Tag: Keith Smart

Keith Smart

Video: Kings coach Keith Smart getting a tarp off the court


There are some tarps over part of the scoreboard at the Sleep Train Arena where the Sacramento Kings play, covering up a former sponsor no longer involved with the team.

During the Kings home opener Monday (a win over Golden State) one of those tarps fell on to the court. But don’t worry, Keith Smart was there to save the day.

You get the feeling this is how things are going to go for the Kings for a while.

The Inbounds: Can Keith Smart save the Kings’ soul?

DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook

My favorite B-movie of all time is “Killer Clowns from Outer Space.”

It is as terrible and ridiculous as the title suggests, an outright cavalcade of campy horror bathed in absurdist light. To try and watch it is to recognize that sometimes, there are things which should not be made, and yet you will watch it anyway. It’s entertaining, but only if you let it be, and only if you’re OK with watching a few scenes which just blow your mind that anyone would write, let alone produce, direct and film.

That’s a lot like the Kings this year.

I’m not going to get into the toxic sludge that is the current owners’ shenanigans in their attempts to try and fleece a great NBA town of its team so they can go rake in the big-market dough, except to say that if allowing the Sonics to be ripped from Seattle was the worst thing David Stern has ever done as commissioner, he’s rapidly getting his karma back in his Gandalf-like stance against the Maloofs. (“You shall not pass to Anaheim!”) I just want to focus on the basketball for a minute, because the Kings are beautiful and horrible and a lot of other things all at the same time.

Their best player is a malcontent volcano of immaturity whose teammates are often in open revolt of him. Their second-best player was Mr. Irrelevant in his draft class and is under six feet tall. Their 2010 Rookie of the Year who accomplished something only four other players in history did is trade bait, their star pick in this year’s class had a miserable Summer League, their great white hope it turns out really is just Ron Howard, and they have Aaron Brooks now for some reason.

They added James Johnson in the offseason just to add to the number of totally perplexing players you can never figure out if they’re great or belong in the D-League, Travis Outlaw, Chuck Hayes, and John Salmons will all get significant minutes on this team, and have I mentioned that Marcus Thornton is on this team?

Jimmer-Thornton-Salmons-Johnson-Cousins is an actual lineup that can happen. So is Thomas-Reke-Johnson-Thompson-Hayes.

What is that?

I’m not even saying they’re going to be bad. There are about a million scenarios where this can work out and the Kings can be somewhere between decent and a playoff team. But it’s such a bizarre concoction it’s hard to see what, if anything, is going on on the team.

And that’s Keith Smart’s job.

Smart took over last season for Paul Westphal and managed to do something thought unreachable: connect with the team. They started to formulate an identity. It’s somewhere between a juggling act and advanced chemistry for Smart, who has to get DeMarcus Cousins to remain engaged, keep the trigger fingers of Brooks and Salmons in check, and try and figure out where to put Tyreke Evans. It’s a pretty tough job that doesn’t have a whole lot going for it and that’s before the expectations that come with Jimmer Fredette.

The Kings didn’t have a strong identity on the floor under Smart, but they did have something of a team concept in the locker room. They started to trust one another and to have a sense of identity. It was like basic NBA theory and the Kings had to crawl before they could walk.

The Kings are in large part expected to be one of the worst teams in the league next year. Was Isaiah Thomas a figment of our imagination (as he apparently was to the All-Rookie voters)? Is Cousins the modern incarnation of Barkley or just another knucklehead? Is Tyreke Evans going to be on the roster on opening night and if so, at what position? Can Marcus Thornton be a star? Is Thomas Robinson going to bring balance to the Force, and by Force I mean Cousins?

And what is Aaron Brooks doing there?

There’s no shortage about the Kings next season, but if Smart somehow manages to get a finger on the pulse and guide the blood flow where it needs to go for this team, there’s talent in place to do something unexpected, if not meaningful. And with what the fans have gone through there, that’s more than enough to feel alive for.

Kings extend coach Keith Smart’s contract to 2014

Keith Smart

Keith Smart did a nice job with the Kings last year — taking over a team Paul Westphal had lost and connecting with key players. And by Kings players we mean DeMarcus Cousins. It all starts there.

Kings management was impressed enough — and is desperate for some semblance of consistency — that they have extended Smart’s contract through 2014, reports CSNBayArea.com.

“I’m excited to continue this process with the Kings,” Smart said via press release. “We’re trying to get our franchise moving in the right direction. The goal is to keep moving in that positive direction, and I’m glad that I get that opportunity. It’s been great working with Geoff (Petrie, GM) and his staff and communicating with the Maloofs in this process.”

Smart was 20-39 last season. The Kings add Thomas Robinson and Aaron Brooks, and they will try to better fit in Tyreke Evans (unless they trade him). All of which is to say there is some nice young players there but don’t expect a whole lot of wins in Sacramento next season.

