Darren Collison was supposed to be a key to the Kings’ offensive transition under George Karl, with the point guard’s speed and athleticism fitting the new coach’s uptempo system. But Collison might not play a minute for Karl this season.
The Kings announced Thursday that Collison is expected to have surgery next week to repair a core muscle injury, making it doubtful Collison will play in the Kings’ final 27 games. Collison has not played since Feb. 5 because of what the Kings have termed a right hip flexor strain.
The Kings also could be without center DeMarcus Cousins for Friday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. Cousins, who turned his left ankle in Wednesday’s victory over Memphis, didn’t practice Thursday and is listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report, meaning there is a 25 percent chance he will play. Karl said Cousins was walking around “like he was old” Thursday morning and “there’s a chance he won’t play.”
Collison is scheduled to consult Monday with Dr. William Meyers at the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia before undergoing surgery Tuesday. Collison would be re-evaluated after three to six weeks. The Kings play their season finale April 15 in Los Angeles.
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Karl spoke Thursday as though the Kings are planning to be without Collison, but he made it clear the loss of their starting point guard won’t be used as an excuse. Ray McCallum started the last three games, with veteran Andre Miller, 38, playing heavy minutes at backup, and both will be asked to pick up the slack in Collison’s absence.
“I think right now Andre and Ray have a nice mesh for me,” Karl said. “I’ve kind of given Andre the second unit – I worry more about the first unit, and Andre, he’s got such a great basketball mind, I allow him the freedom to kind of run that team. It’s probably not 100 percent, but in time it might become 100 percent. Right now it’s kind of 50-50.”
McCallum is “going to have a (27)-game window to impress, grow and progress,” Karl said. The second-year guard’s role has expanded under Karl, who has kept McCallum as the starter but has used Miller late in the fourth quarter of the Kings’ wins over Boston and Memphis.
McCallum is averaging fewer minutes (14.8) – and therefore points (4.7) and assists (1.7) – than in his rookie season. But those numbers should increase the rest of this season, during which Karl said the main area he wants to see McCallum improve is “decision-making.”
“Be more downhill, be more aggressive,” Karl said. “I’ve used this phrase with him, he’s kind of a conservative point guard. I’d like to see him become more confident, more willing and take more responsibility of possession to get good shots for the team.”
McCallum said he knows that’s an area where he has room to grow.
“I think just throughout the flow of the game, I don’t want to force anything – take what the defense gives you,” McCallum said. “But these last couple games, watching the film, there’s some opportunities where I have a chance to be a little more aggressive. And I think that’s going to come with all these games, and that’s going to be my mentality from here on out.”
McCallum likes Karl’s system and feels capable of adjusting quickly to the new principles.
“I think it fits my game really well,” McCallum said. “Trying just to use my athletic ability, trying to be attack-minded and find the open guy. The floor is spaced out, you’ve got a lot of great players out there, so my teammates make it that much easier for me.”
McCallum, who said he’s learning from watching Miller run the offense, pointed out he hasn’t played many minutes with the first unit this season, so players are still “getting on the same page. ... But the more we’re on the court our chemistry will continue to get better.”
Karl said that while he’s inclined to rely on players he’s seen play, he intends to work rookie Nik Stauskas into the rotation over the final 27 games, providing another option at point guard. Karl said he told Stauskas on Thursday: “I don’t know when I’m going to pull the trigger, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to pull the trigger, so be ready for that opportunity.”
Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.