Kings fire coach doing quality work, that always works out well


The Sacramento Kings were off to an impressive 9-6 start to the season until their star center and best player — DeMarcus Cousins — came down with a life threatening illness (viral meningitis). They had gone 2-7 after that but done so while playing the second toughest schedule in the league to this point and are half a game out of a playoff spot. This team had taken a quality step forward from last season, both the offense and defense were playing better. You could feel a positive culture change around the team. Plus the Kings and their system had gotten more efficiency and quality play out of Rudy Gay than any previous stop in his career.

So Sunday night the Kings fired their coach, Mike Malone.

That always works well in the NBA, firing a coach doing a good job. Just go ask the Nuggets about it.

(To be fair, it seems to be working in Golden State this season. But that’s more the exception that proves the rule.)

This is on owner Vivek Ranadivé, who had hired Malone personally before even hiring GM Pete D’Alessandro when he bought the team. It was a rookie ownership move because he hired a star assistant but not one with the same basketball philosophy as himself or the GM — remember Malone (an assistant to Mike Brown at the time) was part of the group that kept a young LeBron James in a slowed down, walk-it-up offense (and won a lot of games that way). Ranadivé and his man Chris Mullin (an official advisor) wanted more showtime, which reportedly led to tension between Malone and ownership.

Ranadivé tolerated some losing last season but as’s Bill Herenda notes Ranadivé said this season he wanted wins and lots of them.

What he really wanted was more offense. The Kings are currently right at the league average, 15th in offensive efficiency at 103.6 points per 100 possessions, playing at what is a middle of the road pace of 95.7 possessions a game (16th in the league). Again, that’s without Cousins the past nine games and after D’Alessandro traded away Isaiah Thomas in the off-season. What bothered Malone more was the Kings’ defense, which at 104.2 points allowed per 100 possessions was 18th in the league.

And Malone is right — if the Kings envisioned themselves a playoff team defense was what mattered. Well, that and getting Cousins healthy.

That said, the owner has the right to set the tone and style he wants to see from his team. If Ranadivé wants it more up-tempo, he should be able to push the team that direction. But three things need to be mentioned. First, again, why hire Malone in the first place if that’s the style you want (Ranadivé knew Malone from Golden State, where Malone had coached and Ranadivé was a minority owner)? Second, why bring Malone back this summer? There had been rumblings his job could be in jeopardy, why not make a clean break then, why in the middle of the season?

Third, and finally, this roster is not really built to run. Cousins works best in the half court, Gay isn’t young anymore, they don’t have enough ball handlers, and while I could go on you get the point. If they want to play fast it’s going to take more than a coaching change, some roster changes are needed.

Sacramento will ride out the season with former Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin in the big chair. He has a clear mandate and will play faster, but short of him getting the Kings the playoffs — something highly unlikely in the deep West, especially with Cousins still out a while — you have to think they will go coach shopping next summer. The biggest name being floated is George Karl (the quality coach fired by the Nuggets after a 57-win season), who has a big supporter in D’Alessandro from when both were in Denver. He certainly likes to pay up tempo. Two other names being mentioned as guys to watch are Mark Jackson and Vinny Del Negro. Neither of those last two are upgrades over Malone.

At least this time around Ranadivé should hire someone who is on his page philosophically.

As for whether that person is a better coach than Malone, I wouldn’t be so sure.

Miles Plumlee gets the spike-block off of Dwyane Wade’s forehead (VIDEO)


Late in the second quarter of Miami’s win in Phoenix on Tuesday, Dwyane Wade did the right thing offensively in trying to exploit the size advantage he held while being defended by Goran Dragic in the post.

What he did wrong, however, is fail to account for the help defender who was on the way.

Chris Bosh did his part in trying to give Wade space by setting up behind the three-point line, but Miles Plumlee saw just how exposed Dragic was. He came over in time to get the blocked shot — one which was punctuated by the ball being spiked off of Wade’s forehead as he went crashing to the ground.