The real question here is: Why did the Kings extend him now? Smart was on the books for the coming season already, why not see how he works in a full season then extend him? Why put yourself on the hook for another year? Stability? It’s nice, but it’s not as important as being able to really teach and reach these guys. Why not make Smart prove he can?

This Kings offseason looks too much like last Kings offseason

DeMarcus Cousins

One year ago right now, the biggest concern for Sacramento Kings fans was that the team’s owners — the Maloof family — were going to pack up and move the Kings as soon as they could. That issue overshadowed the on the court questions about the young core of the team and how they would mesh and play together. There were questions if the coach was the right man for the job. But it all came back to the Maloofs, money and relocation.

The summer of 2012 is going to feel a lot like the summer of 2011 in Sacramento.

Some things have changed — an arena plan came together then was blown up by the Maloofs, DeMarcus Cousins emerged as a cornerstone — but the core question remain the same.

Specifically, are the Kings staying in town?

Right now, in the absence of a new arena plan, the Maloofs are discussing upgrades to the existing Power Balance Arena. Something they themselves said could not work a year ago. Nobody thinks that is the end game for the Maloofs. It’s the latest plan to stall, to win the PR battle. While the Maloofs keep saying they are not filing for relocation, it’s hard to believe anything they say anymore. Not after a they pushed back on a deal they not only shook hands on but stood at center court and celebrated with Kings fans.

Over at Cowbell Kingdom Rob McAllister does great work going into the groundwork being laid by the family and the lawsuits that are likely coming in the fight over relocation. There is a fight coming to move this team, it is clear. A fight that will involve other NBA owners and the courts.

It’s too complex a problem to be simply summed up here, but when you look at the Maloofs actions and not their words it is pretty obvious what is coming. They will try to move the team.

That cloud hangs over everything. From the AP:

“This year, everybody wasn’t really on the same page,” said rookie Isaiah Thomas, one of the team’s few bright spots. “The lockout, new coach, arena talk, all things like that. It was tough.”

The new coach was Keith Smart, who took over for Paul Westphal when the Kings started 2-5 and he had run ins with DeMarcus Cousins. Westphal tried to make a stand, the franchise sided with the player.

Smart stepped in and changed things. First, he had a connection with the players that was lacking before. They played hard for him. They also played fast as he tried to get the Kings out and running — it was a better strategy that worked some nights, but it was  not a great one because the Kings just don’t have a lot of talent.

The brightest spot for the Kings on the court is that Cousins developed into a star, the guy the team can build around inside. He averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds a game, he became the focal point of the halfcourt offense under Smart. Plus, Thomas developed into the point guard of the future, a guy who pushed the team in transition and maybe could make the All-Rookie team (problem is that point guard in Cleveland was pretty good, too).

But there are a lot of questions that remain. Like what to do with Tyreke Evans, the former Rookie of the Year whose game has stagnated, the Kings cannot seem to find a fit for him. Smart tried him at the three in his up-tempo offense, but that didn’t work. Evans shows up in a lot of trade rumors and the Kings will shop him around. They also would listen to offers for John Salmons or frankly anyone on the roster not named Cousins. There is a lot of work to do with this roster.

But how much can be spent to bring in players? It comes back to the owners — they have no goodwill in the community and that is going to hurt ticket sales, sponsorship sales and other revenue sources. The Maloofs will run the team on a shoestring because of that and… well, you can see the cycle.

I’m not sure how that cycle is going to end. There are a lot of questions out there about the Kings and what is next. But in the end it comes down to Maloffs, money and whether the other owners will vote to allow them to move the team.

Owner says Smart will return as Kings coach next season

Keith Smart, DeMarcus Cousins

Keith Smart has seemed to make a connection with the Kings players.

That has not translated to winning yet — since he took over and the team has gone 10-18. But you are seeing better energy and play out of DeMarcus Cousins, you are seeing better defense, you’re seeing a respectable team starting to form. Paul Westphal had lost the Kings, Smart has their attention.

So the Kings are going to keep Smart around. That’s what co-owner Joe Maloof told Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated.

“Yes,” Maloof said emphatically when asked if Smart’s option would be picked up. “With no disrespect to our past coaches, we really have someone who everybody likes now. The players like him, the basketball staff likes him, we trust him, and he knows the game. Keith Smart is a wonderful coach, and we’re lucky to have him. … Yes, we’ll pick it up. We want him to be our coach forever.”

Smart deserves the break. He was hired to take over in Golden State right as an ownership change was taking place that forced Don Nelson out. He was in a no man’s land — he was the coach but not the choice of the new front office. He guided the Warriors to a 36-46 record – about exactly what should have been expected out of the roster he was given — then was fired to make way for Mark Jackson.

Then he’s an assistant in Sacramento who gets thrust into the head coaching job following players having tuned out the last coach and the franchise threatening to move. He’s done a good job and with the Kings looking like they are staying in Sacramento Smart deserves the chance to see what he can do with a full season. Looks like he’ll get it.