Westphal feels the struggle of coaching a young, fledgling team
After beginning the season 3-1, winning their first road opener in a decade, the Kings looked like a new team reinvigorated by the off-season. But have since lost to the Los Angeles, Memphis and Minneapolis.
The things that had worked in their first few games were nowhere to be found in the past few games.
The Kings are usually a pretty good matchup for the Lakers and it was a fairly close game for most of the night.
Memphis has given them fits since last season, as the Kings have struggled against Gasol, Randolph and a plethora of athletic wing players and guards.
Then, there was last night. Michael Beasley showed why he was a second overall draft pick two years ago.
The man simply exploded.
The Kings threw several players at him, but nothing seemed to slow him down.
A few key weaknesses were exploited last night—Beno's defense or lack thereof, the Kings defense at the three position and post play that has been scant and scattered.
The one constant as been Darnell Jackson, who has been very solid in nearly every appearance he's made this season.
Since it's still very early in the season, perhaps the Kings are trying to figure out just what will work?
Either way, there is no reason to panic yet. But, there are some strange things happening in the Westphal game plan that I intend to explore in a Monday Morning Quarterback sort of way.
Dalembert will be key to the Kings improved defensive presence
The Kings are a strange case, as they have been one of the worst defensive teams this season. At times they show they can play some very good D and force mistakes, but it only comes in spurts.
With the added presence in the post it looked as if the Kings would be a tougher defensive team, especially at the rim. But, so far, this has proven to be only half true.
With the addition of Dalembert, Cousins, and Whiteside the Kings looked to be turning over a new leaf with interior D. Dalembert has been solid, and Jackson and been a pleasant surprise, but Whiteside has only played a few minutes and Cousins has struggled to stay on the court due to foul problems.
Even more concerning has been the perimeter defense, which has been shaky to say the least.
Casspi is the most motivated defender, but makes mental mistakes and lacks lateral quickness against many more athletic guards.
Garcia also has this problem, which is why the Kings play him at the two more than the three, where his size can compensate for his lack of speed.
Finally, Donte Greene cannot manage to get off the bench, which has been a peculiar situation.
To say the least, the Kings defense has been less than expected, and something that must be corrected soon. There is no excuse for the lack of drive with the kind of protection the Kings have at the rim.
Thompson is at a major disadvantage playing against threes, like Barnes.
Pretty simple concept to grasp here, stop playing him at the three.
Thompson thrives in the mid-range where he is being played by a traditional four. Though he settles to shoot far too often, when he does put the ball on the deck and attacks the basket, he gets by his defender more times than not and scores.
With his ball handling skills, size, athleticism, and knack for passing, Thompson is a great mismatch against many post players.
Although he may have the qualities of a small forward, he is not one.
Plain and simple.
Watching him get worked by Rudy Gay for a better part of the third quarter was torture. He can't guard players with that kind of size and athleticism.
The Kings have plenty of wing players (Casspi, Garcia, Greene) and some nice combo guards (Udrih, Head, Evans), we don't need to add another perimeter player to the mix. Especially one that isn't really a perimeter player.
Thompson has had a difficult time getting some play in the post this season with the recent arrivals of Dalembert and Cousins, and Jackson's surprising play.
Thompson brings scrappy rebounding and a big body that moves well on the break.
The Kings need to figure out a way to get him involved at either the four or the five. All four of these players can coexist, just some will get more time than others.
Unfortunately, Thompson may be the odd man out in that sense.
Evan's is still learning how to use his gifts on the court
The Kings cornerstone is an incredible scorer.
An article by Tom Ziller recently read that he can score without the help of anyone else on the Kings at times.
This is troubling.
Despite his bulldozer driving ability and developing jumpshot, Evan's court vision is either limited or in progress. His uncanny ability to score at will is also a curse that leaves the rest of the team standing still.
Possessions in which 'Reke dribbles the ball for three quarters of the shot clock are not efficient. The ball should be passed and moved around more to get his teammates involved, possibly freeing him up more often to score.
For some odd reason, the Kings offense becomes almost non-existent during the closing minutes of a game.
Oftentimes, Evans takes over while everyone stands and watches him dribble around, wave off a screen and then shoot a fadeaway twenty footer or dribble into the paint amidst a collapsing defense.
This just doesn't make sense. Not only does this hamstring the other four players on the court, but it makes the Kings incredibly one dimensional and predictable towards the end.
And not predictable in a Malone and Stockton, pick and roll sort of way, but predictable in a Ricky Davis playing like garbage sort of way.
It's just not good.
With his skills, Westphal needs to try and reign him in to make Evan's an effective weapon. His physical abilities and offensive prowess can be used in a much better fashion.
Greene has been non-existent this season
That is the biggest question I've had all season. Where the hell is he?
I see him on the bench, cheering everyone on like the enthusiastic, young player he is. But I have yet to witness him play more than a few minutes.
Greene is still a player learning, but with tremendous upside. With a build and game that could be compared to Rashard Lewis, there is plenty of reason to believe that Greene could be a very valuable player to this Kings team.
Coming into the season, Greene had gained around 25 pounds—a majority of it being muscle—and this is the excuse that Westphal gives for Greene's limited play.
The third year player is a dynamic defender, capable of guarding smaller quicker guards with his long athletic frame, as well as a player like Rudy Gay, who torched the Kings in their last game.
Greene added muscle, presumably, under the assumption that he could find minutes at the four this season, now finds himself with very limited minutes competing against the true post players.
With the added muscle, Westphal believes that he is slower and thus less effective at his position, much in the same way that Thompson was when he had bulked up last year.
Hopefully in due time Greene will find more minutes in the rotation and get back down to the preferred weight that Westphal is looking for.
Ever since I had the pleasure of watching Greene have some breakout games, my thought has been that the Kings can go as far as Greene can progress. And sitting on the bench is not a particularly good way to gain experience.
Since the season is still very early, the proper adjustments are still capable of being made. The rotational patterns have been much more stable this season, and Westphal hopes to keep the current starting line for as much of the season as possible.
But, I feel the Kings could get more out of their players if they shook the starting lineup just a bit. Carl Landry has been an up and down player so far this year. When he was on the Rockets, he played off the bench and was a spark, a rarity for a post player.
Now being the starting power forward, Landry appears to have tailed off a bit. I think that him and Casspi are energy players that can invigorate a team with energy off the bench.
Greene had apparently won the starting job before the regular season started, but that lasted all of one game. Coupled with Cousins at the forward spots, Greene would appear to give the Kings more size and punch at the beginning of a game.
Who starts is not entirely important, but the reason to bring Casspi and Landry off the bench is that they could be better suited to their strengths and the team's strengths.
Thompson, Casspi, Landry, Head and Garcia off the bench could be a very good unit to back up Dalembert, Cousins, Greene, Evans and Udrih. Cousins and Dalembert up front give you the most size and best rebounding at one time, while Greene and Beno provide solid kick-outs for threes.
In the end, hopefully the Kings can figure out what has been different in the last three games and fix it.
And, for the love of god, Cousins don't get a foul every four minutes.
No wonder you can't stay on the floor.