The Kings aren’t talking playoffs these days. Talk now focuses on the future.
Coach George Karl said he’ll give some of his younger players more minutes the rest of the season. With that in mind, rookie Willie Cauley-Stein returned to the starting lineup Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, and third-year man Seth Curry was the first guard off the bench.
Karl said the Kings still need to win, but he will look at different lineups.
“I think there’s more opportunity to experiment, but it’s a game-to-game situation,” Karl said. “A philosophical conversation ... I think we’re going to get Willie some more time, and I think Seth’s earned some more time.”
With Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison starting in the backcourt, Marco Belinelli routinely has been the first guard off the bench. Curry can play either guard spot, and Belinelli would play point guard only in an emergency. Curry has been the fifth guard in a four-guard rotation all season.
“It’s a dilemma,” Karl said. “We’ve got a lot of players, a lot of people at two (shooting guard) and three (small forward) who want to play minutes and have earned minutes. But with Ben (McLemore) hurt, there’s an opportunity to get Seth some minutes.”
While experimenting, Karl will continue to try to coax more wins out of the team.
“We have five games on the road and one home game where if we were in the playoff race this would be an important stretch where we’d have to play well,” Karl said. “So challenge them to play well and get some wins.”
No Kobe – Lakers star Kobe Bryant sat out Tuesday’s game. Bryant, who is retiring after this season, has been trying to preserve himself with a goal of being available for his final game April 13.
The Lakers have held Bryant out of numerous home games because of shoulder pain. Coach Byron Scott said missing games is not ideal for Bryant.
“I’m pretty sure he’s not happy about not being able to play in (all of) the last 15 games, especially this one,” Scott said. “He understands how people spend their good money to see him play.”
Bryant has tried not to miss as many road games, especially in cities where he will make his final appearance. Scott recalled a game in December at Detroit as an example.
“He was sick as a dog and I said you should sit this one out,” Scott said. “And he said, ‘I can’t. These people paid good money to see me play, so I’ve got to at least try.’”
Familiar face – Without Bryant, the Lakers started former King Metta World Peace at small forward. It was his first start at home this season.