First, the Kings get out to one of their best starts in their existence, have young players make leaps forward, start to change the stigma behind King’s basketball, and THEN, they start to do King’s stuff again. Not to be misinterpreted as good, “King’s Stuff”, in terms of the NBA, is dysfunction, it’s confusing, and it’s quite funny all things considered. So what’s the beef now? Well the beef is between Coach Dave Joerger (who I think has done a fantastic job thus far) and Assistant GM Brandon Williams. Reports came out of Sacramento saying that Joerger dismissed Williams from the team’s shoot-around Thursday before their game at home against the Clippers. This rift between the two isn’t relatively new and was addressed for the first time publicly about two weeks ago. They haven’t been seeing eye to eye on the minutes’ distribution for their young players and this has caused some issues. The punch line to this is that Joerger could be on his way out, sooner rather than later.
The front office has been clamoring for a move to send Marvin Bagley III into the starting lineup. Nemanja Bjelica has started every single game this season, and while he’s been solid (11.2/5.6/2.0 on 54.3/51.5/75.9 shooting), they drafted Bagley 2nd overall and would like to see him start alongside other young building blocks like De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. On top of that, Skal Labissiere (5.7 mins 7 games played) and Harry Giles (10.7 mins 17 games played) have been riding the pine. They drafted both expecting them to be pieces of their future and thus far, they’ve just collected a lot of dust. Kings front office members envisioned this season as a season of development but Joerger has been coaching to win. It’s the good ole scenario where “the team wants to develop young players but the coach wants to win” and so far it’s caused problems internally.
The reason this is all so detrimental is because things were going great for this team. For the first time, since they drafted Boogie, it seemed as though they had a plan and a bright future on top of that. For a team who has eclipsed the 35-win mark once since the 2005-06 season, this news is troubling. Most of their issues through the years weren’t the fault of their players, but the fault of their management. In seven seasons with DeMarcus Cousins they failed to do anything to give him any sort of help. He had 6 different coaches in that time frame and was labeled a “problem” even though the real issue was behind the scenes. He never was given a chance to succeed, let alone any sort of stability in the organization. Winning is hard and there has to be a commitment to that from the top all the way down. The Kings didn’t have this when they wasted the early 20s of Cousins, and while they’re showing promise as a team, it doesn’t seem like they have that now.
Why this should be considered big news in Sacramento is because of the possible fallout of this rift. Cousins had to deal with all of these different coaches and now they’re thinking of ousting another. With such a young team franchise stability is everything. Joerger is one of the better coaches the league has to offer and so far it’s seems like his players love him. They play hard for him and he’s starting to unlock the potential of not only Fox (17.4/4.0/7.6 on 47.1/38.5/69.2 shooting) and Hield (18.4/4.4/5.6 on 47.8/42.5/83.3 shooting) but Willie Cauley-Stein as well. WCS has been a beast so far this season (14.6 pts 8.2 rebs) and is starting to become the rim-running center the Kings envisioned him being. He works perfectly off of Fox and they’ve had some thunderous alley-oops to start the year. Backtracking to Fox, he’s been unbelievable to start the season (Check out Eric’s story earlier in the year on Fox) and looks as good as advertised after an up and down rookie season. His aggressiveness/energy, mixed with his ability to pass/score at a high level has been a god sent for the Kings. Joerger has worked to get this out of Fox and it’s paying off so far.
Who knows what a coaching change would do for their young player’s psyche, but I don’t think it would be good. On top of that, do we really expect the Kings to hire ANOTHER good coach after hiring Joerger 3 seasons ago? I for one, with utmost confidence in saying so, do not. Whatever Joerger is doing, it’s working, and it’d be smart to just ride the wave instead of overreacting to rookie minutes. The front office getting involved with coaching decisions is never a positive thing. It creates this discord and makes for a really uncomfortable situation all the way around. You pay your coaches to coach, LET THEM COACH.
My main point here is this: I get that the front office wants to develop their young talent (who wouldn’t want to do that) but what Joerger has done with this team so far has been special. It outweighs the perceived detriment of not playing the young guys. Half of winning is building the culture of winning and they’re starting to do that. They’re not an easy team to beat night in and night out and they’re starting to mold their style of play and who they are as a team. If Bagley/Labissiere/Giles don’t play well enough in practice to deserve more minutes why should they get them? Part of a winning culture is having everything be earned and the fact that Joerger is sticking to his guns would make me psyched as a Kings fan (the fact that they might want to fire him would not). In the 10+ years they’ve been absent from the postseason they’ve tried to “develop” their young guys and haven’t hit on any. That’s because they didn’t earn their playing time and the Kings expected everything to just fall into place by playing them big minutes off the bat. It hasn’t worked and the fact that Joerger is doing something different is what the difference is this season. While it is the Kings and they’re known to be stupid, Joerger being fired wouldn’t surprise me. All I’m saying is that maybe they should just let things play out and see what Joerger can bring out of this upstart franchise before making a rash decision without thinking.
Photo: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
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