Paul Westphal reacts…on the record and unplugged.
Following the Sacramento Kings’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Coach Paul Westphal got a little snarky with his post game comments to the media. Something about his comments made me laugh, and more than that, made me think that maybe Coach had a little bit more to say on the subject. Here is the salty Paul Westphal, ready to clear the air about the week that just never seems to end for the Sacramento Kings.
JH: After seeing the quotes from your post game press conference tonight, it seems like you might have been reading some of the national media work the last 72 hours or so.
Coach Westphal: Yeah, it really does get irritating after a while. Somebody speculates in some early blog and the next thing you know, it become gospel and they are reporting it and writing articles ripping us over things they don’t know anything about and it gets just a little bit old.
JH: You had to expect that a game like this (30 point loss in OKC) was coming with all the emotions of the week and with Evans out – how are the players responding in your eyes?
Coach Westphal: Nobody liked it tonight. We got so far behind so quickly that it just hit us. I always say that when a game like this happens, just flush it. You have to forget about it and move on to the next game.
JH: How are you handling the Cousins situation? The report from Grant (Napear) is that you guys had a long talk last night. How are you bringing him back into the fold?
Coach Westphal: We know that DeMarcus can be explosive- he knows it and he’s working on it. I thought he was progressing extremely well, but obviously this incident was a step backwards. But he calmed down and he understands the necessity of what had to happen as a result of the incident. He’s made all the proper amends and he’s ready to move forward. I thought that he handled things extremely well with the team today. I thought he played very well. It’s something you can’t say didn’t happen, but it’s in the past as far as everybody’s concerned, as far as I can tell, except for the people that live on tearing people down. They never let it go, but that’s one of the reasons I reacted the way I did in the post game press conference.
JH: How hard is it for you to punish a player like this knowing that you are really punishing the team as well with how Cousins has played as late?
Coach Westphal: I don’t necessarily look at punishment and discipline as the same things. I would call this disciplining more than punishing and it’s very important for the good of the team that proper discipline is enforced. Whatever short-term detriment there is for enforcing proper discipline, I think gives long term benefit for not just the individual but the whole unit. There has to be some lines that are drawn and once you know and understand that those lines do exists, it makes the whole team stronger.
JH: A lot has been made of the confrontation on the plane with Francisco Garcia, without getting into specifics….
Coach Westphal: Let me stop you right there. Confrontation- it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ll tell you exactly what happened. After the game, there is like an hour for guys to shower and get their things together and drive to the plane and pass through security and board the plane- the same goes for the coaches. After this game (OKC), Geoff (Petrie) was in New York and I had to call Geoff and let him know what happened. So Geoff and I were discussing what to do while the players where getting ready and driving to the plane. After I did the press conference, filled him in on everything, we decided together that there is no way that DeMarcus should be getting on that plane. So we decided we needed to call our security guy Joe (Nolan) and make sure that he informed DeMarcus that he’s not going to be traveling with us on this flight because we have to take care of this matter now.
So Geoff and I talked about how we would inform DeMarcus and I said, “I don’t have Joe’s number,”and he said, “I have it, I’ll call Joe and tell him to make sure that if DeMarcus isn’t on the plane then doesn’t get on and if he is on, then have him get off.” That’s exactly what happened. There was no confrontation. What happened was, when Cisco saw that DeMarcus wasn’t on the plane, he went over by the security gate and said “what’s going on?” and he was told that because of the incident, DeMarcus wouldn’t be traveling with the team so he went over to DeMarcus and told him to hang in there.
There was no confrontation, he was going over to DeMarcus to support his teammate. That’s all that happened. It’s just unbelievable that anything was made of that. You just wonder how the media or bloggers got a hold of anything and how it’s processed. It’s incredible that going over to your teammate, that’s not traveling, and telling him to hang in there, has now been turned into a mutiny.
The convoluted thinking of all this now reflects poorly on Tyreke Evans, who, all he is doing is playing some great basketball despite having this foot issue that’s been bothering him all year. There’s such an agenda to disrupt the unity of our team and if Ricky Rubio was out there, we wouldn’t be hearing the type of fabrications that are thrown our way. It really is so irresponsible that it makes you sick.
JH: I know the guys like each other, I’ve seen them out there, but do you think that something like this can actually help a team where maybe some things needed to be said? Obviously you don’t want players punching each other, but do you think these things can be good because you’ve been around the NBA for a long time and I’m sure you’ve seen some fights that maybe needed to happen in the past.
Coach Westphal: I think we can get past this and it can make us stronger, but to say it was good, I wish it never happened. I think that if Tyreke’s shot would have gone in, we wouldn’t have needed a plane to get to Phoenix and none of this would have happened. So I don’t think it needed to happen, but at the same time, I think that tough times can make a team stronger if they react to the tough times properly. I don’t see any lingering side effects between DeMarcus and Donté whatsoever. I think a lot of players can learn how to speak to each better through this incident, so I think it can help if the players will learn a lesson and I think it’s a teachable moment.
JH: How are you balancing these two young developing stars? You have one guy in DeMarcus Cousins who has a really big voice – he’s loud and boisterous, while Evans is really more of an introvert. Is that dynamic working in the locker room?
Coach Westphal: I think that Tyreke is starting to be a little more vocal. You would never call him vocal, but he’s starting to show a little more personality in the locker room. And I think that DeMarcus is starting to understand the value of understatement a little bit more than he ever has. It’s funny, I think they are both drifting towards each other instead of going in different directions as far as their voice in the locker room.
JH: One last question about Tyreke’s health. With his plantar fasciitis flaring up, do you expect him to miss the Dallas game or possibly even All-Star weekend?
Coach Westphal: Anything that I would say would be a pure guess. We didn’t know he wasn’t going to play tonight until one minute before our pre-game meeting and we really had to adjust on the fly. It just depends on how he feels. It has been getting worse the last few games. Pete (Youngman) the trainer can feel a knot in there, so there is concern that the treatment that he has been taking is not the solution. We will wait and see how he feels tomorrow. I would say he is doubtful, but it’s not impossible that he could play tomorrow and therefore on Saturday, but we just really don’t know.
So there you have it. Paul Westphal, the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, setting the record straight on a myriad of topics, from the team hotel in Dallas, Texas. Obviously there are certain things that are off limits, like the play-by-play of the actual altercation in the locker room between Cousins and Greene, but Westphal addressed almost everything else and more. Many sides of this situation have been covered, so it is only fair that Westphal and the Kings should be allowed representation as well.