CHICAGO -- The Kings are the only NBA team with three players averaging at least 20 points.
But as the Kings have shown, that doesnt necessarily lead to wins.
At times, its led to tension on and off the court as DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas each can stake claim to being the No. 1 option on a given night.
I think thats a blessing and a curse, said Kings coach Michael Malone. Because youve got three guys in the starting lineup who are all looking for their offense, and I think, at times, thats why our assist numbers are way down. We have to learn to play with each other and make plays for each other.
That will be vital as the Kings prepare to play the Chicago Bulls, one of the best defensive teams in the league, Saturday at United Center. The Kings chances of winning will be greatly diminished if they try to win by depending on one of their three leading scorers to attack the defense by himself.
Malone was asked if one of the three needs to defer. He said its up to his point guard to set the tone.
I think it starts with Isaiah; thats his job as a point guard, Malone said. His job coming into a game is not to be a starting 20-point scorer, its to be a starting point guard, and hes aware of that. Hes trying to make that transition from being that scorer off the bench to a starting point guard, a facilitator, and he has to feel the flow of the game.
Thomas acknowledges thats his role, while also managing a roster of players who feel theyre at their best when theyre scoring.
I just try to put them in positions to be successful and call the plays for them, Thomas said. Rudy coming off pick-and-rolls or in the mid-post. The same thing with DeMarcus. If his jump shot is going, try to bring the big out and get it to him. If theyre thin inside, put it down low. Its tough, but at the same time its what a point guard needs to do, and Im up for all of the challenges.
Keeping everyone happy isnt an easy task. Gay isnt prone to being openly unhappy, but its not hard to tell when Cousins isnt happy with on-court developments. Sources said Cousins sparked a verbal altercation with Thomas on Tuesday night at halftime in Detroit over his lack of touches when Thomas was off to a good start with 15 points and five assists.
Thomas took exception to Cousins questioning his judgment, especially with the Kings leading. A season-low 11-point third quarter followed, and the Kings lost.
Thomas said he does his best to go with the flow of the game. Sometimes that dictates he shoots.
Its not going to be where I know whats going to happen throughout the game, Thomas said. Im just picking and choosing my spots. Understanding how the game is going and whos got it going on and who doesnt. Thats the only way I can do it.
Malone agrees with that approach. He wants the players to make passes to open teammates and take the best shots. He doesnt want Thomas to become so passive with his offense that hes a liability.
If Rudy or Cuz has it going, youve got to feed those guys and keep getting them the ball where theyre most effective, Malone said. If theyre not going, or struggling or in foul trouble, (Thomas) has to look to be a little more aggressive. Each game takes on its own identity.
Thomas said he will continue to see how each game plays out and will not predetermine his approach.
I cant go into each game saying, In this game Im going to try to get 10 assists or this game Im going to try to get 30 points, Thomas said. Thats just not how you do it. Youve got to go out there and make the right play.