Ray Ratto

Westphal swamped by the tide


Westphal swamped by the tide

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Kings formally announced the hiring of Keith Smart as head coach, hours after the firing of Paul Westphal was made public and shortly before this column was filed.

Without knowing the secret workings of the Sacramento Kings, it is hard to know just how it is that they decided to fire head coach Paul Westphal Thursday.

Then again, the problem with the Kings is that so few people care about their secret workings. Even after DaMarcus Cousins either did or didnt demand a trade, the Kings have been impervious to the watchful eye of the NBAs thought-makers and opinion-ratcheters.

In fact, they are dramatically less visible than the Warriors nationally, and thats saying something.

But Westphal got red-carded Thursday after the second-fewest number of games since the NBA-ABA merger for what seems from a distance to be the teams monumentally bad results, and evidence that most of the players have already asked the waiter for the check and the valet to bring the car around.
RELATED: Kings fire Westphal after seven games

They are loaded with guards who like to shoot and dont like to prevent others from shooting, which makes them like the Warriors. Their five losses, the most recent of which was to Denver by the sprightly score of 110-83, have been by an average score of 109-89.

And this is after winning the home opener against the Lakers and causing the nation to declare the Lakers dead, rather than enthusing over the resurgent Kings, as the pundits have seemed to do with the still-mediocre Minnesota Timberwolves.

In short, the season is short, the enthusiasm over the sellouts for the Lakers and Bulls has dissipated, there is still the matter of a new arena to be hassled over, and the Maloofs cant sit back and take their usual zen approach.

RELATED: Cousins says he never demanded a trade

So Westphal, who drew a line in the sand over Cousins, has apparently been swamped by the ensuing tide. And Keith Smart, the former Warrior head coach who fell shamefully short last year in the one area that mattered most -- being Joe Lacobs guy -- happened to be in the building. And apparently, at least according to Kings beat writer Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, Cousins and Tyreke Evans seem to be fond of Smart.

Now there is also a notion that Westphals reaction to Cousins might have been way in the over- category, and its always easier to move a coach than a high draft pick, but as we have seen with the Warriors over the years, a misshapen roster is hard to change. And even allowing for the fact that general manager Geoff Petrie is nobodys dunce and has been working with both hands and one foot tied behind his back, this is a problem.

It is the same problem the Warriors have had, and all the Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul and now Dwight Howard rumors dont dispel the central truth -- that even if Stephen Currys ankle werent made of snack cakes, the Warriors wouldnt be a functional NBA playoff-quality team. Bad rosters on non-fashionable teams are hard to make good without a great deal of draft luck.

It helps explain why the Warriors have had such coaching instability (14 coaches in 25 years, 10 by Don Nelson alone). The Kings have had 13 in 25 years, and eight of those years were taken up by Rick Adelman. As a point of further comparison, the Kings have made the playoffs 10 times in those 25 years, the Warriors six, but the Kings had a nine-year run, mostly with Adelman in the saddle, which means there were lean times on either side.

But the Warriors just had the fire-the-coach festival, and the Kings are doing theirs now. What changes? Probably very little, as Smart can surely attest.

But if Smart gets the Kings to play as hard as he convinced the Warriors to do last year before being uncoupled by the Lacob Laser, the Kings will at least cut down on that margin of defeat stat. And if not . . . well, things have been so hard in the capital that nobody will notice whether he made them incrementally worse or incrementally better.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills


NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

The voting for the NBA All-Star starters was properly instructive to both Adam Silver and the public at large about exactly what the game is meant to be – which is why I totally get their decision not to televise the All-Star draft.

It’s really a personality test for everyone involved, for good and ill.

I think having a draft nobody can see is idiotic, stealing an idea the NHL used and then discarded years ago and then not employing the reason why they did it to begin with, but if the All-Star Game is really an expression of ego, then the next best thing to having no draft is having one nobody can see.

The All-Star Game really only functions as a coronation of the elite by the elite, a festival of mutual backslapping friend-rewarding that has nothing to do with the playing of the game, or the moving of the T-shirts or jerseys or expensive hotel rooms. This is about stratifying the player pool so that everyone knows who’s who and what’s what.

Everything else is irrelevant, and the draft reinforces that. Kevin Durant not wanting to be a captain is strategic thinking by a future industrialist. Stephen Curry not minding being a captain is the perfect who-cares statement for someone who doesn’t mind playing the game because objecting to it takes too much work. LeBron James being a captain is the perfect political muscle-flexing that fits his personality.

Damian Lillard already assuming that he won’t be named to the team is a statement about his being considered the perpetual one-level-down guard. Russell Westbrook being named and then controlling the ball as he would in a regular season game is a statement about how he views his place as a disruptor. And on and on and on – the All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills.

