The complexity of the Kings’ Cousins situation

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Following the Kings’ press release from Coach Paul Westphal concerning DeMarcus Cousins’ behavior following a recent loss, the Kings are kind of facing a disaster.

To list the things that should not happen in a professional sports organization

  • A professional ball player should not behave in such a way as to elicit multiple suspensions and a press release stating that he has asked for a trade and has been sent home.
  • A coach should not, under any circumstances, issue a press release stating that a player has demanded a trade. That should come from the GM, from ownership, from a team spokesman on behalf of the entire organization. But in general, it should never happen, period. It paints the player into a corner and alienates him. Did Cousins put himself out on that plank? Absolutely. But you don’t respond to an employee acting inappropriately by releasing a statement regarding their behavior. You either fire them or work to re-integrate them.

SI.com reports that it wasn’t even a real trade demand. Reportedly during yet another long argument with Paul Westphal, who Cousins has clashed with multiple times over the years, did say “Trade me!” but it was meant in the tone of “If that’s how you feel, then trade me!”

So who’s wrong here? Everyone. Cousins is 21 years old. He’s a big boy. He gets to make his own decisions. And while pretty much everyone over the age of 21 can look back at being 21 and acknowledge that they were full of stupidity and immaturity, Cousins has a professional obligation to conduct himself better. Maybe the situation really is that bad. But if that’s the case, your representation is fully charged and capable of handling your situation.

Westphal’s in a spot. The team’s bad, he’s on the hot seat, the ownership made a handful of dubious decisions over the past three months. He’s likely to be fired, he’s been in the league a long enough time to not have to deal with this kind of abuse from a 21 year old. But that’s part of coaching. Maybe it wasn’t his idea to release the statement, maybe it was a suggestion from PR or an order from management. But the impact is the same. This isn’t about Cousins, it’s about a reflection on the organization and specifically the coaching staff that indicates they alienate and throw players under the bus.

So now they almost have to trade him. Keep him and you’ve neutered Westphal, which is worse than firing him (especially since he still gets paid). So instead, they have mortgaged leverage and now have to find some sort of way to move him without endangering their entire rebuilding project. Let’s be clear, Cousins can play. He’s off to a hard start this year, but he’s also obviously not mentally checked in. The kid has the talent, no one has ever denied that.

Furthermore, Cousins isn’t a “bad kid.” He hasn’t gotten in trouble with the law. His run ins with teammates and coaches are basketball related, not about gambling or women or anything else. That doesn’t mean he’s a good teammate; he’s clearly not. But it does impact what we’re talking about here.

The Kings’ season has been weird. It just got a lot weirder.

Report: Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers president

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Larry Bird put his stamp on the Pacers in the last year –  firing Frank Vogel and trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young to join hand-picked Monta Ellis and Myles Turner as Paul George‘s supporting cast on an up-tempo, offensively dynamic team.

The plan fell flat.

Indiana played at a below-average pace and produced a middling offense. The Pacers got swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, Indiana’s uncertain future – with Paul George a year from free agency and the Lakers courting – gets even more chaotic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bird had already resigned once as Pacers president, in 2012. He returned the following year.

Bird’s patience and pain tolerance for the job due to lingering back issues from his playing days has long seemed to waver. I wouldn’t write him off for good.

Indiana hired Kevin Pritchard in 2012, when Bird previously stepped down. Pritchard previously worked as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, and he’s a qualified replacement.

The work begins immediately with a decision on George. If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Pacers won’t gain as much financial advantage in his contract offer. That could open the door to a trade and rebuilding around Turner — or making a last-ditch push to convince George he can win in Indiana.

Report: Clippers expect Chris Paul to re-sign

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Chris Paul reportedly verbally committed months ago to re-sign with the Clippers. There have been mixed signals about Blake Griffin‘s intention to re-sign.

But they can’t formalize the deals until July, and the Clippers are now one game from another demoralizing first-round exit.

Where do they stand now?

