Sunday, February 8, 2015

Eyewitness: Inside the room during the negotiations with George Karl

I was lucky enough to be invited inside the top-secret negotiations between Vivek Ranadive and George Karl. Here's my report:

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Show me the money, DeMarcus the victim, and other interesting musings

Things we know about the current state of the Kings:

Suddenly, the management is cheap. They don't have the cash to pay a new coach. Yes, they can buy into a professional soccer club, but when it comes to hiring real talent, they throw a fit.

The money issue just brings back bad memories of a former ownership group headed by a group of lunkhead playboy brothers. It's not a good look.

Ty Corbin should just resign and tell the ownership group to take his job and, well, you know the rest. He was put in a ridiculous position. The players had no desire to listen to him. And general manager Pete D'Allesandro barely made a peep to defend him.

DeMarcus Cousins needs to shut up and stop acting like he's the poor victim in all of this. We've seen some of his antics, including berating teammates and having complete mental breakdowns on the court. I'm not so sure that Cousins isn't the biggest problem in regards to the team's attitude.

This team's start was mostly fluke. Yes, Mike Malone had the team playing tough defense, but the early season was not as rosy as it seems. The offense was still a mess and the lack of outside shooting was evident even then. In addition, the poor depth became increasingly evident as soon as the injuries started to pile up.  This is not a good team. It's pretty much a bad one. And I'm not so sure it would have been that different if Malone had stayed on. Still, you have to credit Malone for one thing: He and Cousins seemed to have a connection - and that's hard to do.

George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins is gonna be pure theatre. I'm grabbing my popcorn now and waiting for the fireworks to begin.

Nik Stauskas was drafted for one reason: He was a great shooter. Now we're looking at possibly the biggest bust in the draft. He doesn't have Ben McLemore's athleticism to fall back on, so I'm not sure if there's much of an upside. He needs a summer of performance enhancing drugs just to have a shot at improvement. Some skeptics were comparing him to Jimmer after the Kings drafted him. They might have been right.

Rudy Gay has reverted to his selfish persona of the past. Toronto fans hated him. I'm starting to see why. He's all about getting his shots at any cost. And, most of the time, it doesn't matter if he's double or triple teamed. Can a new coach get through to him? If not, I'd put him on the block in the summer.

I'd explore a deal with the Chicago Bulls. Any deal. They own the rights to the Kings' first-round pick if Sacramento doesn't end up as one of the 10 worst records in the league. Make a deal with them in exchange for relinquishing the protections on the pick. Maybe get Taj Gibson. They need to give up this year's pick in order to have a first-round pick going forward.

Tempo is great when you have Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. It's a damn near disaster when you have the crew that the Kings put on the floor. If we never hear that word again, it will be too soon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Vivek's biggest blunder? Letting Isaiah go for nothing.

The Phoenix Suns hit town just in time to remind Kings fans that their owner, Vivek Ranadive, may be on the verge of a real organizational dilemma.

Yes, the firing of coach Michael Malone was out of the blue, but it might have been considered just part of a brilliant plan if legendary George Karl was waiting in the wings.  He wasn't.  And now nobody knows what's going on at Kings headquarters.  You'd need a Kremlinologist to figure out what they're thinking.

Malone was no offensive genius and his players shifted into panic mode far too often, but he was respected in the locker room and he got his players to buy in on defense.

He seemed to give the team a sense of purpose and order.  Most importantly, he was respected by DeMarcus Cousins, the moodiest mega-talent in the NBA.

Yet Ranadive dumped him.  Without a plan in place.

That's scary enough.  But you have to go back six months to find the biggest mistake of the Ranadive era.

The out-and-out disposal of point guard Isaiah Thomas.

An explosive scorer with a chip on shoulder, Thomas was a valuable commodity in the NBA.  But the Kings, with a chance to keep him on an extremely sensible 4 year, $27 million contract, let him walk.

For nothing. Zip. (Okay, a crappy trade exception that will never be used).

By the way, Thomas is currently 37th in the NBA in PER, higher than any King besides DeMarcus Cousins.

Now I don't care if your nerd analytic team thought he was not the right player for your system.  You do not let him go for nothing.

You sign him.  And you tell him to fit in.  Are you telling me the current Kings couldn't use another three-point shooter who can score from all over the court?

Let's say it didn't work out.  So what.  Worst-case scenario, you have an extremely valuable trade chip.

Want to know how the Kings might have convinced the Nets to include Mason Plumlee in the trade for Deron Williams?  Put Isaiah Thomas in the deal.

Instead, the current Kings have no trade assets.  They have no first-round pick to deal.  They are stuck looking for high-priced, past-their-prime big names who other teams want to pawn off.

You get the feeling Ranadive thinks he's always the smartest guy in the room.  Yet Ranadive's room is dark and secretive and closed to the outside world.

