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

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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.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

AP Foto/Eric Christian Smith
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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.