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George Karl's cautionary tale: Beware of DeMarcus Cousins

George Karl's cautionary tale: Beware of DeMarcus Cousins

Out of Sacramento, Ailene Voisin reported for The Bee earlier this week that Kings GM Vlade Divac finally is open to trading DeMarcus Cousins who is under contract at $16.4 million per through 2018, this summer. It might drive a some to give them a call, but most NBA-connected personnel already know what they'd be dealing with. Fired coach George Karl had a candid chat with Voisin to erase all doubt of what went wrong as he failed to get a team to a winning record for the first time in his career.

Karl was doomed by the organization’s chronic dysfunction from the start. Karl was a popular hire among Kings fans when he replaced Tyrone Corbin, who was treated like a doormat by Cousins after Michael Malone’s brutally ill-conceived firing. But Karl stepped into a situation that doubled as a septic tank long before his plane touched down.

There were enough different agendas at Sleep Train to jam the fax machine. Cousins’ agents, Dan Fegan and Jarinn Tasi Akana – the latter a member of the Denver staff who was let go when Karl was hired by the Nuggets in 2004 – lobbied hard against Karl and poisoned the coach-player relationship before the introduction. Former general manager Pete D’Alessandro signed off on Karl’s hiring only to openly engage fans in an outrageous divide-and-conquer debate: Are you with Karl or Cousins?

Karl admitted to Voisin that he was wrong for saying no player was untradeable, permanently mudding a murky situation with Cousins. By no means was Karl flawless. As a GM, Divac isn't exactly the most qualified person for that job, either, execpt that he had played for the Kings. 

Cousins, however, still hasn’t shown a shred of maturity after six years as a pro. There’s a reason as the best player on the Kings he has never led them to the playoffs (or more than 33 wins) despite playing for multiple coaches (Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Ty Corbin and Karl). Supposedly, if he’d gotten a coach with a track record for winning and accomplishment in Karl, an NBA Coach of the Year winner, he’d behave. That didn’t happen. Instead of going into the 2015-16 season on a good note, he childishly chose to keep the tensions high:

Divac walked into the crowded gym during the Las Vegas Summer League, accompanied by Cousins, other players and assistant general manager Mike Bratz, while Karl sat at the other side of the facility. When Karl approached, Cousins only reluctantly shook his hand and then turned away, embarrassing his coach in front of dozens of his NBA colleagues and thousands of viewers following the drama on NBATV. “Vlade thought he was helping me,” said Karl, “but that looked really bad.”

A blowup happened Nov. 8 when Cousins cussed out Karl after a game. The coach wanted a two-game suspension while Divac opted to fine him in a more diplomatic decision. Said Karl:

That night the bomb went off. Vlade was right there. When they supported Cousins instead of me, I felt, ‘OK, I’m in the compromise position. Cuz has the power. They sent that message many times, too many times sent it to the players. And the players wanted someone to stand up to Cuz, and they wanted it to be their coach. But at that point, I realized that you either  you compromise or you blow it up, and my job was to make us a better basketball team and get to the end of the year.

There's a reason why successful franchises such as the San Antonio Spurs and now Golden State Warriors are where they are. They don't consider free agents or trades with Cousins' coach-killing reputation and attitude. When the draft comes around, certain players who are more talented than others won't even make their way on their draft boards. They're not even up for discussion. And if that Trojan horse sneaks into the locker room, he's quickly shipped out for little or nothing in return. It's addition by subtraction.

That sort of perspective takes discipline from the top down. Teams that lack it tend to be in the lottery each year. For the Wizards, who fired coach Randy Wittman and brought in Scott Brooks for a fresh start after missing the playoffs, Cousins isn't an option nor should he be. Brooks' presence as a players' coach is to change the tone of a locker room that developed friction with the previous coach. Adding a volatile personality such as Cousins won't help that. It'll make it worse. And Markieff Morris, who the Wizards acquired in a trade with the Suns in February after having a blowup with his coaches, is nothing like Cousins personality-wise and has had a clean record before that (and those coaches vouched for his character to the Wizards, something Karl or previous coaches won't do for Cousins).

As Karl said, Cousins wasn't liked by a lot of players in his own locker room. Earlier this season, when the Kings were at Verizon Center, Cousins led a spirited pregame debate on whether or not Tupac Shakur was alive. Contrast this to four years ago, when I was in the Kings' locker room in Minnesota, and Cousins led a similar goofy discussion 90 minutes before tipoff while then-rookie Jimmer Fredette rolled his eyes in disbelief that he was part of such an incredibly unprofessional atmosphere. This was a group in which when Smart was coach, players would look at their phones and text during film study (yes, Cousins was one of them).

