Kings Blog

Oklahoma City Thunder doesn’t go easy in Tyrone Corbin debut

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dunks the ball during the first quarter at a game between the Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014, at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dunks the ball during the first quarter at a game between the Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014, at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Aseng@sacbee.com

Tyrone Corbin certainly didn’t ease his way into his interim coaching job with the Kings.

The Oklahoma City Thunder came to Sleep Train Arena with the same 11-13 record as the Kings, but the teams might as well have been 10 games apart in the standings.

The Kings were reeling, losers of eight of their last 10 without center DeMarcus Cousins, who missed his 10th game recovering from viral meningitis.

The Thunder had won its past six with All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back in the lineup.

Corbin’s debut saw the Kings overcome a 16-point deficit to lead briefly in the fourth quarter before falling to the Thunder 104-92.

The Kings have lost four in a row.

Westbrook dominated with 32 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Durant scored 26 points.

Rudy Gay led the Kings with 22 points.

The Kings have been criticized for their decision to fire Michael Malone on Sunday night over philosophical differences that existed long before this season.

Those differences are why the front office looked to hire Alvin Gentry as Malone’s lead assistant. Multiple league sources said Gentry turned the job down because he was told the plan was to fire Malone and that he would be the replacement during the season.

Gentry accepted an assistant job with Golden State instead.

The Kings deny that and Malone hired Corbin, who was his choice and not recommended to him by management.

That, along with director of player personnel Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s departure, which league sources said was partly because of his disagreement with how the Malone-front office relationship situation was being handled, seems to make the Kings’ situation prime for problems for Corbin.

That doesn’t seem to be the case, however. Corbin has the support of ownership and management and will be given the opportunity to prove he’s worthy of shedding the interim label.

“When (general manager) Pete (D’Alessandro) and (adviser) Chris (Mullin) made this recommendation to me, we sat down and talked and I said what are the options we have?” principal owner Vivek Ranadive said of firing Malone. “Chris was emphatic and said as your adviser I have to tell you Ty Corbin has earned the right to be given this job at this time. And that we as an organization need to wholeheartedly support him.”

Corbin said his situation is “part of the business” that he knows well. His first head coaching job came during the 2010-11 season when Utah coach Jerry Sloan abruptly resigned with 28 games to play.

Corbin led the Jazz to the playoffs the following season but missed them the next two seasons.

Corbin said there were some bumps in trying to implement more movement and pace into the offense Tuesday night. The Kings committed 19 turnovers that led to 26 points for the Thunder.

“We worked on a few things (Monday) and we tried to implement them in the game, but it really wasn’t fluid,” Corbin said. “But we got some good things off of it.”

Corbin got to know some of the players during summer league when he coached the team that included five players who are on the current roster.

“We had a great relationship, getting to know him, his style of play and how he likes to play,’ said guard Ben McLemore. “So we have a good idea how he wants to play. And since summer league, me and him have been trying to figure out different aspects of the game, so the relationship is good.”

Depending on how the rest of the season goes, it’s a relationship that could last into next season.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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