Karl blames Lillard for Blazers' struggles; agent, Stotts blasts ex-Kings coach

Karl blames Lillard for Blazers' struggles; agent, Stotts blasts ex-Kings coach

George Karl's tour of verbal destruction has a new target: Trail Blazers point guard and Oakland-native Damian Lillard.

When discussing Carmelo Anthony and other current players who focus on their interests off the court, Karl mentioned that he was bothered by something he saw recently.

"I was watching the Portland Trailblazers play, and I was trying to figure out 'What the hell is wrong with this team?' My conclusion is that Damian Lillard is getting too much attention," Karl said in an interview with the NY Magazine.

Karl was asked to elaborate.

"Who controls the team? The coach and the point guard. And that team is not working. I think their coach, Terry Stotts, is a great coach. So I’m going to say the problem is Lillard. They were a together, connected, committed team last year. This year they’re not. What changed?" Karl said.

Hours after Karl's comments were published, Lillard's agent Aaron Goodwin issued a statement to ESPN's Chris Haynes:

"That's silly. I have always loved and respected George, way back when he coached Gary Payton. But with that observation, he sounds like an idiot. He couldn't get anyone in this league to agree with him on that assessment. If it's either the coach or the point guard, the point guard runs the coaches plays......I guess that explains him becoming a writer....," Goodwin wrote.

Karl's relationship with Blazers head coach Terry Stotts runs deep. Stotts played for Karl in the Continental Basketball Association. When he finished playing, he joined Karl's coaching staff in the CBA. Stotts also served as an assistant when Karl coached the Seattle Sonics and Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA.

About 90 minutes before the Blazers were set to take on the Kings Wednesday, Stotts addressed Karl's comments.

"As you know, I owe a lot to George. I got my start in coaching with George. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for him, he's a successful coach. That being said, if he wants to diminish his chances for the Hall of Fame, if he wants to undermine his chances to be a head coach again in this league, if he wants to settle old scores with GMs or players or whoever else, that's his prerogative. But when it comes my team and my players, he needs to stay in his own lane. He doesn't know Damian Lillard, he doesn't know how coachable he is, he doesn't know what a great teammate he is, he doesn't know how much Damian cares about winning and how important he is to this franchise," Stotts told reporters in Portland, according to beat writer Casey Holdahl.

Portland finished with a 44-38 record in 2015-16 and secured the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference before losing to the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. This season, they've fallen on hard times. Through 33 games, they are 13-20 and are in 10th place in the West entering play Wednesday.

Lillard, who is dealing with a sprained ankle, is not expected to play Wednesday against the Kings. In 32 games, the two-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 27 points per contest.

Response to adversity opens Kings, Golden 1 Center to national conversation

Response to adversity opens Kings, Golden 1 Center to national conversation

SACRAMENTO -- Gavin Maloof once described a potential downtown Sacramento arena as “a beacon of light, shining bright.” Vivek Ranadivé likened the idea of Golden 1 Center as the modern town square, cathedral or communal hearth.

On Friday, Ranadivé might have finally found the best way to describe his $500-plus million arena in the center of Sacramento’s downtown core. Speaking to the Sacramento Bee, Ranadivé said, "you can't always dictate what the stories are that are being told around the fireplace."

Thousands of protesters surrounded Ranadivé’s fireplace on Thursday evening. They locked arms and barred fans from coming in the building as the Kings faced the Atlanta Hawks.

In one night, Golden 1 Center was transformed from the home of the Kings, to something much more. It became the meeting place for the protesters to vent their frustrations after the officer-involved shooting death of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old African American from South Sacramento.

The Kings’ first reaction was to protect the fans that had entered the building. They locked down the arena and cleared everyone from the massive windows that highlight the grand entrance. The limited number of fans allowed in the building were treated to seat upgrades and unlimited free food.

After securing the safety of the fans inside, the team chose a specific course of action. Instead of pointing fingers at protesters who likely cost the franchise hundreds of thousands of dollars, they allowed Golden 1 Center to become the heart of Sacramento.

It’s not always going to be about basketball or concerts or Disney on Ice. For Golden 1 Center to become what Ranadivé envisions, it has to be a place for everyone.

Instead of shunning the protest and turning their ire towards the thousands outside, Ranadivé had his defining moment, not just as an owner, but as a leader in the Sacramento community.

“The Kings recognize your people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that,” Ranadivé said from center court. “We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform. It’s a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously and we stand before you; old, young, black, white, brown and we are all united in our commitment.”

His postgame speech was humble and showed a different side of the Kings’ Chairman. It was also a moment for the franchise to become part of a larger conversation that is facing nearly every community in America.

To turn a blind eye to social injustice and civil unrest would violate the spirit of what Golden 1 Center was created for. If it is truly the fireplace of Sacramento, then there has to be an open invitation - not just for basketball, and not just for protests, but for all that a community has to give.

The Kings aren’t asking for games to be interrupted on a regular basis. But the team’s handling of the situation has opened the door for Golden 1 Center to become the communal meeting place they hoped it would be when they broke ground.

Report: Former Kings star offers to pay for Stephon Clark's funeral

Report: Former Kings star offers to pay for Stephon Clark's funeral

Former Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins reportedly reached out to Stephon Clark's family and offered to cover the cost of his a funeral, according to The Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones

Sacramento police shot and killed Clark, a 22-year-old African-American father of two, on Sunday while he was holding a cellphone in the backyard of his grandmother's home. Clark was unarmed. 

During his six-and-a-half year tenure in Sacramento, Cousins was not only the face of the Kings on the court, but the face of outreach efforts off of it. He paid for the funeral of Sacramento-area high school football player Jaulon "JJ" Clavo, who was shot in 2015, and ran free children's basketball camps for the city's children during the summer.

He continued to run a camp last summer following a midseason trade to the New Orleans Pelicans, and has spoken at length about how much he treasures maintaining strong ties to Sacramento. He told The Sacramento Bee last February that he "still consider[s Sacramento] a home."

“It’s very important to me,” Cousins told The New Orleans Advocate in October. “I’ve built relationships in a lot of the different places I’ve been. My biggest thing is helping those kids and helping families in need. I was once in their position, and it would’ve done wonders if I could’ve had a little bit of help coming up. I’m just doing my part.”

Bodycam footage from the officer-involved shooting was released on Wednesday, setting off protests on Thursday. Protestors blocked traffic on Interstate 5 both ways, according to NPR, before locking arms and surrounding the Golden 1 Center ahead of Hawks-Kings that night. Those protests delayed the start of the game by 15 minutes, and an estimated 15,000 fans were unable to enter the arena.