DeMarcus Cousins

Kings Rumors: Blatt, Turner, Messina, Cousins

The Kings plan to speak with Spurs assistant Ettore Messina this week, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter link). It’s not entirely clear whether it’ll be a formal interview, as San Antonio has just begun its second-round series against the Thunder, though the series will be in hiatus between tonight’s Game 2 and Friday’s Game 3. Sacramento reportedly reached out to Messina weeks ago, suggesting that the Spurs have granted Sacramento permission to at least contact their assistant. San Antonio granted the Lakers permission for an interview, and one was scheduled for the gap between Games 2 and 3 of the Spurs-Thunder series before the Lakers called it off and hired Luke Walton instead, a league source told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. The European coaching legend apparently holds particular appeal to Kings GM Vlade Divac.

See more from the California capital:

4:06pm update:

  • David Blatt‘s interview with the Kings is today, as USA Today’s Sam Amick hears, advancing a Sunday report from Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
  • Elston Turner is a candidate for the job of lead assistant for the Kings, Amick tweets, which suggests that he isn’t in the running for the head coaching job. Turner, a Grizzlies assistant, emerged among the many in the mix for Sacramento last week, and Memphis has reportedly granted the Kings permission to interview him.

10:26am update:

  • DeMarcus Cousins indicated that he’d prefer to stay with the Kings as he spoke in an interview with Carmichael Dave of CBS Sacramento (audio link; scroll to 6:24 mark). People in the Kings organization reportedly believe Divac will test the trade market for Cousins this summer. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve grown an attachment to the city, like, the way these people treat me, the love they give out to me, and vice versa,” Cousins said to Dave. “I feel like I have an attachment, and it’s something that I do owe to this city. I want to be the person to bring this city back to the glory days. I want to grow myself and this city all together. I want to bring us back to those glory days. So, that’s where I’m at with it. This is like a personal vendetta for me.”
  • Seth Curry said he wants to return to the Kings next season and that it would be difficult to do otherwise, but he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of moving on as he spoke at a basketball camp in India to Akash Khanna of Follow Your Sport. Curry reportedly intends to turn down his player option and hit free agency this summer.
  • Curry also told Khanna that he doesn’t want to sign with the Warriors and play with brother Stephen Curry, preferring to compete against him instead. The Currys were teammates with Golden State during the 2013 preseason.

George Karl Speaks Out On Kings’ Situation

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Indiana Pacers

Brian Spurlock / USA TODAY Sports Images

Former Sacramento coach George Karl discusses his firing, his relationship with DeMarcus Cousins and the turmoil inside the Kings organization in a wide-ranging interview with Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. It represents Karl’s most extensive comments since the team dismissed him April 14th.

  • Karl says executive/GM Vlade Divac has a huge task ahead in trying to rebuild a team that hoped to be a playoff contender this season, but sputtered to a 33-49 record and finished tied for 10th in the West. Divac’s most pressing offseason decision will be whether to keep or trade Cousins. “The roster needs to be tinkered with,” Karl said. “[Divac] is going to be in for an NBA free agency unlike anything we have ever seen. If the decision is made to keep Cuz, you have to put the right players around him. But it can’t be about Cousins. You have to make basketball decisions.” Karl believes the Kings have too many guards and that Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore and Marco Belinelli are too similar to function on the same roster.
  • Karl said his relationship with Cousins was doomed from the beginning because Cousins’ agents, Dan Fegan and Jarinn Tasi Akana, lobbied hard to prevent Karl’s hiring. Former Sacrmento GM Pete D’Alessandro signed off on the move, but he was demoted weeks later and replaced by Divac. D’Alessandro left for a job with the Nuggets just before the draft, taking valuable information on the Kings’ strategy with him and leaving Divac with an inexperienced staff. Meanwhile, Karl was failing to set down new borders with Cousins and didn’t respond forcefully to early incidents of disrespect. “I never felt I got into a good place with Cuz,” Karl said, “and some of that was my stupidity when I said that no player is untradeable. I still believe that. But I should have been smart enough not to say it, and I in no way, at any time, thought DeMarcus was going to get traded.”
  • The situation escalated when Divac orchestrated a public handshake between Cousins and Karl on NBATV at last year’s Las Vegas Summer League. Cousins reluctantly shook Karl’s hand, then embarrassed his coach by quickly turning away. “Vlade thought he was helping me,” Karl said, “but that looked really bad.”
  • Their relationship became more poisoned when Cousins unleashed a profanity-filled tirade at Karl following a November 8th loss. Karl wanted to impose a two-game suspension, but Divac opted for an undisclosed fine. “When they supported Cousins instead of me, I felt, ‘OK, I’m in the compromise position. Cuz has the power,’’’ Karl said. “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 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.”
  • Karl believes Sacramento’s front office expected too much too soon after an aggressive summer of trying to rebuild the team. He hopes a better atmosphere greets whomever the Kings select as their next head coach. “Whether or not they trade Cuz,” Karl said, “they have to empower their coach. They have to let him coach. It takes a few years to build a program. It becomes a culture, an energy force. [Owner] Vivek [Ranadive] wanted magic to happen, but in the NBA magic happens once in a while, and usually is associated with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan.”

