Game of Kings
By Brandon Niles Explorebigsky.com Sports Writer
The Sacramento Kings are one of the young and exciting teams in the NBA right now.
The team has Tyreke Evans, a potent scorer with the ability to develop into a star. Paired with Evans in the backcourt is rookie Jimmer Fredette, an excellent shooter in his first season out of BYU.
Additionally, the Kings have De- Marcus Cousins, an enigmatic yet tremendously talented force in the frontcourt. Marcus Thornton, J.J. Hickson and John Salmons round out this talented team.
The Kings have been banking on these young players, under head coach Paul Westphal, to carry them back to the playoffs and into basketball relevance. The Western Conference is experiencing a power shift as the rosters of the Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks are aging rapidly. This shift should provide an opening for a young team like the Kings to take the reigns and contend for the Western Conference title.
Despite this potential, something seems amiss in Sacramento, as the Kings look inconsistent so far this season. The team struggles with typical problems that come with inexperience including turnovers, missed assignments and similar breakdowns. But they’ve also suffered from tremendous internal conflict.
Only a few games into the season, word leaked out that Cousins had requested to be traded from the team. There were multiple conflicts between Cousins and Westphal last season, as well. Additionally, bench altercations between Cousins and the Kentucky coaching staff were common scenes while he was in college.
These issues contributed to his being selected fifth in the draft last year, despite being widely considered a top prospect.
After the trade request, Cousins was forced to sit out a game. Shortly after, Cousins denied the reports of his trade request. Days later, with the team off to a 2–3 start to the season, the Kings unexpectedly fired coach Westphal.
Only the Kings’ management knows for sure if personality issues involving Cousins led to the firing of Westphal, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t the biggest factor. The Kings are hoping that Cousins can be a superstar for their team.
However, I question this course of action. Everything we’ve seen so far from Cousins indicates that he lacks the maturity to step into NBA greatness. Evans is far from the most reliable player, and these two fiery talents are supposed to be the future for the Kings.
My solution is to trade them both and try to get as much in return as possible. This won’t be a popular opinion, but you can’t turn a young team driven by immaturity into a consistent winner. While these two players will light up the stat sheets from time to time and occasionally look brilliant, they will ultimately hinder the progress of the franchise and create headaches in the process.
Players with these types of problems often thrive in an environment where they can learn from veteran stars under the guidance of a well-respected and long tenured coach. Conversely, they tend to foster an environment of undisciplined behavior on and off the court on teams which ask too much of them early on. While Evans is not nearly the head case that Cousins appears to be, it may be best to move on, before the Kings are too far into their future.
Otherwise, I fear that the other pieces they have in place may suffer from the negative environment brewing in Sacramento.
Brandon Niles has done online freelance writing about professional sports since 2007. His articles range from NFL news to team-specific commentary. A Communication Studies graduate student at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Niles is also an avid Miami Dolphins fan, which has led to his becoming an avid Scotch whisky fan over the past decade.