Posted by: Kingsguru21 | December 5, 2009

If the Kings fail in the months ahead, what will become of Paul Westphal’s popularity?

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about lately, and while I truthfully don’t give a shit what Kings fans are thinking with regards to Paul Westphal at this particular moment, I do feel it would be worth noting something for posterity’s sake (or some bullshit like that anyway).

Or, more accurately, I don’t think it matters what Kings fans are thinking about Paul Westphal these days.If you told me the Kings would be 9-8 at this juncture of the season, I’d have been ecstatic. I purposely set my expectations low so I could have one of those pleasurable low expectation/high reward season’s.

So I have to tell you, I still have low expectations now that some (reasonably so) have raised their expectations in accordance with a hot start.

Why? The NBA is a bitch, and the Kings had an easier schedule than some. Yes, the Kings have had injuries, and injuries that would cripple other roster’s. But, good teams adjust despite their injuries, and they persevere. I’m tired of excuses. I witnessed a season chock full of excuses made by everyone, everything, and somewhere in between with regards to the Kings organization last season. Fuck excuses: Only pussy’s and Sixers fans use them. (Relax Sixer fans: It’s just jokes. Every fan-base makes excuses.)

So my question is this: What if the Kings falter in December or beyond? Can Kings fan survive such a catastrophe when so many seem to have some level of interest again? Me thinks yes. (We survived last year, right?) The question is will any such entity agree to such an, umm, agreement?

Let’s look at the schedule for the upcoming month.

Note: All times Pacific Standard Time and the Wizards game on the 16th has been changed to 7:30 PST because ESPN added it to the schedule that night.

Sat, Dec 5 @ Phoenix 7:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Sun, Dec 6 Miami 7:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Tue, Dec 8 @ New Orleans 7:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Wed, Dec 9 @ San Antonio 5:30 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Sat, Dec 12 Minnesota 7:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Tue, Dec 15 @ Portland 7:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Wed, Dec 16 Washington 5:30 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento/ESPN
Fri, Dec 18 @ Minnesota 6:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Sat, Dec 19 @ Milwaukee 5:30 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Mon, Dec 21 @ Chicago 6:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Wed, Dec 23 Cleveland 7:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Sat, Dec 26 LA Lakers 7:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Mon, Dec 28 Denver 7:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento
Wed, Dec 30 Philadelphia 7:00 PM Comcast Sports Sacramento

I think the upcoming 2 games against Miami and Phoenix will be tough. Miami is coming off a tough loss tonight against the Lakers. Phoenix has generally been impossible for the Kings to beat in the Amare Stoudemire era.

So I predict an 0-2 record right there. Then New Orleans and San Antonio? I predict another 0-2 record there as well. Basically I see the Kings losing 4 straight (unfortunately). And, it gets worse from there.

Minnesota I think will be a win because the game is at home, and then comes the killer stretch. Against Portland on the road, the next night against the Wizards at home. Again, that could be a 1-1 stretch or 0-2. I’m not holding my breath for a 2-0 stretch here.

Then, the road trip to Minnesota, Milwaukee and Chicago. I think the Kings will beat either the Wolves or the Bucks on the road, and lose to the Bulls (again). That’s 1-2. If you haven’t counted, I think the Kings will have a record of 3-7 up until this point. And that’s only up to the 21st of December. We still have some ways to go.

2 days before Fah-La-La time, the CrabDribblers come into town. I’m not crazy enough to think that’s a win. Then, the day after Fah-La-La time, the Lakers come into town. Again, do you think I’m going to predict a repeat of Arco magic from a year ago? Nein, as the saying goes.

Then the Kings end up with a victory vs Philly on the 30th of December, or 5 days after Fa-La-La time. 4-9 is not the record of champions, and the Kings have 4 back to backs (b2b) during the month of December. Up until now, the Kings have had 2. The first set was in October. The second was a week & half ago during the b2b at Dallas & Houston. As I said, the Kings have had a soft schedule.

