Perhaps seen as a throw-in player in last month's trade with Houston, the Kings' Cole Aldrich has been much more than that lately.
The third-year center played a career-high 24 minutes in Wednesday night's 121-79 win over the Chicago Bulls.
DeMarcus Cousins sat out the game with a left quadriceps contusion, and Jason Thompson picked up two fouls in the first quarter, so Aldrich was called upon early.
Aldrich finished with six points, six rebounds and a blocked shot, making the most of his first opportunity to play extended minutes for the Kings.
The former Kansas star is used to being traded. After being selected 11th overall in the 2010 NBA draft by New Orleans, Aldrich immediately was sent to Oklahoma City. Before this season, he was dealt to Houston in the James Harden trade.
For most of his career, Aldrich has seen limited playing time - 77 games, 7.3 minutes per game and a 1.8-point average.
In two seasons in Oklahoma City, Aldrich played in just 44 games behind Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka patrolling the paint. In Houston, he played 30 games behind center Omer Asik, who was signed by the Rockets before the season.
"My first two years, I really haven't played too much in the league," Aldrich said. "I've just been working hard - that's the biggest thing. And now I've gotten some minutes, and it's showing. The hard work that I've put in is starting to pay off."
Aldrich had one of the highlights of Wednesday night's game during the second quarter. He used a ball fake to get Bulls forward Carlos Boozer in the air and spun to his left for a dunk.
The move had his new teammates jumping off the bench to celebrate.
"He even said, 'I thought I was going to get hung (miss the dunk),' " said guard Isaiah Thomas. "I said, 'I thought you were, too.' "
Aldrich's first major opportunity with the Kings came in what looked like garbage time.
The Kings had fallen behind by 15 points late in Sunday's loss to Milwaukee. Aldrich helped cut the lead to two points late.
After Wednesday's win, Aldrich was praised for his presence in the middle.
"We've got a lot of pride on our team," Aldrich said. "We've got guys that want to come out and are working hard, and it's little things - running the floor, setting good screens, little things that I've done that make a little difference."
Kings coach Keith Smart has liked Aldrich's defensive focus since he joined the team. But with Cousins starting and Thompson playing well, there isn't much time left for minutes at center.
Smart was impressed by Aldrich's performance against the Bulls.
"Cole Aldrich did his job of clogging the lane and making plays like a center does," Smart said.
Depending on how long Cousins is out, the Kings could need Aldrich for significant time again in their next game Sunday.
The Kings play in Los Angeles against the Lakers and All-Star center Dwight Howard, who has played better lately.
If Kobe Bryant misses the game with a sprained left ankle, the Lakers might go to Howard on offense a lot.
Aldrich said he'll ready if needed.
"You never know when your opportunity is going to come, and you just have to be ready for it," he said. "I think the biggest thing is to have that work ethic and whether you're playing or not, just keep it. That's the work ethic that got you here."