Saturday was a sobering night for Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone. After opening the season with a solid win over the Denver Nuggets, his team has dropped five in a row and more than anything else, effort has become a central issue.
“I think we have a lot of guys that just care about themselves on this team,” coach Malone said following Saturday’s loss to Portland. “And if their game is not going, they quit playing. Changes will be made before we play on Wednesday, and we’ll try to get back after it.”
There was a lot not to like about the Kings’ latest performance, but rebounding has become a huge issue with this team. After outrebounding the Kings 47-31 on Friday night, the Blazers beat the Kings 52-33 on the glass on Saturday, a total that included 19 offensive boards for the Blazers.
“You don’t need great skill to be a guy that rebounds,” Malone said. “Being a good rebounder is all about effort, determination (and) physicality, and we lacked all of those things tonight as a whole.”
Malone is done with the pleasantries. Losing five games in a row is bad, but losing with a team that is showing a major lack of effort is unacceptable. Come Wednesday, a new starting lineup is expected. According to Malone, only DeMarcus Cousins‘ position is safe with the remaining four spots in the starting lineup up for grabs.
“I’ve seen enough at this point,” Malone said. “We’ve played six games, and it is more than a broken record. So we’ll make changes and try to give ourselves a better chance to win.”
With knowledge of Malone’s intent to adjust his rotation, we took to Twitter on Sunday morning to poll the audience. It’s not exactly scientific, but the results were extremely interesting. The fans want change as much as Malone does. We had 45 responses to this question – If you are Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone, what is your starting five for Wednesday night?
I’m not sure how many responses you would need for a proper sample size, but of the 45 we received, very few were the same. “Groupthink” did not rule the day and neither did the always vocal Jimmer Fredette crowd.
DeMarcus Cousins has no competition at the center position. The fourth-year big man out of Kentucky is averaging 23.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game through the Kings’ first six games. He would start for almost every team in the league at this point, and he should take very little blame for Sacramento’s slow start.
Surprising trends developed at almost every other position.
Isaiah Thomas is second on the Kings in points per game at 18 and leads the team in assists at 4.5 per game. You would expect the fans to pine for his promotion into the starting lineup, but that was not the case. Thomas showed up on just eight of the 45 responses, for a shockingly low 18 percent.
Surprisingly, Thomas was fourth amongst guards behind Ben McLemore (91 percent), Greivis Vasquez (89 percent) and Jimmer (22 percent). There were plenty of folks who would like to see a three-guard set, but overwhelmingly, the fans who responded want the combination of Vasquez and McLemore in the starting lineup.
McLemore has played well in spots, but at 20 years old and with just one season of college basketball under his belt, the plan has been to let him get his feet wet before thrusting him into the starting lineup. The rookie is currently behind veteran Marcus Thornton on the depth chart. Thornton is averaging 8.7 points per game and shooting just 33 percent from the field in more than 28 minutes per game. Of the 45 responses, Thornton’s name did not come up one time.
Luc Mbah a Moute has played a total of 22 minutes on the season, with 15 of those coming in Saturday’s loss. He has more fouls (5) than points (2) so far, but 62 percent (28 of 45) of the respondents picked him to start at either the small forward or power forward position.
McLemore’s name came up 10 times at the position as part of various three-guard sets. The Kings want to pencil this kid in as the starting shooting guard for the next decade, so it’s unlikely he will get the call at the small forward position just six games into his NBA career.
Travis Outlaw picked up five votes, while the current starter John Salmons saw his name come up just once, the same amount of votes received by Chris Mullin and the guy who won a car hitting the half court shot on Saturday night.
Patrick Patterson has struggled to find his shot early in the season, and his rebounding numbers are atrocious. But the fans haven’t cooled on him like they have on Thornton. Jason Thompson took the fan vote, but by the narrowest of margins over Patterson, 20-19.
The Kings desperately need rebounding, which would make Thompson a likely candidate to regain his starting spot, but Patterson has played solid defense and been unselfish on the offensive end. Chuck Hayes picked up a single vote, as did “Carl Landry in a wheel chair.”
Change is coming. As many as four starting positions are up for grabs and if the fan voting is any indication, there are plenty of options for coach Malone. Below are a few of the most commonly chosen groups. Today’s poll is specific – If you were coach Malone, who is your starting five on Wednesday night?