Tension with the Stars
Kings are a team in chaos.
by Patrick Crawley / @BasketballFiend
The Kings are a mess.
There’s no other way to put it. They’re the Tara Reid of the NBA — a team with so many issues it’s only a matter of time before everything comes crashing down.
Once Sacramento’s favorite son, the Kings are on course for their second league-worst record in three years (as of Thursday night, they were 5-22, worst in the League). Last season the Kings were an up-and-coming team that was fun to watch. This season they’re all but unwatchable.
A series of mismatched personnel moves have robbed them of any hint of personality or flair. Their offense is plodding and turnover prone, especially in late-game scenarios. They blow leads faster than Charles Barkley blows chips at a blackjack table.
They’ve lost seven games in a row, 13 of 16 at home, and the average attendance at ARCO Arena is 13,415, second worst in the NBA. Not even an 80 percent discount on merchandise can bring fans to the house.
Paul Westphal and DeMarcus Cousins have fallen out to the point that each refuses to talk about the other, making post-game interviews all but intolerable.
When asked about his relationship with his coach after an 84-79 loss to the Bucks, Cousins said he didn’t want to talk about it — Is there an open line of communication between you and coach? “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Westphal was even chillier.
A reporter asked him to clarify a potential run-in with Cousins in the third quarter (Cousins appeared to ignore Westphal leading into a timeout and after their encounter Cousins was benched), to which he simply said no.
He did, however, address the tension in general terms.
“I understand that there are a lot of frustrations right now,” Westphal said. “Who wouldn’t be frustrated when you’re 5-22? Anybody who’s not playing as much as they think they should be, they’re going to have problems.”
Westphal’s non-relationship with Cousins isn’t his only off-court problem.
Rather than letting Evans tell the media about the problem himself, Westphal brought it up in his post-game press conference in reference to arguably the worst performance of Evans’ short career. (The reigning Rookie of the Year scored just 4 points in 32 minutes and was 2-13 from the field. He didn’t make his first shot until the 2:30 mark in the fourth quarter.)
“I talked to Tyreke after the game and he’s got some things bothering him that I really don’t think is anybody’s business but there’s more going on in his life and it’s a difficult time right now,” Westphal said.
He refused to elaborate on the issue, instead stressing how much of a “warrior” Evans has been.
“I don’t think it’s fair for him to take criticism for having a bad game in a way that ordinarily falls on a player who struggles,” Westphal said.
Fair or not, criticism of Evans’ performance is going to come. His scoring average is down 4 points from last season, and he’s shooting just 37 percent from the field.
He admitted after the Bucks game that the personal issue has been affecting his play.
“I tried to put it past me, but it just keeps coming back to me,” Evans said. “It’s been in my mind for a minute. Hopefully things get better and I can finish playing good basketball.”
Evans’ struggle with plantar fasciitis could also be a factor in his poor play, but even if his family issue is wholly to blame for his poor play, is it really in his best interest for Westphal to bring it up, then increase speculation by refusing to elaborate on it?
The answer remains to be seen. But either way, it’s apparent Westphal is having a tough time staying on the same page as his stars.
With the losses mounting and tension between coach and players growing, it’s only a matter of time before this team reaches its breaking point.
When it does, the Kings may well be searching for their fifth coach in as many years.