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When the Sacramento Kings announced that they were relieving Paul Westphal of his coaching duties, I wasn’t surprised. In my season preview for the Kings, I said that the Kings had a limit on their growth.
I’m just not sure what the direction is here. Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, and Marcus Thornton seems like a pretty good core but then they drafted Jimmer Freddette to be their starting point guard, traded Omri Casspi for J.J. Hickson, acquired John Salmons from Milwaukee and still have Paul Westphal as their head coach. I like the talent but there’s an uneven distribution of it as far as position goes and with Westphal as the coach, there is a limit to their growth.
I never expected the Kings to achieve anything more than a lottery berth and I think the Kings should have made a coaching change during the lockout and brought in a fresh face to kick things off this season. Thus, I’m not against the Kings decision to fire Paul Westphal. That said, I am against how Sacramento’s higher-ups handled the firing.
The last straw was when Westphal made a public statement about Kings center DeMarcus Cousins that was (supposedly) endorsed by general manager Geoff Petrie but not by the Maloof brothers, who own the team. The statement said that Cousins had demanded a trade from the Kings and it questioned Cousins’ maturity. Even if the things Westphal said were true, dealing with a private matter publicly was not looked upon favorably by his bosses.
And because of that statement, the Maloofs made the decision to fire Westphal. Here is the report via NBA.com:
“We try to leave the basketball decisions to the basketball people, but anybody can see it wasn’t working out,” Joe Maloof said. “Gavin and I called Paul. He was very appreciative and said thanks for the opportunity. We thanked him for his hard work and his work in the community. It wasn’t a bad call. It was a very nice call.”
Joe Maloof said that while the dynamic between Westphal Cousins was “part of the decision,” the bigger issues were the lack of development of all the Kings’ players and the owners’ hope that Sacramento could snap out of its rut and still be a factor in the Western Conference playoff race.
“I think we all knew something had to be done,” Maloof said. “We know we have a lot of (young) players but we were expecting to do well this season. We have a couple of guys who are in their third year in the league. We still have 60 games. We still have a shot…Geoff came to us and said it probably was never going to work between those two guys. It was probably best to move on. (But) none of the guys were playing up to their potential. It didn’t make sense, our play on the court. It just didn’t make sense….crazy things can happen. We’re trying to win and we’re trying to see what (Smart) can do.”
After the owners locked out their players because they felt they had too much power, the Maloofs turned around and gave the players more power. The Maloofs decided to chose DeMarcus Cousins over Paul Westphal and acknowledging that their rift was “part of the decision” proofs they made this decision for the wrong reasons. If you trust Westphal enough to hire him as your coach in the first place, why give up on him because he doesn’t mesh well with your underachieving center who could fetch a ton in the trade market because of potential that his attitude may never allow him to reach? Instead, they traded Westphal for Keith Smart, who made little difference for the Golden State Warriors during his one year stint as head coach there last season. And they signed Smart, whose teams have won 37% of the games he’s coached, to a two-year deal without any sort of test drive.
The Maloofs also blamed Westphal for their young players not playing up to their potential. So six games into a season after having no training camp because they and their fellow owners decided to lock their players out, the Maloofs have decided that Westphal wasn’t doing enough to get the most out of his players. And by the way, for players to reach their potential, they have to put in work on their part, too. Sure, coaches can find better ways to use their players, but without internal desire to become better and reach their potential, a coach has no opportunity to get the best out of them.
You can absolutely make the argument that none of the Kings players were going to reach their potential under Westphal and that the team needed a change of scenery but instead the Maloofs blamed Westphal for not getting the best out of players that weren’t attempting to be the best they could be after six games in a lockout shortened season. There is one thing that Joe Maloof said in that article that is correct, though. Basketball decisions should be left to their basketball people. And so should any talking about basketball decisions, because the Maloofs just don’t get it.