It’s not so much I don’t fear the opponents, but young teams don’t historically win a lot on the road. The Kings have 7 road games during the month and the Kings had 7 road games in Oct/Nov combined.

As Section 214 mentioned in his preview of the season, he saw December as the killer. Hat’s off sir. I frankly also would recommend a re-reading of the Transportation Bandwagon piece if you have not read it. (It may be 214’s finest piece of writing. Which is saying something.) As such, I wanted to highlight this point:

The Beno Udrih Bandwagon This one has provided a sometimes jerky ride. The biggest problem seems to be that we can’t get it to run consistently. And if it starts cold, it never warms up. This wagon has gotten progressively emptier over the past couple of years, though it has not reached the proportions of the Warriors’ Stepehen Jackson Bandwagon, which has been evacuated and roped off until a hazmat team can arrive.

It’s pretty amazing, but that was most people’s view of Beno Udrih. (Maybe everyone but Beno Udrih. Or, Paul Westphal to an extent.)

So the question is, if the Kings go 4-12 in the month of December, is Paul Westphal still a good coach? I mean, how can anybody coach a losing team and be considered a quality head coach in the NBA? It’s all about winning, dammit!

So, while I see a losing month(s) ahead for the Kings, I also see Paul Westphal doing a better than advertised job. Like players, coaches do things that do not always show up in the box score, and Paul Westphal is squarely a part of that category hell or high water.

I’m a fan of the Kings so I want to make this clear: I’m not rooting for the Kings to lose, and a small tiny part of me that doesn’t really care will tell you that. But an even bigger part of me knows that this is a process; a process that can galvanize, distract, or even misle the best of intentions towards liking this Kings team. I never predicted good things for this team because I couldn’t stand to be disappointed yet again. (I only predicted 25-35 wins last year. Which should tell you how disappointed I was with last season.)

My hope is that people aren’t high on Paul Westphal because the Kings are just winning more games than losing at the moment (9-8). My hope is that Paul Westphal has changed the status quo, and thus people are happy with little progress here & there. There are very few teams (the 07-08 Celtics being the real exception as they changed their whole roster from the season prior) that get younger and immediately improve their team in the wins the next season. When that happens, you usually are getting a Michael Jordan/Shaquille O’Neal type player when you do.

I’ve been thrilled with Paul Westphal throughout the time he has been a head coach. It was interesting to see how much input he had in drafting Tyreke Evans, and it was even more interesting to see how he handled Summer League and the September workout’s. All in all, he has been everything the Kings have needed as a head coach up to this point. While most fan’s (including myself) judge improvement in the wins/losses column, I don’t think there is any danger that this Kings team doesn’t improve on 17 wins. The bar doesn’t have to be set that high on the improvement tip when the bar is so low.

What I’ve always wanted, and will continue to want despite the tough stretch of games coming up, is effort every night. Effort, intensity, and what not. I can’t expect this team to play intelligently every possession of the game. It’s just flat out unrealistic, and you know those elephants? They’re stampin me to be pragmatic, yo. Pragmatism says that the Kings were barely a .500 team despite a soft schedule, and that a rough schedule will see this team lose quite a bit more games. So, is Paul Westphal a genius or a goat if that happens? I’ve been impressed, though, with the intention that winning is always the goal.

What do you do when you’re the Wolves, for instance, and every young player knows that playing time is more important than winning? How do you build a winning culture out of that environment?

I still say Paul Westphal is what you hired him to be: A calm patient practitioner of basketball philosophy who will demand effort, intensity and intelligent play. The coaching staff, a calm cohesive unit of lifetime basketball man who care deeply about the game, will aid him in such an effort.

“First, you have to learn how to compete in this league. Then you have to learn how to win.” — Paul Westphal

The Kings have learned how to compete, and sans the Grizzlies game at Memphis and the egg laid at OKC opening night, this young team has done just that. (Nothing is every 100% anything. Even the Lakers lose games they shouldn’t lose.) They’ve competed, hustled, and generally made people think twice about the quality of this roster both this season, and beyond this season. As the general national opinion of this team will change, more positive opinion will come in just as the toughest parts of the schedule kick in. Ain’t that always the way…..

