For the first time this preseason, Kings coach Dave Joerger showed how a regular-season rotation might look in the team’s 75-69 loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Lakers at T-Mobile Arena.
Only one rookie, Bogdan Bogdanovic, was in the starting lineup. George Hill, Garrett Temple, Zach Randolph and Willie Cauley-Stein were the other starters.
Joerger used a 10-man rotation most of the game (the 11th player, JaKarr Sampson, played 17 seconds). The only rookie other than Bogdanovic to see time was De’Aaron Fox.
Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield were the only second-year players from last season to play.
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The starting lineup can and probably will change. It wouldn’t be a shock for Hield to start, for example. But there will be a lot of learning by watching for many of Sacramento’s young players.
When Fox left the game at halftime with a bruised lower back, Joerger used Temple as a backup point guard rather than playing rookie Frank Mason.
A big part of the season is about developing young talent, but it’s also about learning how to win. If Sunday is an indication of how the regular season could go, Joerger won’t throw five youngsters on the court together to just figure it out.
The Kings have three more preseason games, starting with Monday’s contest against the Portland Trail Blazers at Golden 1 Center. Joerger said how he coached Sunday is not necessarily how the last three preseason games will go.
“No, it’ll be be game to game,” Joerger said.
The first two preseason games featured lineups primarily of veterans or young players. Sunday was the first time Joerger played his young players with the older ones to see how things looked.
It also was the first time this preseason that the veterans played extended minutes.
“Some of those guys have got some rust on them and they needed to get those minutes on their legs,” Joerger said. “But also timing-wise and also the first time really mixing the groups in a game. So there’s a lot of things going on.”
Vince Carter said rust can’t be an excuse, adding that even though practice is not like a game, players still need to be prepared.
Overall, Carter likes the fight the Kings showed in making it a close game after a slow start.
“Of course we’re playing different lineups, different groups, nevertheless we should all know what to do,” Carter said. “We just have to continue to get better at how to play the game the right way ... Consistency is our key right now.”
House of bricks
The Kings began the game shooting 4 of 20 (20 percent) and finished 25 of 80 (31.2 percent).
“You’ve got to give their defense a lot of credit,” Joerger said. “They’re long, athletic and they pushed us around the court on the perimeter so we struggled, but we did a nice job not turning the basketball over.”
The Lakers shot just 41.9 percent (29 of 70) and committed 20 turnovers to the Kings’ 12.
“We got forced into a couple of tough shots,” Joerger said. “But I think we got a lot of good looks, but at the same time they came out with a defensive mindset, got after us. But I was really proud of our guys, I thought we guarded pretty well, too.”
The Kings don’t have a lot of size on the wing, a problem that carries over from last season. Temple started at small forward Sunday and many nights he will be smaller than the opponent’s three. It’s the same if Carter starts at small forward. Rookie Justin Jackson is taller, but lacks the bulk many of the NBA’s elite wings have.
The Kings will run into that problem in the backcourt at times, too.
Carter said offensively the Kings were able to get back into the game after falling behind by 14 once their ball movement improved.
“It’s not selfish basketball, but pound, pound, pound, we’re not good enough to do that right now,” Carter said. “I think we’re realizing we can move the ball, play off each other. So I think giving ourselves a chance to win is all you can ask for with a young team.”
Closing the gap allowed the Kings to go through some situations that required late-game execution.
Bogdanovic was in the game late and it seems Joerger will not hesitate to use him late in the regular season, too.
“Bogdanovic is not a rookie,” Joerger said. “He’s 24 and he’s been in big games all over the world.”
Carter said that time in the fourth quarter was important for the Kings, too.
“I think for us it’s understanding how important possessions are on both ends, executing offensively and defensively and executing our game plan,” Carter said. “I think we got away from that in some stints but got back on it and gave ourselves a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for, especially being down 14 early.”