Read the title. I literally mean what I wrote there and wrote it that way intentionally: Jason Thompson gets why he got a 5 year contract. Check out these quotes from JT from Saturday’s Bee:
“Some guys are going to have to play different roles,” said Thompson, the Kings’ first-round draft pick in 2008. “Some guys can score a lot, and that’s what they’re known to do, but maybe if they can take some steps back in scoring and get more assists, rebounds and diving for loose balls, it makes a great team.”
Somebody had to say it. The way Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins play is not condusive to winning NBA basketball. Dribble driving your way into multiple defenders in the lane is not efficient or effective basketball in the NBA. The sooner those two learn that, the sooner things will get easier for the rest of the Kings.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: The Kings, like all NBA teams, go as their best players go. The Kings best players, you would think when looking at them on paper and assessing strengths, likellihood to create matchup problems among other things, are Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. So many fans have focused on which one is better, but really that’s missing the important point: You need at least two top tier players to get anywhere of note in the NBA. Which one is better is irrelevant to the ultimate goal.
Really, do you think OKC is getting to the Finals without Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant? Take one away, and that just increases the burden of each. There is no way that OKC is more than a 1st round and out playoff team without one of those two.
That’s why I love what Jason Thompson said. It’s a warning shot of sorts to the two best young “talents” who should also be the Kings best players: “We take our cues from you. You need to act as professionals and stop acting like immature brats and/or twats for much of the game.”
Because while Cousins looked great at some times during last season, there were plenty of times (sometimes even in the same game) where Cousins wasn’t ready, emotionally engaged, or tapered off after a hot start. It happened far too often for Cousins last season. Cousins needs to improve his endurance dramatically as we all know. 28-30 minutes does not cut it for what many Kings fans are calling as the next All-Star on the team. Cousins needs to be averaging 34-36 MPG next season, and he needs to do it every night. No 39 MPG against the Raptors one night, and 17 minutes against the Rockets 2 nights later. That crap needs to end yesterday.
Evans? Oh shit. I don’t even know what to say here. To me, Evans has more “basketball” talent than Cousins, and for whatever reason seems less likely to reach his potential ceiling. Whatever Cousins has Evans does not, and part of that is an impetuous mouthy front running asshole trait. (Probably why Kings fans love Cousins so much really.) On the other hand, Evans does his Allen Iverson impression so often I literally want to throw up when I see him standing with the ball for 10 seconds and then taking a long jumper that looks like Evans released after relaxing in his barcalounger for a bit.
Evans is just as bad and just as terrible on team chemistry though. When a rookie about 30 games into his professional career has to run the basketball team because your decision making is so beyond putrid, there is a bit of a problem there. (Or a lot of one as it were.) Isaiah Thomas, for whatever it’s worth, ranked in the G/G-F/F-G category ranked 31st in WS/48. (If you take the ranking to just G’s, that bumps Isaiah up to 28. It’s the same point IMO.) Isaiah is ranked 13th in the WP48 category for all PGs. Isaiah is an above average, not quite star and not your average role player, role player who is effective in many facets of the game. But Isaiah is only as good as Tyreke Evans or DeMarcus Cousins are. Isaiah Thomas can’t be at his best if Evans and Cousin are not at their best. (Jason Thompson is 19th among PF’s in WP48 FWIW.) The point: Role players, even effective one’s, can’t be expected to make the team better. You have to have stars among your 2 or 3 best players for that type of major leap improvement to happen.
One blurb from Jones blog piece which naturally mirrors the piece written for the Saturday paper:
Can they all just get along and play like a team?
The question was fair game again this afternoon at Jason Thompson’s press conference. Thompson re-signed with the Kings a couple of weeks ago, but it took time to schedule the press conference due to schedule conflicts.
Thompson’s five-year deal is worth $30.2 million.
Thompson isn’t being brought back to score. The sooner more Kings mature and realize how to find their offense within the team – something the Kings like about Thompson -the sooner the Kings can start realistically start talking about winning more than 30 percent of their games in a season.
