Kurt Helin

Grizzlies’ Matt Barnes gets flopping warning for three vs. Clippers


The thing is, it worked.

The Grizzlies were down four with 13.3 seconds left and needed a three, and they got one in practice when Chris Paul was called for a foul on Matt Barnes on the play above. Barnes comes off the screen and sells contact that is barely there. (For the record, the NBA determined this was the correct call, there was a foul, but that Barnes flopped in exaggerating the contact to make sure he got the call.)

The bottom line is it worked; Barnes got three free throws, and the Grizzlies stayed in the game (they eventually lost the free throw battle at the end). And for this flop he got a warning, which means if he flops again this season and is caught he could will a $5,000 fine — or 0.001 percent of his salary this season. That will teach him.


Rumor: DeMarcus Cousins cussed out George Karl in front of team

Atlanta Hawks v Sacramento Kings

James Ham of CSNBayArea.com has repeatedly written that the vibe inside the Kings’ locker room after the team fell to 1-7 Monday, losing to San Antonio, was weird and off.

This would explain why if true — DeMarcus Cousins cursed out coach George Karl in front of the entire team, according to The Big Lead.

After Sacramento was hammered at home by San Antonio Monday night, the Kings’ star, DeMarcus Cousins, stormed into the locker room and cursed out head coach George Karl with a torrent of obscenities, a person close to the situation told The Big Lead.

After Cousins unleashed the F-bombs on Karl, all the head coach – who publicly feuded with the Kings best player last summer – could do was walk away, a source tells The Big Lead. Afterward, Cousins felt some remorse for his actions, asking a couple of teammates if he came down too hard on the coach. They calmly told him, “you can’t scream and curse like that at your coach in front of everyone.”

This is what led to the team meeting Tuesday before the team’s practice, a meeting that resulted in the usual “we’re all on the same page now” quotes, save for GM Vlade Divac admitting that the players have not yet bought into Karl’s system.

But the Big Lead had one other rumor out of that meeting, which I would take with a big grain of salt but speaks to the mess in that organization right now.

What hasn’t been reported is that after the players spoke, Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac and assistant GM Mike Bratz talked to the players and Divac asked the team, “We don’t know what to do with George [Karl], do you think we should fire him?”

I’m not sure Divac would do that. If Divac put that question to the players in a team meeting, he’s making more mistakes than we realized. If you’re not sure about a coach — and Divac the GM inherited Karl — you privately may talk about it with a franchise cornerstone player (like Cousins). But it’s not something where you want the players starting to lobby for or against a coach.

Looming over all of this is owner Vivek Ranadive, who has the patience of a four-year-old. DeMarcus Cousins, for all his flaws, has been undercut by ownership in Sacramento that is constantly changing the front office and with that constantly changing the style of play. The word consistency seems to be banned in Sacramento. Ranadive wanted Karl and got rid of Mike Malone, the guy Cousins’ liked. Ranadive wants an up-tempo team, but does not have a good up-tempo roster built. And looming over it all are the whispers around the league (mentioned by the Big Lead) Ranadive wants to bring in John Calipari and give him all the power. (I’m far from sold Calipari would take it.)

It’s a mess. And if the Kings don’t start picking up some wins, the pressure is only going to build.

Kings’ GM Divac admits players have not bought into Karl’s system. Yet.

Vlade Divac, Vivek Ranadive
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When you look at the Kings’ seven losses in eight games to start the season, they all have reasonable explanations. Four of the losses came with DeMarcus Cousins sidelined, and for years the Kings have sucked when he is not in the lineup. The other three losses were to the Warriors and Clippers (twice), two of the NBA’s elite.

Still, a 1-7 start for a team that had playoff aspirations is brutal, and it led to a team meeting just a couple weeks into the season. Out of that meeting most of the quotes were pabulum in the vein of “we had a frank talk and are in a better place,” the stuff heard after every team meeting. For example, there is this one from Kings GM Vlade Divac, via James Ham of CSNBayArea.com.

