Asked about his up-and-down season, Arron Afflalo can’t help but laugh.
“Up and down?” the Kings veteran guard said. “It’s been a down year.”
Afflalo has gone from starter to out of the rotation to an important reserve. The ups have been few, but he is coming off one of those peaks, scoring a season-high 19 points in Tuesday’s win over the Denver Nuggets. He missed the previous three games because of a strained right elbow.
The injury occurred when Afflalo finally appeared to be discovering his niche in his first season in Sacramento. He became a key member of the second unit not only as a scorer but perhaps more importantly as a tough perimeter defender.
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Entering this season, Afflalo hoped for a featured role, but he has accepted his situation and is making the most of it, as he did Tuesday.
“I’ve evolved into getting over myself,” Afflalo said. “We have a great opportunity as a team – playoff position. There will be nights where I can perform at a level I was expected to perform at, and there will be nights where other guys take the lead. I’ve learned that your role is consistent with the team you’re on. It is what it is. I’m just happy that we won.”
The Kings seemingly have had a hole at shooting guard since Kevin Martin was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2010. Marcus Thornton probably was the last player who provided consistent production at the position.
Sacramento signed Afflalo seeking stability at shooting guard, but he struggled to find his offensive game in the starting lineup.
The 10-year veteran’s numbers are lagging. Entering Wednesday night’s game against the Miami Heat at Golden 1 Center, he was averaging 7.7 points. Last season with the New York Knicks, he averaged 12.8. He also was shooting 42.7 percent, on pace to be the second-lowest mark of his career.
Coach Dave Joerger noted that whether it was Afflalo or Ben McLemore, no one has looked good as the Kings’ starting shooting guard this season, perhaps because of how the lineup functions.
With the season nearing the midway mark, Joerger said his view of Afflalo as a player or how to use him hasn’t changed much.
“We can get him the ball and he can post up at different times, and he can get kickouts and spotups and matchups that are better defensively than others,” Joerger said.
Afflalo said his injury absence didn’t affect his approach to mesh with the lineup, but in two games back, he’s looked good. He came out hot again against the Heat with 15 first-half points.
“This past week I’ve just really been working out a lot,” Afflalo said. “Just trying to do a lot of sprints. It really didn’t help that much (Tuesday). I was still kind of tired out there. Just fortunate to get some clean shots and the ball was moving.”
If that happens regularly, Afflalo soon might find more ups in his season.
Perimeter defense problems – The Kings’ trouble guarding on the arc was apparent again Tuesday when the Nuggets sank 18 3-pointers.
It was the fifth time this season Sacramento had allowed at least 15 3-pointers. The Memphis Grizzlies made a franchise-record 17 3-pointers in a win over the Kings on Saturday.
Joerger said his players continue to fail to close out on 3-pointer shooters. Entering Wednesday, the Kings led the league in 3-pointers allowed per game (10.9). Sacramento’s opponents were shooting 37.6 percent from 3-point range, the fourth-highest rate in the league.
Back in the game – Point guard Ty Lawson returned from a one-game absence caused by blurred vision in his right eye.
Lawson tried to play at Denver, but the blurred vision sidelined him after his pregame workout. Lawson suffered a facial fracture against Memphis, but he played Wednesday without a protective mask.