Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why Doug Christie Should Be the Next Kings Coach

Stale air.

Awful, stinky stale air.

You can see it.  You can taste it.

It's been like a thick layer of pollution hanging over Sleep Train Arena for the last decade and, most notably, over the past five seasons.

That's what it's like to be a Kings fan. You're trapped beneath a suffocating fog of despair.

You choke on every decision. You gag when you watch the team play defense. You feel your chest tighten every time DeMarcus Cousins goes full nut job.

And the worst part? There doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. 

The next four first-round picks are completely up in the air. Will they keep them? Will they need to swap them?

Their young players, except perhaps Willie Cauley-Stein, have been busts. Their veterans are of little value to a team that wants to compete for a playoff spot.

And their All-Star cornerstone - Cousins - has yet to prove he can behave well with others, much less figure out how to play a full game of basketball without making more anguished faces than a five-year-old waiting in an endless line at Disneyland.

But there's one thing they can do.

There's one thing that can instantly change the atmosphere, clear the air, and let the sun shine in.

Hire Doug Christie to coach the team. 

Yup, Doug Christie.

Forget the retreads like Scott Brooks and Mark Jackson. Not impressed. Seen 'em. Don't need to see them again.

Christie brings something the Kings and this city have been sorely missing for the past 10 years...


And enthusiasm.

And a love of the game.

Oh, and by the way, he's very smart, too. I'm a believer after listening to him as a team analyst this year. 

Now I'm not usually a fan of bringing in someone with zero experience as a coach, but there's just something about Christie that makes me believe he's a winner. You can feel it - right through the TV screen. And if you can feel it through the TV screen, you better bet you can feel it in person.

Christie's a fighter, too. Just ask Rick Fox.

Is it a gamble? Maybe. 

But at this point, Kings fans just want to breathe fresh air again. And having a joyful warrior like Christie at the helm would instantly bring a brand new karma to the team.

So Mr. Ranadive, it's in your court. You pride yourself on thinking out of the box. 

This one is sitting on a box right in front of you.

Make the call.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Scientific, Analytical Guide to How Many Games the Kings Will Win

Okay, forget the pundits and radio hosts and columnists pontificating on how many games the Kings will win this season.

There's only one true way to prognosticate. And that's with pure science and analytics. At Kings Talking Points, our staff of over 100 statisticians and part-time fast food workers always make sure our numbers are on the money.

So buckle up and read on and the suspense will be over. You won't even need to pay attention to this season.

Let's start with 82 wins.

Subtract 40 games right off the bat for being the Sacramento Kings. Climate scientists have proven this sad fact by looking at weather models over the past 10 NBA seasons.

Subtract 5 wins for the awful idea of putting veteran poison Rajon Rondo into the middle of an already volatile mix. Rondo can still see the floor and deliver a perfect pass, but his woeful shooting and fading athleticism makes him a poor fit for a modern NBA team.

Add 3 wins for the addition of Willie Cauley-Stein. Finally, a true athletic big man who can change shots and run the court. And who thankfully doesn't need shots.

Subtract 4 wins for Ben McLemore. Every year there's hope he'll take the next step. And every year he disappoints. Once considered one of the top shooting prospects coming out of college, he's not even streaky at this point. And his ball handling? Oy. He can't take anyone off the dribble and he makes you cringe every time he tries.

Add 2 wins for Omri Casspi. Nobody brings more hustle on the court and he proved to be a consistent fireplug off the bench last season. If he ever got his three-pointer to drop, he'd become even more valuable.

Add 3 wins for the acquisition of Marco Belinelli. Finally, a consistent 3-point shooter on a team filled with brick layers.

Subtract 2 wins for the rest of the bench.  Kostas Koufas is solid, but he won't win you any games. Quincy Acy was a wasted signing. James Anderson was a Sixers washout. And Seth Curry has the wrong first name.

Subtract 10 wins for DeMarcus Cousins. Yes, he's a load. Yes, he's supremely talented. But no, I don't think this team can win with him. Too selfish. Too explosive emotionally. Too hard for him to share the spotlight with any other player.

Subtract 4 wins when Cousins and George Karl have a shouting match on the bench after a particularly bad turnover by Boogie on one of his coast-to-coast jaunts.

Subtract 3 wins when Rondo misses a flight to Cleveland because he's been supplanted as the starting point guard by Darren Collison.

Add 6 wins after the Kings acquire a fresh boodle of talent when the Kings trade Cousins in January.

