For Michael Malone, there is no time for reflection. As he prepares to enter his first game as an NBA head coach, he is strictly concentrating on the task at hand.
“I’m keeping my eyes on the prize,” Malone said after practice yesterday when asked if he’s taken any time to look back at the journey that’s led him to his first NBA head coaching gig. ”We got a lot of work to do. After yesterday’s practice, I thought the world was gonna come to an end. I’m very hard on myself. I’m hard on our team, but we have to be.”
Malone has 12 years of NBA assistant coaching experience under his belt. With stops in New York, Cleveland, New Orleans and Golden State, it’s been a long, winding road for Malone that’s led him to Sacramento. But taking time to reflect on where he’s come from to get to where he is today is not a priority; at least not now. Yesterday he joked that pausing for reflection is “how you lose your job.”
Instead, Malone chooses to focus on the bigger picture. Tonight will mark a major milestone for him and his NBA career. But more importantly for the first time head coach, it signifies the first chance to change the Sacramento Kings’ perception around the league.
“I think our players are excited,” Malone said. ”It’s for real now. No more test runs throughout the preseason, and I know our guys are ready for that opportunity and that challenge. But It’ll definitely be exciting. But once that ball goes up, it’s all about trying to figure out how to get that win.”
Nearly six months into the job, Malone doesn’t have much time these days to look back at where he’s been. At this point, he’s only making time to look toward where he’s going.
“What’s tomorrow bring?” Malone asked rhetorically. ”What is my challenge tomorrow? And maybe next summer, I’ll be able to take a deep breath and look back and say what did we get done in year one as the new Sacramento Kings, but (right now) it’s onward and upward.”
Malone hopes to see Kings mirror Sacramento’s fanbase
Tonight’s game against the Denver Nuggets will be emotional and celebratory for those in attendance. A fanbase that fought tooth and nail to keep the Kings in Sacramento these past few years will get to see the payoff for its hard work and drive.
The Kings head coach thinks his team can take a page out of the fans’ book. He wants the Kings’ effort on the floor to reflect the effort that fans poured into the fight that ultimately saved the franchise from relocation.
I’ve used the analogy a few times. Being in Golden State last year, watching how this city kind of bonded and came together and fought to keep this team here – I want our fans to see the team that’s on the floor that is reflective of the fans that fought to keep us. I want a team tomorrow night that’s going to fight, scrap, kick, claw, do whatever we have to do to get a win. I want them to be proud of the team.
I met so many fans during the offseason at different events and they said, ‘Hey coach, we’re not asking for wins and losses. We want to see a team that plays hard. We want to see a team that’s unselfish. We want to see a team that tries to defend.’ And that’s what I want our fans to see tomorrow night. You know, we might not make every shot. We may make mistakes. But if we outwork our opponent, if we play together as a unified unselfish team and we just compete at a high level, I think our fans will be extremely proud. And I want to fight as a team just as much as our fans fought to keep this team here.”
Vasquez not 100 percent, but ready for opener
Greivis Vasquez admits that he’s not at full strength. However, the fourth-year point guard feels he’s ready to go for tonight’s home opener against the Nuggets.
“I feel pretty good,” Vasquez said after practice yesterday. “I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent, but I just gotta get my game rhythm. Five months without playing, it’s hard to just come out here and get 20 and 10.”
The 26-year-old guard is still feeling the effects of offseason ankle surgery, which kept him off the basketball court for almost five months. However, he showed signs of promise in the Kings’ preseason finale against the Los Angeles Clippers. Vasquez recorded 12 assists and zero turnovers in the win in L.A.
“I just gotta go slow,” Vasquez said. “But I think last game against the Clippers (was solid), even though I missed a lot of shots and I didn’t shoot a good percentage the whole preseason.”
Coach Malone revealed his starting lineup to his team during Monday’s practice, but has yet to unveil it publicly. No word yet if Vasquez is part of the first unit or will come off the bench. But regardless of his role, Vasquez knows that playing with a high motor will be an important element he needs to bring.
“One thing we gotta do better, I have to do better, (is) we have to come out from the get-go with energy, intensity,” Vasquez said. “That’s why I was brought up here.”