Sacramento Kings fire Paul Westphal as coach

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Locker room dissention plus confusion on the court equaled the firing of Paul Westphal as coach of the Sacramento Kings. The team made the announcement Thursday.

Keith Smart will take over in the interim, starting Thursday night when the Kings host the Bucks.

The Kings were 2-5 but not really playing even that well, with both an offense and defense in the bottom five in the league (in points scored/allowed per 100 possessions). After a loss the other night point guard Tyreke Evans said nobody really knew what the offense was supposed to be in crunch time. They looked it.

Then there was Westphal’s ongoing feud with DeMarcus Cousins. The second-year center is a Primma Donna who has detractors in the organization and around the league, but the public handling of issues and recent sitting him for a game had become a bigger distraction than it needed to be. By Westphal releasing a statement to the press saying Cousins demanded a trade he created wedge that didn’t need to exist. Westphal was clearly frustrated and not sure how to handle Cousins, but his moves exacerbated an already difficult situation.

According to Kings co-owner Joe Maloof, Westphal’s firing is more about the fact the team stunk and was not improving than it was about Cousins. NBA.com‘s David Aldridge spoke to Maloof and then tweeted this.

Kings co-owner Joe Maloof says while the Cousins/Westphal dynamic was part of the issue, “none of the guys were playing to their potential.”

The issue with the timing of the move is it makes it appear Cousins has won, which may embolden his behavior. That said, 29 other general managers would have chosen the potential of Cousins over what Westphal was giving the team. This is a team that needs some real leadership, both by a coach and a veteran in the locker room.

That leadership — and accountability — needs to start with Kings GM Geoff Petrie. He is the guy who has hired Eric Musselman, Regie Theus and Westphal in succession. He has made some smart draft picks but has in general assembled a team that does not work together, with questions about how all the pieces fit. He’s the guy buying the ingredients, if the dish doesn’t taste good he has to take some of the blame. Which makes this tweet from Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated interesting.

Per this tired routine, Kings GM Geoff Petrie spent recent days distancing himself from the coach in discussions with Maloofs and others.

Watch the top 60 clutch shots from last NBA season

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It’s that time of the year when there is no basketball, so we fill the time with idle Kyrie Irving speculation and video highlights of last season.

Along those lines, above you can out the top 60 clutch shots from last season, as determined by the folks at NBA.com.

The great thing about the clutch shot list is the ball is in the hands of stars at the ends of games, so there is plenty of Russell Westbrook, John Wall, LeBron James, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and more. Personally, I would have switch No. 1 and No. 2 on the list, but it’s all fun to relive.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert: Pacers ‘could have done better’ on Paul George trade

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Kyrie Irving has requested a trade. LeBron James could leave next summer. The Cavaliers keep churning through general managers, the newest – Koby Altman – the reason for today’s press conference.

But Cavs owner Dan Gilbert looked past his own team’s turmoil and potential turmoil to take a shot at the Pacers, who traded Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

“I will say Indiana could have done better than they did,” Gilbert said after Altman refused to directly address a question about George trade talks and shifted the discussion elsewhere.

This didn’t strike me as Gilbert trying to distract from Cleveland’s troubles. He just seemed to want to take a shot at a foe, something he’s no stranger to doing. The Cavaliers are particularly salty about their trade offer for George, which included Kevin Love, not being accepted.

For what it’s worth, Gilbert is right. The Pacers should have done better. Oladipo is now on a lucrative contract extension, and Sabonis spent his rookie season showcasing the reasons people doubted him the draft. That’s a piddling return for a star, even one on an expiring contract with dreams of joining the Lakers.

Report: Kings meet with former Magic GM Otis Smith about front-office job

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The Kings lost Scott Perry to the Knicks, so Sacramento is seeking someone else to aid Vlade Divac in the front office.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Former Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith has met with Sacramento Kings officials about the franchise’s vacant vice president of basketball operations job, league sources told ESPN.

Smith has plenty of experience, which Divac lacks. But it’s not all good experience.

Running the Magic, Smith made numerous errors – including drafting Fran Vazquez (who has never played in the NBA) No. 11, overpaying Rashard Lewis and then trading Lewis for Gilbert Arenas’ even worse contract. If Smith’s Orlando tenure is predictive, he’ll indulge the Kings’ worst tendencies to mortgage the future for the present.

That said, Smith might have learned from his time with the Magic (though working under Stan Van Gundy with the Pistons the few couple years isn’t exactly the best place to hone long-term-planning skills). What amounts to an assistant general-manager role might be a better fit for him, too.

Usually, this opening wouldn’t garner so much attention. But Perry was lavished with praise for Sacramento’s offseason, raising the profile of this job – which already carried relative prominence. The No. 2 in the Kings’ front office is now perceived, somewhat fairly, as more important than the typical assistant general manager.

Lakers sign Tyler Ennis to minimum contract

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Jut before the trade deadline, the Lakers took a flier on Tyler Ennis, who had struggled in two-plus seasons with the Suns, Bucks and Rockets.

The former No. 18 pick finally looked like an NBA player in Los Angeles, so he’s returning.

Lakers release:

The Los Angeles Lakers have signed guard Tyler Ennis, it was announced today by General Manager Rob Pelinka.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

This is fantastic value for the Lakers. Ennis is probably worth a minimum salary, and if he is, they have him for two years at that price. If not, they can drop him for no cost next summer, when their cap room will be at a premium. This is the type of bet smart teams make, which bodes well for the Magic Johnson regime.

Ennis’ productivity in Los Angeles might not be sustainable. He shot well above his career marks on 3-pointers and free throws in a small sample. But he looked more comfortable on the court, showing some of the savvy he was expected to bring from Syracuse. He’s also just 22, and point guards tend to develop later than other positions.

The Lakers still have their room exception, which they could use on another point guard. So, it’s uncertain whether Ennis will back up Lonzo Ball or fall to third string. I’m not sure any remaining free-agent point guards – Ty Lawson, Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings, Ramon Sessions – will command more than the minimum or playing time over Ennis, though.