Add 3 wins as Rudy Gay feels revitalized with the depature of Cousins.

Add 4 wins as Karl finally gets his offense into high gear without having to dump the ball into the middle on every set.


Friday, July 3, 2015

How panic, knee-jerk decision making, Vivek and Cousins have destroyed the Kings

Creativity, long-range tactical thinking, and common sense are nowhere to be found.

Instead, the Kings organization is now a constant source of panic, knee-jerk decision making, and utter disregard for logic.

The installation of Vlade Divac as the head of basketball operations has changed nothing.

He is clearly in over his seven-foot head. And despite his bold proclamations that he's in charge, the mere fact that the team is pin-balling from one high-risk, low-reward target to another is clear evidence that Vivek Ranadive is still calling the shots.

Rondo? Vivek's been drooling over the uber head case for a year. Josh Smith? Vivek has desperately wanted the me-first chemistry-killer since last winter.

Vivek is partying like it's 2008. You wonder how a high-tech nerd could be so wrong on so many things when he has a boatload of analytics to use as research.

The recent salary dump trade would have been fine if a smart trade or signing was already in place, but now the team is scrambling for table scraps, offering low-level talents stupid money to join the stupidest team in the NBA.

There is absolutely no plan. There is certainly no regard being given to team chemistry. And nobody seems to care that you can't put a group of flammable personalities together on an already kerosene-soaked team.

I've been campaigning for a year to rid the franchise of its major stench-inducing player - DeMarcus Cousins - and bring in a fresh crop of young, unselfish, hungry players.

Cousins may very well be a top-five talent, but he is not the type of guy who makes his teammates warm and fuzzy. In fact, most hate playing with him. And now his relationship with George Karl is broken beyond repair.

DeMarcus is almost impossible to root for as a fan. He's a surly, self-centered jerk. He whines and scowls and barks at referees and glares at his teammates. If he gets his numbers, he's a happy guy. If he doesn't, it doesn't matter what the scoreboard says.

Yes, trading him to the Lakers would take guts, but there's only one way out of this current swamp of despair.

Put a young team on the floor consisting of D'Angelo Russell, Darren Collison, Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and Rudy Gay and watch your fans cheer like crazy.

The air will feel cleaner. The beer will taste better. The popcorn will be less rancid.

It won't happen, though. I have no idea why. But the smartest guy in the room at Kings headquarters is in danger of losing every last ounce of goodwill he earned when he saved the franchise for Sacramento.

Pessimism reigns supreme these days. A Rondo signing will only prolong that feeling and delay the inevitable total meltdown.

Vlade needs to do two things today:

Hire Geoff Petrie as a special advisor.

March into Vivek's office and tell him to shut up and sit down.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Cousins Era is Over. Nobody Wants to Admit It, Though.

If I'm running the Kings, I'm getting ready to field all offers for DeMarcus Cousins.

There's really no other choice at this point.

The sulking superstar has reached his Sacramento expiration date. There's been too much turmoil, too many deep-background leaks, too many coaching changes, too many on-court explosions. I don't think anyone believes the hulking center is ready to go through another season of losing.

Of course, the notion of trading Cousins seems ludicrous on first blush. He's the most dominant center in the game, a bull of man who punishes opponents. His defense has improved tremendously and his passing is sometimes remarkable.

But you can't deal a star from a position of weakness - and that's exactly where the Kings will be next season if things don't drastically turn around. A beef with coach George Karl or an eight-game losing streak would most likely knock him off the rails and send him into the final tailspin, eventually leading to a trade request.

And when teams need to deal players, there's blood in the water. Offers get diluted. Teams play hardball.

The Kings have a new arena coming on line. They need to freshen the air. They need to wipe away the stink of losing and turmoil. And, most of all, they need to bring in a crop of players who are likeable, unselfish and motivated.

Luckily, with a trade chips like DeMarcus and Rudy Gay (yes, I'd trade him, too), you can just about retool your entire roster. 

Could you perhaps deal Cousins and Carl Landry for a package of players like Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, Joaquin Noah and first-round picks from the Bulls?  I would.

But there are probably other monster offers that could come their way.

Yes, it's hard to get equal value for a superstar. But it's even harder to get value for a pissed-off superstar who wants out. I'd betting even odds that Cousins is a very pissed-off superstar by week six of next season.

Karl knows the type of player he wants. I'm not sure Cousins fits the bill. And I'm not sure he even gives a bleep.

Cousins is all about Cousins right now. The Kings need to be all about the team's future.

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"