Kings bench, fine DeMarcus Cousins for giving “choke” sign during game

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With 19 seconds left and the Kings up five points on the Warriors Tuesday night, Golden State’s Reggie Williams went to the free throw line and missed the first of two pretty badly off the front rim.

DeMarcus Cousins did a little taunting, walking out into the lane and making the choking gesture.

That offended Kings coach Paul Westphal. Well, offended him later after Westphal didn’t need Cousins as he played the entire overtime.

But on Wednesday Westphal announced that Cousins would be “fined and benched” by the team, and he would not return to the starting lineup until he shows he knows how to be more professional, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.

Cousin’s response is that he didn’t think he would have been punished if the Kings had won.

First, note to DeMarcus — do not taunt the basketball gods like that. Karma is real. Hence the OT loss.

This was not the most mature act, and Cousins has had a few of those, but Westphal continues to completely mismanage Cousins.

The rookie plays with a lot of emotion and passion — on the worst team in the league he is the one guy who clearly busts it to win on the court every night. He has learned lessons — including the ones about arguing with coaches in practice — and lately has been playing better. He is making better decisions in the offense (fewer jumpers) and figuring out how better to play defense on the NBA level, how to really protect the rim.

But he is emotional. He gets down on himself (watch his body language) and alternates to a crazy confidence.

What the Kings need to do is to teach Cousins how to channel that passion, instead Westphal treats him like a disobedient puppy. This action by Cousins is immature but minor. The overreaction by the organization is more likely to sap his passion for the game and make him not listen to the coaches. And this is a team that needs Cousins.

As Tom Ziller said at Sactown Royalty — Cousins action was not 1/1,000th the embarrassment to the Kings that the team’s play has been this season. And that play on both ends of the floor reflects on Westphal.

This fine and benching is all public relations, about team image. Fine Cousins if you must, but the benching is silly because you are hurting the product on the court for perception. But a lot of things about the Kings right now are silly.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.