Pacific Notes: Walton, Warriors, Belinelli, Metta

The Warriors plan to hire the replacement for assistant coach Luke Walton from outside the organization, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Stein notes that former Cavaliers coach David Blatt came close to joining Steve Kerr on Golden State’s bench in 2014 but adds that Blatt may not be willing to become an assistant now as he waits for his next head coaching job (Twitter link). The Warriors say they won’t look at candidates to take Walton’s place until they are finished with the playoffs (Twitter link).

There’s more news out of the Pacific Division:

  • Walton and Alvin Gentry, who left after last season to coach the Pelicans, could be the first of many Warriors assistants to land head coaching jobs, speculates Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com. Jarron Collins, another highly regarded Golden State assistant, could be next, and Strauss believes Chris DeMarco, Nick U’Ren and Theo Robertson may eventually follow. Kerr is a fan of all three, and their responsibilities in the organization are growing.
  • Kings swingman Marco Belinelli blasts the organization in an interview with Sky Sport Italy (h/t to Sportando). He believes the tension between former coach George Karl and star center DeMarcus Cousins created dissension on the team from the start of the season. Belinelli says executive Vlade Divac tried to broker peace between Karl and Cousins, but without much success. Belinelli adds that he saw “very bad stuff” in the Kings locker room and contrasts it to the atmosphere he was accustomed to in San Antonio. Belinelli has two years left on his contract with the Kings.
  • His improbable comeback with the Lakers this season has helped Metta World Peace find balance in his life, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The 36-year-old, who entered the NBA in 1999 as Ron Artest, was out of the league for a full season before earning a roster spot with L.A. last fall. “I always tell people there was only one black hole that was able to be a star again,” World Peace said of changing his reputation. “That was Ron Artest. There should be no turning back. Once you’re a black hole, you’re a black hole. But I was able to resurface and do what I had to do. And that’s something I’m proud of.”

Celtics Notes: Turner, Stevens, Ainge, Draft Picks

Evan Turner may have to be patient if he wants to re-sign with the Celtics in free agency, but he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN that coach Brad Stevens would like to keep him in Boston. “Coach definitely said [he wants me back],” said Turner. “He said he’ll be pushing for me and everything like that. And that’s pretty much it. But there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on right now. I understand it. And I understand what’s going to occur, with the draft picks and the young guys trying to develop and trying to get a superstar, stuff like that. I definitely comprehend it.” The Celtics may like Turner, and the swingman would like to get a deal done quickly, but the team figures to have other priorities this summer as it tries to improve a roster that went 48-34 and was bounced by the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. Turner played a big part in Boston’s success, averaging 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 81 games. He said “money’s cool” in free agency, but he feels it’s more important to find playing time with a winning organization.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • The six-game loss to Atlanta showed that the Celtics need to raise their talent level, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Bontemps says president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has to shake up a roster of “ill-fitting pieces” around All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics own the Nets’ first-round pick, which is almost certain to fall in the top five, and they may have more than $50MM to spend once free agency starts July 1st. Bontemps expects the Celtics to chase every elite free agent on the market, adding that they have enough young talent and future picks to become trading partners if the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler or the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins becomes available.
  • The Celtics will need some luck to have the offseason they are hoping for, contends Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Boston has eight picks in this year’s draft, but the position of Brooklyn’s choice will help shape the future of the franchise. The Celtics have a 15.6% chance of landing the top overall selection and a 46.9% shot at staying in the top three. Boston will target Kevin Durant in free agency, and Bontemps believes Ainge is eager to make a deal with his parcel of draft picks, citing his offer to Charlotte last year in hopes of drafting Justise Winslow. Boston reportedly made a similar offer to the Heat. The writer mentions Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor as another trade possibility.

