THE SACRAMENTO Kings fired coach Michael Malone just 24 games into his second season over philosophical differences over the team's style of play.
General manager Pete D'Alessandro said yesterday that he decided to make the change because he wants the Kings to play a more free-wheeling offense, which was so successful for the franchise in the early 2000s.
D'Alessandro called Malone a "great defensive coach" and said this was the right time to make a change to bring in a coach who can take the team to the next level.
"We want to get in that arena and we want to be a compelling product," D'Alessandro said. "To get to that point, what philosophy are we going to have? Who are we going to be as an organization? How are we going to make our mark within this league?"
Lead assistant Tyrone Corbin will take over as interim coach. D'Alessandro will not commit to Corbin lasting the rest of the season, saying only that he will have the full support of the organization. Corbin went 112-146 in three-plus seasons as coach of the Utah Jazz and was not offered a contract after last season.
ESPN reported last night that George Karl is a serious candidate to take over as Kings coach.
Malone went 39-67 after being hired in June 2013 by new owner Vivek Ranadive. Malone was hired before D'Alessandro in what was considered an unusual order of events. D'Alessandro said his decision to come to Sacramento was an endorsement of Malone but now he will get the opportunity to hire his own coach.
The Kings went 28-54 in Malone's first season and missed the playoffs for an eighth straight year. This season got off to a better start, with the team winning nine of its first 14 games.
But the Kings have fallen into a tailspin after star center DeMarcus Cousins was sidelined with viral meningitis. Sacramento has lost seven of nine games without Cousins and is tied for 10th in the Western Conference with an 11-13 record.
The firing is the first major setback in Ranadive's tenure. He was welcomed as a savior when he bought the team from the Maloof family in 2013 and prevented the team from moving to Seattle.
The Kings have already broken ground on a $477 million arena that is expected to open downtown for the 2016-17 season. But he has been unable so far to reverse the losing trend that followed a stretch of eight straight playoff berths.
"The message is we're not done," D'Alessandro said. "We're going to keep doing everything there is. We're going to keep making tough decisions. That's what we're here for."
In other news:
* The Miami Heat may be without forward Josh McRoberts for the remainder of the season, after tests revealed a torn right meniscus that will require surgery.
The Heat also say Chris Bosh will miss today's game at Brooklyn with a strained calf, and Dwyane Wade may also miss the Nets game because of illness.
* At Indianapolis, Rodney Stuckey got his second consecutive double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead Indiana over the Los Angeles Lakers, 110-91. Los Angeles shot 33 percent from the floor and trailed by 39 points during the game.
* At Cleveland, LeBron James scored 27 points with 13 assists, Kevin Love added 22 points and 18 rebounds, and the Cavaliers defeated the Charlotte Hornets, 97-88.
The Cavaliers jumped to a 21-0 lead, but the Hornets regrouped and got within two points early in the third quarter before the Cavs pulled away. Charlotte trailed 59-57, but Cleveland regained control and pushed the lead back to double figures.
The Cavaliers ended the third on a 21-9 run. James scored seven points while Tristan Thompson added seven, including two dunks on assists from Kyrie Irving. Love hit a three-pointer late in the quarter and Charlotte got no closer than eight points.
Irving scored 16 points for the Cavaliers, who were coming off consecutive road losses to Oklahoma City and New Orleans after winning eight in a row.
* At Atlanta, Al Horford scored 21 points, including a huge jumper with just under a minute remaining, and the streaking Hawks won for the 10th time in 11 games with a 93-86 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
The Hawks led most of the way, but never by more than 10 points. After Taj Gibson's dunk with 1:13 remaining brought the Bulls to 87-84, Horford got loose for a 19-footer on the wing and knocked it down.
* At Toronto, Lou Williams scored 18 points, Kyle Lowry had 17 and the Raptors won their 10th straight game over the Orlando Magic, 95-82.
Amir Johnson scored 11 points and Patrick Patterson had 10 for the Raptors, who improved to 11-1 this season against opponents with losing records. This was Toronto's third of six straight games against teams below .500.