Posts Tagged ‘Paul Westphal’

A Royal Pain, Among the Many

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The immature rookie inched closer to behaving his way to the minors, the foundation of the future disclosed he is now aching emotionally as well as physically and that his All-Star plans have been adjusted accordingly, and stories popped from two very credible reporters that Geoff Petrie is close to being fired as head of basketball operations in a move the Kings would regret for years. Oh, and coach Paul Westphal is also close to being shown the door, but we’ll stick to what isn’t obvious.

The possibility is increasing that the Kings will have serious conversations about sending DeMarcus Cousins, the No. 5 pick in June and projected future starting center, to the NBA Development League. Kicking him out of practice hasn’t changed his sloppy focus, fining him hasn’t improved his attitude and, most recently, pulling him from the opening lineup Thursday against the Bucks for giving a choke sign to the Warriors two nights earlier hasn’t nudged him in the right direction. So, some quality time with the Reno Bighorns becomes a growing thought.

“If that’s what they feel is best, then I can’t do anything about it,” Cousins said. “But I don’t believe that’s happening.”

It may not be happening on Christmas Eve. But let’s just say the Kings definitely know a very public demotion is an option.

Cousins’ rookie season has been a series of failed attempts at getting the potential-filled big man to carry himself as a professional, or at least get to where his attitude is not overshadowing his considerable skill level. Even with the latest discipline still active, the benching against the Bucks, Cousins had another very public moment Thursday by walking past Westphal as the coach tried to give him a five coming to the bench. A minor moment almost with almost any other player at any other time, it was an obvious statement from Cousins.

Westphal was clearly unhappy with the snubbing. Cousins’ explanation later was that “He’s frustrated. We’re all frustrated. Emotions are just running wild. That’s how it is. It’s a tough time right now. Everybody’s frustrated.”

Everybody being an accurate assessment. By the end of the night, his agent, John Greig, issued a statement to Sam Amick of AOL 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 [against the Warriors]. 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.”

Bad move.

More than anything, Cousins needs to get away from controversy and self-inflicted distractions. This is a time for everyone around him to be dedicated to Cousins improving, not launching bottle rockets into Kings HQ, the coaching office and the locker room with “there are many areas of the Kings that need greater professionalism and improvement right now.” Agents back their guys, sometimes just for show, but time and place. Time and place. Cousins isn’t popular and this won’t play well.

Yes, it has been such a tough, tough road for Cousins, because “Great players live with greater expectations.” NBA teams placed such an unreachable standard in wanting him to play with sustained focus in the one season at Kentucky (which he didn’t), wanting him to show at the pre-draft camp in decent shape (which he didn’t) and wanting him to avoid three known disciplines before his rookie season was 30 games old. Which he didn’t.

Cousins’ best hope for the moment is that other issues will shift attention away from his development. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com and Amick both reported that Petrie’s job is in jeopardy, as well as Westphal’s, and that the Maloof family is considering hiring longtime WNBA coach/executive John Whisenant either as coach or for the front office. That would be the John Whisenant of zero NBA experience.

Co-owner Joe Maloof flatly denied Petrie was at risk, telling FanHouse that, “No, that’s not true. 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.” But for two well respected reporters, working for different outlets and from different cities, to have similar information at close to the same time is quite the coincidence.

In other news, Tyreke Evans said he will decline a spot in the Rookie-Sophomore game at All-Star weekend, if he is picked, passing up a chance to play in the event for the second season in a row in a continued attempt to nurse his troublesome left foot through a difficult season.

“I’m going to take All-Star weekend off and just try to rest it up,” he told NBA.com after missing 11 of 13 shots and totaling more turnovers (four) than assists (three) in a loss to the Bucks at Arco Arena, the latest blight for Evans and the 5-22 Kings. “I’ll talk to the doctors and see what I can do while I’ve got that time off.”

While the game is a ceremonial exhibition, and not even the same as skipping the All-Star game itself, deciding nearly two months into the future that he will sit out the showcase is a statement of ongoing concerns about plantar fasciitis in the foot. He said there are no current plans to rest during the regular season, after previously saying it would become a consideration if the pain continues, but Evans disclosed Thursday he is now burdened by a family matter. He did not disclose the personal issue.

League Pass Spotlight: Weekend Watching

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’re not done with you yet LeBron James.

You didn’t really think we’d just go away now that you got that trip home to Cleveland out of the way, did you?

