Kings Hornets Basketball

Sacramento is just a train wreck

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DeMarcus Cousins — the guy who lost his starting job after coach Paul Westphal called him unprofessional — was coming off the court in the fourth quarter and was offered a high five by Westphal Thursday night. Cousins declined it. Westphal grabbed is arm and they had words. Again.

And that may have been third on the list of distractions for the Kings on Thursday night.

The Kings are a mess. A train wreck. They are 5-22 this season (2-21 after a 3-1 start) and have lost seven in a row. They have blown fourth quarter leads the last two games. Whatever term you prefer to describe an implosion, it fits the Kings.

The biggest distraction comes in a report from Ken Berger of CBSSports that coach Westphal and GM Geoff Petrie were in danger of losing their jobs. He is not the only one hearing rumors of a shakeup. Berger’s source quoted Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof as saying the franchise needs to “hit the reset button.”

This sent Joe Maloof — the other co-owner and Gavin’s brother — into damage control mode where he emphatically denied there was about to be any shakeup. This is what he told Sam Amick of FanHouse:

“No, that’s not true,” he said in a calm tone. “I don’t know where that’s coming from. We’re fine. We’re fine. We have a gameplan. Our future looks bright. We have young talent, (salary) cap space going into next year. (We have) cap space to make moves. We’ll stick together. We’re not going to go there. Not at all. Not true.”

Also high on the list of distractions is whatever the personal issue is that is bothering Kings sophomore building block Tyreke Evans this season. It has bothered him more than his ongoing foot issues (although Westphal just learned of it yesterday). Evans would not discuss what the personal issue was publicly — as certainly is his right — but he admitted he is distracted to the Sacramento Bee.

“It’s affecting me a lot,” Evans said. “It’s just a lot on my mind. I just have to find a way to get over it and just keep playing hard.”

Evans had four points and four turnovers on Thursday.

Cousins’ ups and downs — on the court and with Westphal — make a nice scapegoat issue but it is down there on the list of problems. Not to say it isn’t a problem when you have Cousin’s agent John Greig issuing this statement about the benching to FanHouse:

“I find it a curious decision to bench a productive young player for something that had nothing to do with the game’s outcome,” Greig wrote. “I’m sure we all can agree that there are many areas of the Kings that need greater professionalism and improvement right now. I told DeMarcus to take it as an honor that such a significant amount of criticism is focused on his mistakes. Great players live with greater expectations.”

All of this drama is playing out in front of a backdrop of serious stadium issues and  financial challenges for the franchise.

The Kings are a mess. However you wish to describe it.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.