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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Off-Season Is the Time to Take Kings Seriously

June 19, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

I had lunch recently with King President Tim Leiweke and General Manager Dave Taylor, which wasn't extraordinary.

What was extraordinary is that we talked about hockey.

In recent years, conversations with King executives sounded more like something you'd hear down at the bunco division. The operative words were fraud, conspiracy, tax evasion and bankruptcy.

But Leiweke insisted the Kings have begun a new chapter. It's not 11.

"It's been a long time since the Kings haven't spent the off-season worrying about paychecks, payrolls and the myriad problems we've faced," Leiweke said.

"This off-season, our time, our energy and, most importantly, our resources are going toward making this a great organization."

The Kings' focus since the season ended has been on Saturday's entry draft. They have three choices among the first 29, including the third and 15th in the first round.

The last time they selected twice in the first round was 1985. Their choices were Craig Duncanson and Dan Gratton, who scored a total of six points for the Kings.

This draft is so deep, the Kings can't help but improve on that. They're committed to retaining the third choice, probably Finnish forward Olli Jokinen, and are seeking a trade to bring them another selection in the first 10. Taylor said they also will pursue a free agent or two.

He's the first to acknowledge they can't improve enough in one summer to consider themselves playoff contenders, but he doesn't believe it will take more than two.

I believe they're serious, serious enough that they soon will start making an impression on this market with something more tangible than a marketing campaign.

*

The Mighty Ducks no longer are considering Don Hay for their coaching position because their interview with him was lackluster? I thought that would have been ideal for them. . . .

General Manager Jack Ferreira says they're looking for a coach who has "some of the same qualities as Ron Wilson.". . . .

Too bad he's not available. . . .

Wilson was quotable, but he used a lot of words. I prefer NASCAR's Bill Elliott. Upon finishing second last weekend in Michigan, he said, "Dad-gum it, dad-gum it.". . . .

That pretty much tells you all you need to know. . . .

The hottest rivalry around here is Ford vs. Chevy in the California 500 on Sunday in Fontana. . . .

Then come the Dodgers and Angels. . . .

Going into Wednesday night's game against the Angels, the Dodgers had a six-game winning streak against American League teams in games that counted at Chavez Ravine. That includes three World Series victories over the New York Yankees in 1981 and two over Oakland in '88. . . .

A colleague reports that his son's Cub Scout leader told the troops he was taking them to a game between the Angels and the Kansas City Chiefs. "Now there's an interleague game," one of the other fathers said. . . .

The Lowsman Trophy was awarded Wednesday night in Newport Beach to Army quarterback Ronnie McAda, the last player selected in the NFL draft. . . .

I wonder if it's worth the $400,000 that lawyers placed as the value on O.J. Simpson's just-found Heisman. . . .

If you think you spotted it this week in Las Vegas, I hope you didn't contact the police. That Heisman Trophy on display with the Wooden Award at Bally's Hotel was donated by New York's Downtown Athletic Club for a convention of NCAA athletic directors. . . .

Honorees at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's 12th Sports Spectacular on Sunday night at the Century Plaza include Terry Bradshaw, Kerri Strug and Oscar De La Hoya. Proceeds benefit the hospital's Genetics-Birth Defects Center. . . .

You'll be able to check out De La Hoya's new muscles on several magazine covers, "GQ" in September, "Latina" in October and "Playgirl" in November. . . .

Everybody's bulking up. Defending Wimbledon champ Richard Krajicek, committed to play in next month's Infiniti Open at UCLA, says he's lifting more weights so he can match serves with Mark Philippoussis. The Australian's serve has been timed at a record 143 mph. . . .

Already bulked to the max is Manny Yarbrough, a 6-foot-8, 700-pounder from Cranford, N.J., who will compete at Hollywood Park Casino on Friday and Saturday for the North American Amateur Sumo Wrestling championship.

*

While wishing Eric Davis the best, I was thinking: Leave it to the Dodgers to call up an infielder named Tripp; Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo and Sheryl Swoopes have been photographed together more than the Spice Girls, I'm going with Ford, dad-gum it.

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