Rudy Gay is expanding his horizons.
Gay said his move to power forward from small forward allows him to do some different things, but he wouldn’t say he’s attacking more than normal.
“I wouldn’t say aggressive,” he said. “I’d say more creative.”
Gay’s creativity Sunday led to a game-high 26 points as the Kings put together back-to-back wins for the first time since November by beating the Washington Wizards 109-86 at Sleep Train Arena.
It was Gay’s second game as the Kings’ power forward, but this time he was joined by center DeMarcus Cousins, who missed the previous two games because of a strained right calf.
Seeking easier shots for his team, coach George Karl would like to create more spacing, which is why he’s playing Gay at power forward. Friday, Gay had 33 points in a win over Charlotte.
Gay, 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, sees the move as a chance to exploit the opposition, which he’s done the past two games.
“Obviously, this is what basketball is going to, the athletic (power forward),” Gay said. “I think I still have some athletic juice in my body, so I might as well use it while I’m here.”
Karl liked what he saw from Gay and Cousins together, meaning it could be how the Kings start next season.
Creating more space on the floor should help everyone’s offense and lead to more open shots from the perimeter. The Kings shot 50.6 percent against the Wizards, including 47.1 percent on three-pointers.
“The spacing is one thing I feel pretty good about that’s going on out there,” Karl said. “The ball seems to be freer, both with attacking the dribble and with Cuz on the postups. It seems like we get some good angles, good situations. I think Rudy’s confident against the bigger player rather than the quicker player.”
Karl wants Gay to attack defenses the way he instructed All-Star Carmelo Anthony with Denver.
“I think Rudy’s like Melo for me,” Karl said. “Rudy, if you’re covered by a big guy, go outside. If you’re covered by a little guy, go inside. Just kind of get him to have a simple strategy. ... I think Rudy’s doing a good job and is finding a good comfort zone.”
Cousins also likes what Gay can do at power forward.
“It’s a different look, but I think it’s to our advantage,” said Cousins, who played only 22 minutes Sunday because of foul trouble but still had 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. “I think it speeds up the game a lot more; it spaces the floor a lot more. It puts us at an advantage against other teams.”
Karl believes spacing will enhance Cousins’ and Gay’s opportunities and make it easier for both to score and pass. One way to help Cousins control the paint on offense is to spread the floor and give him better passing lanes. And the attention Cousins draws will help Gay and others.
“If you have skills, you want more space – you don’t want the crowd,” Karl said. “I told (Cousins) I think Rudy will help keep more space on the floor, and I’m a big proponent right now that the team that gets the best shots wins games. San Antonio Spurs, what do they do better than anybody? They get great shots. They don’t get good shots; they get great shots.”
It won’t be hard to sell the Kings on Karl’s system if they keep winning. All five starters scored in double figures Sunday, and the defense kept Washington All-Star John Wall (nine points, eight assists) in check.
“We’re playing relaxed,” Gay said. “Like I’ve said, the system makes it easier to do that, but it takes players to do that. Omri’s (Casspi) been playing well, D-Will’s (Derrick Williams) been playing inspired basketball, and that all takes part in it.”
And so does a little creativity.