As your fans have reminded us so many times the past month, one game does not a season make. So we’re diving right back in with you and the Heat this weekend now that you have your pre-“The Decision” flow back.

The Heat finally look like the team we thought they’d be, a metamorphosis that began at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night, cathartic moment for James that was captured dramatically by my main man Israel Guiterrez of the Miami Herald:

The Heat, for the first time all season, looked unified. The Heat looked like a collection of talent instead of a frustrated bunch of individuals.

That’s because, for the first time this season, the Heat was playing for an actual cause. Not just the goal of improving, but for the cause of supporting James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas in their return to Cleveland.

No longer was Dwyane Wade playing concerned, wondering whether he was doing too much and not involving James enough.

No longer was James waiting his turn. No longer did the defense look confused or allow a point guard to devastate it.

The Heat played with a purpose. A playoff-like purpose.

This historic return home for one of the NBA’s greatest might have become his biggest victory to date.

He came out of this not only with the reassurance that he made the right choice, but he left more confident about it than ever. He came out of it knowing that Wade isn’t a player with whom he’s competing for touches, but possibly the best teammate he could have in moments like this.

He came out of it knowing that, just days after he reportedly turned on his head coach, the Heat would still come together to support him.

“There are times where we don’t like each other,” Spoelstra said of his team. “That can be a good thing as well. You only really get to know each other and get tested when you’ve seen both sides and you’re able to respond and move on.”

Now LeBron can move on.

He can move on to Saturday night’s home game against Southeast Division rival Atlanta, a game featured prominently on the must-watch list known around here as HT’s League Pass Spotlight: Weekend Watching (sorry, there is no discount for Miami Heat fans or anything, but you can click here to make sure you don’t miss a second of the action):

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Time For An Intervention?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – That Draft night chatter about DeMarcus Cousins being the biggest steal or bust in his class is back.

And the early returns are not favorable for Cousins.

In addition to a sluggish start to his rookie season on the court (he’s not even in the top three on the T-Mobile Rookie Ladder), Cousins has not been able to navigate his way out of trouble off the court, either.

Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal didn’t divulge any details, but if he felt the need to toss Cousins out of practice Monday that’s indication enough that trouble is brewing for the young fella, per our main man Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee:

“It was a necessary move in our continued attempt to help him develop,” said Kings coach Paul Westphal of removing Cousins from practice.

Westphal declined to explain why Cousins made it through only two-thirds of practice.

“I’m not going to get into details,” Westphal said. “He was asked to leave early.”

Cousins is struggling to find his place in the offense and to stay out of foul trouble.

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It’s Hard to Hide

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It was the kind of night for the Kings that, in the unforgiving words of coach Paul Westphal, mixed “some excellent basketball and some sub-sixth grade basketball that just is indescribably bad.” That was their Wednesday of violent swaying, from a 15-point lead in the first quarter to being outscored 99-79 the rest of the way by a Knicks team on the second night of a back-to-back, just as it was confirmation of Sacramento lacking focus and sustained energy.

That is bad enough for the Kings, the lack of concentration and effort, but it may not be the worst of it. The worst of it is wasting schedule-on-a-silver-platter, the opening three weeks of what surely is their easiest stretch of the season and what may be the softest run of any team. Eleven games, concluding Friday against New Jersey, with two against the Timberwolves, two against the Nets and one each against the Cavaliers, Raptors, Lakers, Grizzlies, Suns, Pistons and Knicks.

The Kings’ version of capitalizing is going 3-7, heading into the final installment Friday before the schedule turns – the terrain beginning Sunday is the Hornets, Jazz, Bulls, Lakers and Mavericks over the next seven outings. The Pistons, a poor shooting team, hit Sacramento for 53.9 percent. The Knicks, worse, went 52.1 percent from the field three nights later, and that was with a 21.7-percent first quarter.

In between, the starters almost bothered to care about setting the proper tone. Or as Westphal said of the Tuesday practice: The reserves “abused the team that was the first unit so badly that you felt sorry for the first team. And then tonight, just the reverse happened when the lights came on. Unfortunately, in this business for some people, you have to learn the lesson when the lights are on. It’s hard to hide.”

There have been impressive comebacks along the way and a credible showing before the Lakers pulled away at the end, but only wins over the Timberwolves by one point, the Cavaliers by three and the Raptors by three. That has been followed by a six-game losing streak, with each defeat by at least six points, and an inability to sustain energy.

