Kings pick up option on Westphal
SACRAMENTO – The Sacramento Kings picked up the option on first-year coach Paul Westphal on Monday, keeping him under contract through the 2011-12 season.
“It’s very gratifying,” Westphal said before the Kings played their final home game of the season against Houston. “It shows that the ownership and management and coaching staff and players have taken a step in the direction that everybody wants this franchise to go. It’s rare in this league when you can have all those entities pretty much on the same page. It’s very nice.”
Westphal signed a two-year deal with the club option after the Kings finished an NBA-worst 17-65 last season. He has helped lead the team to 25 wins heading into Monday’s second-to-last game of the season, a solid improvement over last year’s franchise worst season when the Kings had the worst record in the NBA.
“We’re all excited about the new direction Paul has given our team and his ability to keep our players focused during the course of the season,” president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said. “I think he’s done a tremendous job of helping us turn the corner.”
But there is still plenty of work to be done as the Kings entered Monday’s game tied with Golden State for the second-worst record in the Western Conference.
After getting off to a 14-16 start this season, the Kings have struggled in the second half as the schedule got tougher and the young players struggled at times with the rigors of the NBA. This marked the fourth straight season Sacramento failed to make the postseason after an eight-year run of playoff berths.
“We’re not good enough yet. That’s all it is,” he said “We’re trying. I think we’ve played well. When you’re looking at a conference where there’s probably eight 50-win teams and two others that are over .500 and we’re the youngest team in basketball coming off a 17-win season. You don’t judge this team on if you make the playoffs and knock off the Lakers in the first round. You judge this team on whether it’s improved or not. I think it clearly has improved.”
The biggest development this season has been the play of rookie point guard Tyreke Evans, who is closing in on an impressive milestone. With 24 points in the final two games, Evans will join Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only rookies in NBA history to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.
He has been remarkably consistent all season, scoring in double figures in 63 of the past 66 games. Evans is in a tight race with Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings for the billing as the league’s top rookie.
“There’s no doubt to me,” Westphal said. “That’s not to take anything away from the excellent year other plays have had. I really think his consistent excellence on top of that fact that he’s joining this select club of three other players to accomplish what he has accomplished makes his case. It’s pretty hard for anybody to expect him not to win it after that kind of achievement.”
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