Column: Karl’s Brash History Bodes Well For Kings


Sam Amico

Sam Amico, the founder and editor of and a broadcast journalist for Fox Sports Ohio, will write a weekly feature for Hoops Rumors with news, rumors and insight from around the NBA. If you missed last week’s installment, click here. Here’s this week’s edition:
It’s been somewhat of a circus of a summer for the Kings.
George Karl may have said something negative about his relationship with DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins may have tweeted something negative about Karl.
And Kings owner Vivek Ranadive may have been pondering Karl’s dismissal.
Yet here they all still remain — Karl and Cousins and Ranadive, with the start of training camp a mere two weeks away.
Those three aren’t exactly the holy trinity of hoops, but they are the heartbeat of the Kings. Well, at least Cousins is. And maybe Karl, if he can get along with Cousins. And maybe Ranadive, if he can stay out of the way.
In a lot of places with a lot of coaches, this type of drama would be reason for the concern. But Kings fans don’t need to fret. This is nothing new for Karl.
In fact, rocky beginnings go all the way back to his early years as a coach. Take the 1984/85 Cavaliers, for example.
Karl was the man in charge, World B. Free the team’s star. Free was bold, a little reckless, and never met shot he didn’t like. (A few didn’t seem to like him, however.)
Karl was bold, a little reckless, and never met a coaching job he didn’t like, or a situation he didn’t feel he could conquer.
It was basketball bravado at its worst — with Karl throwing sarcastic digs at Free in the press, and Free responding by acting annoyed and openly questioning his coach.
The result? Try a 2-19 start for the Cavs. Yes, they won just two of their first 21 games. Not many of the losses were close, either.
But alas, as soon as it appeared the Cavs were headed down the drain, Karl and Free came together. How or why, no one is sure. All that mattered is the two suddenly started to get along — and the Cavs won 34 of their final 61 games to make the playoffs.
They lost in the first round to the Larry Bird-led Celtics, but not before the overmatched Cavs put up an unexpected fight. The Celtics were the team to advance, but the final combined score of the series: Celtics 449, Cavs 449.
With Karl and Free, the Cavs finished the season by acting cocky, playing with some swagger, and finding ways to win when all seemed lost.
Later, Karl coached the SuperSonics and had some issues with star guard Gary Payton. But like the troubles with Free, the Karl-Payton spats eventually turned into a mutual respect. In 1995/96, the Sonics won 64 games and advanced to the Finals.
What does any of this have to do with today’s Kings?
Well, Karl and Cousins seem to have worked things out. At least for the time being — as Cousins posted a picture on his Instagram account of himself, Karl and new front office chief Vlade Divac back in August.
The three stood smiling, Karl and Cousins putting their arms around each other. It may not be love, but if it’s hate, Karl and Cousins may want to consider a career in acting.
Kings of hope?
On top of what appears to be a repaired relationship between Karl and Cousins, the Kings have several reasons to think the playoffs aren’t that far-fetched.
Lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein should immediately solve their less-than-dynamic run of power forwards.
Free agent signee Rajon Rondo owns a championship ring and knows a little something about directing an offense.
Returning small forward Rudy Gay remains a man who can break down defenders and get a basket when one is needed most.
And third-year shooting guard Ben McLemore could be primed for a breakout season.
Other key parts include point guard Darren Collison, who may actually start ahead of Rondo, and new additions such as big man Kosta Koufos, small forward Caron Butler, and sharpshooting veteran Marco Belinelli.
Of course, it all starts with Cousins, the most dangerous offensive center in the league — and yes, “offensive” is solely referring to his game. He can score at will and rebound at close to the same level, and for a guy who gets a bad rap as a me-first type, he’s a fairly deft passer.
Now, is this a lineup that should give the Kings championship dreams?
Well, no.
But Karl has sometimes done well with worse. And now that the circus has finally hit the road, the Kings — like some of Karl’s teams before them — may finally be on a surprising road of their own.
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