Tag: Paul Westphal

DeMarcus Cousins Royals

DeMarcus Cousins is only responsible for being DeMarcus Cousins


We tend to treat NBA players as action figures. Fun to look at and watch do whatever actions they do, ultimately hollow, and easily classifiable.

“This one is a hero.”

“This one is a villain.”

The problem is that these are people. I’m not imploring you to be more considerate of their feelings; that’s a futile pursuit. But we should at least recognize the huge gap between people who share one characteristic and those that share multiple characteristics, and the fact that they are not all systemic. I’m talking about DeMarcus Cousins.

Paul Westphal was fired this week after a 2-5 start. Immediately, this became about DeMarcus Cousins. He was labeled as a coach killer. That this was about him. To do so ignores the fact that Tyreke Evans had said earlier in the week that the Kings literally did not know what offense they were running. That there was no cohesive strategy to the Kings’ approach to personnel deployment. That their defense was atrocious. That players had not only not developed under Westphal, but actually regressed. This isn’t to make Paul Westphal responsible for all the Kings’ problems. The guy who steered the Titanic into the iceberg didn’t put the iceberg in the water, didn’t build the ship, didn’t manage the evacuation procedures. But the Kings’ problems being pinned on DeMarus Cousins is like blaming one compartment that was flooded for the entire thing going down.

What’s worse it that there’s an immediate subtext to the conversation about Cousins. “He’s just one of those guys.” That’s code for “thug,” a phrase that’s been used for decades in the NBA and represents the worst of outside examination of the NBA from those who don’t pay attention. “You know what kind of guy he is.” This kind of approach seeks to attach characteristics to Cousins which are not representative of who Cousins has been.

Cousins hasn’t been arrested in the time he’s been playing organized ball at Kentucky or in the NBA. He hasn’t failed a drug test. He isn’t known to run with people of concern in the locker room. And yet people want to attach elements of the worst disappointments and character issues in the NBA to him. That’s not who Cousins is.

Just because you buck at any attempt by coaching to try and control you, to wrangle your play, that doesn’t mean that you have no respect for authority and are a loose cannon. Just because you don’t get along with teammates (and multiple people I’ve spoken  to as well as a dozen published reports indicate that Cousins is about as popular in the Kings’ locker room as a polka mix would be), that doesn’t mean that you are likely involved in criminal activity. And being known to get physical and berate officials on the floor doesn’t mean that you have an anger management issue off of it.

It just means you’re a jerk.

And by all accounts, Cousins is kind of a jerk. Much like 80% of 21-year-olds in the eyes of those older than 25. And Cousins may not grow out of it. There are certainly enough jerks in the world over the age of 25. He may not develop into a respectful young man, may never be able to control his problems with coaching and reach his potential. He may wind up involved in drugs or guns or violence. He may get arrested. But those issues aren’t tied to him yelling on the floor with his coach or teammates, or dogging it on the defensive end. His problems are the problems of DeMarcus Cousins, and don’t involve anyone else’s issues or context. His life is is his own.

DeMarcus Cousins is only responsible for the problems of being DeMarcus Cousins.

Keith Smart signs two-year deal to coach Kings

Keith Smart

Keith Smart had an impossible situation in Golden State when he became head coach. Not long after he was hired the team was sold to new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber whose mandate was to change the culture of a franchise that had been to the playoffs once in 17 years. Smart coached the Warriors to 36 wins — about what should be expected of the roster he was given — but he had no chance, he was swept up in the tide of change and washed out to sea.

Now, he’s taking over as head coach mid-season for a Sacramento squad where the team looks lost on the court, the old head coach feuded with the young star center, and the entire franchise is in danger of packing up and moving out of the city all together.

Yes, that’s much more stable.

But the Kings are at least giving him a chance, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo (via twitter).

Keith Smart has agreed to a two-year with the Sacramento Kings, source tells Y! Sports. His deal is guaranteed through 2012-’13 season.

He’s at least being given a chance. That’s all he can ask.

But he’s got a full plate to clean up after Paul Westphal. The Kings run a simplistic (read: easy to defend) offense that had little off the ball movement and relied on Tyreke Evans in the pick-and-roll and DeMarcus Cousins in the post. Smart needs to get the Kings and their young athletes out and running more, plus he needs to diversify and add some movement to the half court offense.

He has to get them to play much better defense.

And having a better relationship with Cousins wouldn’t hurt, either.

Sacramento Kings fire Paul Westphal as coach

Orlando Magic v Sacramento Kings

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.