Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com Kings coach Keith Smart, encouraging Jimmer Fredette in a preseason game against Portland last week, said defense will be a priority in tonight's final preseason game.

Kings coach backpedals on starters

Published: Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 - 8:18 pm

Players are often cautioned to watch what they say to the media after games.

Coaches might be well-served to heed that advice as well.

Kings coach Keith Smart said after Monday's preseason game in Phoenix that the starting lineup for tonight's exhibition-season finale against the Los Angeles Lakers in San Diego would be the starting lineup for the regular-season opener in Chicago on Halloween.

Not so fast, Smart said Wednesday.

Smart said he has to learn to watch what he says after games. Especially after games in which he sees his team fall "off the wagon" with its defensive principles, as he said the Kings did in losing 103-88.

"Take with a grain of salt what I say right after a game," Smart said. "Because that (quote) was in the moment and the question was asked. And we have five days before we have to make a decision to get ready for Chicago.

"We just want to make sure the guys that are playing do the right thing every single time they are on the floor."

The Kings have used five different starting lineups in six preseason games.

In Phoenix, Smart said he would use the first half tonight to get his starting lineup playing together for a half. Now, the plan is to continue working, especially on defense.

Smart played DeMarcus Cousins only in the first quarter against the Suns and gave extended minutes to second-year forward Tyler Honeycutt and training camp invitees Tony Mitchell, Willie Reed and Hamady N'Diaye.

That, however, was no excuse for the team to slip on defense. Smart said it wasn't that the Kings lost, it was the poor execution of the defensive plan that has been emphasized since the start of training camp.

"Even the guys who played in the game, they still should have followed the concepts that we have worked on," Smart said. "They fell off the wagon on that and we had to refocus."

While the Kings have some time before the season opener, that's not the case for finalizing their roster. The deadline to trim rosters is Monday, when teams can have a maximum of 15 players. The Kings have 17 players on their roster, 14 with guaranteed contracts.

Mitchell, Reed and N'Diaye are vying for the final spot, if the Kings opt to keep the maximum number of players. Smart said the Kings like all three and they are still with the team because the coaches are still evaluating them.

No decision has been made to keep a 15th player, Smart said.

"You have to pay attention and don't hinder yourself because something may pop up that may look good to you," Smart said.

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