During the post-game press conference following his team’s loss to the Golden
State Warriors on Tuesday night, Sacramento Kings Coach Paul Westphal looked
He looked tired as he tried to explain the meltdown to reporters.
He looked shell-shocked as he attempted to make sense of his team’s inability to
close out games in the fourth quarter.
The loss to the Warriors was
particularly bad, as the Kings held a 92-76 lead before committing 10 turnovers
in the fourth quarter – more than they had in the first three combined –
allowing Golden State to crawl back into the contest.
This was the same
Golden State team that had lost 14 of 16 games and had only won three road games
all season. It was the same Golden State team that came in tired after playing
the night before.
Even after the lead evaporated to five points with
under a minute remaining, the game should have been sealed. Westphal looked
defeated as he explained that “999 times out of 1,000” the game is over at that
point – that this was that, “one time.”
After the referees went over to
the scorer’s table to review a call, Westphal motioned his players over, smartly
seeing the delay in action as an opportunity to draw up a play.
Warriors immediately went over to coach Keith Smart, a few Kings players
straggled over to Westphal. He motioned again and a couple more came off the
bench, until they were all gathered around him. The scene was
With two seconds remaining and a three-point lead, the Kings
defenders all ran to cover Golden State players under the basket, seemingly
forgetting that only a three-point shot could hurt them. Vladimir Radmonavic was
left open at the top of the key, where he hit a 27-foot three-pointer to beat
the buzzer and send the game to overtime.
The Warriors outscored the
Kings 15-7 in the extra period to seal the victory and send Sacramento to the
locker room searching for answers, following yet another loss.
about morale in the locker room following the game, Westphal responded, “There’s
a line in this league when you think you can’t get any lower, it gets
“As much as it hurts, we have to bounce back.”
is, will Westphal have the chance to help the team bounce back? One season after
being nominated for Coach of the Year honors for leading an inexperienced,
injured Kings team to 25 victories when they had been projected to win 10 games,
the Kings have fallen to a leagueworst 5-21 record.
They have lost six in
a row, seven of eight home games, 14 of 15 games overall…the list goes
Simply stated, the Sacramento Kings are a bad team and they appear to
be getting worse.
Back in the locker room after the fateful press
conference, the team looked deflated. This was more than just a loss, more than
just a series of losses when the team had a chance to win. This was a team that
had learned firsthand that losing can become an epidemic.
Landry said, “It’s the same thing that has been happening, we can’t finish the
When asked about some of the specific issues plaguing the team,
Omri Casspi told the Jerusalem Post, “I’ll tell you one thing, we aren’t winning
right now. That is the bottom line.”
Some players did not speak to the
media. Others looked as if they were somewhere else. One has to wonder,
therefore: Has Paul Westphal lost the Kings? Whether the system is failing
because it is ineffective or because the players are failing to execute it, the
Kings seem to be playing as individuals lacking direction on the
As Casspi put it, “We need to start playing team offense and team
The situation is grim at best, and until President of
Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie makes a roster or personnel change, it will
not get any better.
Tuesday Night’s loss was an especially crushing blow
that for the first time signaled a team in flux. It was the type of loss that
can cost a coach his job, the type of loss that signals the beginning of the
After his press conference, Westphal stepped out of the media room,
paused in front of a column and exhaled deeply while looking to the sky for
answers, before composing himself and heading back towards his team’s locker
From the scene sprung a question that nobody in the locker room was
asking, but everybody knew was present – like an elephant in the room: Is Paul
Westphal the man to lead Sacramento Kings? It is one thing for the media to ask,
another for the fans to raise the question.
Once the players start
asking, the answer is no – the Coach has lost his team.Joseph D. Robbins
is a contributing editor at israelsportsradio.com