Again, all the crap we keeping hearing about professionalism, playing like a team, that’s all about two players. Role players? Role players don’t determine the direction of your team. Role players don’t determine whether or not you are a playoff team. That’s the role of the best players job. A role that neither DeMarcus Cousins or Tyreke Evans have seemed very interested in based on their actions on the court and attitudes displayed.
Takiing good shots? Pssshaw, not happening. Getting back in transition defense? Shiiiiiittt, that’s only stuff winning teams do. Lazy halfcourt defense? Check. Ballhogging while jumping into defenders because you can? You bet!!!! That’s probably the only real premium skill either Cousins or Evans bring at this point. (Sadly, I’m only half-kidding.)
I can keep going. You get the point. That’s just the most egregious outlandish bullshit those two pull consistently. There is equally infuriating other things out there with both that I just find so maddening. But that’s not the point.
How do Cousins and Evans fix their games? How do other guys fit in? Well, if Cousins and Evans stopped asking their lesser teammates to carry their responsibilities, that would be a huge head start on everything else all things considered. I think Salmons, Thornton and Hayes will all play much better without injuries, or Evans around. (In Hayes case, Cousins too.) That alone is a huge benefit to bringing all three of those fellows off the bench. What they are is what they are, and it’d be nice if we could at least count for reasonable production off the bench for all three of those guys. Not some pie in the sky bullshit hope that “insert young player who hasn’t proven shit at the NBA level” will do so this year.
James Johnson is in my mind perfect short of being a great 3 pt shooter. He can play defense, handle the ball, rebound and block shots. All things the Kings needed this off-season. If Johnson can ever learn to shoot the 3, the Kings can be something of note this season. That spacing is something the Kings need even if the Kings get the benefit of having actual stars producing like stars this season. (See what I did there?)
Isaiah Thomas was arguably the 3rd best player on the Kings last year, and realistically it’s most effective consistently. In WP48, and if you ignore Hassan Whiteside (109 minutes is way too small a sample size), the top 5 guys in WP48 for the Kings were Jason Thompson, Isaiah Thomas, Terrence Williams, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. If you look in 2010-11 for the top 5 WP48 guys, it’s not Evans and Cousins.
It’s almost as bad in WS/48 for the Kings. Isaiah Thomas and Jason Thompson lead the Kings in Win Shares per 48 minutes at .124 and .114 respectively. (NBA average is .100 FWIW.) Thornton is at .104, Cousins at .103 and Tyreke Evans is 5th at .059.
When you have two consistent role players despite inconsistent “stars”, that says a lot. Especially when Thomas and Thompson both sort of smooth out the real rough edges fans have complained about what’s necessary besides either Evans or Cousins. Role players only mean so much when you have no stars, and the Kings had no star last season despite what is said about DeMarcus Cousins. Stars average 36-40 MPG. Stars shoot better. Stars turn the ball over less. Stars run actual NBA plays. Stars recognize that part of being the “star” of the team is the responsibility of guiding the team where it needs to be guided in an effective fashion of course.
Part of what ails Cousins and Evans, and Evans and Cousins, is their youth. But that’s not an excuse for either guy. Evans has run out of every excuse in the book. Cousins is almost out of all the excuses made for him. It’s big boy time.
This season is what those two do with it. There is nothing else remotely substantial to speak of. Because if there isn’t massive improvement from the teams two best players, the Kings are going nowhere. Hopefully Cousins and Evans know it, and just as crucial Jason Thompson knows it.
That’s why what Jason Thompson said in public was and is so important. Putting the impetus on two young players to actually play professionally, with poise, take their share of leadership and responsibilities by being best players on the team, and simply set the tone for the rest of the team. That’s how successful teams work. Whether or not Cousins or Evans is ready for that, I simply do not know.
What I do know is that pussy footing and tap dancing around the subject has not worked with those two. It’s about time really. Put up or shutup time kiddies. It’s on you. Do you want it?
That’s all this season has been about from the end of last season. I’m just glad Jason Thompson was willing (having a long term contract helps on that front too no doubt) to come out and say it. It’s about damn time.