Kings Continue to Have Issues
It seems as though the past year has been one giant scene from the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ for the Sacramento Kings. Except in this scenario, there’s no Bill Murray playing the lead role.
This is reality for the Kings, and the stars of this spectacle are George Karl, DeMarcus Cousins and plenty of others within the front office.
Perhaps no other team in the NBA has been through as much turmoil as the Kings have endured over the past year or so. More often than not, there seems to be another headline claiming some form of issue within the locker room or the front office.
The latest chapter in the never-ending drama involves Cousins and Karl. Cousins was seen on replay yelling at Karl during a timeout in a 120-111 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Following that incident, Kings general manager Vlade Divac announced on Thursday that Cousins would be suspended for one game for conduct detrimental to the team. Cousins missed Friday night’s 107-100 loss to the Orlando Magic.
Cousins returned to the court last night against the Utah Jazz after serving a one-game suspension on Friday night and provided a glimpse into the latest drama involving the team.
“That wasn’t a suspension from the organization,” Cousins told reporters in Sacramento. “That was one from the head coach. There’s a difference.”
His comments further reiterate a disconnect between the team’s head coach and the All-Star center. It was reported earlier in the season that Cousins went off on a profanity-laced outburst toward Karl following a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 9.
Prior to last night’s game, Karl told reporters that he and Cousins have talked since Cousins’ suspension, but wouldn’t divulge too many details of that conversation. However, Cousins revealed after the game that the two haven’t talked since the suspension and added that Karl hasn’t said one word to him.
Including Friday night’s suspension against the Magic, Cousins was also suspended earlier in the season for hitting Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford with his forearm. In addition, Cousins could also be suspended again very soon since he’s currently sitting on 15 technical fouls on the season. Players serve automatic one-game suspensions for reaching 16 technical fouls, and for every two additional technical fouls after that.
It’s clear that this season has been perhaps the most frustrating season Cousins has been through since being drafted by the Kings in 2010. His 15 technical fouls are already more than he received last season, and they’re also the most among all players this season.
“It’s a lot of chaos, a lot of chaos,” Cousins said. “Usually, it’s just a frustration about coming out and winning games. But so much extra stuff this season, extra unnecessary stuff. It’s a lot of stuff within, a lot of battles, including guys who should be on your side. It’s probably one of the most frustrating [seasons].”
The Kings entered last summer as a team looking to improve. They cleared out cap space in an attempt to lure some of the top free agents to town. They traded away Nik Stauskas, the eighth overall pick in the 2014 draft, as well as Carl Landry and Jason Thompson to the Philadelphia 76ers in a move that would clear $16 million in cap space.
They had been targeting players like Monta Ellis, Wesley Matthews and Rajon Rondo, and they ultimately only signed Rondo out of that group. In addition to the veteran point guard, they also brought in Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli and Omri Casspi.
The team has also been mired in coaching rumors for quite some time now. Karl has seemingly been on the hot seat since the beginning of the season, and it was even rumored that he was almost replaced over the All-Star break.
He obviously hasn’t been replaced yet, but how many more times can the team take these rumors? Each time his name is brought up to be replaced, Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari’s name is mentioned. It’s been previously reported that Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé has Calipari high atop his coaching wishlist.
The battered image of the Kings clearly reflected the team’s inability to sign a top free agent. While those players that were added last summer have turned out to be solid so far this season, they weren’t atop the team’s initial wish list.
In addition, it was reported that Tobias Harris turned down a max deal by the Kings in order to re-sign with the Magic. Ellis and Matthews were also said to have turned down bigger deals in order to sign elsewhere.
The Kings again find themselves this season on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Last night’s loss to the Jazz dropped them seven-and-a-half games out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have now dropped five games in a row, and 17 out of their last 22 games.
“It’s been a tough stretch,” Karl said. “Losing causes different types of mental reactions, and Sunday afternoon games sometimes have a dullness to them. Defensively, we weren’t very good, and offensively we weren’t very good. For three quarters, we weren’t playing.”
“I know for a fact there’s a lot of frustration in this locker room,” Cousins said. “I believe everyone believes we should be a lot better than we are and we’re just frustrated that we’re not. We haven’t performed to the level of expectations, so there’s a lot of frustration with that.”
It seems inevitable that something has to change moving forward. The turmoil within the organization has spilled onto the court and the team’s play is beginning to suffer. Free agents aren’t entertaining Sacramento as a destination, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.
Winning games is enough to cure even the worst of problems. But, the Kings are not winning right now and the same problems that have been there all season continue to surface. It remains to be seen what changes can be made to steer the team in the right direction, but it’s evident that something needs to happen.
Injuries Continue for Bulls
As the Chicago Bulls are fighting for their playoff lives, they’re also battling through several injuries to key players.
Pau Gasol did not travel with the team on their road trip and will miss the next two games against the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards due to knee swelling. In addition to being without Gasol, head coach Fred Hoiberg said at shootaround today that Derrick Rose is “50-50” to play tonight after recovering from a left groin strain.
“Jimmy’s good to go, he had a good shootaround,” Hoiberg told reporters. “He had a really good day [Sunday]. Derrick didn’t participate in anything [Sunday], went through most of shootaround; he’s still a little bit tight. We’ll go back, get a treatment at the hotel, warm him up tonight and make a game-time decision. We’ll say right now [Rose is] 50-50 [to play].”
It was also reported that Mike Dunleavy will be a game-time decision after coming down with a stomach virus.
The team is expected to receive a lift tonight as Jimmy Butler is set to play after missing the past week due to issues with his left knee. Butler originally suffered the injury in a Feb. 5 game against the Denver Nuggets, and missed the next 11 games. He returned to action on March 5 against the Houston Rockets, but has missed the last three games for the Bulls after his knee swelled up following that game.
“I think I just got to go out there and play hard,” Butler said. “Don’t worry about my body and give my all for this team. You got to risk it to get the biscuit … I just got to expect it more now and learn to play through that. I think it’s tough, but I think I’ll be all right. I don’t think it’s nothing major.”
Entering play tonight, the Bulls are just one game back of the eighth-placed Detroit Pistons. They have been struggling over the past couple of months as they’ve gone just 6-13 since Jan. 28.
Of their remaining 18 games, only seven of them are against teams above .500, which is the fewest among the teams fighting for the playoffs in the East.
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.