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.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).

 

 

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.