The rest of the season is an opportunity for the Kings’ rookies to gain experience the franchise hopes carries over into productive sophomore seasons.
But this is also a time for the coaching staff to do a lot of learning, too.
Buddy Hield has played in only eight games since being acquired in the DeMarcus Cousins trade from New Orleans and started for Sacramento for the first time Friday when the Kings hosted the Washington Wizards at Golden 1 Center.
Skal Labissiere has seen his role increase since the trade and is coming off a season-high 15-point outing in Wednesday’s loss at San Antonio.
Kings coach Dave Joerger already knows what he wants his young players to work on in the offseason. Sacramento has four rookies on the roster. Malachi Richardson is injured, while center George Papagiannis sees most of his action in the NBA Development League with the Reno Bighorns.
“I’m still getting a good chance to look at some of these guys, too,” Joerger said. “What spots on the floor Buddy’s better (at)... and can do this or do this a little bit better. So I’m still learning him a little bit – and also with Skal.”
Hield is averaging 12.9 points on 51.6 percent shooting in his first seven games with the Kings before Friday. That includes shooting 50 percent from 3-point range.
Labissiere has started one game since the trade and has shown he can score and be a tenacious rebounder. In the game he’s played the most minutes (23 against Charlotte on Feb. 25), he grabbed 13 rebounds.
In the seven games since the trade entering Friday, Labissiere is averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 14.3 minutes.
“We’ve been working with him,” Joerger said. “Struggled in some areas early in the season and the preseason. I think putting in the time, getting stronger, a couple minutes in the D-League haven’t hurt. Good practices help. So I’m still learning a little bit.”
There’s a desire to not put too much on Labissiere as he adjusts to playing more, too.
“He’s coming along,” Joerger said. “There’s a lot of different aspects to the game, and he’s a worker. He’s a good-hearted, high-character guy. He’s a joy to be around every day. He just keeps working at it. ”
Even as Joerger integrates the rookies more, he’s unlikely to give them minutes for the sake of it. There are still veterans on the team, and handing all the minutes to all the young players might not go over well in the locker room.
“You’ve got to keep your locker room believing,” Joerger said. “The locker room knows ... who should play and who shouldn’t. When you go into a different mode, then it looks a little different.”
Note – Tyreke Evans sat out Friday’s game to rest. Evans, who has dealt with multiple knee issues in recent seasons, does not play in back-to-back games.