One of the most important things in nurturing a group of young players is consistency. They need to know the coaching staff’s expectations and have a chance to grow within them, and coaching changes hinder the ability of players to evolve as a benefit of actual coaching. That’s why the Kings made the right move in picking up the 2011 option for Paul Westphal, who has done fine work with a limited roster this year and in particular with a lot of young, exciting talent.
Still, as Ailene Voisin notes in the Sacramento Bee, the timing is a bit odd. Westphal was already under contract for all of next season, and the option the Kings have exercised will simply keep him around for the 2011-2012 campaign, which is a lifetime away. Far more surprising unravelings have taken place over the course of a single season, and the outlook on this move could seem dramatically different a year from now. Voisin’s thesis is far more logical: there may be a time when extending Westphal is the right thing to do, but that time is not now, more than a full year in advance of when that option will take effect.
That said, it’s easy to forget how good the Kings looked early in the season, when they appeared to be a dark horse contender for a playoff spot (and Westphal a dark horse contender for Coach of the Year honors). That dream tapered off when Sacramento’s defense plummeted to miserable levels, and ultimately the disparity in talent and seasoning between the Kings and their opponents was too much to overcome. The roster is full of interesting players, but they just weren’t ready yet.
Then again, as far as consistency goes, Westphal might not even be the best example. His expectations of non-Tyreke Kings have been a bit ambiguous at times, and to top it off he’s been known to flip lineups and rotations on a whim. There was also a pretty weird incident involving Spencer Hawes, which started with Hawes publicly stating that he didn’t understand his role and ended with a chest bump.
So he’s not the model of consistency, but the players should have a better understanding of Westphal in his second and third years in Sacramento. Guys like Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes, Donte Greene, and Jon Brockman could definitely benefit from that kind of team stability, even if the message from Westphal himself is the expect the unexpected.
The move is ultimately overshadowed by the curious timing of Geoff Petrie and the Maloof brothers though, and regardless of how successful Westphal’s stint with the Kings turns out to be, the timing involved makes this a pretty strange (if not irresponsible) move.