If DeMarcus Cousins lives and dies with every whistle, then he probably learned it from Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Malone. During a 117-101 dismantling by the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, Malone witnessed his team’s blown assignments lead to consecutive threes from Jamal Crawford.
Despite all of the tough losses this season, Malone comes away with plenty of small victories this year despite his team’s 28-53 record.
For starters, Sacramento has improved significantly on many (smaller) fronts under new ownership. The Kings also beat some quality teams this year including the Miami Heat—albeit short-handed—and a win over the playoff-bound Houston Rockets.
But moral victories count for nothing. Malone was brought in to project a defensive mindset onto a team that would rather showboat on offense than expend energy on the defensive end. That lack of defense boiled over into frustration as Reggie Evans found himself yelling at his teammates during a timeout on Saturday. The ‘pep talk’ didn’t work as coach Malone found himself burning another timeout moments later.
Sacramento gives up 102 points per game (24th overall) yet are 16th overall in scoring. Adding to the team’s woes is the lack of ball movement as the Kings are dead last in assists per game. That’s also something the coaching staff has struggled to correct. But ultimately it comes to defense and who wants to play it, and right now no one seems up to the challenge.
I asked Mike Malone if he has a defensive leader on the Kings that he can lean on: “I wish I did.”
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 21, 2013
Despite all of the tough losses this season and the shuffling of players, Malone has done an admirable job. He isn’t on the hot seat and won’t be. If the Kings want to build on this season’s numbers it will take another year of Malone at the helm. This team gains nothing from a coaching game of musical chairs.
But the pressure will definitely be on Malone next season. If Rudy Gay stays the Kings can then focus their effort on upgrading the team through the NBA Draft. And you can bet the Kings front office will be busy in year two of the current rebuild. Then and only then would Malone be on the hook for the Kings’ troubles.
But for now Malone’s headfirst way of fast-talking will have to be the soothing voice these young Kings hear, because they too will be held accountable for the team’s woes this year. Though the results are mixed, let’s just give the man credit where it’s due.