And-Ones: Johnson, Saric, Cousins, Taylor

It cost Joe Johnson $2,585,519 to get into this year’s playoffs, as Andrew Keh of The New York Times examines. That’s $3MM, the amount Johnson gave up when he negotiated a buyout from the Nets in late February, minus the $414,481 he’s making on the contract he signed with the Heat, who currently hold a 2-1 advantage in their series with the Hornets“This is what I was looking forward to,” said Johnson, who was immediately inserted into Miami’s starting lineup and averaged 13.4 points per game after the move. Johnson’s coaches and teammates appreciate the versatility and decision-making skills he has added to the Heat’s offense. “Joe has brought an offensive threat that we haven’t had,” Amar’e Stoudemire said. “His pick-and-roll offense is something that’s hard to guard because he’s great at keeping guys on his back and creating two-on-one-type situations for us.”

There’s more news tonight from around the world of basketball:

  • Croatian star Dario Saric has reportedly told teammates that he will leave Europe and head to Philadelphia over the offseason, tweets international journalist David Pick. The Sixers acquired his rights in a 2014 draft-night trade with the Magic.
  • The Kings‘ best strategy is to rebuild around center DeMarcus Cousins, ABC analyst Jalen Rose told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. People within the Kings organization reportedly sense that GM Vlade Divac is willing to gauge the trade market for Cousins after another nonplayoff season and repeated discipline problems. “You can’t deal him,” Rose said. “He’s been an All-Star player, one of the top bigs in the game. You have to build around him.” Rose went through the Kings’ recent draft and personnel missteps before turning his attention to the team’s coaching vacancy. “The situation definitely needs an overhaul,” he said, “and it’s hard to say who would be a really good coach because I think they’ve gone through 10 in the last nine years, or something like that.” Sacramento has had eight coaches since the start of the 2006/07 season.
  • Wolves owner Glen Taylor moved quickly to get the leaders he wanted, notes Jerry Zgoda of The Star-Tribune. A week after announcing the jobs were open, Minnesota brought in Tom Thibodeau as coach and president of basketball operations and Scott Layden as GM. “I liked his answer to one of the first questions I asked: What are the things most important to you?” Taylor said of Thibodeau. “The first thing he said was, ‘I want to be the coach of an NBA championship team. That’s my goal in life.’” Taylor said Thibodeau will make the final decisions on some matters and Layden will do so on others, adding that the protocol is spelled out clearly.

Pacific Notes: Clarkson, Cousins, Livingston

During Jordan Clarkson‘s exit interview, the Lakers stressed that the point guard would need to improve his defense over the summer or risk losing minutes next season, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. “If we get the right players in here and if he doesn’t do it, he won’t play much,” coach Byron Scott said of Clarkson. “It’s that simple.” Opposing players shot 62.5% against Clarkson and the point guard finished with a lackluster defensive rating of 111.5, Medina notes. “He is too athletic and too quick to be that bad defensively,” Scott said. “Numbers from our analytical department don’t lie.

Clarkson, who is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, acknowledged the need to improve his defense and added that he wants to remain part of the Lakers moving forward, Medina relays. “I feel confident I’ll be back here. I want to be here,” Clarkson said. “I want to be one of those guys that is not bouncing around from team to team. I want to be somewhere where I can come home and leave my mark or legacy or somewhere I can call home. I feel like this is the place I can do that.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings have been clear to candidates for their head coaching post that the front office will support them in disciplining players, including center DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee relays in a series of tweets. The franchise is fighting the notion that George Karl was fired to appease Cousins, and higher-ups have been clear that the big man isn’t a consideration when hiring or firing personnel, Jones adds.
  • Warriors GM Bob Myers noted that while Shaun Livingston‘s contract for 2016/17 is only partially guaranteed for $3MM, the point guard remains in the team’s future plans, Diamond Leung of The Bay Area News Group relays (Twitter link). The $5,782,450 that Livingston is scheduled to earn next season will become fully guaranteed if he remains on Golden State’s roster past June 30th. The 30-year-old appeared in 78 games for the Warriors this season and averaged 6.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Pacific Notes: Cousins, Thibodeau, Leuer, Teletovic

