Kings fire Westphal after 2-5 start

The Sacramento Kings fired coach Paul Westphal Thursday, hours after the team suffered a 27-point loss to the Denver Nuggets and just four days after the coach openly feuded with center DeMarcus Cousins.

Kings assistant Keith Smart will coach the team in Thursday's home game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

In what could ultimately be the franchise's final season in Sacramento, the Kings have opened with a 2-5 record, worst in the Western Conference. All but one of the losses have been by at least 17 points.

Westphal's firing comes four days after he banished Cousins from the team for one game, saying the young center demanded a trade. Kings general manager Geoff Petrie and co-owner Joe Maloof had said they supported Westphal's decision, but also said they have no intention of trading Cousins.

Westphal and Cousins argued in the coach's office after the Kings' loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday, team sources said. One player said he heard Cousins say, "Trade me," but Cousins' agent denied his client was making a formal trade demand.

Westphal had the team release a statement Sunday night saying he ordered Cousins to stay away from that evening’s game against the New Orleans Hornets because Cousins "continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team."

Just last week, Cousins had another verbal altercation with Westphal after Westphal called him for a technical in practice, several sources said.

Cousins returned to the Kings on Monday and played in their past two games, but didn't start.

Westphal was 51-120 in two-plus seasons as coach of the Kings. "Unfortunately, the overall performance level of the team has not approached what we felt was reasonable to expect," Petrie said in a statement released by the team.

“I would like to thank the Maloof family for the incredible opportunity they gave me to participate in the attempt to bring the Sacramento Kings back to prominence,” Westphal said in a statement. “While the job is far from finished, I am proud of the strides we were able to make."

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