The Kings entered Friday on a two-game winning streak. But for Kings coach Dave Joerger, late-season success will not determine how he feels about the team headed into the offseason.
After playing the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Friday, the Kings have a two-game homestand before wrapping up the season in L.A. against the Clippers.
“I think what we’ve already done is establish what we want to be about,” Joerger said. “There’s no tanking going on here. We’re playing hard, guys that are in the rotation are playing hard and they’re getting better.”
Joerger has seen several positive developments since trading DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans at the All-Star break.
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Instead of playing against second-line players most nights, second-year center Willie Cauley-Stein has faced starters on a regular basis, forcing him to adjust to a higher level of competition.
It’s also meant more playing time for rookies Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis. Rookie Buddy Hield, who came to the Kings in the Cousins trade, has had to play a bigger role than he did with the Pelicans.
“I think you see the improvements of what Willie has been able to do with those minutes, Papa and Skal getting the experience of being in the league, Buddy being a guy who is being scouted now with how they’re playing him,” Joerger said. “They need to go through these experiences. It’s not free, it’s competitive and when you do that guys have a chance to improve.”
Joerger believes Hield has caught on to what the coach began establishing in training camp.
The Kings’ offseason begins next week and it’s expected to be busy around the practice facility. After some time off, young players will return to work before spending time with the Kings’ summer league team in Las Vegas in July. Their time together will be important with so much youth on the roster, including two potential lottery picks.
“We’re just trying to get through and finish and get back, whatever date we have everybody back and start working and going forward for next season,” Joerger said. “And when you workout in May and June, you don’t really know what your team is going to look like. In different situations you do, but in this situation we don’t know what we’re going to look like a year from now. But continue to work on the skills that we have laid out for them.”
Back in the lineup – Arron Afflalo (lower back strain) and Anthony Tolliver (right hip strain) played against the Lakers after sitting out Tuesday’s win over Dallas.
Kosta Koufos, Ty Lawson and Garrett Temple were given the night off for rest.