When Vivek Ranadive took over ownership of the Sacramento Kings, it was understood there was a strong likelihood he would bring with him a coach that he was both familiar and comfortable with. That’s of course on top of a respected name and skills, which is why the addition of Michael Malone made so much sense.
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Revered in NBA communities by both players, coaches and front office personnel, the hiring of Malone appeased many. But how did he do in his first season as a head coach?
Malone did so much right in his first season that it’s easy to forgive the 54 losses. He proved remarkably successful with Cousins, especially on the defensive end, and that right there would have been success enough for the Coach’s rookie season. Certainly, the team didn’t always come out with the full effort and energy that he wanted, but the letdowns became less frequent as the season went on. You can tell that most of the player bought into Malone’s system and expectations.
The big key will be next season, when he’s had a full summer to work with his players. Will the defense show serious improvement? What exactly is Malone’s offensive battleplan, aside from letting Cousins/Thomas/Gay score? There are many questions still to be answered, but Kings fans should be more optimistic about Malone’s future than any Kings coach since Adleman.
As much as I want to give Coach Malone a higher grade, one concern keeps popping up for me: Did the Kings actually improve throughout the season? I just don’t think there was enough. On the plus side, Malone proved he has control of the locker room, the respect of his players and is committed to holding them accountable for their performance. The Kings effort was always there, and that’s not something you could say in years past. Unfortunately, the product was painfully mediocre, and even with all the changes, there seemed to be enough talent on the floor to at least hit 30 wins. I have full faith in Coach Malone going forward and admire how he handled his rookie season, but I want to see more improvement on both ends of the court.
I like Coach Malone and thought he did a solid job with the tools he was given to work with. Sure, while there were some solid pieces like DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas to start the season, there was a significant lack of depth on the roster yet the Kings continually found themselves in games and competing against top level teams. No, the wins weren’t there but there was a fight from the Kings we hadn’t seen in quite some time under previous coaches. On the flip side, like Scott, I think there should have been a bit more improvement throughout the season but in fairness to Malone, the Kings struggled to get Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas all healthy at the same time. When they played together, the Kings were pretty good.
Overall, I thought Coach Malone had a fine season and while some things could have been a bit better, as we’ve seen before, things could have been a lot worse.