Paul Westphal is distracted

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Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal is facing some truly unenviable circumstances. Two spheres of his life have come into conflict with one another, as his personal and public interests are fighting for control of his time and his thoughts. Both are deserving and important, sure, but in this case, Westphal could be letting the less important of the two get the best of him.

And he can’t help it. It’s his job.

If you’re reading this post, it’s safe to say you have at least a slight interest in the NBA and the personalities within it. But behind those personalities, behind the characters and the posturing, behind the post-game quotes and the on-court feats, are people. People with not only their own lives and health to worry about, but that of their families as well. That’s exactly where Paul Westphal is right now. From Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee:

Paul Westphal is experiencing “some of the worst days” of his life, and he isn’t talking about the unraveling of the Kings or his curious benching of Spencer Hawes.

He is referring to real life, to circumstances others tend to ignore when the offense stinks, the defense disappears, the effort becomes infuriatingly erratic, and the defeats dominate the standings. This is human nature, of course, and the nature of pro sports. Fans and owners want results, not sob stories.

Yet the fact that Westphal’s wife, Cindy, is ailing in Southern California and undergoing medical tests, prompting him to shuttle between locations these past few days, certainly begs the question: Would he have punished the precocious Hawes so severely, been so intolerant about a few public comments if he had been sleeping well and not distracted by his wife’s health issues? He says yes, but one has to wonder.

In immersing yourself in sports, it’s easy to get caught up in point differentials, shot selection, and locker room chemistry. But there is always something bigger looming, and it makes this grand league seem like nothing more than a game.

So while Westphal’s behavior recently has been a bit weird to say the least, he deserves a bit of slack. The Kings may be paying him to be the head coach, but there are other priorities that supersede that responsibility. Everything the Kings do still matters and everything Westphal does as their head coach does as well, but in evaluating Sacramento’s current situation, it would certainly behoove all of us to keep Paul Westphal’s situation in mind. It’s not an excuse so much as a reality.