Coaching the Sacramento Kings has long been one of the more challenging positions in the NBA. The previous owners ran the organization on the cheap, leaving behind a complete mess. The culture was bad, the talent was bad and anyone willing to take on the job had to know that the road to success would be long and arduous.
But all of that is changing quickly. Pete D’Alessandro is doing his best to revamp the Kings talent pool and infuse coach Michael Malone’s team with frontline athletes. In a matter of two weeks, D’Alessandro has completely changed the dynamic of the Kings roster with the additions of Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay.
“It’s exciting,” Malone said of adding another big-time athlete in Gay prior to last night’s win over the Mavs. “But I’m not a track coach, I’m a basketball coach. I’ll be excited when we get stops on a more consistent basis. I’ll be excited when we can shoot a higher percentage from the field. We’ve done some good things this year, but obviously we have a long ways to go.”
With the addition of Gay, Malone has another basketball mouth to feed. Center DeMarcus Cousins has taken major strides in year four, but he leads the NBA in usage rate at 34.9 percent. Gay ranks sixth in the league in usage at 30.4 percent and Isaiah Thomas is 11th in the league at 28.2 percent. If the Kings are to succeed, Malone is going to have to manage these heavy use players.
“We have to check our egos at the door,” Malone said. “It’s not about just the individual, it’s about trying to get the best shot we can every possession and that’s my job as a head coach.”
The roster transformation has brought in talent, but in many instances, D’Alessandro has traded proven defensive assets like Luc Mbah a Moute, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes for offensive weapons like Gay and Williams.
“It doesn’t change my style at all,” Malone said. “Everything for us will be predicated on getting stops and rebounding and then when we do that, we’re more athletic. We should get out and run a little bit more.”
If Monday’s win over the Mavericks was any indication, the Kings are going to be fun to watch. With Thomas running the show and Williams, Gay and rookie Ben McLemore running the flanks, the Kings are one of the most athletic teams in the league.
Fun is nice, but Malone needs to put all of these pieces together and make them into a cohesive unit. The culture of the Kings is still a work in progress, something the coach knows all too well. The fact that the Kings have gained four new players in less than two weeks and jettisoned five doesn’t change the path that Malone has set for his young team.
“The philosophy here is still the same,” Malone said. “We’re still trying to find a culture and change our culture. And the guys that are still here have bought in. (It’s a) work in progress obviously, but it’s going to start and finish on the defensive end of the floor for us.”
Being the coach of the Sacramento Kings isn’t glamorous, but it seems to get more exciting each and every day.