What’s wrong with the Kings? It’s a very simple answer: Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are what’s wrong with the Kings.

I’ve been trying to avoid this all day as I have other more pressing things to do (study for 2 tests in calculus and chemistry mainly). Yet, here I am writing this anyway. Some things are just what they are, and one of the unfortunate doomed fates I seem to hold as a human being is a Kings fan.

What pisses me off more than anything is that this team can’t get consistent production from either Evans or Cousins. Cousins may be a great rebounder numbers wise, but the Kings are the worst rebounding team by DRB%. Exactly how much effect can one board man have? Well, it’d be one thing if the Kings were a middle of the pack Defensive Rebounding team with Cousins grabbing so many boards. But being in the very bottom? What does that say with so many plus rebounders on the roster? It’s not like DRB% is based on total numbers of caroms you get; it’s simply the percentage of caroms you take off the rim that are available.

Evans is just as bad. Evans leads the Kings with total Assists at 86 (which more than double the next guy–Isaiah Thomas–at 41), yet, how many times do the Kings really have quality ball movement with Evans as the primary playmaker? How many NBA level plays are being run?

Defense? Oh my, I don’t even know where to go there. Evans jogs back in transition, and to hear him point fingers at Jimmer Fredette let alone else during today’s practice sessions was one of the funnier things I’ve heard in awhile.

Cousins? The only player worse in transition than Cousins is Tyreke Evans, and that’s no mean feat. There might not be a bigger unprofessional duo in the entire NBA if you consider that Andray Blatche,JaVale “Pierre” McGee and Nick Young are not really considered centerpieces.

 

Speaking of duo’s, when is the last time you saw Cousins and Evans run a play together as a tandem. Then, again, again, and again? Oh, you haven’t. Me either. Of course, I haven’t watched a Kings game since the train wreck hit Memphis. (Sorry O’Jays. No Love Train around here.) I didn’t have the opportunity to watch the Portland game after my class Monday night, and I refuse to watch the Denver Nuggets layup line in the “Artist formerly known as Arco Arena” last night because I have a night class twice a week. (Guess which days?)

Are the Kings that bad? Are they victims of injuries, bad scheduling, a turned over roster that is mostly young and trying to figure it’s own role out while trying to figure out how to play with each other? Sure, but not to the tune of 94 points in the paint it’s not. But this is what actually inspired me to write this piece. From, the guru of angry journalists, Ken Berger about those famed Madison Square Garden Knuckleheads:

In some corners of the Knick locker room, there was fear after a listless loss to the rebuilding Cavaliers on Wednesday night that D’Antoni could be gone soon if progress isn’t achieved, according to a person familiar with the players’ thinking. That would be a shame, because D’Antoni never asked to coach the ill-fitting roster he has, and his reservations about giving up so much for Carmelo Anthony are proving to be dead on.

“I hope you’re wrong,” one person connected to the team said, hoping D’Antoni can hang on.

“It’s not the coach,” said another person invested in the Knicks turning things around. “I wish it were that simple.”

It isn’t, of course. A mess of this magnitude rarely can be blamed on one person or factor. To anyone who thinks so, I ask this: If the best offensive coach in the game has a team that is struggling to break 70 points and 40 percent shooting on a regular basis, what does that tell you about the players he is coaching?

This is the New York Knicks. The team that amnesty’d Chauncey Billups to free up cash to sign Tyson Chandler (who is missing Dallas) rather than hoping to lure Chris Paul (who wanted to play in MSG) without the money to do so. In fairness, it’s not like the Knicks had the actual cap room (or assets) to get Paul to New York to begin with. So Tyson Chandler was a reasonable play. But, the Knicks are still a train wreck.

And one quote from the always noted builder of team chemistry Amare Stoudemire himself:

“It’s got to be a willing thing from everybody,” Amar’e Stoudemire told reporters in Cleveland after the Knicks lost to the Cavs 91-81. “We all have to be willing to space the court, willing to move the ball. It has to be something that we all have to buy into. It works, and it’s been proven that it works.”

What a shock. Buying into a system. Of course, and even Stoudemire isn’t stupid enough to push these kind of boundries anymore, that means you actually buy into a system and run actual NBA plays. It’s not like NBA plays are that different from NCAA plays or European plays in this regard. A pick and roll is a pick and roll assuming that the play that is actually being run is a pick and roll.

Donte Greene sounds like a player who may be understanding that the AAU style may not work anymore:

Of course, that’s typically window dressing when a player says what Greene did. Unless it produces actual changes on the court, it means little what you say in post game interviews.

