Sacramento Dysfunction: George Karl On Thin Ice, May Be Fired

The George Karl-DeMarcus Cousins soap opera was headed for a showdown the moment George Karl took the Sacramento job in a moment of delusion. Karl wants to pass Don Nelson on the All-Time wins list and teams weren’t beating his door down with offers. DeMarcus Cousins wants to find a way to get into the Western Conference playoffs and Karl is a proven coach. So you had a quickie marriage.

Those marriages never last.

From the outset it was hard to ignore the details, like Karl needs control and Cousins feeds off his emotions. How was it going to work in the practical sense? Still, both parties had the incentive to compromise, negotiate, get out of their own way. Both were motivated.

But the short-lived honeymoon may indeed be over, if it ever started.

The Kings are 1-7. They have the same record as the Los Angeles Lakers, once the Lakers lose tonight. The Kings record isn’t bad enough that a three or four game win streak can’t salvage something. The West isn’t as deep as everyone thought it was. There are five teams, barring injury, that should make the playoffs. Everyone else, absent the Lakers, are in play if they can get a win streak going and move up the standings.

Unlike the other Western Conference teams, the Kings are in a unique position because it’s been such a long drought. Can’t everyone just get along for the sake of team goals and a little history? Can someone not be selfish?


Monday night the Spurs were in Sacramento, and as expected, they handled the Kings with Kawhi Leonard’s 24 points and Duncan’s 14 rebounds leading the way. The Kings lost by 18 mostly because of their 4th quarter offensive and turnover misery.

Any marginally inept team with weak ownership, a clueless general manager and parts that don’t fit shouldn’t measure themselves against the Spurs, the franchise everyone tries to emulate. The Spurs are everything Sacramento is not. They are experienced. They are mature. They have no weaknesses. They know how to win but more importantly, they understand how to lose. It is not the end of the world for the Spurs, who have won 5 titles in 19 years, to come into your crib and wipe the floor with the mediocrity of your seasonal failures.

But there was so much Sacramento angst after the game, that was the real story.

The best thing the Kings have going for them is DeMarcus Cousins. He’s the best offensive big man in the game. Paired next to Willie Cauley-Stein, they are two dominant forces, pushing back this small ball nonsense. But Cousins maturity and emotional fuse makes him that volcano waiting to erupt.

As for the rest of the Kings:
Rudy Gay will forever be Rudy Gay, the most athletic/maligned player never to be an All-Star. He’s shooting 39% on the year. The Kings just kept Gay in town, inking him for another year plus a player option. There is Ben McLemore, a shooting guard who cannot shoot. In year three. we can label him a bust. McLemore is shooting 35% and averaging 5 points. Rajon Rondo has kept his emotions in check and has had some gaudy assist numbers but he is turning the ball over at a consistent clip. At 42%, Rondo is one of the Kings best shooting guards, a sobering thought. Marco Bellnelli was supposed to provide instant offense but he misses the Spurs culture. He’s shooting 37% but 37% on threes. Darren Collison is a “B” level talent who George Karl loves. He’s injured.

The Kings schedule has been a monster, playing the Clippers twice, the Warriors, the Spurs and now Detroit. The Kings one win was against the pathetic Lakers, running them out the building which, perhaps, gave them false hope and the illusion that they were better than they were, totally disregarding the inexperienced/bad players that was their competition.

After the Spurs game on Monday, it got a little bit tense for the home team. No one likes to lose. No ones like to be embarrassed. This was the season the Kings were going to do something special, if not make the playoffs then look respectable while losing.

Clueless Kings owner Vivek Randive, for some ungodly reason, thought it appropriate to bring Drake into a losers locker room just because.

DeMarcus Cousins, for some ungodly reason, thought it appropriate to curse out George Karl in front of the team. (The next day, apparently believing the front office was on his side, Karl reportedly asked for Cousins to be suspended. Vlade Divac rejected his request and then told Karl he didn’t have the authority to suspend Cousins on his own.)

Cousins did apologize:

It’s no secret that we are all frustrated with losing-me more than anyone. I let my frustrations get the best of me in the locker room after the San Antonio loss-that is my bad. For the record, my frustration is not about any one person or player or coach. There is no one person to blame. All of us are accountable. My frustration is that we re 1-7 simple as that.”

Vlade Divac is in over his head. After the San Antonio game, after the Cousins cuss-out, he asked the team if George Karl should be fired. According to the Big Lead, USA Today’s sports blog, the players were asked:

We don’t know what to do with George Karl. Do you think we should fire him.”

When you have an organization in which the General Manager needs the players permission to fire the coach because he cannot do his own job and make appropriate evaluations of personnel, then this is the Titanic. All that’s left is for the musicians to pack up and everyone else drown.

One of the more humorous aspects of the Kings players only meeting after the Spurs loss was when Ben McLemore of the 35% shooting said he didn’t know what his role was. The response was quick and precise.

“Your role is to make 3-pointers and defend. That’s everyone’s role except DeMarcus and Rajon.”

The offense that Karl has instituted is a copy of the Rockets and the Pistons, big guy down low, spread the floor. The Kings shoot 36% from three, 6th in the league. They score a 102 points a game. But they can’t get stops. They have a Mike D’antoni defense, not much interest or effort goes into keeping the other team from scoring. The only team whose defense is worse is the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans have only won one game too. But you don’t hear of the Pelicans star cursing out the coach.

According to USA Today, George Karl is skating on thinner and thinner ice each and every day and may be let go this week. Or not. Do you trust anything the Kings do or say? Shaq had it right when he called them the Queens.

photo via llananba