Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Trade the Kings Missed - Karl Not the Problem

Before writing this I would just like to congratulate Kings Coach George Karl for collecting a few extra million before his retirement, regardless of how this plays out.

Well done, sir.

Now here goes...

Every so often I get energized to write something about the NBA, and today is that day.

About a year ago I was in talks with CBS Sports KHTK-AM in Sacramento about working at the station, so I became much more engaged in the circus that is the Sacramento Kings.  To be honest, I truly enjoy watching the Kings, and noticed many opportunities for the team to get better quickly.  Unfortunately, none of them were capitalized on, and now once again they find themselves trying to climb out of this never-ending hole.

Lets begin with my initial assessment and proposed solution, which I emailed to Kings Owner Vivek Ranadive before last year’s NBA Draft.  

Demarcus Cousins is the problem, period.  Get rid of him.

There’s no doubt in my mind Cousins is one of the 15 most talented players in the NBA, maybe even higher.  But there’s also no doubt that his countless double-doubles don’t result in victories for the team.  Think back to other great NBA centers, be it Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, or Patrick Ewing.  If any of these players were on the Kings do you think they would be as bad as they have been all these years?  

No chance.

So what exactly is the problem?

It’s simple: Cousins does not understand the game of basketball.  He knows how to score, he knows how to rebound, and he can even block some shots.  But he has no idea how to make the players around him better, unlike, say, Tim Duncan.  Whether it's with his on the court play, or off-court demeanor, Cousins is a negative hole.

See, Cousins exists in the era of “me” basketball, trained in his youth by the AAU system, and grabbing the NBA cash as soon as it was available.  Those types of players rarely make others better.  On top of this, Cousins has never been known to rally other players around him, and/or lead by example.  You could say he has done the exact opposite throughout his professional career.

This was the gist of my email to Ranadive (he didn’t reply).  

The solution I offered was to trade Cousins to the Orlando Magic for Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and last year’s draft pick (which ended up being Mario Hezonja).  

My gut tells me the Magic, always enthralled with talented big men (O’Neal and Dwight Howard), take the trade.

This would have left the Kings with a European born center, Gordon from San Jose, and two draft picks, which could have been Hezonja and PG Emmanuel Mudiay.

Right there the entire core of the team would have changed, but even more to the point, it would have been a team Sacramento fans would have recognized.  Like Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic before them, Vucevic and Hezonja could have played similar roles.  Now I know you’re thinking, “This guy is a moron...what a dumb comparison…”  Well, I may be a moron, but the reason for the trade makes even more sense when you think about the types of players who actually want to be in Sacramento.

The types that tend to shun a city like Sac are showboats; guys who want to be in LA, Vegas, or NYC.  The types that do?  Maybe a quieter local guy like Gordon who seems to be intelligent on/off the court, and European born players who are just happy to be successful here in the United States.  European born players rarely gives owners and General Managers a hard time about being in a “smaller market.”

Obviously this trade never happened, nor was it even considered.  Apparently GM Divac and Ranadive thought they could turn the ship around with hard-driving Coach George Karl.

So now I ask: how’s that working out for you?

Rumors continue to swirl about Karl being fired, but letting him go is no solution.

Karl is the least of the team's problems. He's only the problem if the players you currently have on the roster are the ones you plan to keep.  

Truth be told, every coach is going to be the problem with this current cast of players, unless Kentucky’s John Calipari is somehow convinced this is the job for him.  Short of Calipari, who might not even be able to fix this, the problem will remain. 

The opportunity to make the trade I suggested has been missed, but the team should consider cutting their losses before the hole sinks deeper.

Trade Cousins, get new pieces, and move forward.  For as long as he’s the focal point of the Kings franchise this team will continue to be a non-factor in the NBA.

Finally, I ask you this.  Which team would you have preferred to root for:

C - Demarcus Cousins
PF - Willie Cauley-Stein
SF - Rudy Gay
SG - Ben Mclemore
PG - Rajon Rondo


C - Nikola Vucevic
PF - Aaron Gordon
SF - Rudy Gay
SG - Mario Hezonja 
PG - Emmanuel Muddiay

I’ll give you a hint: one lineup would have a bright future in Sacramento. One lineup would be happy playing in Sacramento.

Maybe the GM should fire himself.