George Karl brings in one of his guys to help out
The Sacramento Kings didn’t set the world on fire at the NBA trade deadline. They made one simple trade that on paper, looks minimal at best.
In case you missed it, Sacramento dealt reserve guard Ramon Sessions to the Washington Wizards for 38-year-old Andre Miller. To say that Miller is long in the tooth by NBA standards is an understatement. The 16-year veteran has logged more than 41,000 minutes between the regular season and playoffs.
While newly hired head coach George Karl couldn’t speak on the acquisition due to NBA rules, it is clear that he is extremely excited to have another reliable veteran off the bench that he is familiar with.
Miller joins Reggie Evans as the second former Nugget on the Kings roster. The duo have combined to play over 2,000 regular season games in their careers, and with the Kings bench in a funk, Karl will likely turn to what he knows.
The Kings’ second unit has been a disaster all season. Sessions lost his NBA mojo and playing time to second-year guard Ray McCallum. Injuries and ineffective play from the bench have cost the team time and time again.
“My feeling when I watch the team play and statistics and all the analytics, our bench was really kind of lost, I guess would be the best term,” Karl said following practice on Thursday. “I think I have to figure that out, because I like the bench being a factor, I like the bench being engaged and having a personality to help your team.”
There is no rhyme or reason for the struggles. Carl Landry has been an anchor, but statically speaking, he is below average for a first option off the bench. Omri Casspi has had bright spots, but inconsistent minutes have led to inconsistent play. McCallum is young, Nik Stauskas is younger and Derrick Williams has yet to live up to his second overall pick stature.
“It’s everything,” Karl said when asked about what ails the bench. “It’s confidence, it’s combinations, there’s a veteran leadership mentality (that has been missing). I think the bench has kind of been rudderless a little bit, maybe too young in some ways.”
That is where Miller comes in. Despite his age, the former University of Utah star has an innate ability to lead and to make others around him better. He may not be able to log 30 minutes a night any longer, but what he can do is translate Karl’s system to young players and be a coach on the floor.
“I’m a big veteran guy,” Karl said. “I really think you have to have a balance of young and old and in between. I definitely think young guys can be mentored by older guys, more professional guys that have gone through the professional hurdles of the NBA.”
Karl has faith in the Kings roster, at least right now. The veteran coach gave this message to the players this week: “You have enough talent and skills to win basketball games, you just have to get the confidence and continuity and commitment to one another to get it done.”
The Kings need leaders. They need players who give a consistent effort and play team oriented ball. Karl has a set of principles that he has brought from his college days playing with the late great Dean Smith. He has a system that is time-tested and led to 1,131 career wins, and he hopes that Miller can help ease the transition. If the players buy in, he has a chance to turn this franchise around.