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NBA PM: Kings Continue to Have Issues

The Sacramento Kings have been a circus this season and something must change going forward.

Cody Taylor

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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.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte

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“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

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Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics

Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.

Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.

In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.

Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.

“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.

“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”

The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.

“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.

“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”

Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.

“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”

The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.

“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”

Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.

“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.

“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”

Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.

“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.

“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”

While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.

“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.

“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”

Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.

Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.

Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.

“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.

“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”

You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.

Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.

“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?

“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”

Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.

“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”

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