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Kings players don’t need to €œlearn to win€

In which I take issue with a common way we shift blame onto players.

It's become a common trope that players on the Kings don't know how to win, or that they need to learn how to win, or they need to learn winning habits. We've heard it when Luke Walton made hair-brained excuses for benching Tyrese Haliburton. We heard it from my friend Tim Maxwell in his recent Chainmail where he said the following:

It sounds lame, but this crew doesn't know how to win and they don't understand what it takes to win.

Buddy Hield has been with a losing organization for his entire career, De'Aaron Fox has been with a losing organization for his entire career, Richaun Holmes has been on losing organizations for his entire career, Marvin Bagley has been with a losing organization for his entire career, and Tyrese Haliburton has been with a losing organization for his (very short) entire career. Sure, some of the veterans have been on winners and with champions, but those veterans also don't have the personality to snap these guys out of their habits.

Until we get both players who are willing to show some personality, and a qualified coaching staff, these guys aren't going to develop winning habits, and they're not going to know how to win games.

With all due respect to Tim and zero respect to Like Walton, I think this trope is incredibly stupid.

Look no further than the New York Knicks turnaround this season. That's a roster full of players that, with rare exception, had never been on a winning team. Julius Randle had never been on a team that won more than 35 games this season, yet he's leading the Knicks and they're currently the fourth seed in the East. Did he just suddenly learn how to win?

No, because NBA players know how to win. Every player in the NBA grew up winning. These are the guys who were the best players on their teams from an early age. They learned how to win games when they were young, and they've succeeded at every level leading up the NBA.

If €œknowing how to win€ was what mattered, Harrison Barnes should have been able to fix the Kings. Or any of the other laundry list of NBA vets that's have cycled through Sacramento.

Blaming the players for not teaching each other how to win is like me blaming my five year old when my three year old does something wrong. That's not the five year old's job to teach his brother, it my job to teach my son.

What changed in New York? The coach. The person in charge of setting the culture. What changed before the coach in New York? The front office. NBA players know how to win games. Each of us knows what it takes to win games. You play defense, you hustle, you don't take bad shots or make stupid plays. The coach holds players accountable for those habits. That's where Luke Walton regularly fails this team. Saying the players €œneed to learn how to win€ suggests that Luke Walton knows how, and that the players are simply failing to learn. But the players know, it's simply a question of whether the coaching staff holds players accountable when they fail to act accordingly.

The front office sets a culture. They hire a coach to teach the players how to win. If it can happen in New York, under James effing Dolan, then it can happen anywhere.

The Kings have the new front office. If Walton won't hold his players accountable, then Monte McNair needs to hold his coach accountable. Blaming the players for not changing the culture is simply a continuance of the same culture we've had in Sacramento for the last 15 years.

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Hobby916
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April 24, 2021 6:13 pm

I think it is a combination of both. Players can learn bad habits when on losing teams, and when the coach does not coach to get rid of those habits, they will ultimately continue. That is why I liked Joerger. He appeared to hold players accountable and taught “winning” habits.

Kings need to bring in a coach that will bust some asses, and players that are willing to change.

TheGrantNapear
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April 24, 2021 10:25 pm
Reply to  Hobby916

Perhaps the players just suck?

Klam
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April 25, 2021 9:24 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Ok Grant.

LesJepsen3pointer
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April 24, 2021 6:29 pm

100% agree. Front offices and coaches learn how to create winning environments. Players play basketball.

Hamlet1989
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April 24, 2021 6:36 pm

And if McNair continues making positive moves this team will get better as well, despite Vivek. I don’t think Jerry Krause knew how to win before the Bulls got Michael, or did he forget when Jordan left? Did Scottie Pippen forget how to win?

RobHessing
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April 24, 2021 6:42 pm

To your point, Greg, the overwhelming majority of NBA players not only graduated from winning programs, they were among the best players in those programs as well.

Was Fox ever on a losing team before coming to Sac? Haliburton?

The issue is systemic, and it begins way above the player level.

BeTheBall
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April 24, 2021 10:06 pm

I’ve always felt that using things like “learning to win” and “creating a culture” are just another way of saying that a team is full of trash from the offices to the locker room.

AnybodyButBagley
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April 24, 2021 10:10 pm

They might have played on winning teams before but they cannot win now. Third grade rec players have played on winning teams and ended up on teams that do not win.

The Kings continue to make decisions that lose games. From Buddy’s delay of game before the game even started to drafting horrible players. Not knowing how to win equates to being allowed to do dumb things without consequences.

FireVladePlsss
April 24, 2021 10:16 pm

In over a decade, Lebron has only missed the playoffs once. His coach at that time? Luke Walton. He must’ve forgot how to win that year

TheGrantNapear
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April 24, 2021 10:18 pm
Reply to  FireVladePlsss

I believe Lebron was injured most of that year. You or I could coach a Lebron team and if he’s healthy it’s a playoff team.

