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Opening the MailSac: What the heck is going on with the Kings?

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Many predicted fireworks from the Sacramento Kings this season, either good or bad, but I don't think anybody expected them just two weeks into the season.  Some bad injury luck and a six game losing streak later though and that's exactly what we got.  The Kings got a much needed win last night, but this isn't likely to be the last time they come under fire this season and if this is an indication of what happens when they come under any sort of adversity, we're in for a long ride.

On to your questions.

Dub_TC asks:

What franchise in bigger trouble right now, Kings or Lakers? It's closer than you think!

A: Great question right off the bat.  I'd honestly have to go with the Kings.  Right now the Kings have a better talent base and should seemingly be on the rise while the Lakers are waiting for Kobe Bryant to retire and focus on rebuilding.  Yet the Lakers do have some inherent advantages.  They have some nice young pieces already in place.  They are going to have a gazillion dollars in free agency and are always in the running for top free agents (because L.A.).  The Kings aren't an attractive Free Agent destination in the first place and aren't doing themselves any favor with all this turmoil in the media.  They've made some risky trades that could blow up in their faces if things don't work out, trades that mean they can't even afford to blow it up because of the potential picks they would owe.  The Kings have backed themselves into a corner where their only option is to win, and so far they haven't been doing that.  It's not too late, but the clock is ticking.

section214 asks:

Who is our next coach? KJ? Matt Barnes? Julian Camacho?

A:  I personally don't think George Karl is long for this job.  I believe Vlade when he says that Karl is the coach for the rest of the season, but things can change in an instant, especially if more losing occurs.  In that scenario (where Karl is fired midway through the season), I think the Kings would probably just stick with an interim coach from the existing coaching staff, probably Chad Iske, since he's already doing a lot of the work.  If Karl does last the season, I don't think he comes back unless this team somehow ended up in the playoffs.  In that case there are going to be several candidates in line for the Kings job.  Tom Thibodeau is a name that many Kings fans would like and would probably work well with Cousins, but I'm not sure he is offensive-minded enough for Vivek Ranadivé or Vlade Divac.  Mark Jackson would probably be on the list, but I think Scott Brooks would be a natural frontrunner.  Local guy, has a reputation as a player's coach, proven track record.  I also wouldn't be surprised to see Spurs assistant Ettore Messina in the running.

Literally everyone asks:

Why is Willie Cauley-Stein not playing more???

A:  I ask myself this after every game.  Willie needs to be on the court more.  He's such a naturally gifted defender, and the way he can stick with perimeter players makes him a perfect fit for Karl's switching offense.  He's a great complement to Cousins with his quickness, and I like that pairing far more than the Koufos/Cousins pairing that Karl seems to prefer down the stretch.  Willie's also got some good pick and roll chemistry already with Rajon Rondo.  Hopefully we'll see the leash lengthen as Karl grows more comfortable with Willie.

polotown asks:

How are the StR gamblers feeling now about the over/under they got?

A:  You know, I'd still feel pretty good.  This team, unless they blow it up or get more bad injury luck, still has the talent to coast and get 30+ wins.  I'm not feeling playoffs or 45 wins anymore, but I definitely still think this team can finish at .500 or close to it.

Neil Manich asks:

If you had to predict, is DeMarcus Cousins still on the Kings when we open the new building?

A:  I wouldn't put 100% confidence on this, but I'd say yes.  Vivek Ranadivé and Vlade Divac are big Cousins supporters and the fact that he has two years left on his contract after this season means the Kings don't have to be in any rush to trade him if things do go wrong.  It'd also give them a potential season with a new coach if they do indeed get rid of George Karl after this year.

Oscar asks:

Why does a team that convert's threes on offense feel content to give up open corner threes on defense?

A: I don't think they're happy about giving up those threes, I think it's more of a lack of familiarity with the defensive schemes that Karl is trying to use.  Karl's schemes are vastly different than Michael Malone's and require a lot more switching.  Sometimes guys get lost or over-rotate.  That's bound to happen when you don't have much experience in a system. I think we've seen glimpses where this team can defend at a high level.  It depends on the personnel on the floor as well as more time with the system.

Cory Steele asks:

What do you think Vlade wants to do with Ben Mac? Too much potential to trade but Karl is limiting him during this struggle.

A:  I think everyone is disappointed in how Ben's season is turning out, including Ben.  Right now I wouldn't trade him because his trade value isn't going to be that high.  That being said, the James Anderson as a starter experiment is doing nothing for me. I'd much rather Ben be getting Anderson's minutes and potentially growing as a result.

Oleh Kosel asks:

Will be interesting to see where Cousins lands as far as 3P% at the conclusion of the season. What do you think?

A:  Well he's certainly not going to be shooting above 40% for the year like he is now.  Personally, I think he'll end up around 33%, which isn't terrible, especially if he's taking those shots instead of long two point jumpers.  The one thing that I've been trying to keep an eye on with Cousins and his three point attempts is if they're coming at the expense of his shots near the basket.  Right now the sample size is too small, but I thought he did a good job against the Pistons of attacking the rim and spreading the floor.  His career percentage from 16 feet to the 3 Point line is 38.6%.  Hitting just 33% of his threes is effectively the same as hitting 50% of his two pointers.  And it's not a terrible shot for him, especially at the top of the key where he's comfortable.