Sacramento is just a train wreck

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DeMarcus Cousins — the guy who lost his starting job after coach Paul Westphal called him unprofessional — was coming off the court in the fourth quarter and was offered a high five by Westphal Thursday night. Cousins declined it. Westphal grabbed is arm and they had words. Again.

And that may have been third on the list of distractions for the Kings on Thursday night.

The Kings are a mess. A train wreck. They are 5-22 this season (2-21 after a 3-1 start) and have lost seven in a row. They have blown fourth quarter leads the last two games. Whatever term you prefer to describe an implosion, it fits the Kings.

The biggest distraction comes in a report from Ken Berger of CBSSports that coach Westphal and GM Geoff Petrie were in danger of losing their jobs. He is not the only one hearing rumors of a shakeup. Berger’s source quoted Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof as saying the franchise needs to “hit the reset button.”

This sent Joe Maloof — the other co-owner and Gavin’s brother — into damage control mode where he emphatically denied there was about to be any shakeup. This is what he told Sam Amick of FanHouse:

“No, that’s not true,” he said in a calm tone. “I don’t know where that’s coming from. We’re fine. We’re fine. We have a gameplan. Our future looks bright. We have young talent, (salary) cap space going into next year. (We have) cap space to make moves. We’ll stick together. We’re not going to go there. Not at all. Not true.”

Also high on the list of distractions is whatever the personal issue is that is bothering Kings sophomore building block Tyreke Evans this season. It has bothered him more than his ongoing foot issues (although Westphal just learned of it yesterday). Evans would not discuss what the personal issue was publicly — as certainly is his right — but he admitted he is distracted to the Sacramento Bee.

“It’s affecting me a lot,” Evans said. “It’s just a lot on my mind. I just have to find a way to get over it and just keep playing hard.”

Evans had four points and four turnovers on Thursday.

Cousins’ ups and downs — on the court and with Westphal — make a nice scapegoat issue but it is down there on the list of problems. Not to say it isn’t a problem when you have Cousin’s agent John Greig issuing this statement about the benching to FanHouse:

“I find it a curious decision to bench a productive young player for something that had nothing to do with the game’s outcome,” Greig wrote. “I’m sure we all can agree that there are many areas of the Kings that need greater professionalism and improvement right now. I told DeMarcus to take it as an honor that such a significant amount of criticism is focused on his mistakes. Great players live with greater expectations.”

All of this drama is playing out in front of a backdrop of serious stadium issues and  financial challenges for the franchise.

The Kings are a mess. However you wish to describe it.

Steve Kerr calls NFL’s new national-anthem policy, which is strikingly similar to the NBA’s, ‘idiotic’

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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The NFL released a new national-anthem policy that requires players to stand on the field or remain in the locker room (or similar location) during the song.

That didn’t sit well with Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Melissa Rohlin of the Bay Area News Group:

Good thing Kerr doesn’t work in a league that mandates players, coaches and trainers “stand and line up in a dignified posture” during the anthem, that suspended a player for sitting during the anthem, that warns players for chewing gum or being in the bathroom during the anthem, that has a team that blocked a black anthem singer who wore a “We matter” jersey.

Oh, wait.

He does.

The NBA, like the NFL, is first and foremost a business seeking profit. When confronted with social issues, from Donald Sterling to “I can’t breathe” shirts, the NBA has always kept an eye on its wallet.

With the threat of anthem protests looming, the NBA proactively met with players to head off any kneeling. That was business strategy, nothing grander.

The result? Players linked arms during the national anthem in the name of same vague unity, co-opting the space and distorting the message of Colin Kaepernick’s more meaningful protest.

Eventually, teams stopped linking arms during the anthem. Nobody really noticed when it fell off.

All the while, no sponsors or fans were aggrieved.

The NFL is just trying to get to the same point with a similar policy.

But the NFL already alienated its players through the heavy-handed implementation of this policy and years of other issues. The NBA has established greater trust from its players, both by finessing them in talks about societal issues and actually standing behind them, like the Bucks did with Sterling Brown.

There are plenty of opportunities to criticize the NFL relative to the NBA. The leagues’ national-anthem policies are not a good one.

