Sacramento Kings coach George Karl was on his way to work out after a team film session last week in Milwaukee when he was summoned by DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. After Cousins’ verbal tirade aimed at Karl in early November, the Kings’ coach might have had reason to be nervous.SACRAMENTO, Calif. –
What was supposed to be a 15-minute discussion became a positive two-hour meeting. The Kings (7-12) have been 2-2 since the meeting, with Cousins playing just one of those games – Monday's 112-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks – because of a lower back strain.
“It was a powerful meeting for all three of us,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports.
Rondo said he had been hoping in recent weeks to get a meeting with just himself, Karl and Cousins, adding that the discussion felt “natural” and Karl was receptive, positive and open-minded. Rondo and Cousins were also able to get some lingering frustrations off their chest, and Karl offered back his thoughts.
“We asked him to just sit with us so we can pick his brain and share our thoughts,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports. “What I love about [Karl] is he’s very open. George is not a dictator. ‘What can we do positively? What can we do to improve?’
“If you can come into a meeting with no egos and everyone was humble, it just works out for the better.”
The main thing Rondo and Cousins told Karl was that his film sessions would be better with more constructive criticism and teaching. Rondo and Cousins said they also told Karl not to hesitate to use them as examples in film sessions.
“I told him to start with me. Whatever I can do to help the team,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports. “If you have to bully me or call me out, I can accept that. I’m a 10-year vet. I learned from [former Boston Celtics coach] Doc [Rivers] and the past guys that it has to start with the vets who have the most leeway on the team or the most responsibility.
“[Cousins and I] are both trying to change the culture, change the organization.”
Cousins told Yahoo Sports: “We’re just trying to correct every mistake we have. We want to be a winning team, and I feel it starts with myself on down to Rondo as well.”
Karl said Rondo and Cousins also asked that he be more selective about pushing the pace offensively. Karl said he would agree to slow the offense down under one condition.
“I said, ‘OK, I will slow it down if you do what I want.’ That’s not fighting each other. That’s mutually coming together,” Karl told Yahoo Sports. “If we have to compromise something, we will compromise something.”
The Kings have been in turmoil since last summer when Karl said Cousins was tradable. Both claimed they were on the same page when training camp started, but after a 106-88 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 8 dropped the Kings to 1-7, Cousins had a verbal tirade in the locker room aimed at Karl for which he later apologized.
Following the meeting in Milwaukee, Karl is confident communication between the coaching staff and players would be improved. He added that he planned to have weekly meetings with Cousins and Rondo.
“We are going to continue to communicate on a weekly basis, good or bad,” Karl told Yahoo Sports. “If we are in a good stretch, we are going to still communicate.”
Even though it’s been less than a week, Cousins says he’s already seen a difference in Karl.
“He’s more aggressive, which we need,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “It’s hard to balance it out with me being out of the lineup.
“Honestly, it’s not about us liking each other. Our main goal, our only goal, is to win games.”
Kevin Garnett to help the young center reach another level.Cousins is averaging 28.2 points and 11 rebounds in 11 games, and the Kings are 1-7 this season without the 2015 NBA All-Star. While Cousins’ health is of the utmost importance, Rondo is pulling from his past relationship with former Celtics teammate
“Cousins has never played with a vet that he respected,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports. “I think I’ve got his attention a little bit. I think he respects what I say.
“He will do his own thing. I’m not trying to be his daddy. But I want to be his big brother like K.G. was to me, showing me the ropes and helping me along the way. Everything that I’m telling him, K.G. told me. Experience is everything. If someone has it and is willing to share it, I was always trying to soak in as much knowledge as possible.”
Among the Garnett sayings that Rondo has shared with Cousins is: “You can’t pick and choose when you want to lead.” It’s advice Rondo should have followed last season when he had some issues with the Mavs and coach Rick Carlisle. And that’s perhaps why he knows Cousins could’ve done a better job of handling his early season issues with Karl.
“There is always a time and place,” Rondo told Yahoo Sports. “[Cousins] saying what he was saying in front of the team. … The concept of what he was saying may not have been wrong, it’s just the delivery. I’ve had a lot of blowups and I’ve learned from them. I told him, ‘You’re wrong on how you did it. Your [message] might be right, but that’s when you go in his office and talk to him.’"
Rondo and Cousins have lockers next to each other in the Kings’ locker room, where the 2008 NBA champion’s influence remains heavy.
“The way we compete and the type of competitors we are, it’s hard for us not to get along,” Cousins said of Rondo. “We damn near think alike all the time. I’m soaking in all I can. He’s a champion. I basically look up to him.”
Rondo is also having an All-Star-worthy season so far, averaging an NBA-best 10.7 assists per game, 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals. The four-time All-Star leads the NBA in triple-doubles with four, and had 20 assists against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 13, which is a record in the Sacramento era for the Kings.
After his struggles in Dallas, Rondo signed a one-year, $11 million contract, yet Cousins expects Rondo to be in a Kings uniform with him next season when a new downtown arena opens.
“He ain’t going nowhere. I will kidnap him myself,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports.
Rondo said he’d been wanting to play with the “best big man in the game” for the past three years, so does that mean he’s re-signing with the Kings next offseason?
“In the words of K.G., ‘Anything is possible,’ “ Rondo told Yahoo Sports.
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