I loved what Keith Smart said at the very end of this:

“You don’t have to coach effort or energy.” — Keith Smart

That’s a telling quote. It was tucked away at the very end of the clip there , and after Smart explaining coaching X&O’s, trying to balance time off with practice time that this team obviously needs, and how difficult it is to get a young inexperienced roster to fill holes for a guy like Chuck Hayes.

I get all that. I really do.

But none of that speaks to what really ails the Kings. Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins lack the commitment to push a team to improve. Do they back Keith Smart with how they play? One could say they do, but one could also say neither guy could back any coach with the consistency each illustrates on a night in night out basis. A rather interesting point made by Matt Moore–of the CBS Sports variety–today that should be relayed:

The Kings are playing better under Smart. You can’t tell after games like Wednesday night. But there is more competitiveness, more cohesion. The Kings were missing their arguably second-best player, after all. But they are wildly inconsistent, as bad, young teams are. Smart making it clear that they are held to their actions is considerably huge. He can give them a pat on the butt and punish them through that debacle at the same time. Smart’s not absolved here. And Smart took responsibility for it.

No Mr Moore, Smart is very much not to blame. But Keith Smart can’t salvage the wreckage that is Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins without acting like he is part of the problem. If Smart can gain Evans/Cousins trust, perhaps their effort and commitment would rise as part of trust. It is sometimes an issue with young players after all. (That would be the biggest reason to fire Paul Westphal in case you’re wondering.)

Again, the lack of commitment from both Evans and Cousins is astounding. The biggest issue to me is that both tend to point fingers (I love what Evans said about Jimmer’s defense last night after today’s practice; those who live in ivory towers should shut the fuck up son) and blame others for their weaknesses.

One of the issue’s I’ve had with Cousins claiming that Westphal tended to blame him more is because Cousins would often force Westphal’s hand throughout his short time dealing with Westphal. When you are a loudmouth and aggressive (which Cousins is), you are going to get into fights with people. You then can’t claim that you are being treated differently as such when other people aren’t as aggressive or loud with management and/or the coaching staff.

Again, this is the problem with firing Paul Westphal the way the Kings did: It shows how little importance the Maloofs have as owners, and, more importantly for a lot of people, how rapidly useless Geoff Petrie is becoming. The Kings are the NBA’s version of a Keystone Cops situation.

Can this improve? Who knows. Denver is the kind of team that gives the Kings problems (talented/athletic/professional) and the kind of team that struggled with that attitude of a particular Anthony before trading him. Denver feels better without Carmelo Anthony which not only says a lot about the Nuggets and their talent level, but also how much talent Anthony consistently left on the table during Carmelo Anthony’s stint as a Denver Nugget.

Guess what? The Kings are headed down that path with 2 young players who, in their minds, are elite, and are not anywhere near close that. Elite teams don’t allow 90+ points in the paint. Elite teams are not at the bottom of Defensive Rebounding %. Tyreke Evans is decent among G’s (5th), but should be near where Kyle Lowry is at (near 7 boards) and not well below 5 boards a game. It’s a pure and complete lack of commitment on Tyreke Evans’ part to not grab more boards. Elite teams don’t rank at the bottom of many statistical categories. Elite teams don’t have players that allow teams to be at the bottom of many, if any, categories. (Big Man FT’s are an interesting exception.)

Right now, Cousins is actually fouling at a higher rate than he was a year ago. Cousins is leading the league in Total Offensive Rebounds which would be impressive if Cousins didn’t shoot the ball at a such a horrendous clip. The fact that Cousins FG% is now 44.8% and improving says a lot if nothing else.

******

Blame the Maloofs for being cheap or Ed Hardy wearing clowns. (I personally dislike their Southern Californian thing of “let’s be here when it’s cool and when it’s hard slink away and act like we had important shit to do elsewhere” act.) Blame Geoff Petrie for being an impersonal turtleneck wearing rich kid asshole. You can fire the Maloofs and Petrie all you wish, and I’d be fine with that on both counts. I’m beginning to believe this team can only move forward is with real fresh blood. (That is something Keith Smart represents no matter how dilapidated or disorganized it may seem.) How good Geoff Petrie really is is a question that is starting to circulate. A year ago I would have given Geoff Petrie a lot of gap given how instrumental Petrie was into making moves.

Now? Take your straw and flip a coin for what the real problem is.

I’m not Chicken Little. I’m not upset over one game or one play or one thing. This is a trend that has been happening for several years with this team. If Paul Westphal was the issue over the summer, and he was supposedly behind the John Salmons trade (yeah right–that’s protect Petrie’s legacy spin if I ever saw it), then fire Paul Westphal. I would be lying if I would have understood it because I don’t feel it’s ever fair to bring in a head coach to be a “caretaker”. (I’m convinced the Clippers could win the equivalent of 50 games with Westphal this season if he were their head coach.) If you took a normal 50 win season out of 82 games, that would mean you win 40 games in this lockout season. As is, the Clippers are 9-6 for a cool 60% Winning Percentage right now. With players like Paul and Griffin, Westphal might be the right kind of coach for that team. (Right or wrong. I’m not saying it will or won’t happen. I’m just saying that Westphal is not necessarily the god-awful head coach he is made out to be.)

