Clarifying some things with Paul Westphal.

After another tough loss last night, Sacramento Kings Coach Paul Westphal gave some insight into what he feels will be the Kings offensive identity going forward.  The quote has gone national, but unfortunately the question did not.  Here is the question and the answer so you have a slightly broader sense of the conversation:

John Dickinson (KHTK 1140):   Coach, we’ve talked about it and people have asked – should we get the ball to Cousins more, should we get Tyreke shots, even Francisco.  What do you see going forward as the identity of this team on the offensive end?  Is it inside out?  Is it Tyreke?  Is it a combination?  It seems like there are stretches of good in all of that and there have been stretches going away from all of that.

Coach Westphal: Our identity is if we can get out in the open floor and get an early shot, a quick shot, off a miss or off a turnover, we want to do that.  We want to push the ball up the floor, we want to swing it from side-to-side.  If there’s a low post man, we want to throw him the ball and run splits.  We want to swing the ball from side-to-side if there’s not a low post man. We want to give Tyreke chances to slice and cut into the post more or come off pick and rolls.  We want to space the floor.  We want to hit the first open man and then run our sets.  We have basic things that we can run depending on the way that our players are positioned.  We have different keys.  We need to read each other and read those keys.  If the defense takes away one thing, you go backdoor and try to go to the next option.

In case you missed it, Rob Mahoney of the New York Times wrote an analysis piece, breaking down Paul Westphal’s post game comment entitled, Assessing the Kings by Their Own Rubric.  While I am not going to get into a lot of personal opinion on Mahoney’s piece itself, I do feel it was comprehensive and used quality statistical/visual analysis.

I had a chance to ask Coach Westphal some follow-up questions today after practice to allow him to get on record and clarify some of his comments regarding the offense.

TPP: You were forced to scale back the playbook pretty substantially early on.   Do you feel like you’ve been able to filter a little of that back in or is it still pretty scaled down?  A lot of the gripe out there is that the offense looks pretty repetitive every time down the court.

PW: I think we have plenty to choose from if we execute it properly and a lot of the time the simplest things are the best.  If you can learn those and then add the options, that’s a good way to go.  Fundamentals are always important and I think that one of the things that is hurting us right now is the fundamentals.  So as we execute what we have, we’ll add more.

TPP: Where do you go from here to free up Tyreke, to get him back to where he was last year and to get him shots closer to the basket?

PW: I think that so much of it right now with Tyreke, in my opinion, is stamina and conditioning and basketball readiness.  He’s not finishing like he did last year, so the idea to get him more chances to finish is a little bit of a false premise to me.  If he finishes like he did last year, the rest of the improvements in his game will come.  I think that for whatever reason, his performance in the second half of games has been demonstrably different than in the first half of game.  To me, that points to stamina.  The only way you can get good stamina in basketball is to play a lot of basketball.  The only way you can play a lot of basketball is to be healthy enough to play a lot of basketball in practice and games.  That’s where the rub is.  He hasn’t been healthy enough to push himself in the times where you would ordinarily be preparing and so his stamina is lacking.  You can only do so much on the bike or in the pool, there is no substitute for basketball conditioning for your timing and for your confidence.  Right now, at this stage in the season, you can’t just snap your fingers and have more stamina if you didn’t have it yesterday, but I think we will see a gradual improvement as he stays healthy and is able to put the minutes in.

TPP: We are seeing almost every single one of your players at or below their career field goal shooting percentages.  Do you think that it’s a scheme issue or just players needing to hit their shots?  For example, Carl Landry is a career 54.5% shooter and he’s shooting 47% and Dalembert is even worse.

PW: Well, certainly everybody has their own story about how their season has gone.  Sammy battled a lot of injuries and missed all of training camp.  He’s tried to come right in and play without having his legs under him and I don’t think that it’s any surprise that someone has that kind of preseason, it’s going to take a little while to get their shooting percentage up.

Carl is a little bit more mysterious because he hasn’t been battling a major injury, he’s had some back problems, but we’re basically running the same things for him as we did last year.  How do you explain a guy who’s a career 85% free throw shooter, shooting in the 60’s?  It’s a little mysterious with Carl because I don’t think we’re running different things, yet his shooting percentages are down.

We’ve got an epidemic of shooting percentages being down right now and as a player, I know that if I had a few bad games, I’d try to get a couple of easier shots.  I’d try to work harder on the shots that I know I’m getting so that I can knock them down when I get them and we tell our players the same thing.

A lot of times,  if the offense is out of balance where you’re expecting that the defense is going to double team certain things and they stop doing that, it makes it harder for other players to get open shots.  Because a lot of times, players are the beneficiary of a great player that can’t be stopped and the defense tilts and has to stop him and the ball is swung, two passes and you have a wide open shot.  We’re not getting as many wide open shots because we really haven’t demonstrated that we have any unstoppable players right now.

I thought it fair to get Paul Westphal’s perspective on some of these key points.  I asked him some of the questions that are floating out there that people are asking, and as much as he possibly could, I believe he answered them.  You can be satisfied with his answers or not, but he makes a couple of very good points regarding .

The Kings are struggling horribly.  5-20 is an embarrassment.  If there is an answer out there that makes more sense than Paul Westphal, throw it out there and we can discuss it.  But for today, I’m just not sold that changing the coach will get Tyreke Evans healthy, make Carl Landry hit his shots or get the Kings to remember pretty basic fundamentals in crunch time.


About: James Ham

James Ham is the senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news since 2010. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also contributes to and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".