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Kings coach Michael Malone on his players: ‘These guys have got to take responsibility’

Dec 24, 2013, 9:55 AM EDT

Sacramento Kings v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

What’s bothering Kings coach Michael Malone?

Right now, it seems to be Sacramento’s 22 turnovers in a loss to the Pelicans on Monday and the Kings allowing 39 fourth-quarter points in a loss to the Hawks on Wednesday.

After the the loss to New Orleans – Sacramento’s fourth defeat in five games, which dropped the team to 8-19 – Malone gave one of the most direct interview sessions of the season. If it was on his mind, he said it.

The highlights, via News 10 (click through for video):

  • “It’s the same problem every night. I guess we’ve got to some better players that can contain the basketball, because right now, we can’t.”
  • “We’re a bad basketball team. That’s the bottom line. We’re a bad basketball team right now.”
  • “We’re not that good where we can give teams 22 extra possessions. I’ll tell you that much. I don’t know if we can beat them if we give them zero extra possessions.”
  • On Rudy Gay: “He played bad. That’s it. He had a bad game. And he wasn’t the only one. We had a lot of guys that didn’t play well tonight.”
  • “You know how hard it is to give up 39 points in a quarter? That is embarrassing. I’m embarrassed. I don’t know if anybody in that locker room is embarrassed, but I’m embarrassed.”
  • “I can’t control the turnovers. I can’t make the passes for them. That’s – at some point, these guys have got to take responsibility. Plenty of times this season, I’ve put it on me, and I’ll do that. But I tell you what, each guy in that locker room has got to start looking in the mirror and owning up and taking responsibility for their play. And we don’t have a lot of that right now.”
  • “How many times do you have to hit rock bottom? I mean, Look at our record. We’ve hit rock bottom four or five times now. Maybe some of these guys are so used to losing, they’re accustomed to it. I’m not. I’m not used to losing. I’m used to being in the playoffs and being a competitive team that takes pride in its defense. Right now, we don’t have a lot of guys that do that. So, I’m not sure what their rock bottom is, but I hit my rock bottom about one week into the season.”

Oh boy.

An NBA coach blaming his players like that is a dangerous game. Sure, Malone interjected a cursory “I’ve put it on me, and I’ll do that,” but everything else he said suggests otherwise. He’s putting it on the players.

On some teams, that can motivate the players into trying harder and performing better. On other teams, it leads to distrust and revolt.

I hope, for Malone’s sake, he knows what he’s doing. He certainly has more exposure to the personalities of the Kings than I do, so he’s better positioned to make that judgment – assuming the comments were a tactical decision and not an emotional outburst Malone now regrets.

But this would be a good time to remind Malone he’s 8-19 as an NBA head coach. Is he really so certain the Kings’ problems are the players faults and not his? Are all his schemes ideal? And if they are, has he taught them coherently?

It takes a lot of self-confidence for a rookie head coach to assume it’s the players and not him. To say so publically puts Malone on a whole other level.

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For what it’s worth, told of Malone’s unhappiness, DeMarcus Cousins indicated agreement rather than rebellion. Via News 10 (click through for video):

  • “It’s like an old record playing. It’s the same s— every night. We break down defensively. We don’t talk. It’s the same s—. And when you keep up with the same s—, you’re going to get the same results, and that’s what we’ve been getting.”
  • “It’s excuses. We’re looking for excuses. That’s all it is. We’re looking for excuses.”
  • “I won’t say it’s effort, but it’s an excuse. ‘Well, this man didn’t do that. So, I couldn’t do that.’ it’s excuses. Guard your man. Do your f——- job.”

Cousins scolding his teammates for not doing their jobs defensively? He’s not exactly an ideal messenger. Zach Lowe of Grantland evaluated Cousins before the season and wrote:

We tend to think of selfishness as something ball hogs exhibit on offense. But Cousins, to this point in his career, has been a selfish defender in lots of ways. He tries to minimize the amount of energy he expends executing the team’s scheme, and as a result, he stays very close to his own man when his team really needs him to be helping more aggressively. Even when he slides over on time to try to contain the opposing point guard on a pick-and-roll, he often leaves his help spot early, after offering only a token wave of the hand.

Cousins has improved in this regard this year, but a partial season of unselfish defense doesn’t give him the high ground – especially if his teammates are complaining that they can’t rotate properly because Cousins doesn’t.

He needs longer to earn the benefit of the doubt. Yet, he’s still pointing fingers.

Maybe he just took a cue from his coach.

  1. louhudson23 - Dec 24, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    What’s the worst that can happen in saying this? Currently,they only take responsibility for cashing their checks. Hard to dog it more than they are right now…a turnover is a turnover,a loss is loss.Might as well set them down and find some one with a bit of GAF…..becuase these fellows have little to none….

  2. thomaskouns - Dec 24, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Malone was the assistant coach last year for my team – Golden State- and he is a very well respected coach and considered to be one of the best defensive strategists in the league. The Warriors did not want him to go and you are seeing that in the Warrior’s scheming this year.

    What gets lost in all the hype and attention around Cousins is that he’s a horrible defensive player even quantitatively. He rarely is willing to set screens, do rotations like they should be done or play ‘true’ man to man. He basically ran the other way when he matched up with Bogut last time we played who has pretty much no offensive game.

    Cousin’s pole riders refuse to acknowledge it but he plays & offensive rebounds but not for wins. Potential is just that unless you live up to it.

  3. convincedofthehex - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Jimmer Fredette finally got more minutes last night and played well. On one defensive possession the Pelicans ran him through two hard screens and no one on the Kings rotated to help leading to an easy jumper. Jimmer looked around to see where the help was and everyone just stared at him or looked away. That team is a mess.

  4. brotherlove2012 - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    And getting Rudy Gay won’t solve anything defensively. That team is a mess indeed. They got some nice parts but no chemistry.

  5. rando74 - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    I live here. They stink. I don’t care. At least they’re not in Seattle.

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