John Salmons is not killing this team anymore than anyone else is. Jimmer Fredette’s problems are real, but they are not franchise killing. (Or Franchise savioring for that matter. Jimmer is what he is: A talented shooter/scorer with real potential to run a NBA team at some point in the future. That’s not superstar stuff IMO.) JJ Hickson has issue’s on defense especially, but this isn’t news. Jason Thompson has shown professionalism and pride at every juncture this season as far as I can tell. Isaiah Thomas is a rookie and that counts for only so much in this league. Chuck Hayes is missed. Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans were never going to be a perfect match. Tyler Honeycutt is the project on this roster that intrigues me. I like Francisco Garcia as a person (and when he plays well as a player; but only then), but from a franchise standpoint I’m glad Garcia’s contract is expiring after next season.

Keith Smart is a terrific coach in my opinion. Or, I think he has every ability to coach a real basketball team that acted in a professional manner. Or, more accurately than that, had 2 real cornerstones he could rely on for quality production on a night in night out basis.

I think the problem with this team is that they need a veteran like Paul Pierce (I like Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, but I think Allen/Jimmer are redundant and Garnett/Hayes are a bit redundant too regardless of talent differences for each–and I’m not claiming that 1st ballot Hall of Famers aren’t better) who can tell Evans and Cousins the ways of the world. Smack both Cousins/Evans over the head when each fucks up (Pierce’s hand is bound to get especially sore).

The truth is that the ugly dynamic of the Kings is that they have a 1st banana talent/2nd banana attitude in Tyreke Evans and a 2nd banana talent/1st banana attitude in DeMarcus Cousins. The trick, for Keith Smart, and Evans/Cousins, is to figure out how to utilize all these talents in the most effective of manners.

OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO ACT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER FIRST. ALSO, WORK WITH YOUR HEAD COACH WHO IS ASKING YOU TO DO REAL THINGS THAN ACT LIKE A PETULANT ASSHOLE EVERY OTHER MINUTE YOU ARE ON THE COURT. BUT WHAT ARE DETAILS? KEITH SMART IS JUST ANOTHER GUY WHO IS ASKING YOU TO BE A GROWN-UP PROFESSIONAL (BECAUSE AFTER ALL ISN’T THAT WHAT THE NBA IS ABOUT?) AND THAT’S JUST TOO HARD FOR BOTH OF YOU ISN’T IT.

Caps annoyances over, that’s the deal. You can have shitty ownership and stupid management and have a quality team if your 2 best young players are accountable and want to get better. But do Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins want to get better? You can make a legitimate case Evans is only interested in his numbers. I would agree with at that this point until I see a better batch of evidence that tells me otherwise.

Cousins? I might be willing to believe (also having said this awhile ago) that if Cousins starts approaching playing the game as a profesional than a petulant dickhead kid with a condom head to match. Cousins has the type of personality that I think the losing is bothering him (it bothers Evans but not enough) so something may snap inside of him. When that happens, actual growth of the “I’m not an asshole teenager kid but an adult now” type happens and Cousins drags the Kings with him. In turn, it may entice Evans to grow up as well and start tapping his talents (which are considerably more).

I personally enjoy Keith Smart’s pressers a heck of a lot more (it doesn’t accompany unprofessional clownball that Evans/Cousins so much enjoy) than the games at the moment because I learn something about the man. Keith Smart really does understand the problem. So did Paul Westphal. So would Vinny Del Negro, and how many people do you know would want VDN to be the head coach of their team?

The good news is that Keith Smart is a competant professional basketball man who does things in a seemingly understandable and transparent fashion. Telling Cousins and Evans (it was not a shot at Fredette, Salmons or Thompson–all 3 act in a professional manner) that they have to live with their bad decisions and be on the court during blowouts says a lot. Smart says things about players without naming names which is, umm, pardon the pun, intelligent.

This team is in dire straits because of cash poor frontrunning bandwagon douche ownership, a Pres of Basketball Ops who is more interested in preserving his cult status of greatness (that ship has sailed with these series of episodes), 2 asshole petulant brats who masquerade as NBA stars, and a head coach desperately looking to carve a niche for himself where the book on him has been written due to a long relationship with Don Nelson. (Not a good thing unfortunately for Keith Smart.)

