and 10.3 assists against Sacramento, but all three games were decided by six points or fewer - and two went to overtime.
Kings forward Ron Artest averaged 36.5 points on 56.1 percent shooting in his first two contests against Houston, but was held to 10 points while going 2-for-14 from the field in the season series finale in Sacramento.
Artest had another bad shooting night on Wednesday, when Sacramento fell 103-96 to Golden State for its fourth loss in five games. Artest went 7-for-24 as the Kings shot a season-low 34.5 percent.
“We were good tonight, we just missed a lot of shots,” said Artest, who had 21 points. “I’ve been in this situation plenty of times and there is nothing to panic about.”
The Kings’ nine second-half field goals matched a franchise record for fewest in a half, and they were just 2-for-23 in the fourth quarter, missing their last 11 shots.
“I wanted them to take the ball to the basket and we’ve got guys shooting jumpers,” Theus said. “We’re in the penalty, we’ve got eight minutes to go. Down the stretch we just didn’t make the plays.”
Poor finishes have cost Sacramento at home. The Kings are 5-3 at Arco Arena, and they have been tied or had the lead in the fourth quarter in each of the losses.