Posted by: Kingsguru21 | June 2, 2009

Why Paul Westphal scares me and why I’m resigned to believe he might be the best choice after all

Sigh. I feel used. Like a 2 dollar hooker on Broadway & MLK. (Okay, maybe more like a DPH Hooker. Oak Park is just too hardcore for me right now. But a nice slow country screw….like on Del Paso & Marysville–I give up) Sigh. I used all my outrage, and now I’m all tapped out.

Okay I lied.

I won’t complain if Rambis is the pick. I’ll just be surprised if he is. Read this if you haven’t. There is someone on StR already saying that Westphal has parallels to Adelman. (Yes, JJ, you.) I don’t agree with that, but hey, I do agree he’s underrated. The most underrated? Hell, I don’t know. How do you define the parameters? I don’t know that answer. So, I won’t answer it.

I still feel tapped out. It’s probably the math test I took. Oh well.

Here’s the deal. Westphal is probably a reasonable pick. If he brings in coaches who can help him with the defense (Porter/Elie), and can figure out a cohesive offensive strategy for a team despierately seeking help on 2 ends, I can see worse idea’s.

I’m not going to be unhappy about Rambis. But, whoever this next coach is going to have the odds stacked against him. It frustrates any coach to have a team this young and incomplete. Westphal too.

But, Amick said it best, Westphal and Petrie hit it off. Whether I agree with that being an important criteria, it helps to have a head coach and the head basketball man on the same page. Adelman and Petrie were. Musselman/Theus and Petrie were not. That is a singular advantage on this relationship already. If Westphal comes cheap, than there’s no reason to not push this hire.

I’m well aware of what I wrote. I still have reservations for how he would do with this type of coaching/teaching circumstance, but at the same time, there are reasonable reasons to think Westphal could be okay here.

One thing that has not been mentioned, and Steve Perrin only touched on it, is how workable any offense Westphal brings in will work. He mentioned that whatever Westphal did at Pepperdine did not work. Which makes me go okay.

The Kings are not Pepperdine. The NBA rules are different. Westphal can work around some of those advantages. Right now, the biggest red flag is that he’s not a defensive coach. But, at some point, I don’t think anybody realistic of the situation thinks Westphal is being brought in to fix the defense. He’s going to bring in somebody (on the cheap) like Terry Porter to do that. His job is to fix the offense.

And, can he?

Kevin Pelton mentioned that he lost the Sonics and the personalities there. Several other people on Sactown Royalty have mentioned that Westphal was in a no-win situation. The thing is, that both sides are accurate. And, the question is now, how does this correlate to how Westphal deals with the Kings players?

Other than Nocioni, I didn’t see a player openly criticize Kenny Natt last season. (And that was pretty indirectly.) They had to be frustrated with his coaching maneuvers, and yet they didn’t publicly question him. Once.

Westphal is different. He’s been in this position before. He’s been in tough spots before. He’s still here. He gets along with Petrie. There is something to that. Remember how Spencer Hawes got indignant with Reggie Theus about running sprints? (This stuff won’t be handled as publicly as often under Westphal. I guarantee it.)

The point is that this is a calm locker room in the sense they aren’t killing the coach. That group is angry about last season, but they should be. It was embarrassing. It’s time to move on. Westphal is not, by any stretch, the worst choice.

It would be more difficult to argue that Rambis can fit in that way. Rambis seems as much of a stretch at this point as Theus did in 2007. It could work, but this would have to go his way. Rambis won’t likely have that in his favor. And, he’ll be expected to make this thing fly. He can coach, and I have no doubt that he can. Whether he’s what this team ultimately needs I do not know. Either way, and I have less thoughts on Rambis (just hyperbole) at this moment. It’s just that, I think Petrie wants to know what he’s getting. He doesn’t want to deal with a guy with unknown’s. Yes, Rambis has coached before, but coaching Shaq & Kobe to the playoffs, and then getting dumped for Phil Jackson doesn’t say much about you. In fact, it’s probably what convinced Jerry Buss to pay Jackson. (It was something he probably didn’t want to do.)

So in a sense, there’s nowhere to go but up. The coaching search is important for today in terms of where this franchise has hit. It’s hit rock bottom. Yes, they may not win more games, but it’s not likely to be something that goes along with “Oh my god why the fuck did he run out a lineup that doesn’t work for the 39th time in a row? (Okay, I know that didn’t happen, but it felt like it.)

*****

In basic terms, I’d like to see if there’s a real effect that Westphal had on his Phoenix and Seattle teams on either side of the ball.