The sense within the Kings organization is that GM Vlade Divac is willing to gauge the market for DeMarcus Cousins this summer, having become increasingly frustrated with the mercurial big man, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Cousins and soon-to-be free agent Rajon Rondo are close, but the center has few other friends among his teammates, several of whom complained to the front office that Cousins is moody and disrespectful, Voisin relays. Divac wouldn’t directly answer when asked last week whether the firing of George Karl meant he’s committed to Cousins. “Anything about the players and how we are going to do in the summer,” Divac said, “I don’t want to talk about right now because our focus is to find a new coach.”

See more from the Pacific Division:

  • A would-be coaching vacancy on the Lakers would reportedly be of interest to Tom Thibodeau, but the lack of opportunity to control player personnel turned him off a while ago, as Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times relays via Twitter.
  • Soon-to-be free agent power forwards Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic want to re-sign with the Suns, and Teletovic expressed particular enthusiasm as the season ended last week, observes Craig Grialou of ArizonaSports.com. Teletovic also gave a verbal boost to interim coach Earl Watson, reportedly the front-runner as Phoenix searches for a head coach. “Coach Earl put a lot of trust in me. He kind of gave me the energy, gave me the boost. He talked to me through the whole period that he’s been here: how we’re supposed to play, how we’re supposed to get better,” Teletovic said. “I understood the role that I have on this team.”
  • Jamal Crawford began the season deferring to new teammates after a summer of trade rumors, but a Christmas night conversation in which Doc Rivers called upon him to be more aggressive changed Crawford’s approach, as Robert Morales of the Long Beach Press-Telegram details. The Clippers combo guard wound up winning his third career Sixth Man of the Year award today.

Kings Notes: Divac, Cousins, Coaching Search

Kings GM and vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac will lead the effort to find George Karl’s replacement as head coach, according to Sam Amick of USA Today. Sacramento fired Karl earlier today after he compiled a disappointing 33-49 record in his first full season on the job. Divac said he will talk to former Kings coach Rick Adelman to get his opinion on possible candidates, and he plans to consult with Karl as well. “It’s a blessing to work with a guy [owner Vivek Ranadive] who is saving this franchise, building the new arena [that’s set to open in October] and letting me do my job the best I can,” Divac said. “So he has trust in me, and so far I’m so happy with my owner being behind me.” Along with hiring a coach, Divac is planning an addition to the front office, rumored to be former NBA executive David Morway.

There’s more news tonight out of Sacramento:

  • Divac is committed to keeping center DeMarcus Cousins despite ongoing disciplinary problems, Amick writes in the same story. Cousins clashed with Karl virtually from the time he was hired as coach, and the Kings suspended the center for a game in March, leading some to speculate that his time in Sacramento was nearing its end. “DeMarcus is our franchise player, and all heat is going to be on him,” Divac said. “Even my decision about George, [people are] all going to talk about DeMarcus. But it’s not true. He’s just one of the people we have, obviously the most valuable, and we are planning to build around him.” Cousins has two seasons and more than $32.5MM left on his current contract.
  • Divac wanted to fire Karl over the All-Star break, but opposition from minority owners stopped the move, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
  • Sacramento’s “radioactive” coaching situation will scare big-name contenders away, predicts Chris Mannix of The Vertical. The columnist expects the Kings to contact Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks and Kevin McHale, but Mannix believes all three will steer clear of Sacramento. He adds that the Kings should have fired Karl in February and replaced him with Corliss Williamson. Instead, the front office got rid of assistant coach Vance Walberg, which further sabotaged Karl’s standing with the players.

Kings Eye McMillan, Ewing, McHale, Blatt, Others

1:27pm: McHale appears unlikely to take the Kings job, and Del Negro is the most realistic candidate, Mannix suggests.

