Kings coach Michael Malone knows all about Miami star LeBron James’ physical skills. Malone was an assistant coach in Cleveland from 2005 to 2010, all of which James spent with the Cavaliers.
But when Malone looks at James’ growth since then, he highlights the intangibles. James has gone on to win two NBA championships and reach the last three NBA Finalswith Miami.
“I think it’s more the other areas that he’s improved in,” Malone said. “Leadership, maturity, all those areas. We got close a couple times in Cleveland, had some great teams, but now he’s down here, (and) he’s on a great team with some other great players and very well coached. But I think he’s grown up as a player.”
James led Cleveland to the 2007 NBA Finals, in which the Cavaliers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
The Kings have had one full practice since acquiring forwards Rudy Gay and Quincy Acy and center Aaron Gray from Toronto last week.
Their unfamiliarity with Malone’s system could be causing some of the Kings’ defensive mixups, Malone said.
The coach added that losing John Salmons and Chuck Hayes in the trade removed two veteran voices.
Malone wants the Kings’ holdovers to help teach the system, but they don’t have it down, either.
“Before you can start telling people what to do, you’ve got to make sure you’re doing the right things yourself,” Malone said. “We’re all learning, trying to get better every day.”
Oden, drafted first overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007, has been limited to 82 career gamesbecause of injuries.
The Kings were among the teams that tried to sign Oden in the offseason. Malone said he’s rooting for Oden.
“I don’t want a guy who was drafted so high and had so many injuries (to remain sidelined),” Malone said. “You love to see that guy make a comeback and play at a high level. Will he ever regain what he had when he was drafted out of Ohio State? Who knows? He’s in a great spot, we went after him this summer, we hold him in high regard, and we all wish him the best here in Miami.”