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

Sources close to the Clippers say that they expect Paul to re-sign with the Clippers. He’ll be eligible for a five-year contract in excess of $200 million. Griffin’s return is less certain, sources say. This summer is his first foray into unrestricted free agency. Given his snakebitten tenure with the team and the possibility of another early exit, the prospect of exploring what’s out there will be alluring. One premise volunteered in good humor suggests that Paul is more likely to take a slew of meetings in a public process but ultimately re-sign with the Clippers, while Griffin is more likely to mull the decision privately under the guise of night, but announce he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2017-18.

Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers has made clear his desire to re-sign Paul and Griffin, and the playoffs won’t change that. This is the right call. It’s so difficult to assemble a team this good, the Clippers shouldn’t throw it away for the sake of change. Just because the Clippers haven’t gotten the breaks in previous seasons doesn’t mean they won’t get the breaks in future seasons.

But Paul and Griffin – and J.J. Redick, who’ll also be an unrestricted free agent – will determine the franchise’s fate. If they want to leave, they’ll leave.

Can the Clippers lure them back? They apparently think they’ll keep Paul, but there’s an uncertain dynamic in L.A. that Arnovitz explores in great depth. I highly recommend reading his full piece.

Nike, Adidas, Under Armour pass on potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball

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NBA teams reportedly aren’t dinging potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball over all the wild stuff his dad says and does.

Shoe companies are apparently taking a different approach.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

An endorsement deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas is not in the cards for Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father LaVar confirmed that the three shoe and apparel companies informed him that they were not interested in doing a deal with his son. Sources with the three companies told ESPN.com that they indeed were moving on.

In his meetings with the three, LaVar insisted that the company license his upstart Big Baller Brand from him. He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

“Just imagine how rich Tiger (Woods), Kobe (Bryant), Serena (Williams), (Michael) Jordan and LeBron (James) would have been if they dared to do their own thing,” LaVar said. “No one owned their own brand before they turned pro. We do and I have three sons so it’s that much more valuable.”

Is there more upside in this approach? Yeah, I guess.

But the traditional shoe companies bring valuable infrastructure and experience. There’s value in forfeiting upside for those resources. Lonzo Ball, who has yet to play in the NBA, is also missing out on guaranteed life-changing money.

On the risk-reward curve, this seems like a mistake.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers leaves door open for starting Paul Pierce in Game 6 against Jazz

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The Clippers have four sure-fire starters: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and DeAndre Jordan.

The fifth spot is up for grabs with Blake Griffin‘s season-ending injury.

Marreese Speights started Games 4 and 5 against the Jazz. Paul Pierce started the second half of Game 5.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

When asked if Marreese Speights or Paul Pierce would start against the Jazz in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series in which the Clippers trail 3-2, Rivers said, “Yeah, one of them.”

“Paul was good,” Rivers said. “He’s been good throughout the series overall, I will say that. But he’s got to play better too, especially with his second effort, getting out to the shooters and stuff like that.”

There are no good options here.

Pierce, 39, has looked washed up most of his time in L.A. That the Clippers have outscored Utah by nine points in his 58 minutes seems like a product of small sample size.

Speights starting leaves the Clippers vulnerable at center when Jordan sits, and rather than staggering, maybe they ought to just start differently.

Rivers wants to ease the ball-handling burden on Paul, but one choice to do that – Raymond Felton – would be a defensive liability. Another possibility – Jamal Crawford – would present the same defensive issues and sabotage second-unit scoring.

Austin Rivers could bridge the gap, but he’s just returning from his own injury.

Doc Rivers clearly doesn’t trust Wesley Johnson, and the forward’s Game 5 gaffes won’t change that.

The Clippers’ central problem: They have only one player – Luc Mbah a Moute – who can guard Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson. When those Jazz forwards share the court, especially in crunch time, the Clippers face one massive mismatch.

Is relying on Pierce a good option? No way. But it also might be the Clippers’ best option.