DeMarcus Cousins, George Karl at center of Kings' internal strife
ESPN.com news services
Frustrations surrounding a poor start have caused tension in the Sacramento Kings' locker room this week, again sending the team into controversy.
A team meeting Tuesday briefly appeared to bring calm to the situation, but a report Wednesday from TheBigLead.com suggested that Kings general manager Vlade Divac is already contemplating a coaching change.
The report detailed a confrontation in which star forward DeMarcus Cousins directed a profanity-laced outburst at Kings coach George Karl after Monday's loss to San Antonio, Cousins' first game back after a four-game injury absence, and alleged that Divac told Kings players in a private meeting Tuesday: "We don't know what to do with George, do you think we should fire him?"
"There's a lot of B.S. out there," Divac told the Sacramento Bee in response Wednesday. "I'd just rather not comment."
The Bee reported Wednesday that Karl wanted to suspend Cousins for two games for the outburst but was blocked by Divac from doing so. Cousins started for Sacramento in Wednesday night's 101-92 win over the Detroit Pistons, scoring a game-high 33 points to help the Kings improve to 2-7.
Cousins apologized Wednesday for his actions, saying in a statement issued to Yahoo! Sports and subsequently to ESPN.com: "It is no secret that we are all frustrated with losing -- me more than anyone. I let my frustrations get the best of me in the locker room after the San Antonio loss -- that is my bad. For the record, my frustration is not about any one person or player or coach. There is no one person to blame. All of us are accountable. My frustration is that we are 1-7, simple as that."
The team had a meeting with players, coaches and front-office personnel Tuesday. It was a meeting that was fairly typical for a team on a six-game losing streak, with players airing grievances and complaining about roles, sources close to the situation told ESPN.com.
Karl reiterated that such a meeting is not uncommon for a team in the Kings' position.
"I'm not sure a panic button was pushed as you all magnified it," he said after the Kings' win over Detroit. "Team meetings and six-game losing streaks happen. The newness to our team? I don't know. But I thought the last two days have been good for us."
Cousins took away a positive from the meeting after his best offensive output of the young season.
"The best thing that came out of the meeting? This win," Cousins said. "But I'll take the hit. If it results from this every night, I'll take the hit and I'll be the scapegoat."
Several players on the team, including veteran forward Rudy Gay and third-year guard Ben McLemore, have expressed frustrations with Karl in recent days in conversations with management, sources said.
USA Today reported Wednesday that Karl is indeed "in trouble."
The Kings, though, are on their fourth coach in the past three seasons under owner Vivek Ranadive. Karl is 13-26 since taking over and scoffed Wednesday at suggestions that, at age 64, he lacks the requisite energy to haul Sacramento out of its current funk.
After the Kings' morning shootaround Wednesday, Karl told local reporters: "I think that's crazy. I think I have more energy now than I've ever had. I'm the lightest I've ever been, I eat better than I've ever eaten. I feel great.
"My style of coaching has gone [to where], after my second cancer, I delegate a lot more. But I believe in that, and I think it's starting to work at a high, high level."
Divac spent much of the offseason trying to foster harmony within the organization after Karl hinted last spring that he would be open to trading Cousins, which rankled the All-Star big man. Karl later apologized.
"You're building a team, you've got 10 new faces," Karl said Wednesday. "You're trying to build a culture and an energy that's different. You think it's going to happen in seven games? Do you really think it's going to happen in seven games?"