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  • Jimmer Fredette: At 6-foot-2, he's getting used to being called upon as the Kings' "big" guard.

  • Isaiah Thomas: "I don't think we're doing anything special," said the 5-foot-9 guard.

Kings guards working in a small rotation

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2013 - 8:26 am

There's small ball. And there's really small ball.

The Kings have been experimenting with the latter recently.

When the "big" guard is 6-foot-2 (Jimmer Fredette) and the point guard (Isaiah Thomas) is five inches shorter, the Kings are smaller than a lot of high school backcourts.

"When I look out there I'm like, 'Man they're not even taller than the officials,'" said Kings coach Keith Smart.

The Kings have been playing both second-year guards together with positive results. The duo's plus-minus rating is a plus-41, second on the Kings to John Salmons and Tyreke Evans (plus-48).

"I don't think we're doing anything special," Thomas said. "We're just out there playing."

Smart spent many of the past 18 games trying to sort out who would be the backup point guard between Fredette and Thomas after making Aaron Brooks the starter in the Kings' 10th game of the season.

Smart had been reluctant to employ such a small lineup, with worries about Fredette's defense a chief concern. Circumstances have forced Smart to re-evaluate that approach.

Evans has been bothered by a sore left knee that has kept him out of nine games and limited him to just 10 minutes in another.

Marcus Thornton missed four games to be with his mother, who was ill in Louisiana. So Fredette began playing in Thornton's role as a scorer off the bench.

Thornton is back, but with Evans still out and Francisco Garcia missing two games because of a sore lower back, Thomas, Fredette and Thornton (6-4) have played together, making the Kings especially small on the perimeter.

Smart has used that trio in six games with a plus-12 rating in 39 minutes on the floor together.

"I thought that when they've been on the floor playing together spreading the floor," Smart said, "obviously you're going to have more room on the floor with them."

That's because playing the trio puts three of the Kings' best three-point shooters together.

"You just can't key in on one guy," Thornton said. "When you have guys like Jimmer and Isaiah, other guys on the court that can shoot the ball, that makes it much easier. We play off each other, so that makes it easier, too."

Smart saw small lineups work while coaching under Don Nelson with Golden State as the eighth-seeded Warriors beat the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 NBA playoffs.

But those Warriors weren't this small.

"People didn't realize the point guard (Baron Davis) was 6-3, 6-4, and strong," Smart said. "And then when you went small you were small at 6-8, 6-7. We just didn't' have a 6-9, 6-10, 6-11 center. So you were small, but not small like we are."

Playing the Kings' version of small ball still leaves Smart with plenty of defensive concerns. He's reluctant to trap and risk giving up open three-pointers.

In that situation, all the Kings' perimeter players are undersized. But with Evans' return still uncertain and Brooks (6-0) the starter, the Kings don't have many options in terms of size at guard.

Thornton welcomes the challenge of trying to stop and score against bigger players.

"I don't mind," Thornton said. "It's all effort. As long as we're getting it done on the defensive end, the offensive end is going to take care of itself."

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