RobHessing
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April 25, 2021 10:54 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

He missed 27 games that season, though 9 were after the Lakers were basically eliminated from the playoffs. So 18 of the first 68, in which the team went 31-37. They were 28-27 in the games that LeBron played. The 8th seed LA Clippers were 48-34 that season.

FireVladePlsss
April 25, 2021 7:40 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

True. Still, 55/82 games of Lebron I feel could still get you to the playoffs

AnybodyButBagley
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April 25, 2021 9:17 am
Reply to  FireVladePlsss

Lebron is GM who chooses which coach he wants. Kind of like Bagley deciding that Joerger needed to go.

andy_sims
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April 25, 2021 5:32 pm

Well, if AnybodyButBagley says that MBIII is the reason that Dave Joerger got fired, then it just has to be true.

How small must you be to create an account with that name? Pathetic.

AnybodyButBagley
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April 25, 2021 9:45 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Have to have a sense of humor to be a Kings fan for over 20 years.

You think Bagley is the savior?

andy_sims
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April 26, 2021 12:05 am

Is my user name BagleyIsTheSavior?

I’ll type more slowly next time, if you think that will help.

TheGrantNapear
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April 24, 2021 10:25 pm

I guess given the premise of this article, we haven’t had any good coaches since Adelman, because none of them have won. DJ, Karl, Westphal and the rest were the problem.
In my opinion, the problem is soley the FO. There’s simply never been enough talent to win for a decade and a half now.

ElRonToro
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April 24, 2021 10:44 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

The Kings currently do not have enough NBA level players to make a 9 man rotation. I do not think there is a coach that could make this group as constructed a 41 win team. It’s all on the front office .

RobHessing
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April 25, 2021 10:57 am
Reply to  ElRonToro

I think that the healthiest dose in on ownership for hiring the front offices, with the front office coming in a very close second. That said, I see what Pop has done in San Antonio this season and what Thibs has done with that Knicks roster, so I do think that better coaching would have had a tangible positive impact on this roster, flawed as it is.

HongKongKingsFan
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April 24, 2021 11:15 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

With a healthy roster of Cousins, Gay and Rondo..(under George Karl)

I think this group can get into the playoff

Kayte_Hunter_Fan_club
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April 25, 2021 11:33 am
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

You are 100 percent correct. We’ve had coaches who failed in Sac and succeeded elsewhere and we’ve had coaches who succeeded elsewhere then failed here. Poor drafting, poor utilization of the free agent market, and poor trading. That’s what caused this dreadful long period of failure.

ElRonToro
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April 24, 2021 10:31 pm

What I’ve learned about winning is fairly simple. When you are on a team that has been losing, players tend to press and try to make great plays to win the game, causing unnecessary mistakes. Winning teams have a calm, and stay with plays that are within their capabilities. The only way to get there is to play your future core players so they get use to being in close games and hopefully begin to win. Winning with vets while the future core watches doesn’t nothing to instill them with a winning mentality. Playing and winning does. Experience does,

Marty
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April 24, 2021 10:45 pm

Translation: Winning evades bad teams.

RikSmits
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April 25, 2021 2:41 am

1: is anybody still listening to what Walton is saying?

2: in general, I do not see the statements that players have to learn how to win as primarliy an indictment of the players, but mainly of the coaching staff and the FO.

Yes, a new coach can create a significant changed, as the Knicks (and Hawks) are proving at the moment. But requires the coach to teach those winning ways, and the FO to bring in the players who are willing to be coached, bust their asses and play team ball and intelligent basketball.

I have my doubst regarding the BBIQ of some players, but IMO that is mainly an indictment of the previous FO (thanks, Vlade!) and owner, and only to a lesser extent an indictment of the players themselves.

02kingsfan
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April 25, 2021 5:23 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

That’s why I laughed out loud when Walton said €œthe players need to learn discipline before they can play fast€ when he got hired and had them play real slow for an entire season. After all he did inherit a roster that won 39 games in the previous season after learning how to play with discipline 3 seasons prior to that. This coaching staff’s ineptitude should shoulders a large portion of how this team has performed last couple of years

rockbottom
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April 25, 2021 8:39 am

Learning how to win -is coach speak for do not blame me and my huge staff for anything !

eddie41
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April 25, 2021 9:38 am

New head coach? Yes please.

Want-to-be-gm
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April 25, 2021 9:55 am

Below is the reason the Kings are not winning. That along with dumb overpayment free agent signings like Zzzbo, Hill, Ariza, Cojo, Dedmon and others. When teams don’t win people come up with all kinds of bozo theories but here’s the main reason.

