Programming note: Pistons-Kings coverage starts Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California (territorial restrictions apply) and streaming live right here.
The prospects for the Kings coming off consecutive 28-win seasons with only five returning players from last year’s squad and facing the toughest early schedule in the NBA were not rosy.
However, second year coach Michael Malone guided the Kings to a 9-6 start including a five-game winning streak before losing DeMarcus Cousins for the last eight games due to viral meningitis.
The Kings are 2-6 without Cousins and now 11-12 overall. But the hot start provided one of the surprises of the early NBA campaign and also changed the expectations for their season.
[HERENDA: First quarter report card: Kings starters]
Here’s a look at the quarterly report card for the Kings coaching staff.
Michael Malone: A-
After a 28-win season, the Kings have overachieved thus far in year two under Malone with 11 wins.
Malone and his staff have gotten the best out of Cousins’ in not only his production, but perhaps more importantly his demeanor.
Locking up Rudy Gay to a three-year contract extension, with the assistance of ownership in Vivek Ranadive and GM Pete D’Alessandro, is another positive reflection on the coaching staff as Sacramento tries to turn things around.
While adding multiple new pieces –- the most integral one being point guard Darren Collison -- Sacramento coalesced quickly under Malone’s leadership and the early beginnings of a positive culture change are in place.
Adding Tyrone Corbin, former Utah Jazz head coach, to go along with Chris Jent, Corliss Williamson, Micah Nori, Dee Brown and Ryan Bowen has bolstered the staff.
Another key criteria to evaluate the coaching staff is skill development and Ben McLemore’s improvement in his second season demonstrates that Malone and his crew can nurture talent.
Areas for improvement still abound around consistency:
• Better offensive execution – especially in late game situations
• Maintaining leads and finishing
• Improving 3-point shooting
• Decreasing deleterious turnovers
• Minimizing defensive lapses
• Eliminating player of the week performances in your rear-view mirror- see Kyle Lowry and James Harden
Coaching is a precarious, high-energy business so Malone and his staff need to maintain strong relationships with key players such as Cousins, Gay and Collison while keeping the bench players engaged.
[RELATED: First quarter report card: Kings reserves]
Getting more consistency out of the roster as recommended above by the professor will maintain not just the grade but also the W’s.