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February 25, 2010
On the Beat
Discontent in Sacramento

by John Perrotto

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The Sacramento Kings, for the most part, have been a quiet group this season and done little bickering. However, as the losses have started to mount for what looked to be one of the NBA's surprise teams one-third of the way through the season, the sniping has begun.

The Kings have gone 5-25 since a 13-14 start. Many players believe the losing stems from coach Paul Westphal continually juggling his rotation. This week, rookie guard Tyreke Evans, veteran big man Sean May and third-year center Spencer Hawes all complained to the Sacramento Bee about how Westphal has used 24 different lineups this season.

"All year we've kind of been dealing with that," Hawes said. "When you think you have kind of gotten over that hump, it comes back up again. That's the philosophy, so you've just got to deal with it. Everyone up and down the roster has had a taste of that, so everyone can relate. I think it's kind of tough, the not-knowing part on a game-to-game basis, to get in that rhythm. But that's the way it's going and there's not a whole lot you can do about it."

Westphal wasn't happy that Hawes went public with his critique and made him inactive for Tuesday night's loss to the Pistons. Westphal then responded to the comments after the game.

"I guess he knows his role now," Westphal said. "We have an open door. Everybody knows his role. All you have to do is ask. Anytime, day or night."

Cavaliers-Lakers Not OK with Nelson

Seemingly, everyone wants to see the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant square off in the NBA Finals. ABC would love the ratings, commissioner David Stern would love the attention and the fans would love seeing two all-time greats face off on the NBA's biggest stage.

One person who does not want a Cavaliers/Lakers matchup, though, is Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson. In fact, he finds it insulting that seemingly no one mentions the defending Eastern Conference champions as a possibility of returning to the Finals, where they lost to the Lakers last season.

"You look at the commercials now, and you'd think Cleveland and the Lakers already were in the championship," Nelson said. "I guess that's what the fans want to see but I think we're here to spoil it for the fans."

The Cavaliers and Magic are in line to be the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Orlando beat Cleveland this past Sunday after losing the first two meetings this season. Nelson believes the victory can carry a lot of weight come playoff time.

"We know we can beat them now," he said.

Garnett Doubts Denver

The Denver Nuggets are also complaining a lack of respect after Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett questioned their ability to go the distance. The Nuggets have never been to the Finals, though they lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last season.

"They're good," Garnett said. "They score a lot of points. I don't think the thing about the Nuggets has ever been, 'Are they good enough?' It's about the time of the year, obviously that being playoffs, how much better can they get? That's always been the big question mark when I've ever watched them. I've seen them blow teams out and then, for whatever reason, they'll be totally opposite."

Forward Carmelo Anthony, who loves to complain about how the media supposedly writes off the Nuggets, seemed particularly irked by Garnett's comments.

"We go out there with a chip on our shoulder," Anthony said. "That chip is not going anywhere."

Wallace Defends Gasol Trade

Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace was heavily criticized two years ago for trading center Paul Gasol to the Lakers for the equivalent of table scraps, a package that included Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, the rights to Marc Gasol and first-round draft picks in 2008 and 2010. The trade, though, was simply made with finances in mind as the Grizzles got the final three years and $50 million of Pau Gasol's contract off the books.

Since that trade, the Grizzlies have used the savings and draft picks to acquire eight players currently on their roster: Marc Gasol, Hamed Haddadi, Darrell Arthur, Sam Young, DeMarre Carroll, Zach Randolph, Ronnie Brewer and Lester Hudson.

"I've said all along that I've never lost any sleep over the deal," Wallace said. "As difficult as it was to trade a player like Pau Gasol, and he's gone on to be the impetus for LA winning a championship, that wasn't going to happen here in our situation. We could not get a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James to put around him. It wasn't going anywhere. Changes had to be made. The deal allowed us to get tremendous flexibility. We got back a wide variety of assets and many of them are paying dividends right now. The deal was a win-win for both teams. The Lakers won a title. We have rejuvenated our franchise. We have a bright future in large part because of the assets we got back from that trade."

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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Summer 2010 Preview (02/24)
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Marginal Improvement: (02/25)

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