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.