Sometimes you need to open up a window and let a little light shine in.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who are these guys? No, seriously, who are they?

I'm a little befuddled right now.

This is about the time of year I start to make fun of the Kings with wild abandon.  It's when I realize the team is hopeless, listless and positively devoid of talent.

But something strange is going on this season.  I'm beginning to wonder if there was some kind of NBA zombie apocalypse.  Bodies have been swapped.  That much is clear.

That's the only way to explain the team's fast start, especially after an off-season that left Kings fans scratching their heads.

I would have bet 25 wins at most.

I mean, Omri Casspi?

Yes, Omri Casspi!

The former King has returned with the type of high-energy, refined game that I thought was impossible.

And what about Jason Thompson, a man who never saw a pump fake he didn't take? He's turned into one of the NBA's best defensive big men, stifling the likes of Tim Duncan and Anthony Davis.

Carl Landry? Awful contract. Veteran coming off a serious injury.  Yet he's playing like a youngster again, winning down low and making all sorts of big shots.

Ben McLemore?  He's suddenly playing like a real-life NBA player, nailing long-range bombs like he's back at Kansas.

And then there's that big angry dude in the middle.  The guy they call Boogie.

He's been a revelation.  Banging bodies, imposing his will on anyone who dares cross his path.

I've never been a big fan.  I've wanted to see him traded on numerous occasions.  But I'm almost convinced that he may have put his time-bomb ways behind him.

Yes, the Kings are fun again.

And winning.

Let's hope the zombie apocalypse has a long reign in Sacramento.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is Malone a problem for the Kings? Time for a hard look

Michael Malone seems like a nice guy.

And it seems like the players respect him.

But he has done nothing to prove he's an NBA coach.  And Thursday night's mind-numbing meltdown at the hands of the Grizzlies is big, fat Exhibit A.

Before we talk about the tragic final play, let's explore how the Kings gradually let their 26-point lead evaporate in the second half. The primary reason? Malone's offense came to a grinding halt.  Not that it's ever really in any other gear.

Yes, the defense wasn't exactly stellar, but it's the offense, stupid.

You see, the Kings have no offense.  It's all about DeMarcus Cousins bulling his way down low or Rudy Gay faking and pumping until he gets off a tough 15-footer.  When those two players are hitting shots, everything is seemingly fine. But when the going gets tough, the Sacramento offense needs roto-rooter.  It's a clogged, poopy mess.

Sometimes Darren Collison gets into some open space and creates, but for the most part, there is nothing. Zero. A painful sharp stick to the eye of NBA observers.

This is on Malone.  Sure, the Kings don't exactly have unselfish players, but that's not an excuse for a system that is unable to generate even a small amount of easy shots.

By the way, where exactly is rookie hot shot Nik Stauskas?  And why can't this team run a single play for him?

But enough about the offense, let's take a long, hard look at that final play with just 0.3 seconds left on the clock.

Go ahead, look at it.

Keep looking.

Bet you don't see any Kings players defending the basket, do you?

That is inexcusable.  And that is on the coach.  Period.

All you have to do is be clear and say this:  DeMarcus, you stand along the right side of the hoop, Jason, you stand on the other side, and Ryan, you just stand right in front of it.  Nobody gets close to  the hoop for a lob.  Game over.

It's his job and his alone to make this clear.  If his players aren't listening to him, that's his fault.

The probation period is over for Mike Malone. It's time for him to prove he's more than a nice guy.

The Kings have shown early that they have the talent to compete.  But two gut-wrenching meltdowns in a row point to only one person -- and he's sitting in a suit on the bench.

I'm looking at you, Mr. Malone.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Secret Transcript from the Kings War Room That Will Shock You

A shocking video was slipped to me this morning. It was secretly recorded inside the Kings war room yesterday.

Nobody in the media has seen it yet, but the scene is quite illuminating and helps to unravel the continuing mystery around the team's relationship with free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas.  My source told me it was filmed by Grantland, but was confiscated by the Kings soon after shooting.

Those in the video include GM Pete D'Alessandro, owner Vivek Ranadive, team advisor Chris Mullin and a team of crowd-sourcing analytics experts.

Here for you is the raw transcript:

D'Alessandro:  "Okay, give me everything you guys got on Collison."

Overweight Analytic Nerd in Checkered Shirt: "According to my calculations, the guy does really well every two years when the starter goes down for 10 games or less"

Vivek (nodding):  "Interesting"

Sad Sack Analytic Nerd:  "It's quite extraordinary.  Collison is below average for 93 percent of the time, but when he starts, he becomes fairly non-mediocre."

Vivek: "Wow."