[via Ming Wong]

Blake Griffin’s lucky bounce masks a lot of questions remaining about Clippers

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LOS ANGELES — It was as dramatic a shot as Blake Griffin has had in his career. Down two with less than three seconds on the clock in overtime he took a step back both to create space from defender P.J. Tucker and to make sure it was a three, then put up a line drive that Griffin admitted “right when I shot it I thought it was flat, short, off, everything.”

It bounced up off the front of the rim and found its way in. It was the ultimate shooter’s roll. It sent Staples Center into a frenzy and gave the Clippers their eighth straight win, keeping them in the thick of a ridiculously crowded and high achieving Western Conference (the current seven seed Mavericks are on pace to win 59 games). After the game that shot was pretty much the only thing people wanted to talk about,

That shot also masked a lot of Clippers’ issues defensively.

Ones that make you question if the Clippers are really the contenders they believe themselves to be.

The Suns put up an offensive rating of 109.3 points per 100 possessions against LA Monday night, almost four per 100 higher than their season average. The Clippers defensive rotations were slow, particularly out to the three point line, leading to 53 percent of the Suns shots on the night being uncontested. The Clippers got lucky the Suns only shot 48.4 percent on the night, they missed a lot of good looks.

Then there are the questions about wing defense specifically — Eric Bledsoe put up a triple double (27 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds) by going right at J.J. Redick all night, every chance he got. In isolations, off picks, in transition, just every time they were matched up. The result was Bledsoe had 11 uncontested shots and only five with a defender within a couple feet of him. It’s been a weak spot all season for the Clippers and it almost bit them on Monday night at home.

“I wasn’t real happy with our defense tonight,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said afterward. “I thought we had a couple key stops down the stretch. It’s one of those games where you’ll take the win, it was neat for our guys, they were excited, but they knew. You could see it collectively right when I walked in (the locker room) on their faces: ‘Not my best,’ ‘Not my best,’ ‘We messed up,’ ‘I messed this coverage up.’” You could just feel it.

“And that’s a good sign for your team when you pull out a win and the guys still own up to that we have to do better.”

The win against a quality opponent does matter. The Clippers defense has not been terrible, it’s just been average (12th in the NBA in defensive efficiency) and that’s been good enough thanks to their offense. Also, it’s early, the Clippers should be building and evolving defensively toward what they will be later in the season. Nobody should expect any team to be near a finished product right now.

But Monday was a measuring stick game for the Clippers a quarter of the way into the season and the questions about this team, the ones from their slow start last month, still linger. The questions about the lack of depth and how that bench can tie Doc Rivers’ hands in matchups are still valid.

The issues had been masked of late. The Clippers had won their previous five games by at least 17 points. However, the only above .500 team among them was a Houston squad which that night was missing three starters including Dwight Howard. Los Angeles hadn’t been really tested during the win streak, they could just overwhelm teams with their athleticism and Chris Paul’s improved shooting.

They were tested Monday by a team that plays hard but small (allowing the Clippers to post up Griffin much of the night on his way to 45 points), a team that is going to have a hard time holding off a healthy Oklahoma City squad for a final playoff spot in the West. This is a good Suns team, a scrappy one, but not a team playing like the rest of the top seven out West.

“We didn’t play great. Our execution today…” Rivers said, his voice trailing off as he searched for a word he couldn’t quite find. “We had some things, even our guys were looking at each other. It was one of those games where we just figured out a way to win… and sometimes you just need to win the game….

“I can’t wait to watch the film, I’ll be happy and furious at the same time, because I know we can play better.”

They’ll need to. They have plenty of time to figure it out, but the Clippers still have a lot of questions to answer.