Phoenix ’93: Offensive efficiency: 113.3 (1st in NBA) Defensive Efficiency: 106.7 (9th in the NBA) and played at the 3rd fastest pace (yeah that Suns team was good)

Phoenix ’94: Offensive Rating: 111.7 (1st of 27) ▪ Defensive Rating: 106.8 (16th of 27) Pace Factor: 96.7 (6th of 27)

Phoenix ’95: Offensive Rating: 114.5 (3rd of 27) ▪ Defensive Rating: 110.4 (19th of 27) Pace Factor: 95.9 (2nd of 27)

The offense was top notch, and the defense slowly slipped. That’s not so terrible. Hell, that’s not even all that awful. Of course, Charles Barkley isn’t going to suit up in his prime tomorrow. And Kevin Johnson at his best is not running the Point either. (Hey, KJ, why don’t you give Sac High back it’s real name? Thanks buddy. Fucking asshole. Do I resent that? Yep, you bet. I graduated from Sac High, not fucking St. Hope academy. Bastard. Ironically, so did he.)

I loathe to even mention the ‘96 season, but here we go anyway:
Offensive Rating: 110.3 (7th of 29) ▪ Defensive Rating: 110.0 (23rd of 29) Pace Factor: 93.2 (9th of 29)

I’m loathe to mention it because it’s impossible for me to tell. (Well, it’s not, but I don’t want to calculate what each side did. I’ll just say that Westphal was 14-19, and Cotton Fitzsimmons, 27-22. (Cotton got fired the next season, too.)

I don’t know what to make of the Phoenix deal. Under Westphal the offenses remained proficient, but the defenses slowly slipped. I think a big part of that is simply that as players got older, or less content, they didn’t play as hard or well. It happens. Moving on.

(This really irks me, but I gotta find the Sonics under the Oklahoma City Thunder. Irksome.)

This is bound to come up, but look at Rashard Lewis’s raw numbers under Westphal in Seattle. Also, notice that McMillan also won a lot more.

That comes into the personality point. Westphal was a transistion, and he essentially took it. His personality didn’t fit that team, and they didn’t fit him offensively. Worse, Rashard Lewis ended up the 2nd best player of that lot, and it didn’t happen until some years later. (The most interesting thing is that his rebounding never improved under McMillan. It tailed off some, and has hovered between 5 & 6 his whole career. Which brings me to the important point: Players are what they are. Unless they are more. In which case they are undefined. Or, something.)

Seattle ’99: Offensive Rating: 105.0 (6th of 29) ▪ Defensive Rating: 106.2 (26th of 29) Pace Factor: 89.6 (10th of 29)

Seattle ’00: Offensive Rating: 105.6 (9th of 29) ▪ Defensive Rating: 104.6 (15th of 29) Pace Factor: 93.4 (13th of 29)

Seattle ’01 (Mostly with McMillan): Offensive Rating: 105.6 (9th of 29) ▪ Defensive Rating: 105.6 (24th of 29) Pace Factor: 91.6 (16th of 29)

Now, this is not about Nate McMillan. This is about Paul Westphal. There are some interesting similarities to this roster, and to that Seattle roster.

Let’s say the Kings draft Ricky Rubio. Rubio’s game reminds, a bit, of Gary Payton’s in that he has length and is about the same height. He is not supremely athletic like Payton was. (Payton’s greatest athleticism was used flappin those gums as much as he did. I say you gotta have a jaw outta the world to talk as much as he did.)

Since we’re speaking of Gary Payton, let’s look at this another way. Westphal asked Payton to do something he hadn’t traditionally done in his career: hit 3’s. (Payton is also less than a career 73% FT shooter too.) In those years, Payton also got to the line between 5 & 5.5 times a game. (Above his career average. By an attempt a game.)

Payton must have had the yips at the line, because he once had less than 60% there. (Yeah, I’m shocked by that too.)

Payton averaged averaged over 8 assists 6 times in his career. 3 were years Westphal coached (with most of the 3rd one by McMillan), the other 2 were with McMillan, and the first time it happened was with George Karl.

The one thing that is noticeable from both Karl and McMillan is that the Sonics pushed the pace faster with Payton. (Well, after Kemp left anyway.) I don’t think he liked that. Which is why he didn’t want to play for Westphal. If you’re going to get 18 shots a game, why tire yourself out? Especially when you’re 31-32 years old. (Yeah, I know. It’s the same thing Jerry Reynolds said about Mitch Richmond in his novella.) The thing is was that Westphal had different teams in Seattle by the end than what he had at the start of his tenure there. By his 3rd season, Rashard Lewis was viewed as a bonafide player in the NBA. But, at the same time, that team revolved around Payton. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. He and Westphal were not similar personalities. If these 2 entities don’t get along, well boom goes the coach.

One thing I think Paul Westphal can do, if nothing else, is if he has offensive talent, he can coach an offense that pushes the tempo BUT doesn’t lose efficiency. Look at our beloved dipshits the last few seasons (more so last season): They pushed the pace, and were inefficient to terribly inefficient.

Sac ’09: Pace Factor: 94.2 (7th of 30) Offensive Rating: 105.5 (25th of 30) ▪ Defensive Rating: 114.7 (30th of 30)

Sac ’08: Pace Factor: 94.7 (8th of 30) Offensive Rating: 107.5 (13th of 30) ▪ Defensive Rating: 109.9 (25th of 30)

Sac ’07: Pace Factor: 94.8 (4th of 30) Offensive Rating: 106.2 (14th of 30) ▪ Defensive Rating: 108.0 (22nd of 30)

Does anyone else find that curious? Hopefully you’ve figured it out, but of those 3 seasons, which had the best Kevin Martin? The first two. The last one? Not as much. (You know, having a fucked up ankle tends to ruin your day. It’s like Groundhog Day, only Nancy isn’t as pretty in this version.)

