Paul Westphal, Tyreke Evans

What the Kings should do when the lockout ends…

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This is the next installment of PBT’s series of “What your team should do when the lockout ends.” Today it’s the Sacramento Kings. You can also read up on the Lakers, Timberwolves and Mavericks as we start to work our way through all 30 NBA teams.

Last Season: So much for all that dazzling promise. The Kings were like that horse who showed such great potential as a colt, came from good stock, and looked ready to take the race by storm, then just stood there for twenty seconds in the chute, defecated, then fell forward onto its face. DeMarcus Cousins was great… when he wasn’t getting ejected or refusing to work on defense. Tyreke Evans got hurt with the worst possible ailments for a player of his ilk. Nothing came together, the coaching staff was pretty much teetering on pink slips the entire year, and oh, yeah, ownership tried to yank the team out from under the fans. Last year was about as much fun as root canal surgery for everyone in Sacramento, only instead of a dentist, a drunken toddler was the one with the drill. In short: things did not go well.

Changes since we last saw the Kings: Things are different, we’re just not sure if they’re better. The Kings have Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton (assuming they keep Thornton in restricted free agency). Surely they went after a small forward or a point guard to move Evans to SF, right? No no! This is GONZO DRAFT. The Kings traded for… wait for it… John Salmons… and then drafted… Jimmer Fredette. So a team with an abundance of shots and no distributor added two scorers… who don’t distribute! It’s like that song. SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS. Then they whipped popular wing Omri Casspi to the Cavaliers for J.J. Hickson, because what you really need when you have DeMarcus Cousins is a volatile undersized big man. It was a…. weird early summer, let’s put it that way.

When the lockout ends, the Kings need to… Go see a shrink. Collectively. Because this team needs to find itself. Maybe instead of counseling it should take a roadtrip. Get out and see the country, do some pondering on the highways and byways of this great land. (Just don’t head to Anaheim. That could go badly.) The Kings need to figure out who they are and what direction they’re headed. Do they want to win now? Because if so, they should recalibrate to get some defense in the house. Are they a young team? In that case, John Salmons as got to go. Are they a Warriors-like offensive team? Someone’s going to have to handle the ball and run the offense, even if it is a Gonzo exploration of shot selection. (In this scenario, the part of Dr. Thompson will be played by Donte Green.

They’ll need to re-sign Thornton, of course, and the amount that takes may clear up some of the direction in terms of the shooting guard, unless they want Thornton to play the Jason Terry role. It’s probably time to figure out which of their 700 bigs they want to keep and it might be a good idea to find a center, since Samuel Dalembert may go ring chasing. In that case, they’ll need to resist the urge to play Jimmer at center, which is a joke but also kind of not since I have no earthly idea how he fits in with this team.

But again, mostly they need to find a direction. They’re drifting right now. In-between cities, not really in Sacramento, definitely not in Anaheim. In-between stages, not really on the rise, but not really rebuilding. Everything hinges on Tyreke Evans. Can he become a distributor, a playmaker, can he understand he doesn’t have to score? Can Jimmer Fredette stun everyone and take that role? Can DeMarcus Cousins get his head out of his backside long enough to consistently dominate through a season like he’s more than capable of? The Kings have a lot of questions. Next season isn’t about using the answers. They have to find them first.

Joakim Noah: Jerry Reinsdorf’s ‘frontline’ comment a ‘low blow’

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10:  NBA player Joakim Noah looks on during a game between the Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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After watching Joakim Noah leave for the Knicks, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said, “We felt Joakim wasn’t going to be a frontline guy anymore.”

Ouch.

Noah, via Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“He’s entitled to his opinion,’’ Noah said. “I feel I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me that’s all that matters. I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, but at the end of the day I have nothing but respect for that organization. I’m just excited for this new chapter of my career.”

Reinsdorf was right. Noah, 31, is on the downside of his career. I wouldn’t want him for $72 million over the next four years.

But Noah is also right. He gave the Bulls everything he had.

Noah didn’t deserve that parting shot, even if it was correct.

I also wonder how much this has to do with Chicago correctly assessing Noah’s value vs. the Bulls losing a player whom they wanted to keep and lashing out about it.

Spurs waive Ryan Richards, open roster spot

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 12: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs waits for the Oklahoma City Thunder to bring the ball down court during the second half of Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 12, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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The Spurs drafted Ryan Richards No. 49 in 2010, and he could’ve signed with San Antonio any year since. To maintain a second-rounder’s rights, a team must extend a required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum. If the player rejects the offer, those rights extend another year, and the team must then offer the tender again the following year.

Richards finally took the tender this year.

Just a couple days into training camp, the Spurs showed how much they value him.

Spurs release:

The San Antonio Spurs today announced that they have waived forward/center Ryan Richards.

San Antonio now has 19 players and one open roster spot. I know what you’re thinking.

Thunder PG Cameron Payne fractures foot. Again

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 08:  Cameron Payne #22 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Thunder defeated the Suns 122-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Just as he was getting back into the flow after fracturing his foot this summer, Thunder point guard Cameron Payne hurt himself all over again.

Thunder release:

The Oklahoma City Thunder announced today that guard Cameron Payne suffered an acute fracture to his fifth metatarsal in Tuesday night’s Blue-White Scrimmage.

This is a troubling setback for the 22-year-old Payne, whom Oklahoma City drafted No. 14 last year. The Thunder didn’t play him enough last season to maximize his development, and now, they won’t the chance to make amends for a while.

Russell Westbrook will obviously still handle the large majority of point guard minutes, and this sets up Ronnie Price to open the season as the primary backup. The 33-year-old Price can play tough defense in limited playing time, but asking him to run the second unit offensively will likely turn out poorly.

Oklahoma City could stagger Westbrook’s and Victor Oladipo‘s minutes, using Oladipo as the lead guard when Westbrook sits. But Oladipo didn’t take to that role in Orlando.

This could also open the door slightly for Semaj Christon to make the regular-season roster as the third healthy point guard. But the Thunder already have 16 players, one more than the regular-season roster limit, with guaranteed salaries – and that doesn’t count Christon. Oklahoma City would have to drop Mitch McGary and one other player to keep Christon, which seems unlikely.

The Thunder will probably just have to grind it out with Price behind Westbrook.

Paul George on MVP: ‘This is my year to go get it’

TORONTO, ON - MAY 01:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers reacts after sinking a basket in the first half of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Raptors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 01, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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MVP feels wide open this year.

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James have accounted for the last five. But Curry and Durant are now sharing touches with the Warriors, and LeBron is 31 and has coasted in the last couple regular seasons in the midst of so many Finals runs.

That opens the door for new contenders like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard (my pick), Anthony Davis – and Paul George, the Pacers star who’s announcing his candidacy loud and clear.

George on SiriusXM NBA Radio:

I want to be MVP. I definitely want to be the MVP this year. It’s tough, as always. It would be a challenge, but with coach Nate and the guys that I got here, I’m in position to move into that spot as long as I remain being me, being a leader, being aggressive and wanting that. It’s not mine for the taking. I got to go get it. And this is my year to go get it.

The MVP usually goes to a player on a top-two seed, and that’ll be a tough nut for Indiana to crack with the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors standing in the way. But, again, this is an atypical year with most top teams so balanced.

If the Pacers hit the high end of their potential outcomes, George would be a strong candidate. He’s is the second-best player in the East, so most nights, he’ll be the best player on the court. That goes a long way for perception.

The best thing George can do for his case is help Indiana win big. If he does that, he’ll surely impress enough individually along the way to warrant major consideration.