Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone preps for second season
Michael Malone is on the clock.
The Sacramento Kings head coach knows full well that wins and losses are paramount this season. He is in Year 2 of a massive overhaul, but expectations are rising for a 28-win Kings team that boasts two national team players and a hodgepodge of veterans and young players.
The Kings roster is far different than it was a year ago, but there are no guarantees that it is better. The second-year coach comes into the new season with a renewed optimism but also the reality that more changes could come at any moment.
Before hordes of reporters could jump into the fray during Friday’s media day, we were able to steal a bit of one-on-one time with the always candid Malone. Here’s the head coach of the Sacramento Kings on the eve of training camp:
CK: You’ve got a little bit different roster this season. You have a few more pieces to work with. Are you excited about having some more depth this season?
MM: I think Pete (D’Alessandro) did a great job this offseason. Whether it be through the draft with Nik Stauskas or signings and trades. You add Nik, you add Darren Collison, Ramon Sessions, Omri Casspi, Ryan Hollins, and to get guys like Ramon and Ryan as late as we did, I think that’s tremendous. I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to working with those guys, and I have watched them throughout my NBA career as a coach and there’s no doubt in my mind that all of those guys are going to help this team out.
CK: Ramon brings something specific that this team lacked last season. He is a bench scorer. Then, you’re getting Carl Landry back, so you have two guys you can count on off the bench. That has to make you smile.
MM: I think it’s well needed. You don’t want to be an NBA team where your starters play well and you go to your bench and you have nobody that can score for you. Then you’re forced to play your starters too many minutes. It’s a catch-22. Ramon has proven in his NBA career to be a guy that can score. He gets to the foul line, he’s a very aggressive player offensively and he’s an attack player, which I love.
And as you mentioned, Carl Landry, when healthy, is a proven low post scorer that is going to get to the foul line, and he’s going to help you on the glass. So, to have a perimeter player and a post player that can potentially give you that 1-2 scoring punch off the bench, it’s definitely exciting and encouraging for the season to come.
CK: You added even more frontcourt players. It seems like you can never have enough power forwards. How are you going to work with Reggie Evans, Jason Thompson, Eric Moreland, Carl Landry and fit them into one 48-minute spot?
MM: The great thing about training camp is that it’s a competition. We know that DeMarcus Cousins is our starting center. We know that Rudy Gay is our starting small forward. They have gold medals to prove it. Other than that, it’s going to be a competition. Nothing is set in stone. So the point guard, the two, the four…
As you mentioned, we have a lot of power forwards. It’s going to be a competition to see who plays the best and who also is the best fit for the group that’s out there, and that’s going to play itself out. We started Jason at times last year. Reggie started late in the year. Carl’s healthy again. You have a young kid in Eric Moreland, and we may play small ball. Rudy played some four this summer, and Omri Casspi can be a stretch four.
There’s only so many minutes you can play, so I’m going to have to make that decision with my staff to see who we feel is the best option to go with.
CK: You added Tyrone Corbin to your bench during the summer. What is it that you think Ty is going to bring to your staff this year?
MM: The first thing is: I’ve known Ty for a long time. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him. Anybody who plays 16 years in the NBA and plays for Hall of Fame coaches like Pat Riley, Lenny Wilkens and Jerry Sloan, who he coached under and played for – he’s learned a lot.
The fact that he’s been a head coach for four years. He’s walked the walk. He knows what I’m going through, and he can be that guy that I lean to and draw from all of his experiences as a player and a coach. And there is a fit. He is easy to work with, he’s great with the other coaches, all of the players have really gotten along with him in the early going.
I want him to challenge me. That’s the biggest thing I told him when I hired him. ‘I’m hiring you, not because I worked with you for a year in New York; I’m hiring you for your experience as a player, as an assistant and as a head coach, and I want you to use that experience to challenge me and help me become the best head coach I can be.’
CK: Are we going to see any of that Utah Jazz pick-and-roll offense that he has run for years?
MM: If John Stockton and Karl Malone come out of retirement, you might (laughing). We’ll look to take some of things that they did. Obviously Jerry Sloan and the Utah offense they ran for many years, but Tyrone has a lot of ideas and things he believes in and we’ll continue to see what we can take from that system and use with our team.
CK: Year 1, expectations were thrown out the window. Wins and losses didn’t mean anything. What does Year 2 mean?
MM: Year 2, for me obviously, is we have to be better. Year 1, as I’ve said many times, was not about wins and losses per se; it was about changing the culture, developing a defensive mindset and player development. And now that we’re in Year 2, we’re no longer going to talk about it not being about wins and losses.
I’m not going to sit here and say this team is going to win “x” amount of games. I’m not going to promise a playoff berth. I hope that we can play to our potential every single night. We all know what the problems were last year – last in the league in assists per game, 23rd in turnovers, 27th in 3-point percent.
What can we do about that? By some of the players that we’ve brought in here – facilitators, ball movement, player movement, running different types of offense to encourage all of that. And we know that we always have to continue to get better on the defensive end. Last year was so much defense for me that last year, offensively, we probably didn’t spend the requisite time that we needed to, to become a better offensive team because our defense had been so bad. This year, the hope is to be a much better offensive team, while we continue to steadily improve our defense, as well.