And spare me the idea that leaders trying to divide us from on high is What’s Wrong With Our Country. Centuries of racism have already divided us.

Some leaders, like Donald Trump, exploit those divisions. Other leaders talk fancifully of unity without actually reconciling what caused the divisions.

But the actual divisions were already significant.

LeBron James, James Harden unanimous All-NBA first-team selections

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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Joel Embiid was the biggest loser in All-NBA voting.

The big winners?

Here are the All-NBA teams (first-team votes, second-team votes, third-team votes, total voting points):

First team

G: James Harden, Houston (100-0-0-500)

G: Damian Lillard, Portland (71-24-5-432)

F: LeBron James, Cleveland (100-0-0-500)

F: Kevin Durant, Golden State (63-37-0-426)

C: Anthony Davis, New Orleans (96-4-0-492)

Second team

G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (24-63-13-322)

G: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto (2-39-38-165)

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee (28-71-1-354)

F: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio (2-68-22-236)

C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia (11-78-5-294)

Third team

G: Stephen Curry, Golden State (2-39-37-164)

G: Victor Oladipo, Indiana (0-24-33-105)

F: Jimmy Butler, Minnesota (1-8-52-81)

F: Paul George, Oklahoma City (0-4-42-54)

C: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota (0-18-45-99)

Other players receiving votes with point totals: Chris Paul (Houston), 54; Rudy Gobert (Utah), 51; Kyrie Irving (Boston), 42; Ben Simmons (Philadelphia), 36; Al Horford (Boston), 32; Nikola Jokic (Denver), 28; Andre Drummond (Detroit), 7; Clint Capela (Houston), 6; Draymond Green (Golden State), 6; Kyle Lowry (Toronto), 3; Steven Adams (Oklahoma City), 2; Donovan Mitchell (Utah), 2; Klay Thompson (Golden State), 2; Trevor Ariza (Houston), 1; DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans), 1; Dwight Howard (Charlotte), 1; Kevin Love (Cleveland), 1; Kristaps Porzingis (New York), 1

My takeaways:

  • Most underrated by this voting: Chris Paul
  • Most overrated by this voting: DeMar DeRozan
  • Anthony Davis clinches he’ll be eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension in the 2019 offseason, but only from the Pelicans. Will that keep him in New Orleans?
  • Who the heck voted for Trevor Ariza? That had to be a submission error, right?
  • Here were my picks.

Joel Embiid misses out on about $29 million by making just All-NBA second team

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ injury could cost him in free agency.

It might have already cost Joel Embiid.

The 76ers center made just the All-NBA second team, landing behind the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. Davis surged after Cousins went down, earning overall credit from All-NBA voters, who were also increasingly likely to view him as a center rather than just a forward.

As a result, Davis made the All-NBA first team at center – costing Embiid about $29 million over the next five years.

Embiid’s contract extension, which kicks in next season, calls for his starting salary to be 25% of the salary cap (the typical max for a player with his experience level). If he made the All-NBA first team, his starting salary would have been 30% of the salary cap .

Though the exact cap won’t be determined until July, here’s what Embiid is projected to earn on his standard max and what he could’ve earned on the super max (with 8% raises in both cases):

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Obviously Embiid will still earn a lot of money, and he and Philadelphia have a bright future.

But it’s hard not to think, if Cousins didn’t get hurt, Embiid would be even richer.

At least the 76ers have more cap space to pursue their big goals.

Rockets to wear patches to honor Santa Fe shooting victims

Houston Rockets
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HOUSTON (AP)–  The Houston Rockets will wear patches on their jerseys to honor the victims of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

The patches will read: “Santa Fe HS.” It’s one of several tributes the team plans following Friday’s shooting. Eight students and two teachers died at the school, located 30 miles from downtown Houston.

The school’s high school choir will perform the national anthem. There will be a moment of silence and a video tribute before tipoff.

Santa Fe’s senior class and administrators have been invited to attend the game as guests of owner Tilman Fertitta. The Rockets also will honor first responders on the court.

Proceeds from Thursday night’s charity raffle will go to the Santa Fe Strong Memorial Fund.