SACRAMENTO -- The emotions were raw Tuesday night at the Sacramento Kings practice facility. One by one, the Kings brought out representation, each with a unique point of view of the team's massive roster shakeup over the weekend.
Dave Joerger not only lost his star center, but also a veteran player that came with him from Memphis. Darren Collison watched his two best friends on the team leave on a plane for New Orleans. Anthony Tolliver went from a veteran on a club fighting for a playoff spot to a starter on a rebuild. And Willie Cauley-Stein went from 10-15 minutes of playing time each night to a player with a real chance to show what he can do.
This is what a blockbuster trade does to a team. There is no standard reaction. Every coach, every player, every front office executive has a different level of attachment to the people around them. What is abundantly clear is Sunday’s trade of DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi, as well as the release of Matt Barnes, changes everything in Sacramento.
Dave Joerger signed a four-year deal to coach the Kings over the summer, leaving the safe haven of Memphis where he had spent the last nine years of his career, for the uncertainty of Sacramento. He did so with full knowledge that changes might come much sooner than some might expect.
“I’ll miss DeMarcus, I’ll miss Matt, big time, and yet, I’m a member of another team that is the organization,” Joerger told media members. “I fully support the organization in going forward to making decisions that are sometimes difficult.
“We’re all in this together. We want to make this city proud and I want to be here a long time. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with these guys closely.”
The moves that were made over the weekend has Joerger rethinking his three-year plan with the team. This is now year zero, not year one according to the Kings’ head coach. He no longer has a franchise cornerstone. Instead, he has a group of role players and four rookies that have hardly gotten their feet wet in the NBA.
Collison is now the second longest tenured Kings player behind Ben McLemore. He couldn’t hide the emotion on his face as he described the last two days in Sacramento.
“It’s been tough, I’m not even going to lie to you guys, it’s been really emotional the last couple of days, not just watching them leave, but for myself included,” Collison said. “I got a chance to talk to Cuz last night and I’ve been talking to Casspi as well. It’s just tough, those are my two closest friends on the team and to see them go like that, it’s unfortunate.
“Everybody was shocked, nobody knew it was happening."
To add to the confusion, Collison’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors. For a veteran with a young family at home, this is a difficult time of year, especially when your team is clearly going a new direction.
“There’s really nothing you can do about anything,” Collison said. “If your franchise player gets traded, what does that say about everybody else?"
Tolliver is always the level-headed thinker. There is no place for emotion when you’ve played for nine different NBA franchises, three separate D-League teams and made stops in Germany and Turkey in your career. Trades are part of the game, regardless of what name is on the back of your jersey.
“I just come to work, man, I just come to work - nothing changes for me,” Tolliver said.
Tolliver said he was just sitting down to watch a movie with his wife when his phone started to blow up Sunday night.
This is the NBA life. It’s what you sign up for. Tolliver isn’t expecting to become a focal point in a new redesigned offense. He will play defense, grab rebounds, hit 3-pointers and hammer home an occasional dunk.
“I don’t think anybody's role is going to drastically change,” Tolliver added. “Everybody’s just going to have to do a little bit more of what they do and just be a little bit better at what they do.”
With Cousins gone, the Kings’ frontcourt just freed up 34.4 minutes of playing time for a player like Cauley-Stein. He is young, energetic and ready to prove that he is so much more than what he has put forth in his first season and a half in the league.
“You might see a different spark from me, I’m trying to win,” Cauley-Stein said. “Before, playing 10 minutes, 15 minutes, I didn’t have a lot of saying in what we do. Now, we just lost two verbal leaders, somebody else got to step up and be a verbal leader. So I think, why not me.”
Joerger did his best to show the calm and collective demeanor of a leader. Collison looked stunned nearly 48 hours later and with good cause. Tolliver handled his business like a man who has seen it all and Cauley-Stein had the glimmer in his eye of a kid who was about to jump the Grand Canyon on a BMX bike.
It’s been a tough few days in Sacramento. With 25 games remaining, this team is a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race and that fact seems so far from anyone’s mind. More changes may be in store between now and Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
Hold onto your hats Kings fans, it’s going to be a wild ride.