Well at least the Kings aren't boring. On the heels of another embarrassing loss, this time to the lowly Brooklyn Nets, the Sacramento Kings are reportedly considering firing George Karl. The Kings are in a tailspin. There are issues that have been held at arm's length all season, and they might be reaching their boiling point. But the issues are well known by now, so let's instead try to parse out who is to blame for this situation.
Karl, despite his incredibly successful career, has always been a stubborn coach who eventually wears out his welcome and ruins relationships with his players. Look no further than his tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks and you'll see that changing the roster doesn't fix the Karl problem.
Karl came into Sacramento and clashed with Cousins almost immediately. He made the "no player is untradeable" comment, which even Karl has now admitted was a major mistake. Since then, we've also seen issues of poor defensive schemes, frustrating substitution patterns, and a general unwillingness to change.
Clearly, Karl is to blame.
The franchise cornerstone obviously shares some blame, right? Despite his calls for a defensive focus, Cousins still is hit or miss on the defensive end. He's light years better than he has been in the past, but there's still a level of unreliability. One man doesn't make a defense, but the franchise cornerstone should lead by example.
Cousins also has a long a storied history of fired coaches in his wake. He's only gotten along with Michael Malone, and never seemed to give Karl a chance, still upset at the franchise's earlier blunders.
Clearly, DeMarcus is to blame.
The dysfunction starts at the top. Vivek made the mistake of hiring a coach before a GM, letting that GM ruin the first cohesive team in years, and then repeated his mistake again, hiring Karl before inserting Vlade as GM. He's been a marvelous owner at everything except basketball operations, but he's been really, really bad at leading basketball operations. He's either a pushover who can be manipulated by those who report to him, or he's an overly involved meddler. I don't know which one is true. Neither is good.
Clearly, Vivek is to blame.
It all comes back to Pete. The franchise is still trying to recover from his horrible decisions. Giving away Isaiah Thomas for nothing. Firing the one coach who truly connected with DeMarcus Cousins. The list goes on. It's easy to blame the guy who is already gone, but in this case it's impossible not to blame him.
Clearly, Pete is to blame.
If Vlade is in charge, he gets some blame too. He made the decision to keep George Karl this summer. He insisted that Cousins and Karl work it out and give the relationship time. Time hasn't helped. And as much as we may like the roster moves from this past offseason, the personnel clearly hasn't fit the coach's scheme.
Clearly, Vlade is to blame.
The real question
The real question is how do the Kings fix this. I don't have an easy answer, but the first step is obviously that you move on from George Karl. He's not solely to blame, but it's the easiest change to make. A small market franchise can't afford to give up on a talent like DeMarcus Cousins, not for the sake of George Karl.
Personally, I don't think the time to fire Karl is now. I think you give it more time. Try to make it to the summer. But the situation behind the scenes could certainly be even more toxic than what we see.
The key, though, is not to assume that firing Karl is a fix. It is step one in a process.
So, who is to blame?
Clearly, the Sacramento Kings are to blame.