I think I just talked myself into Paul Westphal.

*****

These are the players who I feel would benefit from Westphal. Donte Greene is an obvious parallel to Rashard Lewis, and why not? Even DX thinks they are comparable.

Here’s the other important point. If Petrie believes Westphal is the guy, and it sounds like he does, his history suggests that if players believe in him, they can score points. Lot’s of ’em. If you believe Sam Amick, the Mavs were considering him for the slot that Rick Carlisle. (Who had the highest fast paced team of his career to date.) Westphal has the personality issue that Petrie likes. Westphal has had success in the league, and with some good young players. Success with other players. He’s gotten endorsements from practically everyone except Gary Payton. (I think people were wise to not talk with him. Then again, it’s called due diligence. Talk to him anyway.)

Here’s another angle that hasn’t been mentioned about Westphal too often: He’s a Southern California guy.

Even though I think his son could explain some of the problems he had at Pepperdine, it could also mean that the players he had there were not his type that he could utilize to his strengths. This is all pretty obvious where it’s going, or it should.

There’s been a ton of talk about what kind of money would Westphal would make. That’s a huge factor here, but maybe, not. I overlooked it with Petrie, but I shouldn’t have. I think the Kings made a play for Eddie Jordan. But, it was clear by the end that they were not going to meet on the money. Or, the years. So, they crossed Eddie off and moved to option 2. Paul Westphal.

I was turned off by all the things I had heard. But, in a way, I was doing due diligence. (I’m hoping that my franchise is too.) And, when it figured that Westphal was the guy, it was the time to check into him. I’m still not convinced he’s the right fit, but he can make things work with guys. He did it in Seattle, and did it to a greater extent in Phoenix. Did it with a different mix in both places.

Elliott Perry? Remember him? “Socks” remains a pretty funny memory of my earlier days of rooting for the NBA in the mid 90’s. (What’s so strange is that their are kids who are of the same age now who post regularly on Sactown Royalty as I was when I started rooting for the NBA. Well okay, it’s not too strange. But, getting old sucks. Dad, stop laughing.)

Players like Ruben Patterson, Brent Barry, and Rashard Lewis all improved under him. That’s something. Maybe not the end all be all certainly, but it’s something. Track record is important.

*****

Here’s an important point that I’ve only touched on briefly, but felt I should do so in detail here. He’s good for Point Guards. He’ll coach an offense that will get them the ball in their hands, and they will have career numbers. (Even if they don’t like him.) Point Guard’s develop. Gee, seems like there is something of a cuh-winky-dink here isn’t there?

Ricky Rubio. Brandon Jennings. Tyreke Evans. Jrue Holiday. Jonny Flynn. Ty Lawson. Stephen Curry. To name 7, those are at least guys who will be picked in the top 20 (even if Lawson is sliding right now). Isn’t at least a wise idea to think of a coach who can coach great offense, and do so with great point guards leading the way? Westphal has a history of it. He’s an LA guy, so that will help with Jennings. He was a taller PG himself, and he can relate that to Evans. (Holiday too. Hey, there’s that Socal thing again. Maybe that was the real problem between Westphal and Payton. He told GP there was a lot of bitches in Oakland.) He was a shooter and can relate to Curry. He was from a very good program at a tough time to play in the Pac 8. (Yes, I know.) Seems similar to Jonny Flynn. Okay, he may not have to relate to Ty Lawson, but who cares? The point is the man has a lot of basketball IQ as a player, and later as a coach. He’s been around the game his whole life. He knows it. He breathes it, even if he isn’t in the spotlight.

Isn’t it easy to imagine that he would try and at least help Ricky Rubio on fixing his release? To help him finish better inside? To help him minimize whatever deficiencies he has athletically? To run a lot of pick & rolls with Ricky at the controls (not to mention Beno or Jason Thompson or Donte Greene or Spencer Hawes or Kevin Martin–you get it).

What about Brandon Jennings? Think he couldn’t work with him? He’s from Socal, a PG himself (or more likely a taller Guard who could handle the ball–like Jerry West, and is patient and calm. He probably won’t shit on himself a few times if Brandon Jennings makes an ill-advised pass or decision. Those things happen with young players.

Think that might make a difference? Oh Beno. He’s another day.

*****

If he can find assistants (like a Terry Porter and Mario Elie), he may be able to get a staff that would help these players improve. He’s going to need help defensively, and I would hope he knows that. I don’t think he would pretend that that isn’t the case.

I think I talked myself into Paul Westphal. I’m going to hell. See you there Satan.

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Responses

  1. […] on Westphal, you might as well here (this is TZ’s writeup and it’s worth noting too), here, here, and […]


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