Mullin: "But doesn't Isaiah put up great numbers all the time as a starter"

Vivek (glaring at Mullin): "Tell him, Pete"

D'Alessandro: He's short"

Mullin: "Yeah, but-"

Very Skinny Analytic Nerd: "Teams with starting point guards below 5-foot-10 only have a 13.8 percent chance of making the playoffs based on a 25-year rolling average."

Vivek (nodding again): "Plus, Collison will only cost us $5 million a year.  Isaiah wants to be paid like he's Carl Landry or something."

D'Allessandro: "And Isaiah is short"

Token Minority Analytic Nerd: "We discovered that although Isaiah had comparable numbers to young superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, we had to adjust Isaiah's numbers downward because he just doesn't make enough plays for his teammates."

Mullin (muttering under his breath):  "Maybe his teammates suck."

Vivek: "What?"

Mullin: "I mean, would you pass to Ben McLemore?  The guy is more likely to hit the side of the backboard.  And Travis Outlaw?  Or Jason Thompson? Geez."

D'Allesandro:  "We are changing the team's culture.  We don't want as many gunners.  We need to move the ball."

Mullin:  Wait a second.  We just drafted Nik Stauskas.  Are you telling me we drafted the best shooter in the draft so he could pass more?

Vivek (angrily):  "You're excused, Chris."

Mullin stares at Vivek, than tosses a glance at D'Allesandro:  "Really?"

D'Allesandro shrugs.  Mullin exits.

Hunched-Over Analytic Guy: "We calculate that losing Isaiah Thomas will only cost the Pizza Guys franchises a mere 5 percent loss in total business, mostly affecting their sausage and meat-lovers varieties"

Vivek (now beaming and proud): "I love you guys.  This is why we are Kings 3.0."

Mullin pokes his head in the door: "You can't buy heart.  You want Isaiah on the Pistons?  Or the Lakers, for God's sakes?"

Vivek: "Somebody lock the door"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

DeMarcus Cousins: Superstar Pain in the butt

And now all the rumbling begins.

Dissension.  Strife in the locker room.  The coach throwing players under the bus.  Players throwing other players under the bus.

It's getting ugly.

Unfortunately, it ain't gonna get better.  And there's a huge reason for that.

His name is DeMarcus Cousins.

Yes, the incredibly talented center is putting up All-Star numbers. He's become a dominant force in the NBA.

But he is not a leader.  And he's an intense, still immature, force of nature who doesn't suffer fools.  Or anyone else, for that matter, not named DeMarcus. Sometimes it's hard to grow up, hard to learn how to be diplomatic and understand how people view you.  It took me 40 years.

With Cousins, you get the feeling his teammates are not that happy to suit up at his side.

On a veteran team, Cousins might be fine.  On a young team, he's a problem.

The Kings' brass, for some reason, think they are just a couple of players away from competing for a playoff spot.  Why else bring in Rudy Gay and his ridiculously large contract?  Or take a flyer on Derrick Williams, who will be owed $6 million next season?

The Kings are miles away from being a good team.  Mostly, because they are a team of players with a miserable attitude about each other.  And that won't change until Cousins undergoes some serious soul searching or is dealt.  If it was my team, I'd vote the latter.

Yes, I know, you can't trade a talent of that magnitude.  He's supposedly "untouchable."  He's gonna be a force and a beast and a superstar.

Maybe so.  But I doubt it happens here.  There's a better chance he gets suspended for giving a teammate an atomic wedgie.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Danger of Not Tearing It Down

The Kings have been in purgatory for a decade.

After a tantalizing stretch of marvelous talent and playoff appearances, the Kings haven't been relevant since the early years of George W. Bush.

And now they've seemingly missed the window again to turn the corner.

Geoff Petrie attempted to rebuild the team on the fly, adding the likes of Brad Miller and Ron Artest, but it was the equivalent of rubbing dirt on a gaping wound.

The team tried coach after coach after coach, none of whom had the ability to take a team utterly lacking in talent and making it seem, well, competent.

The Maloofs finally tapped out around 2008, their bank account drained by bad casino decisions.  From then, it was bargain-basement rebuilding.

Which brings us to 2013, new owner Vivek Ranadive, and this year's frustrating assemblage of mismatched parts

New owners have a tough time being patient and Ranadive is no different.  He wants results on the floor.

In the last three weeks, the Kings made two big moves.

They traded their top defender for former No. 2 draft stud Derrick Williams, an enigmatic player without an apparent position who stands to make $6 million next season.  Can he make a difference?  Maybe.  But he's exactly the wrong type of player for the Kings.  Bad three-point shooter.  Undersized.  Lacking in defensive skills.

Then the team dealt for Rudy Gay, a no-doubt talented player whose shooting skills have vastly deteriorated over the past two seasons.  He'll be owed close to $20 million next season, but the bigger question is this:  If Gay does manage to revitalize his career with the Kings, it's gonna be a tough sell to keep him in Sacramento. ln other words, it's a bad gamble with little upside for the Kings past next year.

