The Sacramento Kings fired coach Mike Malone on Sunday night, reportedly over philosophical differences with management.
New Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and GM Pete D’Alessandro wanted to run an up-tempo, high-scoring system while Malone was a defence-first guy, according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Grantland’s Zach Lowe, and others.
Wojnarowski reports that Ranadive is so committed to pushing the pace that he instructed interim coach Ty Corbin to experiment with a 4-on-5 defensive scheme.
No one really knows how this would work since it’s never been attempted in a high-level basketball game, but the implication is that the Kings will have four guys play defence and one guy whose job it is to cherry-pick all game.
Back in October Lowe reported that Ranadive was interested in the 4-on-5 experiment and wanted to have the team’s D-League affiliate try it out.
That affiliate, the Reno Bighorns, is now perhaps the most experimental professional basketball team in the country.
They hired David Arseneault Jr., who coached Grinnell College, the Division III team that had a player score 138 points in a game in 2013. Under Arseneault, the Bighorns press the entire game, substitute all five players every few minutes, and try to shoot as many three pointers as quickly as possible.
Arseneault told the Reno Gazette Journal that he was treating D-League season as an experiment, and he has followed through on that. The team is averaging 138 points per game in its last 11 games.
Now Ranadive wants to bring one decidedly outside-the-box concept to the NBA.
Here’s how Woj described the 4-on-5:
The owner played the part of a fantasy league owner, treating the Kings like a science experiment. He shared tactical experiences with Malone about coaching his child’s youth team, and pressed him to consider playing four-on-five defence, leaking out a defender for cherry-picking baskets. Some semblance of that strategy is expected to be employed with Corbin now, a source told Yahoo Sports.
There’s a reason you play defence with five guys (or is there?!?!) and most NBA diehards are deeply sceptical about how this would work if the Kings tried it over an extended period of time. But it’s also going to be wildly entertaining to see what it looks like, and any progressive thinking — no matter how wacky — is a welcome sight in American professional sports.