Westphal swamped by the tide

January 5, 2012, 11:35 pm
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EDITOR'S NOTE: The Kings formally announced the hiring of Keith Smart as head coach, hours after the firing of Paul Westphal was made public and shortly before this column was filed.

Without knowing the secret workings of the Sacramento Kings, it is hard to know just how it is that they decided to fire head coach Paul Westphal Thursday.

Then again, the problem with the Kings is that so few people care about their secret workings. Even after DaMarcus Cousins either did or didnt demand a trade, the Kings have been impervious to the watchful eye of the NBAs thought-makers and opinion-ratcheters.

In fact, they are dramatically less visible than the Warriors nationally, and thats saying something.

But Westphal got red-carded Thursday after the second-fewest number of games since the NBA-ABA merger for what seems from a distance to be the teams monumentally bad results, and evidence that most of the players have already asked the waiter for the check and the valet to bring the car around.
RELATED: Kings fire Westphal after seven games

They are loaded with guards who like to shoot and dont like to prevent others from shooting, which makes them like the Warriors. Their five losses, the most recent of which was to Denver by the sprightly score of 110-83, have been by an average score of 109-89.

And this is after winning the home opener against the Lakers and causing the nation to declare the Lakers dead, rather than enthusing over the resurgent Kings, as the pundits have seemed to do with the still-mediocre Minnesota Timberwolves.

In short, the season is short, the enthusiasm over the sellouts for the Lakers and Bulls has dissipated, there is still the matter of a new arena to be hassled over, and the Maloofs cant sit back and take their usual zen approach.

RELATED: Cousins says he never demanded a trade

So Westphal, who drew a line in the sand over Cousins, has apparently been swamped by the ensuing tide. And Keith Smart, the former Warrior head coach who fell shamefully short last year in the one area that mattered most -- being Joe Lacobs guy -- happened to be in the building. And apparently, at least according to Kings beat writer Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, Cousins and Tyreke Evans seem to be fond of Smart.

Now there is also a notion that Westphals reaction to Cousins might have been way in the over- category, and its always easier to move a coach than a high draft pick, but as we have seen with the Warriors over the years, a misshapen roster is hard to change. And even allowing for the fact that general manager Geoff Petrie is nobodys dunce and has been working with both hands and one foot tied behind his back, this is a problem.

It is the same problem the Warriors have had, and all the Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul and now Dwight Howard rumors dont dispel the central truth -- that even if Stephen Currys ankle werent made of snack cakes, the Warriors wouldnt be a functional NBA playoff-quality team. Bad rosters on non-fashionable teams are hard to make good without a great deal of draft luck.

It helps explain why the Warriors have had such coaching instability (14 coaches in 25 years, 10 by Don Nelson alone). The Kings have had 13 in 25 years, and eight of those years were taken up by Rick Adelman. As a point of further comparison, the Kings have made the playoffs 10 times in those 25 years, the Warriors six, but the Kings had a nine-year run, mostly with Adelman in the saddle, which means there were lean times on either side.

But the Warriors just had the fire-the-coach festival, and the Kings are doing theirs now. What changes? Probably very little, as Smart can surely attest.

But if Smart gets the Kings to play as hard as he convinced the Warriors to do last year before being uncoupled by the Lacob Laser, the Kings will at least cut down on that margin of defeat stat. And if not . . . well, things have been so hard in the capital that nobody will notice whether he made them incrementally worse or incrementally better.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.