In the NBA, competing is the first step. It’s not always easy to get to that point every night, but when you have the roster for it, you can accomplish such a mission. But, compared to winning, competing in the NBA is like snatching candy out of a baby’s mouth. Piece of cake.

Personally, I think to hype Paul Westphal over a winning record up to this point simply means you’re only judging Paul Westphal by wins & losses this season. I have always planned to judge Paul Westphal based on this criteria:

* Tyreke Evans developing as a leader, play maker (although less so on that), and effective 2 way player. A+ on all counts. Most of that grade goes to Tyreke, btw.

* How effective could Donte Greene and Omri Casspi could be based on the face of the season. At the beginning of pre-season, Omri received his lucky break. 5 games into the regular season, Donte received his lucky break. Both have taken full fledged advantage despite the up & downs each have shown to this point. I give an A+ given the circumstances and expectations I have for both. What thrills me more than anything is the versatility, variety of skills, and competitiveness each have shown. This is akin to your Golden Goose laying a 2 lbs egg instead of the typical 1.5 lbs egg you’re accustomed to getting.

* Jason Thompson has really played well with Tyreke Evans. While I’m not convinced he’s All-Star quality, there are many nights where I’m convinced he very well could be. It appears I’m going to have do a double take. And, nobody is happier than I am about such a development. JT is one of the quality young players in this league (both on & off).

* Despite Spencer Hawes slow start to the season, he has come out of his shell multiple times and started to shoot the ball better recently. If the Kings are to have a quality month in December, Hawes must come up big consistently. A tall order given his history. Still, Paul Westphal has continue to preach to young Spence must keep shooting despite the misses. That is A+ in my book.

* Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia are getting INC’s for obvious reason’s.

* The handling of Ime Udoka, Sergio Rodriguez, Beno Udrih, Kenny Thomas, Desmond Mason and Sean May has been superb. Every player on that list has given a chance to contribute, and in many cases have (May & Mason having done the least). I appreciate that Paul Westphal doesn’t set his rotations from half to half, let alone game to game, and I think that expectation has helped players realize that every minute of playing time is beset on the expectation of a contribution.

* I have always been thrilled with Paul Westphal’s attitude as he seems chipper after wins, and less morose than Rick Adelman after losses. It’s like every win is a bonus and every loss is a bit what he expected early on. My hope is that despite the initial success this team has had, it doesn’t change expectations of the front office/ownership and the fanbase. It’s really difficult to adjust the curve unless you’re unrealistic. Which, by the way, I think the Maloof’s, in particular, were the past several seasons. As such, I give PW an A+ for attitude after wins, and losses.

Last but not least, my favorite part of this season has been seeing the expectations and unity of a coaching staff. Every time I hear Truck Robinson talk, it’s about basketball. If he’s quoted in the paper, he’s sending a message to his players. Every time Paul Westphal is holding a presser, he’s sending a message. Mario Elie isn’t mincing words in the multiple interviews he does (usually on game day’s), but at the same time he’s also been very effective in relaying the internal message of the coaching staff/organization to the players and simultaneously to the fanbase. If you can’t be overjoyed by such a thing, something the Maloof’s made a priority after the Adelman decision to not re-up him, I don’t know what I can do to convince you. You clearly have different expectations. This isn’t Reggie Theus figuring out ways to win during a softer portion of the schedule with a key injury to Ron Artest here or Kevin Martin there. This is a young, rebuilding team that has exceeded expectations of some (like me). With a smart basketball management team, a competent, intelligent and committed coaching staff, and versatile, high end quality young talent, this Kings team has a future. But, that doesn’t mean they won’t lose a lot of games in December. Let’s keep that in mind as the frustation mounts this month, eh?

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Responses

  1. […] I respect Paul Westphal greatly. That is pretty much it. What can I say that I haven’t said ad nauseam already? I thought this quote was telling by PW: “On one hand I’m real happy our young […]


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