PBT’s Monday NBA Winners/Losers: Blake Griffin played like royalty


Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while solving the mystery of the green cat….

source:  Blake Griffin. He played like the best power forward in the game Monday night, scoring 45 points on 24 shots, scoring with power moves and a smooth jumper. After falling in love with saod jumper early in the season he has found a balance — he was 4-of-9 from the midrange, plus was 7-of-9 within three feet of the basket, meaning he was attacking the rim and doing things like this:

But that wasn’t even his best shot of the night — Griffin hit a step-back three to win the game for the Clippers 121-120 in overtime. Well, maybe it wasn’t his best shot — he admits it was flat and he thought he’d missed it, but it caught the front of the rim just right and… well, when you score 45 points you get some kind rolls

source:  Eric Bledsoe. In what was a revenge game against his former team the Clippers (well, he wouldn’t admit that but he played like it) Bledsoe recorded the Suns first triple-double since 2006 — 27 points (on 16 shots), 16 assists and 11 rebounds. He even blocked Chris Paul’s driving layup/floater to preserve tie and send game to overtime. “He played great,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He penetrated and kicked it out. He made the plays. He made the great block at the end, too. We have to have our guys play well like that to compete with some of these teams.”

source:  John Wall. We could put up the stats — 26 points and 17 assists, and note he scored the final 10 Wizards points as they came from 7 down in the second overtime to beat the Celtics. We could tell you how Wall’s speed with the ball pressured the Celtics all night and they just couldn’t deal with him. We could tell you how, in a league rich with quality point guards, Wall has risen up to be one of the true elites. But really, all you need to know about Wall comes in this video of his post game interview.

Wall befriended and helped Miyah, who turned six this year, meet Nicki Minaj. You can see the entire backstory here from the Washington Post, it’s well worth your time.

source:  Kate Middleton and Prince William. Why them? Because they were more into the game than the Nets. And the royal couple missed a good chunk of the game because they ate in the arena beforehand. Also, them meeting Jay-Z was more interesting than the Nets or this game (another easy win for the Cavaliers, who are finding a groove).

source:  Kevin Garnett. Really KG? Is this how you want to act in front of royalty (I’m talking Jay-Z and Beyonce, combined they’re worth more than those other two celebs at the game). KG, you realize the Cavaliers were absolutely drilling your team, right? Ran you out of your own gym. On the bright side, at least he’s trying to pick on someone his own size for a change.

source:  Al Horford. The Hawks had another win, this one 108-92, 25 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and three blocks. While everyone is watching Toronto and Chicago, the Hawks have put together a nice run and climbed the standings in the East. In large because of Horford. While the Pacers stodd around on defense or on the glass, Horford had energy (to go with his tremendous skills) and that separated him from everyone wearing yellow Monday night.

Blake Griffin gets crazy shooter’s bounce, hits three to beat Suns in OT (VIDEO)


LOS ANGELES — “Right when I shot it I thought it was flat, short, off, everything.”

Blake Griffin has spent a lot of time with shooting coach Bob Tate this summer working on expanding his range and getting good arc on his shot — this shot had none of that arc. It wasn’t pretty. As he said above, he knew it when he shot it.

But that pretty much summed up Monday night’s game for the Clippers — it wasn’t pretty, they made a lot of mistakes (particularly on defense), but Griffin had 45 points on the night and his final three gave the Clippers a 121-120 overtime win over the Suns. That makes eight straight wins for the Clippers, although they had won the previous five by at least 17 points. This one they had to earn late — and get a little luck.

As one Suns player said, when you score 45 points those are the kinds of rolls you get.

Doc Rivers said this shot was not one Griffin would have had the confidence to take two years ago.

“I went for a three, but I also stepped back to get a little more room,” Griffin said.

“I thought it was an airball when he shot it,” Clippers guard J.J. Redick said. “The one time I’ll go to the offensive glass all year is on a buzzer beater. Then it hit the rim and I thought ‘that ball is going to get in.”

Griffin’s night ad shot overshadowed a big night from former Clipper Eric Bledsoe who had the Suns’ first triple-double since 2006 with 27 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds. He was a beast who went right at J.J. Redick all night and almost won Phoenix the game.

But the bounces went the Clippers’ way.

“I think all of us, when the ball left his hands, said there is no way that is going in,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It was such a line drive and it hits any other part of the rim and there’s no chance.”

But this bounce went to the Clippers. And to Griffin. It was that kind of night for him.