“There are some players who tend to be consistent and there are some players who tend to have their focus wander,” Westphal said after the latest example on Wednesday. “I’m not going to point out individual players tonight. I’m just going to say we need some work on our focus.

“A person that wanted to be charitable could say, ‘Well, we’re young and we’re trying to get it together.’ But at the same time, we expect more. I expect more from our players in terms of focus, and we will get it. I appreciate the fact that nobody likes, in our locker room or the fans, to see us lose – what is it? – five home games in a row now. They think we’re underachieving and they’re right. We expect to do better and I don’t mind that people expect us to do better. It’s a time for us to take stock and do better. We’re going to find guys that are going to play defense and that are going to play together and stop making the same mistakes over and over. And then, if we win or lose, we’ll say, ‘We played an NBA game tonight.’ ”

The inconsistency will continue until then. The favorable schedule will not.

Hump Day Hoops Roundup

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We know, we know, it’s just the preseason.

Tell that to the schedule makers, who had a nine-game preseason schedule last night that we could have sworn looked like something we’d see in the middle of December.

This month of action is indeed the warm up act for the “real thing.”

But that doesn’t mean we can’t get down with the Hump Day Hoops Roundup on a Wednesday morning:

DALEMBERT OUT, BOOGIE IN?

The Kings will play the next month to six weeks without the services of Sam Dalembert because of a groin injury. That could put rookie center DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins into the starting lineup for the start of the regular season, per Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.

It’s a big loss for the Kings, who were hoping to become a better defensive team behind Dalembert’s shot-blocking.

“It’s a problem because the perimeter has to play tight because we want to protect them and the foul situation,” said Kings coach Paul Westphal. “We don’t have the size to clog the lane like we’d like to, so our defense has to be a little different on the perimeter as well.”

The Kings have started rookie DeMarcus Cousins at center during the preseason, and that could continue in the regular season. When Jason Thompson isn’t at power forward, he is Cousins’ backup.

Cousins fouled out of the previous two games.

“DeMarcus can block some shots, he can take some charges and clog the middle,” Westphal said. “But he fights foul trouble, and he’s not going to just be an eraser like Dalembert, like Hassan can be.”

THE NBA = THE NEW COOL IN RUSSIA

A visit from CSKA Moscow brought out some interesting sights and sounds in Miami. Who knew that the NBA was the new cool in Russia? Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald observed the scene and highlights the league’s truly global appeal.

While driving to AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday, brothers Pavel and Yuri Kopeche listened to Russian rap music to get into the mood for the Heat’s game against CSKA Moscow.

The rapper, Don Zagru, is known for satirizing the state of Russian society and wearing LeBron James jerseys.

We know that King James has worldwide appeal. Here was confirmation that LeBronsky is the ultimate symbol of cool in cool-hungry Moscow.

Somewhere, basketball salesman David Stern is smiling.

“The NBA is the new vodka in Russia,” said Yuri Kopeche, a Russian native who has lived in Miami for five years. “People cannot get enough basketball. If you’re wearing a LeBron James shirt or a Knicks or Lakers cap, people know you are Americanized.

“Of course, Russia is usually about five years behind the United States. Britney Spears is very popular right now.”

NO BOOZER INJURY INVESTIGATION

The Bulls and Carlos Boozer have squashed all this talk of an investigation as to how Boozer broke his hand, an injury that will keep him out of the first month of the regular season. Both Boozer and Bulls officials denounced a New York Daily News report that the team was digging into the matter, per Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.

“The guy was trying to create a story out of no-story,” Boozer said of the report after Bulls shootaround Tuesday morning. “Horrible [report]. Obviously, you want to get your facts right before you decide to write something that’s not true. Horrible report. My Bulls are behind me, my teammates are behind me. For me, it’s disgusting when you have a reporter write something that’s not true.”

Boozer, who over the summer signed a five-year deal worth as much as $80 million, expects to have his cast off in three weeks. He hopes to return faster than the eight weeks that was anticipated by team doctors.

“I hope I’ll be back quicker than the normal time,” he said. “But [I'll] let the bone heal and see how it feels when I get my cast off in three weeks.”

Boozer admitted that he was upset by the report but said he was just trying to focus on getting back on the floor.

