3 In The Key: Cousins and Westphal, Casey in Toronto, Kwame Taught You
1. A Reminder It’s A Players’ League
When DeMarcus Cousins got sent home by the Sacramento Kings after requesting a trade. I laughed. We had reached a point where there was really no boundaries left on what a player was entitled to do. Insubordination is an offense in every workplace, you know, except for the NBA, where the term is just part of what a coach has to deal with on a daily basis.
I fully expected Cousins to return to the team within days. Not because of any insight into the situation, but just using common sense. Here was a player in his second year of his rookie deal. One of the few times a team really has control over its players. At his salary and based on his demand, the Kings weren’t going to get any value for a power forward with superstar potential.
Cousins did return as I expected. But I was surprised to hear that coach Paul Westphal was let go just days later. You can spin his firing anyway you’d like. The team was terrible during his tenure, never developed an identity and many of its younger players especially Tyreke Evans have regressed significantly.
But the timing of the firing makes the whole thing completely distasteful. A disgruntled player requests a trade, coach draws a line in the sand to take control of the situation. Player returns, the coach is let go. There’s talks of how this situation might empower Cousins, giving him the belief that his erratic behavior will be put up with. My response is: he’s already empowered. They’re all empowered. The players run this league, everyone else just fits in where they can. This includes coaches, general managers and even fans. We are at the mercy of these players.
Add this incident next to the Chris Paul trade fiasco on the growing list of troubling developments with the league since the end of the lockout.
To be continued.
2. Getting Defensive in Toronto
Yes, this next point probably sounded better when I wrote it before the Raptors were embarrassed in back to back losses to New Jersey and Philadelphia over the weekend.
But things are changing in Toronto. Slowly.
You can put a 1,300 pound boulder in the locker room and use symbolism to get your point across, but this is a results oriented league, and I was skeptical how new head coach Dwane Casey would be able to get this group of personnel to play better on the defensive end.
While still early, and some bad habits have crept up in the last two losses, check out this statistical comparison to last year via Holly Mackenzie.
In addition, I’ve never seen Andrea Bargnani play a more complete game than he has to start the year. DeMar DeRozan has expanded his range and already has more three pointers than all of last year, and Jose Calderon has returned to being one of the most efficient point guards in the league.
Thoughts of playoffs and eventually contending for a champion are still far away. But I get the sense that things are starting to turn, and a cultural change to the Raptors is slowly shifting them into a team that is more respectable around the league.
3. Kwame Brown, Mentor
You know about Kwame Brown’s story by now. The former number one overall pick by Michael Jordan, he’s never lived up to his potential and has been relegated to a journeyman in the league.
Somehow, size still pays in the league and he’s getting seven million dollars from the Golden State Warriors this year.
After a loss to his former team the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, according to Los Angeles Times beat writer Mike Bresnahan, Kwame said this about the development of Andrew Bynum:
"I taught him everything he knows. I told him if you can score on me, you can score on anyone. I’m one of the better defenders in the league and we played vs. each other every day in practice."
Discuss amongst yourselves.