DeMarcus Cousins

Western Notes: Lakers, Kings, Jazz, Mavs

Byron Scott said that the week before the Lakers fired him as coach, he met with GM Mitch Kupchak to talk about free agent targets, current Lakers players and the draft, believing the visit was a signal that the team would keep him for at least one more year, as Scott told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. The timing of the Sunday night meeting in which Kupchak informed Scott of his fate seemed odd to the coach as he made his way to it, but it wasn’t until the GM delivered the news to him that he suspected he was out of a job, as Bresnahan details. Scott added that he’s disappointed but wants to coach again and still has affection for the Lakers franchise.

See more from the Western Conference:

  • Vlade Divac said Tuesday that DeMarcus Cousins needs rules and structure, but the hiring of player-friendly Dave Joerger as coach doesn’t jibe with that, observes Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Still, the Kings found Joerger’s postseason experience with the Grizzlies his most attractive asset, and Divac, who said he won’t trade Cousins this year, insisted the days of constant turmoil are over in Sacramento, Voisin writes.
  • The Jazz will work out Idaho State junior point guard Ethan Telfair on Tuesday, reports Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Still, Telfair is expected to withdraw from this year’s draft and return to college ball before the May 25th deadline for him to do so, according to Goodman. The 6’0″ 21-year-old who’s the younger brother of NBA veteran Sebastian Telfair is outside the top 100 prospects on the lists that Chad Ford of ESPN.com and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress compile.
  • The Mavericks aren’t one player away from title contention, as The Vertical’s Bobby Marks opines, so they should avoid handing out a max contract in a weak market this summer and focus instead on upgrading the bench with young players who have potential, Marks writes. Dallas is without a first-round pick in this year’s draft and has only one second-round pick, at No. 46.

Divac: Kings Won’t Trade Cousins This Year

The Kings don’t intend to trade volatile center DeMarcus Cousins this offseason, Sean Cunningham of KXTV-TV relays (via Twitter). According to team executive Vlade Divac, the organization intends to hang onto the big man, with Divac saying, “He’s not going to be traded — this year for sure.”

There was a sense within the Kings organization that Divac would be willing to gauge the market for Cousins this summer, having become increasingly frustrated with the mercurial big man, according to an earlier report from Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. In April, Divac wouldn’t directly answer when asked 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.”

Divac’s phrasing about not dealing Cousins is certainly interesting, and it’s unclear if his indication that the center wouldn’t be traded “this year” means the entirety of the 2016/17 campaign or merely the calendar year of 2016. If it was the latter, then that still leaves the door wide open for speculation that Cousins is a candidate to be flipped by next February’s trade deadline. It remains to be seen if new head coach Dave Joerger will be able to reach Cousins and earn his respect, which will certainly be a major determining factor for whether the big man remains in Sacramento, though that is merely my speculation.

Cousins is certainly one of the most talented centers in the NBA, though his disciplinary problems and frequent outbursts often overshadow his immense physical skills. After the ouster of Karl, with whom the center was seemingly in conflict from day one of his coaching tenure, Cousins indicated that he’d prefer to remain in Sacramento. “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. “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.”

The 25-year-old has two seasons remaining on his current deal. He’s scheduled to earn $16,957,900 next season and $18,063,850 in 2017/18. He appeared in 65 games this past season for the Kings and averaged 26.9 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 34.6 minutes per outing.

Pacific Notes: Karl, Kupchak, Suns

Former Kings coach George Karl placed much of the team’s locker room woes on its star players, who never gelled this past season,  the coach admitted, according to James Ham of CSNBayArea.com. “There’s no question our locker room had tension,” Karl told Michelle Dapper of KCRA-TV. “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. I think that’s probably where it broke down. I think the coach – me, and I think Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay and Cuz (DeMarcus Cousins) were the three guys that we never kinda got together.”

Karl did admit that he didn’t spend much time in the locker room during his tenure, also adding that Sacramento trading away Cousins may be the best move for the franchise in the long run, Ham notes. “I can’t deny that ‘what if coaching this team without DeMarcus?’” Karl said. “It’d be exciting. Some roadblocks would be taken away.”

Here’s the latest from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak indicated that he is entering the summer under the assumption the team will not have a first-round pick, Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes. “That’s how you have to plan, yes,” Kupchak said. “And I’m fine either way. I would love to have the pick. I want to keep the 32nd pick. But you have to look at it both ways, and if it doesn’t work out where we get the [first-round] pick, we get the pick next year and we still have the ability to improve the team this summer.” If the Lakers’ first-round pick falls outside of the top three in the NBA draft lottery, it will go to the Sixers.
  • The Suns need to decide which combination of players will form their backcourt of the future with Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker all likely to vie for starting slots, Bobby Marks of The Vertical writes in his offseason primer for the franchise. Another upcoming decision the front office will need to make is regarding the center position, Marks adds. With Tyson Chandler signed for three more seasons and Alex Len set to enter the final year of his rookie contract, Phoenix may not want to pay both players big money and may need to make a tough call on whom to retain, Marks writes.

Pacific Notes: Bibby, World Peace, Russell, Suns

Kings coaching candidate Henry Bibby believes he can reach DeMarcus Cousins, comparing the star center’s volatile temperament to that of Zach Randolph, another once-mercurial big man who shed his label as a malcontent while playing under a Grizzlies coaching staff that included Bibby, as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee details. Bibby, who is scheduled to interview for the job Monday, said he’d hire son Mike Bibby for his staff, telling Jones that they’d long ago repaired what had been a troubled relationship. Henry Bibby added that he’d run an offense reminiscent of the one his son directed as the point guard for the Kings in the early 2000s. “What I’m trying to get back is what Vlade [Divac] used to have up there, the old Sacramento Kings,” Bibby told Jones. “I want to get that back again, that excitement. They played as a team. They ran that corner offense, and that’s what I’d run. I’d put DeMarcus where Vlade was [on offense], and you play basketball with [Rajon] Rondo, [Ben] McLemore and guys like that.”

See more from the Pacific Division:
  • The video incident involving D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young reportedly drove a wedge between Russell and his teammates, but Metta World Peace said on ESPN’s “The Jump” this week that team chemistry wasn’t as fractured as reports made it seem. Andrew Joseph of For The Win has the transcription. “It wasn’t like that,” World Peace said. “It wasn’t that bad. … I can’t say exactly like what it was. … We gave [Russell] a little talk, because nowadays, it’s like the young players that’s coming into sports, they’re so immature these days. They make a lot of mistakes. So, you have to always be there to pick them up.”
  • The Suns have decided not to re-sign assistant coaches Bob Hill and Corey Gaines, as well as player development assistant Irving Roland, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. It’s somewhat surprising to see the team decline to keep Hill, the former Knicks, Spurs, Pacers and SuperSonics head coach who joined the staff in February at the behest of Earl Watson. Phoenix removed Watson’s interim tag last month, formally making him the head coach.
  • Former Indiana University point guard Yogi Ferrell have predraft workouts for the Clippers and Lakers, among other teams, a source tells Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link).
  • I examined the offseason ahead for the Clippers earlier today.

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.

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