The Sacramento Kings have looked nothing like the impressive group of players who took down the Lakers opening night the past few days – in fact, given their play and the circumstances surrounding the franchise the past few weeks – you might be hard pressed to question if the Kings weren’t trying out for Amateur Night at the Apollo given the comical situations that continue to plague the organization.
By now, we’ve all heard the surface of what went down Saturday evening with head coach Paul Westphal and Kings big man, DeMarcus Cousins so there’s no need to re-hash that – I however continue to find fault in the situation.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Cousins deserves blame in this, so don’t take this as Cousins receiving a free pass since that’s not the case at all. For all of his positives, there are certainly negatives that come with Cousins (as are there with any player) and one of them is Cousins’ overly emotional self. However, I know what to expect from Cousins and most young NBA players and that’s immaturity. Again, that doesn’t make it right but I’m not going to be naive enough to pretend it’s not expected and that all of a sudden young, talented players across the league will see a beacon of light that alters their ways. Some players never grow out of it – some do. For Cousins, all we can do is hope that eventually his maturity will grow and he’ll become the player so many think he can be.
However, what I don’t expect is a head coach is to pull the shenanigans Paul Westphal has. Look, I like Paul as a person. He’s a great guy both on and off the court. He’s literally one of the kindest, nicest people you’ll ever come across but he’s not a very talented basketball coach and he’s an even worse motivator. While Paul assumes he’s doing a player a service with his “tough love”, it’s far from that. If this was a one time thing with Westphal, I wouldn’t be so against it but this is a reoccurring theme. He had issues with Cousins last year – he had the much publicized spat with Spencer Hawes, acting like a five year old in the process with the “he’ll know his role now, wont he” attitude and biggest of all – the large blow up with Gary Payton in 2000 as Tom Ziller points out.
I don’t know how Cousins directed himself in the meeting with Westphal – maybe he acted a fool and started slamming garbage cans around in Paul’s office – or maybe he simply told him the offense wasn’t working, but he wouldn’t be the first. You can run down a list of current and former Kings including names like Tyreke, Casspi and Thompson who’ve all complained about Westphal’s offensive ways. As is the case with Paul’s track record of causing needless player rifts, complaining about Westphal’s offense is a trend among his players.
Again, this isn’t in defense of DeMarcus. It’s hard to say he handled it wrong simply because we don’t know what happened behind closed doors. but I certainly don’t find any issue with complaining about the offense – it needed to be complained about – and despite their victory versus the Hornets last evening, it still looked pretty shitty for 28 minutes or so.
Piecing the situation together, it’s not hard to see that Westphal more or less told an emotional Cousins he was part of the problem with the teams offense (not un-true) and it was Cousins who, feeling betrayed by his coach said “fine, if I’m the problem, trade me”. There was never any formal trade request. This was simply Paul Westphal pulling another one of his so called “teaching” techniques – techniques that have continually outcasted him and lack any true success. Westphal essentially gave Cousins a “taste of his own medicine”, for a lack of better terms.
There’s no doubt that Cousins needs to grow up – but, you and I have to understand that might never happen. You can wish Cousins to another team if you can’t handle that – and that’s completely within your right, but right or wrong DeMarcus is one of the pillars of the Kings foundation, along with Tyreke. Paul Westphal on the other hand, is nothing more than an expendable coach. I don’t mean that to sound as harshly as it did, but it’s the truth – coaches like Westphal come and go. Maybe that’s not the way it should be, but it’s the nature of the business.
I expect more out of Paul, as a head coach. I don’t expect more out of DeMarcus right now. This turned into a pissing match between two children, one of whom is the supposed authority figure – and this was Paul’s way of sending DeMarcus to a “Scared Straight” program.
It didn’t work with Spencer, Paul. It didn’t work with Gary, Paul. The list goes on – so as you so eloquently told Spencer Hawes, know your role. Coach the team. Put the players in the best position to succeed. Help them grow as men – as basketball players. Be a mentor. Be a friend. Be a support system. Don’t be a child like the players you’re trying to “help”.