Zone defense not part of Michael Malone’s philosophy for Sacramento Kings

Sacramento Kings try protecting the paint against the Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo: Tobin Halsey)

Don’t count on the Sacramento Kings playing more zone defense anytime soon. They rarely go that route anyways, but it’s not really Michael Malone’s preference to defend the opposition using a zone.

Malone doesn’t believe in coaching a team to play both man-to-man and zone defenses. The Kings new head coach feels that it’s rather an either/or situation when it comes to deciding defensive philosophy.

“I guess it comes down to what you believe in as a coach, what you wanna stress and what you want your identity to be,” Malone said after practice yesterday. “For me, I’m not a zone coach. We’ll use it at times, but I believe a man-to-man (works best). And I know that the stuff we’re teaching works because it’s worked everywhere I’ve been and it’s worked at a high level that’s allowed teams to get to the playoffs.”

Malone doesn’t have anything against the zone defense. In fact, he thinks that at times, it can be effective. However from Jeff Van Gundy to Mike Brown, Malone comes from a line of coaches that have prided their teams on strong man-to-man defense.

While in Cleveland, Malone said the Cavs would resort to zone only in emergency situations. “If a guy had foul trouble or we were just getting our butts kicked,” the Cavs would make the rare switch over to a zone in hopes of changing the momentum of a game according to Malone.

Elevating his team’s level of man-to-man defense remains the priority for the first-time coach.  It’s his belief that putting in time to work on a zone would only be detrimental to the Kings’ development with their on-ball defense.

“We don’t want to spend a lot of time (on zone) because we need so much work on man-to-man defense, especially since that trade and our limited practice time,” Malone said. “If you put time to a zone, that’s going to take away from your base defense.”

With just 10 wins to 21 losses, the Kings have had little success implementing Malone’s philosophy so far. However, that hasn’t deterred the first-year head coach from pushing forward. He’s seen flashes of their defensive potential in their wins, which has reinforced his belief in staying the course.

The numbers in the Kings’ victories do suggest they are playing defense the way Malone envisions they can. In their 10 wins, the Kings have posted a point differential of nearly +11 while holding their opponents to just 96.3 points per game. They also have limited their opposition to just 43.2 percent shooting from the field and 32.5 percent from 3-point distance.

“The one thing I know is I’m not going to abandon ship,” Malone said. “Even as bad as our defense has been, I know it can work. And if we do it correctly, they’ve shown even this year in our 10 wins… our defensive numbers are terrific. The challenge becomes we have to do it a lot more consistently so you’re not a team that’s got 10 wins and got 20-plus losses.”

Ndiaye sent back to Reno

The Kings assigned big man Hamady Ndiaye to the Reno Bighorns yesterday. Ndiaye was active and started for the Bighorns in a 95-85 loss to Santa Cruz Warriors Friday evening. The 26-year-old center scored six points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked three shots in 32 minutes of action.

Ndiaye’s latest stint in the D-League is not his first this season. He previously played one game last month in Reno, registering seven points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 24 minutes in a 129-122 victory over the S.C. Warriors on Dec. 6.



About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.