When Mike Brown was coaching in San Antonio under Gregg
Popovich, he recalls a young, free-spirited Manu Ginobili, whose
play would range from “wow” to “doing some stuff that helped Pop
get white hair quicker.”
Now in the head seat with the Sacramento Kings, Brown sees a
little bit of that in Malik Monk in the best of ways.
“I'm not comparing him to Manu, so don't write this down at
all,” Brown said with a laugh. “That's kind of Malik. He's gonna do
more good than bad out there, so you gotta let 'em hoop. You've
gotta let him feel his mojo and all that other stuff, and that's
what I try to do.”
Averaging career-bests of 14.5 points and 4.0 assists per game
on a personal-high 60.1% True Shooting and 26.9% assist percentage, Monk is
playing with a palpable confidence and energy that has opened up
parts of his skill set we haven’t necessarily seen on a nightly
basis since he came into the league.
He’s found a rhythm as a playmaker, has continued to be a
microwave scorer and, above all else, has not been pigeonholed.
“Mike lets me be me, man. He just lets me go out there and play
my game. He don't try to limit me to things,” Monk told Basketball
News. “He'll show me when I miss somebody on the kick-out and
things like that, but he doesn't limit me. I've been like this my
whole life. I played point guard before I went to Kentucky, so I've
been handling the ball for a little bit. So it's just him giving me
Everybody knows he can put the ball in the bucket. It’s how Monk
is doing it, and of course, what he’s doing to involve his
teammates. While he has been more involved in pick-and-roll
actions, it’s the handoff possessions that jump off the page. With
Domantas Sabonis at his disposal, Brown has doubled the average
amount of those per game (1.42) from Malik’s time in Los Angeles
(0.71), per InStat.
Getting him moving on curls toward the ball and similar plays
has resulted in the sixth-year guard putting it on the floor and
naturally getting to the rim, or dishing it off to the next man for
a better look.
“First side, the defense is great. Second side, they relax a
little bit. Third side, they're relaxing more. So we just try to
move it, move the defense as much as possible,” Monk explained.
“But they can't help off me as much 'cause I can shoot. They can't
help off of Domas that much because he's a big threat rolling. So
whatever they do is gonna be wrong, and I've just been making the
right reads this year.”
Candidly, Brown made it clear that he will not hesitate to pull
Monk aside during those not-so-good moments too, as the 24-year-old
is simultaneously turning it over twice a night through 24
“When you have a guy that's as talented as he is, he's gonna
take some risk,” Brown said. “He knows if he makes a mistake, I'mma
yell at him, I'mma get on him, I'mma coach 'em. I said, 'Come on,
you've been around me long enough where sometimes you've gotta let
crap go through one ear and out the other. I know I'm the one on
you, but that's how you've gotta survive in this business. That's
how you thrive in this business. I gotta coach you and I will, but
sometimes if you feel like you can make a play, go make a
play.' And so, he knows that he's got that support from me,
"So I think when a player feels that and really believes it, it
just gives him more ability to be himself, which is go make plays
for himself and others out on the floor.”
Kings forward Harrison Barnes agrees with Brown’s
“I mean Malik, his energy is vital for us,” Barnes said.
“There's some players who come in this league and... you can't
necessarily put them in a role, you can't put them in a box. You
kinda just roll the ball out there and pray it goes well.
“And he's one of those guys that, for us, we just wanna give him
just ultimate freedom, play through his mistakes. He brings so much
energy for us, just a different look to our second unit. And I
think that has become contagious.”
Monk is at his most dangerous on fast breaks. He likes to push
the pace “because we know a lot of teams don't like to get back in
transition,” and averages 1.24 points per possession in those
The vast majority of his rapid play comes when he’s playing
alongside his friend, De'Aaron Fox. Before teaming up on the Kings,
Monk and Fox were also backcourt partners on the Kentucky Wildcats
in 2016-17. Monk has passed to him more than any teammate
by far (147 times).
And together, they play at the highest pace on the team (108.21)
— a mark that ranks 10th in the NBA among duos
with at least 200 minutes combined. As far as Monk is concerned, he
and Fox have picked up where they left off in Lexington.
