There is a certain awkwardness to asking an NBA coach about internal strife. It seems to take a delicate touch and even then, you never know where the conversation will go. Today, after the standard media session following practice, myself and the Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones hung around to get a little bit more information on the alleged melt-down between Coach Paul Westphal and star Tyreke Evans following Monday night’s loss to the Utah Jazz. Here is that discussion, with the disclaimer that the first question regarding the incident was asked by Jason Jones and has been omitted as the noise in the gym caused his question to be unclear on the tape.
Westphal: If I wanted to broadcast my comments to the players, we would open up our post game meeting and open up our practices. I would say that just because there are people talking about it, Tyreke and I have a great relationship and I don’t think he likes everything I say and I don’t think I like everything he does, but I thought he had a great game last night. I thought we turned the ball over too much. There were several players that did turn the ball over in a way that is not fundamentally sound, and that is what I was talking about after the game and I really don’t have any belief that there is anything that Tyreke took offense to that I said that would linger beyond what it would linger with anybody who hears, that it would be nice if they did something different in a certain situation. It’s just another day of coaching really, it’s no big deal.
JH: In a situation like last night- whatever happened, would you prefer that Evans and Cousins stick around, knowing that they are the “stars” as opposed to leaving Casspi and Dalembert to answer for the loss?
Coach Westphal: I wasn’t aware that anyone left early and I think that if- and it happens to everybody- if there is a night when you feel like it would be better if you didn’t talk to the media, I don’t think that’s a crime against humanity. On the other hand, we get paid to take praise and criticism and deal with both of them. In general, that is what we should do. In Tyreke’s case, one time in 130 games or something like that, I wouldn’t take that as a big deal.
JH: After watching back the last couple of seconds from last night, there isn’t anything I could really see that your team could have or should have done differently. After watching the tape back, do you feel that way too?
Coach Westphal: I was glad we got a shot and we got a shot for our best three point shooter. He said it slipped; I’ll tell him next time you get that shot in that situation, try not to have it slip. What else are you supposed to say? When you have to have a three, and the defense is switching everything because they know you have to have a three, the percentages go way down and there is no way around that. Sometimes you are either the victim of a miracle shot or the recipient of a miracle shot, but in a situation like that, it usually comes down to a shot that is going to be made under duress, and it’s going to be a high degree of difficulty unless the defense really breaks down.
JH: I know that Casspi is probably going to be here for a while as part of your core – how important is it that he get those shots in crunch time for his growth?
Coach Westphal: I think Omri is a good clutch shooter. He has made a lot of clutch shots for us. He’ll make his share in the future. That was a tough shot right there and I think that probably, there is a lot of unnecessary focus on a more or less desperation play.
Tyreke Evans came out and answered a few questions as well, following the tough loss and what is now appearing to be a minor incident. Although he wasn’t very willing to discuss what happened behind closed doors, he did express some frustration over the loss. Again, Jason Jones was present for this discussion and asked a nice question to kick off the session.
Jason Jones: The whole time you’ve been here, we’ve never seen you leave after a game like that. Is that the angriest you’ve been after a game since you’ve been here?
Tyreke Evans: I was a little frustrated. I thought we had the game last night. We had them the whole game, and in the end we let it get away from us and I thought that was a game we should have had. To be a good team, we can’t let those games slip away.
So there you have it. What appeared to be a story, has fizzled before our eyes. According to the Coach, he and Evans are fine, frustrated with another loss, but fine.
The Kings are now 2-3 after the first five games of an absolutely brutal 12 game stretch. Dallas is in town Wednesday night, with Oklahoma City to follow on Saturday. A win against either team would be impressive, leading into a five game road trip that includes Phoenix, both Oklahoma City and Dallas again, followed by Orlando and the Miami Heat.