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The Yetisburg Address: 2016-17 Week 12

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The Kings are in a tailspin.

Kimani Okearah

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Kings were still talking about the playoffs, and fans held out hope that maybe, just maybe, they could slide in with the rest of the bottom of the Western Conference also floundering. Since then though, the Kings have lost 10 of 12 games, lost Rudy Gay for the season, and are in the midst of an eight game road trip that features three back to backs. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Sacramento will come out of this road trip with the worst record in the Western Conference.

The High Post

There aren’t exactly any highs to be gleaned from this week. The Kings didn’t win a single game, they bungled away a 22 point lead at home, they got screwed by the officials at the end of the Bulls game, and they lost Rudy Gay for the season.

It’s that last one that I’ll focus on here, because Rudy Gay’s tenure as a Sacramento King so far was a high point for me. I remember when the Kings traded for him, I was a little apprehensive. In Toronto, Gay had been one of the more inefficient players in the NBA. But the Kings were able to get rid of some bad contracts on their own, and it ended up being a win-win for both sides as both teams got better; The Kings got a solid complementary player to Cousins and Toronto got to unleash Lowry and DeRozan with a solid supporting cast.

Rudy had the chance to leave pretty early on in his Kings career, but he was playing phenomenal basketball and the Kings were too. Under Mike Malone, the Kings had a three headed hydra of Cousins-Gay-Thomas that was grinding out victories. In the midst of that Rudy Gay voluntarily signed an extension, committing to the Sacramento Kings for the future. He liked where things were going and so did we. In fact, that was probably the time where the Kings needed to stay the course but didn’t.

Firing Mike Malone so soon after Rudy Gay signed his extension was a big slap in the face to Rudy. He rightly felt swindled, and the Kings have never been the same since. Rudy though, to his credit, has kept playing good basketball, whether for Tyrone Corbin, George Karl or Dave Joerger. Sure, Rudy wanted out. I don’t blame him. Now he’s stuck here, and he might never be the same again after this injury. He gave the Kings his all. Can the Kings truly say the same?

The Low Post

I know Dave Joerger doesn’t really like talking to the media or getting criticized and all that, but man, is this really what you want to say when you give one of your rookies meaningful (i.e. non garbage time) minutes after not doing it all year? That’s not inspiring to say the least. If the Kings ever do go forward with a focus towards getting younger and projecting out to the long term, I’m not sure Dave Joerger’s up for that. The second half of this season (now that it seems the Kings are for sure out of the playoff race) will show us a little bit more of what Joerger’s tenure could be in such a situation.

The View from Section 214

Akis’ recent member survey revealed that DeMarcus Cousins was the favorite player among the fan base, weighing in at 43%. It made me wonder what the percentages would be from Spurs fans as it pertains to Kawhi Leonard, or the Pelicans and Anthony Davis, or even the Sixers and Joel Embiid.

This got me thinking about the Kings players that I have really enjoyed over the years, and the reasons why.

Mitch Richmond was probably the first player to wear a Kings uniform to make me say, “That’s my favorite player.” It was Richmond’s baseline to baseline play that won me over, his physical, no nonsense style, and his ability to go all out regardless of the score or the team’s record. He led the most blue collar team in Kings history, the 1995-96 squad that featured Richmond, Brian Grant, Michael Smith and Sarunas Marciulionis. That team was razor wire, and Richmond set the tone.

Every version of Corliss Williamson. The first draft pick to ever state that he was happy to come to Sacramento. The first player of the Richmond era that had no issues taking a shot with the game on the line. Brought us Doug Christie in trade. Returned and never once complained about sitting the bench, and was always, always ready to contribute (and contribute well) when called upon. A professional and a calming presence as a coach. Corliss Williamson: Good King!

Chris Webber was next for me, though he was an acquired taste. I was never a fan of the throat slash thing, for example. But I appreciated that he had no problem being the team lightning rod, and that he took the hits while Vlade Divac played the statesman role. Webber was far from perfect during his time in Sacramento, but when he was healthy he was a man among boys, dominating the likes of Karl Malone and going toe-to-toe with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. He was, above all other players, the one that gave Sacramento league-wide credibility. Bobby Jackson developed into my favorite King of that era based on pure scrappiness, but it was Webber that I really hung my hat on game in and game out.