The truth is that I think the culture is capable of changing if Evans/Cousins wanted it changed. Oklahoma City’s culture is considered good, but it wasn’t always considered a winning strong culture. (Funny how winning and strong cultures go hand in hand doesn’t it?) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were there for a bad losing season together (their first) that started poorly off under a head coach who had nowhere the amount of league success than Paul Westphal had in Seattle let alone in Phoenix.

Yet, now, Scott Brooks is considered a quality coach (for those who aren’t sniping and salivating at the idea of getting that job) and the culture of that franchise changed.

New Orleans had a strong culture that didn’t revolve around the ownership and/or front office (although Jeff Bowers was certainly a competent GM), but mostly around Chris Paul. Byron Scott is a terrific head coach in a lot of ways, but Scott couldn’t make that Hornets team work without Paul. Who could? Chris Paul instituted a system of accountability that included himself.

These things aren’t accidents. When players demand accountability that includes checks on their own behaviors, things improve. Let’s read Cousins statement about Westphal again:

Has your approach changed with Smart as your coach?

“It has. Everything has been positive right now. Coach isn’t scared to speak his mind. He’s going to tell the truth. He’s going to tell you how it should be and how it’s not going to be. He sets his guidelines and we all go by them. That’s something that we needed from the beginning. Coach is going to be real. If you mess up he’s going to tell you, ‘You messed up.’ That’s all we needed from the beginning.”

So you didn’t have that structure under Westphal?

“We didn’t, honestly. And it showed.”

Oh, you mean Westphal didn’t tell you to take crappy shots at inopportune times and then compound that with stupid turnovers and/or stupid fouls that take you off the court for at least 10-20 minutes of in game time for consistent periods? Stupid Paul Westphal. If there is anything I’ve agreed with Tom Ziller on any one point, it was that part of Westphal’s odd statement (I never did like it–on the other hand Westphal looked like a guy after the New Orleans game who knew he was on his way out and it was only a matter of time) did seem to get a lot of people to not notice what Tyreke Evans said after the New York game.

I’m not criticizing to criticize here. I realize that the situation has been brutal in any adjusted or readl context and that an easier schedule could help ease some of the real problems the Kings have. (I liked this post at Sactown Royalty by Savage Beast, one of the long time readers over there. It makes a lot of sense if you are of the patient sort.)

But, Evans and Cousins have made this stretch beyond pointless to contemplate. There is a reason I didn’t talk about the Cousins’ lockeroom incident. The 2 heaviest hit Kings websites (Sactown Royalty and SacBee Kings Blog), and Jason Jones had a blogpost on the Sacbee Blog regarding all of this. Really, who cares? That’s not the problem then, or now with this team. That’s an incident with an emotional young firebrand who understandably didn’t want some asshole with a camera fishing for a story while he was dressing. I’d tell the guy to get the fuck away too. I simply didn’t add my 2 cents of: This is a stupid ass story because why?

But, Jones summed up it well:

I know Cousins has been sick for a few days and really had no intention of interviewing him. I also have a rule (that not all members of the media agree with) that I allow a player to get dressed before I start interviewing him.

Jones nailed this: This was an issue of decency. Cousins was right, but the only reason Cousins was even egged on was due to his reputation. There is money in getting players like Cousins to blow their top, and it gets coverage. The guy who gets that coverage gets something for it. You think incidents like this with Cousins won’t be overblown? If the Kings start winning, Cousins had better get used to it. Because that’s what will happen to him after any loss.

Are we really going to talk about unimportant things for that long? No, we aren’t.

The issue, and the main issue, and will still be the main issue no matter how many words are typed in this idiots WordPress formatter, will be whether or not Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins will act like professional, responsible, accountable and effective NBA players.

Oh, and be that idiot that says “You didn’t watch the game so you don’t know what you are talking about.” No, really, be that idiot. I’m wanting to crap on someone for stupidity since I can’t take a dump on Evans/Cousins’ head instead. (That’s my preference, but my options are limited in this department understandably.) I kinda figure I owe them a return on the favor they both have so willingly gifted us Kings fans this season.

One last thing. Until Evans and Cousins both accept that as stars they will get more share of the success, and blame as an opposite result, they can’t complain if they don’t get more credit for wins and get little blame for losses. When you are the two best players on a team, you are responsible for the WINS AND LOSSES. Every time I hear those two, I hear two kids who want to believe that they aren’t doing anything wrong and it’s everyone else’s fault but theirs. Hopefully Matt Moore, Savage Beast, Keith Smart are all right. It’s not like I’m sitting around hoping I win this battle. I’m not. I’ve just seen this story play out, and it usually has an ugly ending for the team that drafts these kind of players. Excuse me if I feel that reality is slowly playing out no matter how quickly or slowly we accept such a reality unfolding before us.

See ya Saturday.