Does televising the draft help us understand the actual meaning of the event? Maybe, but the NBA would prefer you consider it a festival of the game itself, which it plainly isn’t. Proof, you say? 192-182 in 2017. 196-173 in 2016. 163-158 in 2015. 163-155 in 2014. There hasn’t been a normal-looking score in 15 years, which means it’s not a game at all.

That isn’t the news, though. It’s that the NBA has made this is a three-day event – the day the captains and starters are named, the day the reserves are picked, and the day that teams are chosen. And every bit of it is about the reaction to that. There is no show thereafter, and the players know it. They care about the selections, because that’s how they’re keeping score.

So go team. Whatever the hell that means.


Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?


Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

Earlier we discussed how the Golden State Warriors have seemingly moved beyond hating on NBA officials (three technical fouls in 18 days is a stunning reversal of their formerly disputatious form), but we may have forgotten one new reason why they have found a more Buddhist approach to the cutthroat world of American competitive sport.

They lack someone new to hate.

Their much-chewed-upon rivalry with the Los Angeles Clippers actually lasted two years, and now the Clippers are busy trying to prevent military incursions into their locker room from the Houston Rockets. Their even more famous archrivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to be imploding – with the total connivance of the Cavs themselves – before our eyes. Even cutting off their hot water made them laugh when two years ago not letting the Warriors' wives get to the game on time torqued them mightily.

And since we know that you locals desperately need a bête noire for your heroes (even though their biggest foe is actually their own attention spans), let us consider the new candidates.


The Rockets have been among the Warriors’ most persistent contender/pretenders, having faced them in both the first round of the 2017 postseason and the conference finals in 2015. Both ended in 4-1 Warrior wins as part of a greater piece – Golden State is 19-4 against the Rockets in the Warriors’ bad-ass era, 10-2 at home and 9-2 on the road, and has finished an aggregate 59.5 games ahead of the Rockets in the past three and a half years.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include James Harden and Chris Paul, while Rockets fans loathe Draymond Green and Kevin Durant and work their way down from there.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 32,353): 19. The Rockets need to win a playoff series before even matching the Clippers, who as we all know came and went in a moment.


The previous platinum standard in Western Conference basketball, the Spurs have never really gone away, though they have aged. Their pedigree is not in dispute, and Steve Kerr has essentially become the next generation of Gregg Popovich. It is hard to create a rivalry out of such shamelessly mutual admiration.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include . . . uhh, maybe Kawhi Leonard for winning two Defensive Player Of The Year Awards instead of Draymond Green, though that’s not much to go on, frankly. Spurs fans hate Zaza Pachulia for stepping beneath Leonard and ending last year’s series before it started.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 23): 1. If they didn’t have to play against each other, I suspect these two teams would date.


The Thunder’s 3-1 collapse in 2016 is all but ignored now because the Warriors did the same thing one series later, but lifting Kevin Durant was quite the consolation prize for Golden State, and the definitive finger in the eye for the Thunder, who turned their team over completely to Russell Westbrook, for good and ill. Even with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are still trying to relocate their stride.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Westbrook and Anthony for defining the I-need-the-ball-in-my-hands-to-function generation, and owner Clay Bennett for Seattle SuperSonics nostalgics. Thunder frans hate Durant, followed by Durant, Durant, Kim Jong-un, Durant, leprosy, Draymond Green’s foot, and Durant.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 440): 220. Westbrook is a human lightning rod, Anthony is the antithesis of what Warriors now regard basketball (they’d have loved him a quarter-century ago), and Stephen Adams for getting his goolies in the way of Green’s foot. Plus, some savvy Warrior fans can blame OKC for extending their heroes to seven games, thus making the final against Cleveland that much more difficult. This could work, at least in the short term.


Damian Lillard is a much-beloved local. Plus, the Blazers have never interfered in the Warriors’ universe save their 1-8 postseason record. There are no truly hateable players on either side, though Stephen Curry threw his first mouthpiece in Portland, and Green is a perennial.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 1): 0.


The new pretender to throne, with the Eastern Conference’s version of Kerr in Brad Stevens. Even better since taking advantage of Kyrie Irving’s weariness with LeBron James, and until proven otherwise the team the Warriors should most concern themselves with.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Irving, who made the only shot in the last five minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, while Celtics fans hate Durant for not signing with them.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 67.7): 26, though this will rise if the two teams meet in the Finals. The last time they did, Bill Russell owned basketball.


Still too remote to adequately quantify, though Toronto, Miami and Milwaukee are clearly difficult matches for the Warriors. If you put them together, Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Hassan Whiteside with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe coming off the bench, coached by either Eric Spoelstra or Jason Kidd, would make a fun team for the Warriors to play against. Probably not functional, but fun.

And finally:


Some decade the two teams’ geographical proximity will matter, but for now, they remain essentially two full professional leagues away from each other. We just mentioned them so Kings fans wouldn’t feel any more slighted than they already do.