Kevin Martin: Kevin Martin is a top ten scorer in Sacramento Kings history. He was a steal of a draft pick for the Kings back in the days when they made steals of draft picks. He hit one of the biggest shots in Sacramento history in the 2006 playoffs vs. the San Antonio Spurs. Sad to say, he hit the last big playoff shot for the Kings. He was the best thing about the Kings as they began to disassemble the golden age team, and he was a beacon of hope for the future to a very naïve fan base.

Isaiah Thomas: 5-9. 60th pick. 2nd best player on the team when the organization made the fatal error of letting him get away. City Council Meeting attendee during the dark days of the potential Seattle relocation. The one and only true Pizza Guy.

I just can’t place DeMarcus Cousins in with these guys. There is just too much drama involved, too many scrapes with coaches and teammates, too many ejections and suspensions, too many plays taken off.

I think that DeMarcus Cousins is easily a top 15 player, but I can’t come up with another top 15 player that I am so ambivalent about (perhaps Blake Griffin, and I’m still far from enamored of James Harden’s complete lack of defensive effort). I thoroughly enjoy watching Russell Westbrook for his all-out effort and desire on every play, Steph Curry for the way that he nourishes a hot teammate instead of being hell-bent on getting his own, Kevin Durant for being every bit committed to the defensive end as the offensive end of the floor, Kawhi Leonard for his quiet, channeled ferocity, Marc Gasol for being a defensive stalwart that has never stopped improving his offensive game.

This is what I want from DeMarcus Cousins. This is what I want from the franchise centerpiece. This is what I want from the soon-to-be $200m man. Do you really want to win that badly, DeMarcus? Then channel it, focus it, use it to improve your game and the games of those around you. Become the person and player that a true majority of the fan base can see as their favorite player, and a player that will be warmly embraced as his jersey is hoisted into the rafters.

No doubt, Cousins has been served a bit of a turd sandwich by coming to Sacramento when he did – Kevin Martin era on steroids, if you will. But the centerpiece of a franchise must rise above it and pull that franchise up with him. Curry didn’t mope during the dark days in Golden State. LeBron James single-handedly pulled Cleveland out of the muck (OK, this one’s a bit unfair, as LeBron is a freak), Westbrook has not mailed it in in Oklahoma City, and Anthony Davis is quietly putting up one of the better big man years that we have seen over the past two decades.

DeMarcus Cousins is on track to own a lot of franchise scoring, rebounding and shot block records. But in the same way that Jason Thompson currently leads all Sacramento Kings in games played, it will mean little if the team does not find at least some level of success. And while the current situation in Sacramento may not be Cousins’ fault, as a guy that is on the cusp of making $40-50m a year, it is his responsibility to be a leader in being a huge part of the solution. And that applies to both ends of the court, the locker room, and setting an example for the youth that will be called upon to contribute to the success of the team.

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Fun fact: Did you know that DeMarcus Cousins is the Kings career leader (we’re talking for the entire franchise, leading back to Rochester) in rebound percentage (that’s a moving number and now that he is on the perimeter more he could lose his hold to LaSalle Thompson), usage and turnovers? The more you know!

Kimani’s Photo of the Week

Kimani Okearah

Highlight of the Week

Player of the Week

DeMarcus Cousins

29.3 PTS, .462 FG%, .333 3P%, 11.8 REB, 5.5 AST, 1.3 STL, 1.8 BLK in 34.1 MPG

Despite a triple-double and a 42 point game, this didn’t really feel like a great week for Cuz. He was absolutely awful in the second half of both the Pacers and Grizzlies games, which even he himself admitted. But nobody else really stood out. With Rudy Gay gone, this team is more focused on Cousins than ever. He might crack 40% Usage rate by the time the season’s over (he’s currently at a career-high 36.9% which doesn’t lead the league only because Russell Westbrook is at an incredible 41.9% Usage rate). For those unsure what usage rate actually is, it’s basically an estimate of the percentage of a team’s plays that a player uses while he’s on the floor. 25% is considered high. Where Cousins and Westbrook are at is outrageous. For reference, LeBron James highest USG% ever was 33.8%.

Upcoming Schedule

(All times Pacific)

Jan. 23rd at Detroit Pistons at 4:30 p.m.

Jan. 25th at Cleveland Cavaliers at 4:00 p.m.

Jan. 27th at Indiana Pacers at 4:00 p.m.

Jan. 28th at Charlotte Hornets at 4:00 p.m.