In two games, Kings coach George Karl has tried two different starting lineups, meaning his rotations off the bench have been different each time.
On Friday, the Kings’ bench received a boost from Jason Thompson in a win over Boston. On Saturday, Thompson started, and the bench did not have the same punch in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
That’s not to say Thompson is the key to the bench, or any player is at this point. Karl wants more from his reserves, and it will take time to sort out what works best for him.
“Finding the personality off the bench is going to have some inconsistency because, one, I’m not even sure they know who’s going to play because I don’t know who’s going to play,” Karl said.
The Kings’ bench has been inconsistent all season. Carl Landry began the season providing consistent scoring that stabilized the second unit, but his playing time has diminished.
Backup point guard has been an issue all season. The Kings hope veteran Andre Miller, acquired at the trade deadline Thursday, will provide a steady hand.
Injuries haven’t helped, either. Omri Casspi was a spark off the bench with his energy and hustle, but a bad knee slowed him.
Casspi has played well in two games under Karl. In Saturday’s loss, he had a career-high 17 rebounds.
“I have been in pain and wasn’t myself,” Casspi said. “I was turning the ball over too much. But I’m feeling comfortable now, especially with my knees, with getting down in the stance, rebounding. I’m just trying to find my way in the system.”
Casspi believes Karl’s system will help him and his teammates in the long run. But he also realizes there will be missteps as the Kings learn a third system this season, which began with Michael Malone as coach before he was fired Dec. 14 and replaced by Tyrone Corbin.
“I love (the new system),” Casspi said. “The spacing, the running, the cutting ... this is something we’re still trying to figure out.
“Everybody is trying to find his place. Last (game against Boston), we did it better. This time (against the Clippers), we took a little step back. They made a good run in the second and third quarter. We’ll figure it out.”
At his introductory news conference Tuesday, Karl said he probably would use the first 10 games of his tenure guessing which groups worked best.
On Saturday, Karl noted that when DeMarcus Cousins was not in the game, the offense became extremely stagnant. But Cousins cannot play 48 minutes every night, so Karl must figure out how to keep the offense functioning while Cousins rests.
When point guard Darren Collison (strained right hip flexor) returns to the starting lineup, that will add to Karl’s flexibility with the lineup, with Ray McCallum coming off the bench to be used in different spots.
Karl also is trying to maximize Derrick Williams’ athleticism off the bench. With the Clippers blowing out the Kings, Karl cleared his bench to see what each reserve can provide.
“In the game, there was as exhibition season experimental-type feel of game,” Karl said. “Just throwing pieces out there.”