“It was good I think,” Divac said. “Going 1-7, you expect much better things. There’s a lot of frustrations among the group and it was pretty good and active. We addressed some issues and the most important thing is we are on the same page after that meeting.”

But Divac dropped one line that seemed to get at the heart of the problem.

“I’m not saying they don’t like the system,” Divac said. “They just aren’t buying in yet.”

The coaches and players are not on the same page. Things are messy. Cousins and other players like Mike Malone’s slower, more defensive system, but owner Vivek Ranadive did not — he wants an up-tempo team to open his new arena in downtown Sacramento next season. So enter George Karl. Who had a rocky summer with Cousins. They have said things are patched up, but plenty of people around the league question the stability of that relationship. That may be part of it.

This is going to be a big 48 hours for the Kings — how do they come out Wednesday night against a good Detroit team? Sacramento faces Brooklyn and Toronto after that, can they string some wins together, or do the losses keep piling up, putting pressure on the entire Kings’ organization.


Wizards’ Randy Wittman rips team: “We don’t have any toughness”

Randy Wittman

The Oklahoma City Thunder are an offensive powerhouse. Add to that some matador defense and things get ugly quickly. That’s what happened Tuesday night when the Thunder dropped 125 points on the Wizards — with a team true shooting percentage of 63.3 percent on the evening, plus they out rebounded the Wizards by a dozen. All of which caused coach Randy Wittman to unload on his team.

“We don’t defend. Guys drive by us at will. We don’t have any toughness. We don’t hit anybody and rebound the ball. We’ve got guys that play 27 minutes and get one defensive rebound. I can get a rebound, I guarantee you. If you give me 27 minutes on a Saturday, I’ll get you a rebound. And that’s what it boils down to – 50-50 balls; the dirty stuff. We don’t get dirty. And that’s on me. We’ve got three days to find the guys that’ll play that way.”

That rebounding reference is to Marcin Gortat.

Wittman is right. To a man the Wizards all admitted they played like manure after the game. But the issues are deeper than just this game, the Wizards are 23rd in the NBA in defense right now, allowing 105.2 points per 100 possessions. This wasn’t just one bad game, it’s a pattern.

The past three seasons, the Wizards were a top 10 defense. If they don’t return to that form, their dreams of a deep playoff run will be sunk in the Patomic.

LaMarcus Aldridge is okay with Portland fans booing him tonight

LaMarcus Aldridge
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Wednesday night, when DeAndre Jordan “returns” to Dallas — the team he said he would play for this summer, then changed his mind — fans there will greet him with a Foo Fighters concert volume of boos.

But he is not the only returning player Wednesday night, there is a true return:

Will Trail Blazers fans boo LaMarcus Aldridge as he returns to Portland in a San Antonio uniform?

I expect a mix of boos and cheers, with the latter winning out. This certainly will not have the venom to be unleashed in Dallas earlier in the night. But if the Blazers fans want to boo Aldridge, he understands and is good with that he told the Express-News.

“You have got to see it for what it is,” he said. “I love those fans. I love that city. They were great to me, so some people are going to be hurt about the move I made. I understand it, so I’m not going to take it personal. I understand their loyalty to their team. That’s what they are supposed to do.”

Aldridge’s transition to the Spurs system is still a work in progress. Aldridge is used to heavy minutes and a lot of touches, but the Spurs system is about team and sacrifice, so he is playing fewer than 30 minutes a night and getting 13.1 shots up a night, the fewest since his rookie season. His shooting efficiency is starting to return (32 points on 22 shots the last two games combined), but the volume of touches is down.

Aldridge has called it a process — he is learning to play off other guys rather than being the guy everyone plays off of. Coach Gregg Popovich has said he is still getting a feel for Aldridge’s game and where they can slot him in their offense to do the most damage. That said, it will come around, and everyone expects his role to grow as the Spurs get closer to the playoffs.

For now, the difference Blazers fans will see is rather than the Aldridge/Damian Lillard show, the Spurs and their balanced team attack are coming to town. Aldridge is a part of that machine now. And machine’s don’t care if you boo them.