Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Coaches have to coach and players have to play

A couple of thoughts come to mind after watching the Kings Sunday afternoon lose their fifth straight game, this time to the Detroit Pistons.

This is a question, more than a thought, but why are the Kings trying to make tuna fish salad out of chicken?

Luther Head is not a point guard, but that’s where the Kings are trying to play him.

Jason Thompson is not a small forward, but his natural position is power forward. This may not be a revelation, but play the dude at power forward.

If you still want him on the floor and don’t want to play him at power forward, play him at center. That’s probably his second-best position, but small forward is his third-best/worst position.

Actually, Westphal’s use of Thompson at three is a compliment, albeit a dumb one. The coach was trying to get him onto the floor. The same minutes Thompson played at three, he could have played at a position we used to call Bench.

Here’s a key that I can’t accurately assess, but J.T. wears size 20 shoes. Small forwards don’t have feet that big. If you wear 20’s like Bob Lanier’s 22’s (back in the day) or Shaquille O’Neal’s of similar size, make the mistake of putting him in the paint.

Let the man bang. Reportedly, he had one of the Kings’ best training camps. Everyone said no one came into camp in better shape. Play the man.

Coach Paul Westphal says there is a frontcourt logjam with Samuel Dalembert, Carl Landry, DeMarcus Cousins, Darnell Jackson and Thompson. And I guess this means we’ll never see Hassan Whiteside in anything but street clothes in the near future, so the NBDL likely is screaming at that youngster.

I’m with that, but someone has to sit. Westphal has to sit one of these cats. Two games ago against Phoenix, it was J.T. Last game, it was Jackson. Perhaps the coach is moving toward breaking up the logjam.

Donte Greene is a small forward, a long, athletic small forward whom I see as one of the team’s better defensive players. He’s not great, but he’s good enough to get time on this squad.

Westphal obviously has not seen it this way. Yet, he will. Omri Casspi and Greene should be getting the small forward minutes. It can be argued Greene should be starting over Casspi – and it has been.

I had a discussion with former Kings star guard Mitch Richmond about that Jackson receiving time over Thompson. For the record, I’ve seen each of the Kings games, some twice. I’d bet Richmond likely has not seen any from start to finish.

To say Jackson hasn’t earned playing time with his performances is unfair. When presented the opportunity, he’s performed well so I can understand Westphal giving him time. The man is trying to win and Jackson, during the season’s first few games, outplayed Thompson.

Yet, if you give Jackson credit for doing well early in the season, then Thompson should receive kudos for playing well at times during the last two seasons.

Richmond can’t understand Jackson outplaying Thompson, but Jackson reminds me of former Kings tough man Michael Smith. Jackson doesn’t rebound like Smith, but the Animal didn’t make shots like Jackson, either.

Kings President Geoff Petrie said he’s not having trade discussions regarding Thompson. If that’s true, then Petrie needs to pick up the phone.

The Kings are 3-6 and have lost five straight. They’ve lost to Detroit, Minnesota and Memphis, each of whom also is struggling.

Yet, they are not alone with their struggles. Consider the Atlanta Hawks just ended a four-game losing streak with a victory over Minnesota.

The Los Angeles Clippers are 1-10 (1-5 at home). Charlotte (4-7) is 1-4 at home, like Sacramento and Cleveland (4-5).

Miami (6-4) has different expectations, of course, but struggles are struggles.

The struggles of Washington (2-6) and Philadelphia (2-8) are along the same line of Sacramento’s. These teams have average, at best, talent bases and are trying to find their respective ways.

Just for the record, when things go poorly, coaches always catch a lot of flak and not undeservedly. They usually receive major accolades when things go well.

That’s the situation for which they signed the dotted line.

However, and this is a major however, coaches don’t play. There’s not a guard on the Kings who shot as well or even played as well as did Westphal or Mario Elie. Give either one the looks these current day cats are getting and the Kings are not shooting a league second-worst 29.5 percent from three-point range.

Only Oklahoma City at 25.3 percent shoots worse. Only Omri Casspi (38.3) and Francisco Garcia (37.8) are shooting above 25 percent.

However, the Thunder leads the league in free-throw shooting at 88.1 percent. The Kings are 28th out of 30 at 70 percent.

That’s a bad combination, folks. The Kings currently would lose every western in which they’ve appeared.

They are the gang that can’t shoot straight. Beno Udrih is shooting 17.4 percent from three, but check out the percentage of these dudes: Orlando’s JJ Redick (12 percent); Golden State’s Vladimir Radmanovic (29.6 percent). These are shooters who have gotten off to slow starts. It happens.

Westphal, like most all coaches, encourages his players, particularly shooters to take open threes. Sacramento went two for 18 in Sunday’s loss to Detroit on the same night Phoenix made 22 of 40 in a road victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Westphal was asked if 18 attempted threes were too many.

“If they don’t go in,” he said after they didn’t. “It’s always easy to look at the stat sheet after the game and say we took too many threes, if they are not going in. But what we tell our shooters, guys lot ‘Cisco, guys like Omri, Luther Head, who ever they are (that) if you are a good three-point shooter and you are open, you have to take it with confidence.”

Players also have to realize they don’t have to take every wide-open three-pointer they get. There are nights when you stink up the joint and have to make adjustments.

At some point, players have to play to their levels. It’s too much to expect a higher level of production of which they are capable. It is not, repeat not, too much to expect professionals to produce and earn their loot.

In the case of Sacramento, there are players who haven’t had enough of a career to determine a level. However, there are some who have and until the young boys get their acts together.

So we shall see what we shall see.


  1. I agree Marty. I don't know why Westphal is not playing JT or Greene but he needs to do something. I think you were spot on in your last article about the Kings needing to get Cousins in the game and starting. he is our best low post threat and Dalambert is our paint protector. Why Westphal cant see that is beyond me? Maybe he doesn't want this job or something but me being jus a basketball fanatic can see that that lineup needs to be implemented. I got it. Start reke, cisco, cousins,dalambert and greene or casspi and have beno, head, landry, thompson green or casspi come off the bench. then insert other players as u see fit. I think it will work if its consistent. Can I get a job coaching or at least asst coaching in the nba. Westphal making all that money and he cant see that he needs consistency with this young team not all these diff lineups every game. the players dont know whats coming.

  2. It makes me feel a little better knowing that the Thunder and the Sixers and the Clips and Raptors and all are struggling just like the Kings, even though some were previously crowned 'the next big thing' or second coming, etc....

    I wonder if the team is getting pretty down or if they are just hanging in there, keeping a good attitude?

    I would love to give this team some time to gel, and let everyone just figure it out, if they can. On the other hand, we could use a trade or some veteran help too. That would be okay!

    Have a great day, Marty and thanks for posting!