“I can’t worry about that, man,” he said. “I can’t worry about what people write. I know what’s real and what’s going on and for me, I’m just here for my team, supporting my team. I’ve got the support of my team, my organization, and I’m just looking to forward to getting back out there when my hand’s ready.”

BLAZERS MOVING ON WITHOUT ODEN?

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Leaders Of The Revival

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Surely, folks in Sacramento weren’t happy to learn that Tyreke Evans was one of the first four players trimmed from the USA Basketball roster for this summer’s world championships (O.J. Mayo, JaVale McGee and Gerald Wallace were the others).

Evans, the NBA’s reigning T-Mobile Rookie of the Year, couldn’t have been pleased either.

But there’s a silver lining in this for the hometown Kings. Because now Evans can get in the gym and develop some chemistry with the guy that must be his new best friend, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins (he’s the big fella in the video above).

And if the Kings are intent on escaping lottery country and returning to relevancy in a packed Western Conference, they’ll have to do it on the backs on their new inside-out combo of Evans and Cousins.

If Cousins has anywhere near the season and impact that Evans had in his first year in a Kings uniform, the franchise revival being planned in Sacramento could come much sooner than expected.

Our skepticism about this team here at the hideout was fueled by the still to be determined ability of all the new pieces to fit together (Kevin Martin‘s been on the HT fantasy team since his rookie year, so we’re still not over the Kings dumping him last season). There is also clearly a lack of backcourt depth to suit our liking (and we’re guessing this means we’re kicked out of the Beno Udrih fan club).

But the rest of the supporting cast seems to be in place. We love what Omri Casspi brings to the party. He’s a ferocious competitor with the versatility and skills to work in a variety of capacities, depending on what coach Paul Whestphal decides works best. Guys like Carl Landry, Sam Dalembert, Jason Thompson and Donte Green give Westphal a multitude of frontcourt options to play with this season.

That also means “Boogie” won’t have to deliver huge numbers right away. If he just comes along at a solid rate and does his best to avoid the some of the pitfalls that can derail a rookie season, these Kings could be on the way to making some noise after the All-Star break.

The playoffs might be too ambitious … but what’s wrong with a little ambition this time of year?

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All Hail The (Rookie) King

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Sorry Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings.

You both made spirited runs for the Rookie of the Year honors. But the award already the name Tyreke Evans carved on it.

Any time you enter the ring with guys named Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James (as the only rookies to average 20, 5 and 5 for the season), you move to the head of the class.

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That didn’t stop my main man Vince Thomas from trying, foolishly and without success, to argue against Evans on Episode 5 of the Hang Time Podcast with myself and NBA.com’s numbers guru John Schuhmann.

My main man Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee helps school VT on the real rookie King, who cemented his place in history on a tough shooting night:

“Royalty of the political sort lined up for a close look at history in the making.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sat in the courtside seats usually occupied by Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof.

The governor later was joined by new Kings President of Business Operations Matina Kolokotronis.

They would see Tyreke Evans join the elite company of Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

But it was a former King and his new Houston teammate that proved to be the stars in a win.

Evans scored his 24th point with 6:46 left in the game to guarantee he would average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists for the season, joining Robertson, Jordan and James as the only rookies in NBA history to do so.

Meanwhile, former King Kevin Martin and Trevor Ariza led a comeback in what became a 117-107 win for the Rockets on Monday night in the Kings’ home finale at Arco Arena.

Martin, who was traded to Houston in February, scored 39 points in the manner Kings fans were accustomed to seeing him to do so in five-plus seasons. He made all 16 of his free throws to go with 11-of-20 shooting.

Ariza scored 29 points. The Rockets trailed by 14 in the first half but came back when Ariza got hot. He scored 19 points in the second half.

The result was of little consequence to fans who stayed to see Evans presented with the game ball and hope to catch a free T-shirt celebrating the occasion.

Kings coach Paul Westphal admitted the chase for 20-5-5 became a bit of a distraction as Evans neared 24 points but was glad Evans reached the mark at Arco.

“We’re pleased (Evans) got the record,” Westphal said. “Sorry it came in a loss. I understand the distraction because Tyreke forgot how to make layups when he was on the cusp.

“He’s the best layup maker in the NBA, and I think he was probably nervous, though I doubt he’d ever admit it.”

Here’s hoping we can put this argument to rest until John Wall, Derrick Favors and Evan Turner and the boys show up at the party.

Because right now, there’s only one guy for this award and his name is Tyreke Evans.

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