Kings

Karl, Cousins too much alike: 'We never kinda got together'

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Karl, Cousins too much alike: 'We never kinda got together'

Gifted. Elite talent. One of the best in the game.

Confrontational. Difficult. Mercurial. Obstinate. Unwilling to change.

Who am I describing, DeMarcus Cousins or George Karl?

They are two sides of the same coin. They would never admit it, but they are a lot more alike than you can imagine, which is why one had to go.

The obituary for the Kings 2015-16 season was written before the campaign began. Hall of Fame coach loses trust of star player. Star player takes his team and goes home.

Never one to shy away from a camera, Karl has sat down with both the Sacramento Bee and KCRA TV over the last week to tell his side of the story.

“I never felt like I got into a good place with Cuz and some of that was my stupidity when I said no player is untradeable,” Karl told the Bee’s Ailene Voisin. “I still believe that, but I should have been smart enough not to say it.”

[HAM: McHale reportedly out; Kings likely to consider Vogel]

While Voisin points to Cousins’ agents poisoning the well before Karl even walked in the building, the early marriage between coach and player was on solid ground before Karl’s comments to the media.

The tension between the two started with Karl’s comments towards the end of the season. But the discourse between the two built to a crescendo during the summer when the coach allegedly shopped his star player, leading to the infamous snake in the grass emoji tweet from Cousins.

This was a marriage that had divorce written all over it from an early stage. Two highly combustible, highly competitive personalities put into one locker room. It wasn’t a matter of whether it would fail, but when.

“There’s no question our locker room had tension,” Karl told Michelle Dapper of KCRA. “There’s no question that our locker room had, whatever you want to call it - disconnect. How I tried to solve it or how we tried to solve it - to be honest with you, I think it’s more on the players as much as it is on the coaches.”

“The stars of the team, I think got to take more responsibility sometimes for the leadership of your team,” Karl added. “I think that’s probably where it broke down. I think the coach - me, and I think (Rajon) Rondo, Rudy (Gay) and Cuz (Cousins) were the three guys that we never kinda got together.”

Karl was forthright with Dapper, telling her that he didn’t spend all that much time in the locker room. He said that the assistant coaches and even the training staff would better be suited to ask the question about the dysfunction behind the scenes.

Beyond the players, Karl felt hamstrung by the organization. Following an early blow up in the locker room by Cousins, general manager Vlade Divac sided with his star player over his head coach. Karl wanted Cousins suspended two games. Divac instead fined the 25-year-old center an undisclosed amount.  

“Eighty percent of the time I think the Kings did what had to be done,” Karl told Voisin. “But I’m old school enough to think that a coach has to feel powerful, has to feel supported, and I never felt that level of support.”

This wouldn’t be the only dispute between Cousins and Karl during the 82 game schedule. But it’s nothing that Karl hasn’t been through in other stops. Karl openly admits that he and Gary Payton had issues in their time in Seattle and he’s even joked about he and Kenyon Martin almost getting in a fist fight.  

When asked what his thoughts are about the Kings potentially shopping their talented big man in the offseason, Karl was honest with his answer.

“I can’t deny that ‘what if coaching this team without DeMarcus?’,” Karl said. “It’d be exciting. Some roadblocks would be taken away.”

Karl is fresh off of knee replacement surgery and still living in Sacramento. At 64, he would love one more shot at running a team. While things went really south with the Kings, he told both outlets that he thought he has the team heading the right direction and wished he would have been given more time.

The veteran coach admitted a few faults in his approach to the season. But in doing so, he made a very valid point, specifically with regards to his decision to play Marco Belinelli over Seth Curry for much of the year.

“The unknown is always better than the known, as a coach, you have to realize that, and you have to realize that when you lose, it’s your fault,” Karl said. “Looking back, they’re probably right on Belinelli. I probably gave Belinelli too much rope.”

One decision didn’t derail Karl and the Kings, and there are plenty of people to blame for his demise in Sacramento. But his inability to win the team’s star player probably hurt his chances for success the most.

Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but more than likely he will pop up somewhere. He’s a basketball lifer that loves the game. Be it on a sideline or in front of a camera, this isn’t the last we’ve seen of George Karl. 

Buddy Hield embraces bench role, puts Kings on his back in win vs. Bulls

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USATSI

Buddy Hield embraces bench role, puts Kings on his back in win vs. Bulls

Something had to change. The Sacramento Kings were in a tailspin of epic proportions and head coach Luke Walton made the difficult decision to move Buddy Hield out of his starting lineup for Bogdan Bogdanovic.

