Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins issued an apology Wednesday afternoon following a profanity-laced tirade directed toward coach George Karl after Monday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
League sources, who did not wish to be identified because they did not have authority to speak on the matter, said Karl wanted to suspend Cousins for two games. General manager Vlade Divac, however, said the coach did not have the authority to do so and would not grant permission, according to the sources.
Cousins, who returned Monday night after missing the previous four games with an Achilles’ strain, was in the starting lineup on Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons.
“It’s no secret that we are all frustrated by losing – me more than anyone,” Cousins said in a prepared statement to Yahoo’s Marc Spears, who posted it on his Twitter account. “I let my frustrations get the best of me in the locker room following the loss to San Antonio – that is my bad. For the record, my frustration is not about any one person or player or coach. There is no one to blame. All of us is accountable. My frustration is that we are 1-7, simple as that.”
With Monday’s postgame tirade still unknown to the media, a visibly frustrated Cousins expressed concerns to reporters about the Kings’ worst start in his sixth season with the team and said a players-only meeting was necessary. Instead, Divac called the players in early Tuesday before practice and held a team meeting that included the players, coaching staff and front office.
After Tuesday’s practice, Divac and players who spoke on the matter said the meeting was healthy and the team needed to remain united and continue to play hard.
Before Wednesday’s game against the Pistons, Karl expressed frustration that his request to have Cousins suspended for two games was leaked.
“I’m not going to comment on what happened in the meeting, that’s family stuff and it stays in the family,” Karl said. “That (keeping what was said in Monday’s meeting private) was discussed. But I think, you know, we live in a crazy world.”
Along with the Kings’ worst start since the 1990-91 season, when Sacramento started 1-13, Karl has become more scrutinized, especially by NBA observers who question whether he has the stamina to endure an 82-game regular season. Karl doesn’t run up and down the sidelines raising ruckus. Associate coach Chad Iske is the loudest voice players hear from the sidelines during games.
It’s something people inside and outside the organization have expressed concern over privately, wondering if Karl’s health and energy will hold up.
At age 64, however, Karl isn’t talking like a man ready for retirement.
“I think that’s crazy,” Karl said after Wednesday morning’s shootaround. “I think I have more energy now than I’ve ever had. I’m the lightest I’ve ever been, I eat better than I’ve ever eaten. I feel great.
“My style of coaching has gone (to where) after my second cancer, I delegate a lot more. But I believe in that and I think it’s starting to work at a high, high level.”
Karl will need that energy as he tries to lead the Kings, who lost six in a row entering Wednesday’s game at Sleep Train Arena against
the Detroit Pistons, who were off to a competitive start in the Eastern Conference at 5-2.
Karl said he has to remember to be patient.
“You’re building a team, you’ve got 10 new faces. You’re trying to build a culture and an energy that’s different,” Karl said. “You think it’s going to happen in seven games? Do you really think it’s going to happen in seven games?”
Added Karl: “And it’s not a light switch. It’s a little bit better tonight, a little bit better the next three games, and then you get stronger on the road trip. It’s a process; it’s not like a light switch.”
Karl said the Tuesday meeting was productive because it allowed players to address their concerns and he was able to express his with them. But he also said there would be no quick fix. He said the Kings have shown positives but must be more fundamentally sound.
“A meeting and a shootaround, you’re not going to change a lot,” Karl said. “I think the change has been listening to what’s frustrating them and them listening to what’s frustrating me. We might have talked about five to 10 things. You think you’re going to change all 10 of them today? You might get three or four done and tomorrow you might get one or two done, and two weeks from now, after a few wins, everything is going to be better.”
Players’ frustrations over Karl’s style have become apparent during the Kings’ slump. They statistically rank among the worst defensive teams in the NBA, leading to questions over the scheme while coaches question the effort of the players.
“I think we’re all trying to make it better,” Karl said. “There’s always a feeling of, ‘What the hell’s going on? What do you want me to do here?’ There’s always questions early in the season. I’m ready to go and I think they will be, too.”
As long as the Kings are losing, questions will persist about whether the players have bought in to Karl’s plan. Karl said he’s not going to try to read players’ minds to decipher their level of commitment.
“I’m not a big believer in the psychology of other people,” Karl said. “You know more about yourself than you know about other people. Interpreting other people, that’s not my job. My job is to inspire and motivate.”
So what can fix the Kings? Winning would help a lot.
“I’m a big believer winning is the best coach in basketball and losing is the worst coach in basketball,” Karl said.