The Sacramento Kings last stand went the way of Custer’s last stand. Custer suffered a devastating defeat at Little Bighorn, slaughtered by the Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. The Sacramento Kings defeat was less dramatic and didn’t cost anyone their life in the cities of Boston and Cleveland. But like Custer, the Kings were defeated on hostile land and will be stripped of their leader. Custer was killed. Karl’s fate isn’t as serious. According to ESPN, he is going to be fired.
Karl had an ally in Rajon Rondo. But Rondo backed off the I’m in your corner flag waving when Karl made the Cleveland shootaround optional. Rondo was confused.
“When three or four guys show up at shootaround this morning, how can you expect to win?”
You can’t win. And don’t. The Kings have quit on Karl and now Karl is quitting on them in small ways that are significant. Karl doesn’t have a veteran squad with strong leadership and so like a house of cards, when it falls, everyone goes their separate ways.
Because we are used to this by now, (Karl will be the sixth coach fired in-season), there is a blueprint to the smoothing over. There will be a press conference and some blather and cliche about the team not making sufficient progress and Karl losing the locker room over the past few weeks, which precipitated the players hostility and passive aggressive failure to compete. It’s the same speech all G.M.’s make because the bottom line is someone has to go and it’s not going to be the G.M. Notice that G.M.’s are never, ever fired.
ESPN reported that Vlade Divac is spearheading this change and that Corliss Williamson will be trotted out for his picture and installed for the rest of the season as the new coach. Come summer, the Kings will be on a search for coach number 8. That’s right. 8 coaches in the last nine seasons. Nothing reeks of stability as having to change the man in charge every year.
It is reflexive to ask, what are the Kings doing? Do they even know? But the obvious is they are doing whatever it takes not to play defense. On this road trip, the organization was looking for any excuse to blow Karl up. The Kings, so motivated by their boss’ longevity, went out and played like holy crap, like they didn’t want to be there and didn’t much care for George Karl in the first place. No energy. No effort. No execution.
Against the Celtics, the Kings gave up a 46 point first quarter. How is that even possible? The rest of the game went downhill from there. They trailed at halftime by 16, tried to make a halfhearted comeback but lost. DeMarcus Cousins took 25 shots. Need I say more?
Tonight against the Cavaliers, the Kings didn’t bother pretending. It was in every touch of the ball, every move down the court, every hand on the hip. If they could have fired Karl themselves and coached themselves they would have. The Cavaliers had three straight 30 point quarters. They Kings trailed by 16 again at the midway point. It was an embarrassment. Oh, but Rondo got 16 assists, as if it mattered. He was obliterated by Kyrie Irving and most possessions he was out there on an island, no rotations, no help defense, no recovery.
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Karl should be relieved he has escaped this sinking ship and after the All-Star break he can catch his breath. Because at the end of the day, his players didn’t fight for him, they didn’t want him leading them. Sadly, that’s how the NBA works. Once the players quit on you, it’s over.
What’s also over is the Kings making it into the playoffs. Their lottery streak will remain intact at ten. Obama wasn’t president the last time the Kings made the playoffs. They are currently in 10th place in the West, 5 games out of the 8th spot.
After the All-Star break the Kings play the Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Spurs and Cavaliers. That will pretty much put a fork in the Kings as they look towards next year with a bitter DeMarcus Cousins. But this is what the league’s worst defense will do.
People lose their jobs. Kevin McHale. Lionel Hollins. David Blatt. Jeff Hornacek. Derek Fisher. And now George Karl.
photo via llananba