2011 Drafted Biyombo and passed on Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Vucevic, Jimmy Butler.
2012 – Drafted Thomas Robinson passing up on Damien Lillard
2013 – Drafted Ben Mcclemore passing up on CJ McCollum, Steven Adams, Giannis A, Dennis Schroder, Rudy Gobert
2014 – Drafted Nick Stauskas, passing on Zach Lavine, T.J. Warren, Gary Harris, Jusef Nuric, 
2015 – Drafted WCS passing on Myles Turner and Devin Booker
2016 – Drafted Papa G moving down passed up on Sabonis, Lavert, Siakam, 
2017 – Drafted Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles passed on Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, Zach Collins, John Collins, Kyle Kuzma 
2018 – No pick due to the disastrous Stauskas trade
2019 – Marvin Bagley – Passed on Luka Doncic. Also drafted Gary Trent in second round then traded it away on second round swaps and cash considerations 
2020 – Haliburton 

andy_sims
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April 25, 2021 5:42 pm
Reply to  Want-to-be-gm

This is a fun exercise, but in most cases, it’s primarily a load of shit. There are some horrifying blunders, getting Fredette, McLemore, Stauskas, but 26 other teams passed on Rudy Gobert. Every team passed up on Capela, Kuzma and Draymond in the first round. You could do one of these for every year in any sport with a draft, and allege incompetence.

Not only is every team in the NFL run by incompetents, but multiply their stupidity by five or six times when you find Tom Brady available in the sixth round.

Obviously, VD fucked the dog selecting Bagley over Doncic. The same could be said of the Hawks and Grizz that year.

ForKingsandCountry
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April 25, 2021 10:45 am

I think all of this is true but if it starts with the owner, which I think we would probably all agree that it does, then what do we do? Per the newest TKH pod, Vivek is an absolutely disaster. Now I get it, Dolan is a disaster as well but I think he’s a disaster for different reasons. He isn’t so much a meddler as some one who seems like a pretty terrible human being who hires terrible people. If he actually hired the right people then that team could turn around and it looks like they have. But I don’t think he’s constantly meddling like Vivek. So Dolan might be terrible but I think Vivek’s brand of terrible is more destructive to an organization.

RikSmits
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April 25, 2021 11:10 am

Yup.

AmateurNerd
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April 26, 2021 12:53 pm

It wasn’t publicized much at the time, but Vivek stepped down as CEO of TIBCO in 2014, a year after buying the Kings. So it’s no wonder he’s constantly meddling in the team’s affairs–he’s a highly intelligent (yes, he is), obsessively competitive person (as you have to be to succeed in big business), and he has NOTHING ELSE TO DO. He meddles because NOT meddling would be torture for him. So instead, he meddles, and it tortures US.

UsedToLoveTheKings
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April 25, 2021 11:13 am

Learning to win is apparently nobody’s responsibility. That’s the politically correct way to ensure 15 consecutive losing seasons. Not much to miss at GoldenOne. #VivekNBA3.0

cloudyeyes
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April 25, 2021 1:51 pm

“If it can happen in New York, under James effing Dolan, then it can happen anywhere.”

In particular with New York and Phoenix – both teams brought in a wealth of veteran knowledge with Derrick Rose and Chris Paul respectively. Suddenly both teams start winning when they’re brought aboard. Both were also “learning how to win” and young teams.

The Kings haven’t had any experienced veterans since Rondo or Cousins – but those teams were comprised of journeymen and not younger talent. This current Kings team was built on a clean slate. They brought in Z-Bo for a but and that was it. Bagley’s mentor coming into the league was Willie Cauley Stein. He hasn’t had anyone with extensive knowledge to learn from. Same pretty much goes for everyone else. We have Barnes, but he isn’t an all-star or MVP like CP3 or D-Rose was.

MidtownMike
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April 25, 2021 2:06 pm
Reply to  cloudyeyes

We’ve had plenty of solid veterans: barnes, cojo, ariza, temple, etc etc

Malone and joeger had the team moving in the correct direction and were canned by little men that didn’t like the real coaches having power.

They enjoy the yes boy walton

CoreyBrewersD
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April 25, 2021 5:32 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

Washington Generals will be above 500 before Vivek.

Last edited 1 year ago by CoreyBrewersD
2018DraftTimeMachine
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April 25, 2021 6:16 pm
Reply to  CoreyBrewersD

LOL have a thumb

cloudyeyes
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April 26, 2021 9:57 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

Aside from Barnes…Cojo, Ariza, Temple – all pretty average. They wouldn’t impact a team with as much knowledge as CPaul or DRose. Malone coached Cousins, not Fox. Yes, if we kept Malone as an influence, he would have made a HUGE difference on this current team.

2018DraftTimeMachine
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April 25, 2021 6:10 pm

Accountability is what’s lacking with this team.

Take a bad shot? Sit your ass down.

Make a stupid pass? Sit your ass down.

Turn your head while your man slips behind for an alley-oop? Sit your ass down.

Until the coach demands that they be better, or unless an actual leader (Tyrese) gets in his teammates’ faces and demands they be better, they won’t be.

It’s not difficult.

Excellent point by the writer. The Knicks changed one thing.

MikeGarza
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April 25, 2021 8:32 pm

Thanks for saying this. These guys have been winning basketball games since elementary school. It’s not like once you get to the NBA winning basketball changes. Score more than the opponent, play defense, take care of the ball. Same at every level. “They don’t know how to win” is a tired sports trope.

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