So what should the alternative have been?

Just look at Boston.

Danny Ainge completely tore it down.  Selling off assets for draft picks.  Positioning the team for future cap space.  Drafting solid young talent.  

The Kings should have torn it down.  To the studs.

Right now, the team is awful.  The defense is embarrassingly shoddy, starting with DeMarcus Cousins, who has yet to learn how to defend a pick-and-roll, to Ben McLemore, who looks so completely lost you want to hand him a map.

Isaiah Thomas is the team's heart and soul, but he rarely gets his teammates involved, a sin for a squad that is comprised of me-first shooters.  Marcus Thornton still thinks its the off-season.
Jason Thompson has regressed badly.  And the rest of the team, except Gay, is comprised of second-tier talent at best.

Then there's coach Mike Malone, who is still in his honeymoon period. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have any answers. 

Will they get better?  Probably marginally.  Maybe enough to drop their draft position to 10 or 11, which is not where you want to be in a year with perhaps the best selection of college talent ever.  If they drop past 12, they lose the pick entirely (to Cleveland), thanks to Petrie's awful deal for J.J. Hickson a few years back.

So that leaves the Kings in an awful position, doomed to rise to utter mediocrity and tread water for the next three or four years.

If it was my call, I would have hacked it to bits.  Dealing every veteran player.  For draft picks.  Or young talent with a defensive mentality.  Anything but high-salaried players with questionable long-term help to the team.

Even Cousins should have been dealt.  Yes, I know he's got oodles of talent, but his on-court antics are impossible to ignore.  You wonder how his teammates put up with him.

It's too late now, I suppose.

Kings fans are stuck with this mismatched, overpaid, selfish collection of players.  Maybe they'll grow into something special.

I wouldn't hold my breath.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Trading Cousins is the smartest path

Yup.  DeMarcus Cousins sure has matured.

He's gone from screeching baby to unhinged toddler.   All that talk about his growth just seems like an off-season Vivek Ranadive fever dream.  Cousins still seems eons away from harnessing his remarkable talent and putting it into something positive.

Tuesday night's game against the Hawks was a chilling example of his his flammable behavior.  In one two-minute span, he collected three fouls, glared ominously at officials, pushed an opponent in intimidating fashion, and just plain melted down before our eyes.

It wasn't pretty.  But it's something we've seen too many times before.

Cousins has the ability to be one of the best players in the NBA,  but he's not right now.  And with a lack of talent surrounding him - especially upfront - life is only going to get more frustrating for him.

Furthermore, his effect on his teammates is not productive.  They are completely deferential to him on offense, sometimes seemingly feeding him the ball to avoid an ugly stare.  During one timeout during his fourth-quarter flare-up.  rookie Ben McLemore looked at Cousins as if he was radioactive.  You get the feeling the Kings don't want to get on his bad side.  And can you blame them?

Cousins is the best teammate in the world when he's filling the stat sheet, but if things don't go his way -- and they don't more than half the time -- his attitude turns dark far too quickly. 

It might be the biggest mistake in the world, but I've been saying to trade him for two years.

My opinion hasn't changed.  I've witnessed some impressive efforts from Cousins.  He can dominate a game.  He is agile and strong and brimming with potential.   But the Kings can't depend on him because of his unstable behavior.

Pull the ripcord.  Get out now.  Send him to a talented, veteran team that can nurture him without having to make him the centerpiece.

You're crazy, you're thinking right now as you read this, didn't this team just hand the guy a huge, long-term deal.

Well, yes, they did.  And I don't expect them to change their minds this soon and deal him.  

But if the losses start piling up, it's only going to get worse.

Sooner or later, trading DeMarcus is going to be the best thing for him.  And for Sacramento.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Monta Ellis signing would set back franchise four more years

The Kings supposedly want highly inefficient guard Monta Ellis.

Four questions:





This would easily be the stupidest move of any team in free agency.

The new regime wants ball movement and defense.  He brings none of that.  He is a ball dominant, me-first, shooting machine.  Been there. Done that.

Has Vivek Ranadive ever watched anyone play who didn't play for the Golden State Warriors?

Who's next?  Troy Murphy?

I want three qualities from my players: Intensity, maturity and unselfishness.  The Kings can't manage to find players with these qualities.  The Maloofs couldn't find them.  And now it seems like the new regime doesn't care either.

Just recently, it was reported that the ownership group marched down to the home of DeMarcus Cousins in Mobile, Alabama, to announce their undying devotion to him.

They want to build the franchise around him.

The most unstable player in the league.

Who has shown not an iota of evidence that he wants to change.

This is the new ownership group.  This is NBA 2.0.

The signing of Ellis is just a bad move. Plain and simple.

Don't do it.