Michael Malone nears decision on starting five

Michael Malone coaching the Dallas Mavericks. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone is not happy with his team’s play so far in the preseason.  The Kings currently sit at 1-3 through four games, but the record isn’t what concerns the second-year coach.

“To be honest, I don’t think we’re playing that well as a team,” Malone said following Friday’s practice.  “As a team, we’re not playing very well consistently and no one has played very well on a consistent basis individually either.”

“I don’t care at all about the win-loss record,” Malone added.  “What I do care about is giving up 47 percent from the field (and) 107 points per game.”

Malone has mixed and matched lineups throughout the preseason.  We have seen plenty of small ball and three-guard sets and even a little power ball.  But this is the point in the preseason when it’s time to start building continuity with the players that will see the bulk of the minutes once the season begins.

“These last three games (of preseason), starting tomorrow night, I think we’ll start shortening our rotation to get ready for opening night,” Malone said.  “We have three games left in our preseason, so we have to start fine-tuning it and cutting down our rotation a little bit so we can get it right for October 29.”

With so many new players on the roster, it will take time for the Kings to mesh.  Sometimes a long road trip is just what the doctor ordered.

“For me, the one positive coming out of China was how much time we spent together as a staff, as a team,” Malone said.  “That can only help all these new faces come together and bond and create some sort of chemistry off the court.  Which hopefully will lead to a better on the court chemistry as we get to know each other.”

According to Malone, he has a good idea of what his starting lineup will look like on opening night.  He wasn’t willing to divulge who will open the season alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, but trends have developed throughout the preseason.

“It won’t be anything Earth-shattering, it’s not splitting mercury here,”  Malone told Cowbell Kingdom.  “I’m definitely getting very close to where I feel I’m very comfortable with who are starters are going to be and who I want our bench rotation to be.”

Stay tuned for Saturday night’s matchup against Maccabi Haifa.  The group that starts that game may be the first team unit on opening night.


DeMarcus Cousins nursing an Achilles injury

After a busy summer with Team USA, the Sacramento Kings have limited DeMarcus Cousins’ minutes throughout the preseason. The 24-year-old big man sat out Wednesday morning’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, and we learned today that it was more than just a healthy scratch.

“We all know that he was very busy this summer with his USA commitment, but his feet have really been bothering him, the Achilles tendinitis,” Malone said.  “I didn’t feel it was in his or our best interest to have him play through that over in Beijing.  But he’ll play tomorrow night.  We’ll monitor his minutes.”

According to Malone, the plan is to start building up minutes for both Cousins and Rudy Gay over the next three games so they are both ready for major minutes when the season starts in late October.


Omri Casspi gets a visit from friends

For Sacramento Kings small forward Omri Casspi, Saturday night’s game against Maccabi Haifa has a special meaning.  The Israeli-born player will get a shot to play against friends and national team teammates, while playing for an NBA team.

“Most of the Israeli guys, especially, are good friends and some are national team players,” Casspi said following practice.  “It’s a fun experience.  It’s my first time playing against a team (from Israel) with an NBA team.”

On Wednesday night, Maccabi Haifa led the Washington Wizards at the half, before eventually falling by the final of 101-95.  Led by Dagan Yivzori’s 23 points, the Ligat HaAl league team is holding its own against NBA competition.

“They have talent to play and to compete,” Casspi said.  “If we’re not going to be ready to play, they’re going to be right there with us.”