Go in most locker rooms before tip off, players are reading scouting reports, looking at scouting video on the big screen, quietly focusing in with their music, stretching in the trainer's room or studying their concepts for that particular game. In Sacramento, it always has been a comedy show much like the product put on the floor.

Marco Belinelli, who won an NBA title with the Spurs before going to the Kings this season, told this to Sportando about his eye-opening experience:

“I saw some very bad stuff in the locker room. Coming from a perfect organization like the Spurs, I was pretty surprised to see stuff like that”

The best player on a team, especially one with All-Star caliber talent, sets the tone for that and should at least be able to lead his team to a winning record once in six years. His stats should translate to something beyond fantasy league basketball wins. That hasn't happened with Cousins and in those six years there has been one constant in Sacramento. 

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How to watch Wizards vs Hornets 'Predict the Game' broadcast

How to watch Wizards vs Hornets 'Predict the Game' broadcast

The Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards are both under .500 this season. With injuries on both squads, stars Kemba Walker and Bradley Beal will have to step up to bring their teams closer to a playoff spot. 

With both stars primed to go off, there will be plenty to look for tonight. Take your Wizards experience to the next level and get involved in the action with NBC Sports Washington's new Predict the Game contest.

'PREDICT THE GAME' HOW TO WATCH

What is this broadcast? Predict the Game is an easy-to-enter, free contest that allows fans to predict various game and player performance outcomes through a series of approximately 12-15 questions per quarter that will appear on-screen during the alternate telecast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. Predict the Game leaderboards will be displayed at select times, and the winner of each contest will be revealed throughout the game and during NBC Sports Washington’s postgame coverage.

Where can I find it? Contest questions and leaderboards will be displayed on NBC Sports Washington Plus (Channel Finder).

Additionally, the broadcast can be streamed on desktopiOS and Android devices. 

The NBC Sports Washington Plus presentation will, for the first time, feature special hosts, who will appear at various times to address Predict the Game participants and provide contest updates, information and results. The enhanced experience will contain the majority of the same video and audio (including announcers) as the primary live-game coverage, which will be available simultaneously on NBC Sports Washington.

How do I win? Fans will earn points for both answering questions (1 point) and correct predictions (1 or 2 points, depending on the question), with the top eligible scorer at the end of each game earning or splitting the $500 prize.

Each quarter will be its own contest, with an entirely new leaderboard starting from scratch, so even if fans miss out on the start of the game there will still be plenty of time to play and win. 

Fans must enter Predict the Game, which is open to join throughout the entire game, and submit their predictions at www.nbcsportswashington.com/predict.

WIZARDS vs HORNETS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Charlotte Hornets, 2019-20 NBA Regular Season Game 13

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, DC

When: Friday, November 22, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards vs Hornets will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington, and the Predict The Game broadcast will be on NBC Sports Washington Plus (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs Hornets on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs HORNETS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Wizards vs Hornets
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live 
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders

WIZARDS 2019-20 'PREDICT THE GAME' SCHEDULE

November 22: vs Charlotte (7 p.m.)

December 5: vs Philadelphia (7 p.m.)

December 10: at Charlotte (7 p.m.)

December 18: vs Chicago (7 p.m.)

December 26: at Detroit (7 p.m.)

January 1: vs Orlando (6 p.m.)

January 6: vs Boston (7 p.m.)

January 20: vs Detroit (2 p.m.)

January 26: at Atlanta (6 p.m.)

February 3: vs Golden State (7 p.m.)

February 11: vs Chicago (7 p.m.)

February 21: vs Cleveland (7 p.m.)

February 26: vs Brooklyn (7 p.m.)

March 3: at Sacramento (10 p.m.)

March 10: vs New York (7 p.m.)

March 18: at Brooklyn (7:30 p.m.)

March 15: vs Phoenix (7 p.m.)

April 1: vs New Orleans (7 p.m.)

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Wizards vs. Hornets: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Wizards vs. Hornets: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Just as the Wizards become the talk of NBA Twitter as they rank first in the league for points scored, Washington has a Friday night matchup at home against the Charlotte Hornets to hopefully put on yet another scoring show for D.C.

Charlotte has lost two of three games on this current road trip and is desperate to slow down Bradley Beal, who has scored 30 or more points in four consecutive games, as well as the Wizards bench, who scored 63 points against the Spurs Wednesday night in their third 60-plus-point outing this season.

In Kemba Walker's absence, point guards Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier lead the Hornets in points scored with 18.2 and 16.5 per game, respectively. Graham also leads in assists (6.9 per game).

WIZARDS vs. ROCKETS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Charlotte Hornets, Game 13

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Friday, November 22, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards vs. Hornets will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Hornets on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. HORNETS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Hornets (LIVE)

9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

10:30 PM: Wizards Talk (LIVE)

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