THURSDAY, 1:02pm: Nate McMillan is also in the mix, sources told Stein (Twitter link).

10:15pm: The possibility of hiring McHale is gaining traction within the Kings organization, Chris Mannix of The Vertical tweets. Sacramento is intrigued by the possibility of McHale working with DeMarcus Cousins, Mannix adds.

3:09pm: The Kings are also considering Patrick Ewing, league sources tell Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee.

12:40pm: Kevin McHale and Mark Jackson are also under consideration, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Kings do have strong interest in Thibodeau and Brooks but acknowledge they’ll be tough gets, Stein adds. McHale is just a few months removed from having been fired by the Rockets, while Jackson last coached in 2013/14 with the Warriors.

WEDNESDAY, 11:53am: The Kings, poised to fire George Karl, will consider a group of candidates that includes David Blatt, Vinny Del Negro, Jeff Hornacek, Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga and Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson, sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks, who frequently draw mention as top NBA coaching candidates, are uninterested in the job, as Wojnarowski hears from league sources.

Blatt, whom the Cavs fired as their head coach in January, is also reportedly under consideration from the Knicks, though he’s reportedly a long shot for that job. The Nets have reportedly been eyeing him as well, and he has ties to the Brooklyn organization, having coached the Russian national team, which received significant financial backing from Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Sacramento reportedly contacted Del Negro about its head coaching job in December 2014, when the team fired Michael Malone. Del Negro, a former Kings player, hasn’t coached in the NBA since the 2012/13 season with the Clippers, but Wojnarowski reported that he interviewed for the Pelicans job last summer.

Chatter about Hornacek has been quiet since the Suns fired him in February, though he earned respect around the league when he led Phoenix to a 48-34 record in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season during his first year as an NBA head coach. The Suns have regressed since then, and Hornacek wound up 101-112 overall in Phoenix. He was an assistant under former Kings coach Tyrone Corbin on the Jazz.

Wojnarowski wrote in February that Larranaga and Atkinson weren’t particularly eager to land the Kings job if it were to open. The assistants both reportedly interviewed for the Sixers job three years ago and have drawn frequent mention as a possible NBA head coaching candidate since. Larranaga was reportedly a contender for the recent opening at Georgia Tech that Josh Pastner ultimately filled.

Pacific Notes: Griffin, Curry, Karl, Watson

Blake Griffin is expected to be in the Clippers‘ starting lineup Sunday, even though he isn’t fully healed from a quad injury, according to Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. Griffin, who hasn’t played since Christmas Day, expected to be out just a few weeks after partially tearing a tendon in his lower quad muscle. “I don’t want to say ‘misdiagnosed’ but [it] wasn’t doing the right things, I guess,” he said. “We weren’t addressing the initial problem, the main problem. Everything I was doing was just putting more stress on my knee. The small tear became a three-month thing because I wasn’t doing the right things until we figured it out. … It just wasn’t being allowed to heal. The tear is still there. It’s just about managing the pain and getting through this. It’s not a new tear. I wasn’t re-tearing my knee in different places. I wasn’t allowing the initial injury to completely heal.” Griffin didn’t discuss the condition of his right hand, which was broken in a fight with assistant equipment manager Matias Testi. The Clippers posted a 30-15 record in the 45 games that Griffin missed.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kings point guard Seth Curry is still deciding whether to exercise his option for next season, tweets Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. A decision is due just a week after the end of the regular season. Curry added that he likes Sacramento and GM Vlade Divac‘s plans for the team. If Curry opts in, he will make $1,015,696.
  • Sacramento placed coach George Karl in a no-win situation and would be making a mistake if it fires him, argues Andy Furillo of The Sacramento Bee. The front office failed to support Karl when it overturned his early-season suspension of DeMarcus Cousins, and Furillo claims that move deteriorated their already-strained relationship. Even with a rebuilt roster that was weakened by injuries, Karl has led the Kings to their highest win total since 2007/08.
  • Earl Watson has managed to get some defensive improvement out of the Suns since taking over as interim coach, writes Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Under Watson, who has posted a 6-7 record after losing his first nine games, Phoenix has a defensive rating that is 12th best in the league over its past 10 contests. Before Watson arrived, the Suns were 29th in that category. “We have a lot we haven’t even touched,” he said.

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