This wasn’t necessarily a Hield issue and Bogdanovic isn’t the savior that will turn the entire season around, but the chemistry on the floor with the starting unit wasn’t working.

The swap seemed to work early. The spacing was better with Bogdanovic playing alongside De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica and Dewayne Dedmon.

When Walton went to the bench, Hield instantly took off. There was no hesitation on his 3-point shot and he was active on the defensive side of the ball as well.

“You’ve got to come in, be ready and when coach call your number, go out there and hoop,” Hield told Grant Napear on the NBC Sports California telecast following the Kings’ 98-81 win.

Hield scored a quick 10 points in the first half to help the Kings take a double-digit lead into the intermission. After the break, Chicago’s Zach LaVine caught fire and wiped out the Kings’ lead in the first two minutes of the period.

“Today I was just locked in and more confident,” Hield said. “I’m just trying to be myself and do what I do best, which is score the basketball.”

Walton called a timeout and turned back to Hield and a few reserves to spark the team. Hield once again let it fly from the perimeter and helped his team get some separation.

“When they made that run in the third and we kind of looked like we got shook a little but, Buddy put us on his back and knocked down some big shots and really kind of got us going again,” Walton told media members following the game. “I’m really pleased with him.”

Hield finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds in just 23 minutes of action. He hit 7-for-12 from the field, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

“For him to be all about the team after we took him out of the starting lineup says a lot about him and the group,” Walton added.

Hield had started 126 straight games for the Kings before Friday evening and he’s been the teams leading scorer for the last two seasons. Going to the bench was an unexpected move, but with the team dropping six straight and 14 of their previous 17 games, something had to give.

“He was ready,” Fox told reporters. “He came out, he made shots, he defended well. Everybody was fine with it. He was fine with it. There was nothing big made of it. We all still came to the game ready to play basketball.”

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It will take time for the players to adjust to the new situation. Bogdanovic posted a modest 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting. He missed some open looks, but his ability to handle the ball took pressure off of Fox for stretches.

The Bulls aren’t exactly a playoff contender, but you play then schedule in front of you. Saramento faces another struggling franchise in the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. There is no word on if Walton will stick with the starting lineup we saw Friday in Chicago, but he can’t really argue with the results.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in skid-busting 98-81 win over Bulls

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AP

Kings takeaways: What we learned in skid-busting 98-81 win over Bulls

BOX SCORE

The losing streak is over.

After dropping their previous six games, the Sacramento Kings stepped up Friday night at United Center in Chicago, beating the Bulls by a final of 98-81.

Coach Luke Walton made a lineup change, benching Buddy Hield for Bogdan Bogdanovic. The move had the desired effect. Spacing looked better with Bogdanovic playing with the first team and Hield went crazy off the bench.

Zach LaVine led the way with 21 points for a shorthanded Bulls team, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings finally snap out of their funk to and improve to 16-29 on the season. 

Bench Buddy

For the first time in 126 games, Hield was relegated to the second unit for the Kings. He didn’t pout and he didn’t become a problem. In fact, he excelled.

With the starters struggling coming out of the half, Walton turned to his leading scorer early in the third and he caught fire. 

Hield scored 11 of his team-high 21 points in the 12 minutes following the intermission. He hit 5-for-9 from behind the arc and added eight rebounds in the win.

Whether it’s off the bench or with the starting unit, this is the Buddy Hield the Kings need every game. 

Having a moment

Harry Giles has been in and out of the rotation all season long. With both Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley sidelined, the second-year big got a shot and made the most of it. 

The Kings ran the ball through Giles with the second unit and he made a huge impact early. He dished out four assists in the first half and went up for one of the Kings’ biggest blocks of the year.

Giles was so good in his first stint that Walton kept going back for more. He finished the game with a modest two points, six assists and two blocks. More importantly, he ran a -plus8 in the Plus-Minus category and helped lead the Kings to victory.    

De-Fense

The Kings’ defense has been a hot mess during their losing streak. They allowed 122.7 points per game during the streak, including three games where they gave up 127 points.

Chicago isn’t exactly a scoring juggernaut, but the Kings played extremely well on the defensive end, giving up just 81 points to Bulls. In the fourth quarter, Sacramento held the home team to just 12 points, as they pulled away.

Walton’s group isn’t exactly built to lock teams down, but they have enough talent on the defensive end to make life difficult for teams. The Kings were active and they limited their personal fouls, which is a big reason why they came away with the win.