On Culture Change and the Sacramento Kings

Mike Malone has been going beserk in Sacto, trying to instill “culture change”. He’s been calling his players out in the press, and in the last game benched his starters for good in the third quarter, for lack of defensive effort.              

I understand that Malone no doubt feels he has the total backing of ownership, but both he and his owner are making a classic rookie mistake. Culture change is never instilled by coaches, it is instilled by players. Teams never start playing defense until they reach a critical mass of good defensive players. Trying to play good defense without the necessary personnel is a waste of time and resources, and players realize that fast.

Paul Pierce is a great defender, who literally ripped Kobe Bryant’s heart from his chest in the Finals. But Pierce and the Celtics never played hard on defense until the arrival of Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo. Should Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau be credited with that culture change?

Don Nelson was (incorrectly) labeled as a coach who didn’t give two hoots about defense. How then did the We Believe Warriors rise up to deliver one of the great defensive performances in NBA playoff history? Holding the #1 seeded Mavericks ten points below their scoring average, while running them off the court?  Destroying the league MVP?

Culture change?

Yes, the culture change attendant upon assembling a critical mass of great defenders: Andris Biedrins, Stephen Jackson, Baron Davis, Matt Barnes, and Mickael Pietrus.

(And a great game plan.)

Similarly, the culture change on the Warriors was not instilled by Mark Jackson. It was instilled by the acquisitions of Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut. And now Iggy, JON and Toney Douglas. All of those guys brought their defensive desire and defensive abilities with them when they came to the Warriors. Mark Jackson had literally nothing to do with it.

And now the presence of these great defensive players has inspired Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and David Lee to work harder on defense. Why?

Because now it works.

As for the Kings, if Mike Malone continues to throw temper tantrums while trotting out the likes of Greivous Vasquez, John Salmons, Marcus Thornton and Jason Thompson, he’s going to wear out his welcome fast, while accomplishing exactly nothing.

The problem of course also has a lot to do with Boogie Cousins himself, the Kings “franchise player,” who has to date shown little to no interest in the defensive end. But it’s wrong to make him the focus, at least as the Kings are constructed now. Because unless you surround Boogie with real defensive pieces who actually make playing defense fun and productive, he will have absolutely no incentive to change his habits. And his coach’s fury will only make things worse.

Have you seen how worked up Bogut gets when a teammate misses a rotation? If he were on the Kings, he’d lose his mind.

Kind of like the guy already there.

Would that be culture change?

15 Responses to On Culture Change and the Sacramento Kings

  1. According to Marcus Thompson, Dedmon will likely be called up from Santa Cruz to take JON’s roster spot.


    • Love the Iggy quote calling Thompson weird, but a good weird in the MT post. Dedmon is going to be an OK call-up. I wonder if Jackson will ever play Kuzmic with the starting unit….

    • I doubt either guy sees the rotation. Practice and garbage time players.

  2. No recap tonight.

  3. You’re probably right about a team’s culture arising from its players, but most coaches feel they own the responsibility for it, and most team owners put it on the coach too.

    In any case, you can’t blame Malone for getting all do-or-die about defense. Sacto has talent. If they could deliver on D, they could be a decent team.

    Speaking of defense,

    “…the Mavs have been a better defensive team so far this season with Ellis on the floor. Dallas’ overall defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is 102.3, which is tied for 15th in the NBA. It’s 99.9 with Ellis on the floor.”

    Maybe it’s the culture. Ellis has always had the ability to lock down opponents, he just didn’t always do it when the rest of his team was hopelessly bad on D.

    FWIW, Ellis is once again leading his team in minutes played and shot attempts, and 2nd in assists. No rest for the weary, on either end of the court.


    • Hat — re: “no rest of the weary”, Monta would have it no other way.

      • You could be right. It’s not his decision, though.

        The article linked above went on to quote Rick Carlyle on how they had to find some way to give Monta more rest. I’ve always thought his huge amount of playing time had an impact on his D.

  4. question for those who endured and watched the third quarter of the UT game — is it true that Jefferson was defended by Mr.Barnes during most of the third quarter, and pretty much had his way on offense ?

    one of the beat writers said the team would use speights as a back up five, with dedmon or kuzmic third string. from all the fan blogs, it seems the urban legend about d.lee’s horrific defense has suppressed the bloggers, media, fans from admitting the obvious — he’s their best back up center by far.

    • FeltbotsFakeGirlfriend

      Harrison Barnes 7-10 and +20

      Richard Jefferson 2-9 -14

      Please tell me how Jefferson had is way???? Stop the Barnes bashing already.

      • Good point, FFG. Barnes shot well last night, and it really looked like he was hustling on D. He seems to have more intensity as a sub.

        • It’s hard to fault the Warriors starters for much the last two games. 1-5 they are better at every position than the Jazz. Favors is a poor man’s Greg Monroe and Kanter, while a decent offense player, doesn’t add much as a help defender at the center position. Gordon Heyward could be a great second or third option on a playoff team, but is certainly not The Man.

          The Warriors subs have looked horrible, though. I don’t get Basemore. That hunger and intensity he previously showed on the defensive end is all bit gone when he has gotten into games this season. Perhaps he is having an identity crisis being on a team with such great shooters. It’s obvious to me that his greatest value is as a defensive player, however, he always finds himself with the ball in bad situations on offense. Very odd.

          • I should have said the Warriors end of the bench guys. Barnes and Green have been playing pretty well, with Green making a huge impact defensively. If you add the injured JON and Douglas, the Warriors go 9 deep with possible rotation players. Not bad at all.

  5. the first half in UT broke open when green came in for bogut at the end of the first quarter, with a one point margin. green saw a mere seven minutes, contributed several key defensive plays (including a deflection that turned into an open court score that wasn’t recorded as a steal), led a successful fast break, and was credited with a +13 for his work before getting subbed out with bogut’s return. speights or lee was the five when bogut sat.

    • Barnes and Green were both +20 on the night, and their playing time overlapped a lot. But Green played 16 minutes, and Barnes got 29 minutes. Both had awesome shooting percentages.

      Like us, Jim Barnett also pointed out last night what a difference maker Green is. It’s nice to know he agrees with us “experts.” Despite that, it’s obvious that team management is making an investment in Barnes. Maybe they think he has more upside than Green, and his athleticism might actually make that so. Maybe it’s more feasible to teach Barnes teamwork and defensive basics than to teach Green how to look good scoring. To be fair, it’s worth noting that Barnes is shooting .505 on the season, while Green is “merely” at .450.

      Maybe Green would get more PT if he didn’t look so damn awkward on O. Maybe the team is saving him for when they need him to save the team’s bacon. Maybe his fitness is still a question, especially in comparison to Barnes. Whatever. They’re using him as a “defensive specialist.” One who happens to be shooting at an elite level without ever having a play called for him.


  6. Terrific win.

    Glad Jackson didn’t make the same mistake of allowing Curry to play the entire first quarter Jackson. As Jackson found the good sense to rest Curry with three minutes left in the first quarter. As the result, he shot 3-5 in the second quarter and got to the foul line twice. In the second half, he shot 3-6 from the field.

    Jazz player Ian Clark who the Warriors failed to sign after the summer league shot 4-5 from the field.

    The Warriors regularly get outscored with Speights regardless of who is on the court with him.