“He was a big part [of me coming to Sacramento] 'cause we're so
comfortable with each other and we know how to play off each
other,” Monk said. “Yeah man, it's been working out for me.”
On the opposite side of the coin, Monk has turned up the
defensive pressure while sharing the floor with Sacramento’s
tenacious stopper, Davion Mitchell. In fact, he and the man they
call “Off Night” own the Kings’ best defensive rating on the
team (99.5) — the only duo allowing fewer than 100 points per
“Ah, that's hot,” Monk reacted when Basketball News told him. “I
try to give Davion a lot of confidence, man, because he's the head
of the snake, 'cause he's the point guard. He usually guards the
best player. So however he guards is how the rest of us is gonna
feed off of that. And I try to tell him that every game, every time
we're on the court. So he just makes me go up a level. That's
why I just try to force that [message] to him and I think that's
why it's working for us.”
A key cog in the bench bunch alongside him, Chimezie Metu has
enjoyed the attitude Monk has brought into the locker room and on
“He's great to be around. High energy. He's going out there
being vocal, kinda keeping everybody's spirits up and it's just
been great having him around,” Metu told Basketball News.
“Personality-wise, he's kind of the guy that's been gluing
everybody together. I feel like he has a great relationship with
everybody on the team. Yeah man, he's fun to be around and fun to
“It's been fun playing with Malik and Davion and TD (Terence
Davis) and also Trey [Lyles] at times. I feel like during practice
and stuff, we're usually like the second unit that kinda does
everything together, so we're always laughing, joking. But I think
at the end of the day, we understand the task at hand because I
feel like our job is to either keep the lead going or give us the
energy to bring us back into a game. So either way, we have to have
high energy at all times. I feel like we've been doing a great job
Brown has his own way of describing Monk’s effect on his ball
“You know, he's a free spirit. Malik is what I call a
connector,” Brown said. “He just brings people together and he
uplifts people all the time. He talks to everybody and he jokes
with everybody, he touches everybody and everybody on the team has
respect for him — not just for him as a person, but also they know
that when he speaks, he knows what he's talking about because he's
right a lot of the times.
“He's a talented, talented basketball player, and sometimes,
especially when they're young like he is — he's young, but he has
an old soul and he understands what's right, what's wrong and the
right way to do things and all that.”
Altogether, the 24-year-old has found a niche and a
comfortability with this Kings team. A lot of that has to do with a
consistent role with consistent minutes, which he has found the
last couple of seasons between L.A. and Sacramento as opposed to
the sporadic nature in the past when he was with the Charlotte
“It's the biggest relief, man,” Monk admitted. “I know when
I'mma go in, I know when I'mma come out, I know when I'mma go back
in again. So it's just a relief, and it just gives me way more
confidence to go out there and play my game.”
From a young age, Monk has always been passionate about his
apparel. He told Basketball News that when he was a kindergartner
living with his mom, his older brother Marcus — a former NFL wide
receiver who played for the Chicago Bears — always rocked BAPE
clothing line. Malik latched on to style because of that and has
kept up to date with the latest fashion ever since.
On Friday, Monk came into Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse wearing a
fuzzy skeleton sweater with black paints, matching shoes and some
bling to top it off. Pregame, his teammates tried to figure out
what brand he was going with.
“Look man, he spends a lot of money on his clothes. They better
look good. That's all I'mma say,” Metu said with a chuckle.
“If my fit not as up to how I want it, man, I feel like I'll go
out there and be a little down. But I haven't done that this year.
All my fits been pretty decent so far. Yeah man, it's always 'look
good, feel good, play good,'” Monk said.
Clearly, Malik Monk has been a positive influence in Sacramento.
It’s a big reason why they’re in the thick of it in the Western
Conference — and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
“I just try to bring everybody life, man,” Monk said. “Losing
streaks, it's gonna happen. It's a game of runs, especially in
basketball. So I just try to make everybody feel the same every
day. 'Cause we know we're gonna be together for the rest of the
year, so I just try to make sure we're like this instead
of like that.”