When Michael Malone speaks, there’s no confusion about his ideas. Have a conversation with the first-time head coach and you’ll come away understanding his plans for this year’s Sacramento Kings.
He knows what he wants out of his roster and he knows how to convey his message. His ability to communicate even just the most basic concepts are making it easier for the Kings to prepare for the upcoming season.
“It’s very clear,” Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas said of the concepts being taught by Malone and the new coaching staff. ”I mean if you mess up on something, coach is gonna be on you until you correct yourself.”
Talk to players and they’ll tell you that Malone has done plenty of teaching so far, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He knows that his team can score, but defending is another thing. The Kings ranked either last or next to last in several defensive categories last year, including opponents points per game, field-goal percentage and defensive rating.
In years past, mistakes may have been glossed over or even ignored. Under Malone, there is a sense of urgency to address the Kings’ execution effectively and efficiently.
“Not to put any bad things on the coaches in the previous years, but we kind of didn’t nail that down,” Thomas said. “I mean if somebody messed up, it was kind of like ‘Ok, on to the next play.’ But this year, it’s just they’re teaching, teaching, teaching and we’re going into scrimmaging and we work on it.”
Malone doesn’t focus on correcting mistakes at just the individual level. His approach is to explain what must be fixed to every man on the court and not just the player at fault.
“He’ll stop play, he’ll talk to all of us (and) he’ll make sure that we all know where to be in the right position,” Kings forward Patrick Patterson said of his new head coach. “He won’t just pinpoint one guy.”
Malone also wants his players to understand the nuances of their teammates’ positions. A guard should not only know where he’s supposed to be on the floor, but have mastery of where his bigs should be as well.
“He’ll make sure each and every one of us know this player is supposed to be at that place, at that given time,” Patterson said. ”So when the game time comes, each player knows where each player is supposed to be.”
The Kings have struggled to establish an identity under the last few coaching staffs. This year, there are no questions about what they’re trying to accomplish as defense comes first for Malone. However, their identity on offense is also becoming much clearer under their new head coach. Through their first four preseason games, they’ve shown improvement in spacing, which in turn has led to less one-on-one basketball.
According to DeMarcus Cousins, understanding how the offense should start has helped them make progress.
“Like I said, we’re still in the process of learning,” Cousins said. ”But just our basic set, and that’s something that was never there before, just that alone is taking us to another level. I mean, (I’m) not saying we’re gonna be a championship team. (But) just that alone is helping us become a better team.”
Every NBA coach has a message to share, but not every coach is successful communicating it. So far, Malone’s team has received his message loud and clear.