After the festivities of the final game at Sleep Train Arena, at least five Kings have played their final game this season.
DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Darren Collison, Omri Casspi and Marco Belinelli are not with the team on its season-ending two-game trip. Of the Kings’ top six scorers, only Rudy Gay is with the team.
Casspi (hamstring) and Belinelli (foot) were listed as out because of injuries. The other three players were out for rest. That left the Kings with 10 active players for Monday’s game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Kings have rested players since late March. That’s when it became clear they were out of playoff contention and general manager Vlade Divac had to worry about the team’s first-round draft pick. That choice is top-10 protected, so if the Kings finish outside the bottom 10, they lose that selection to the Chicago Bulls. The Kings entered Monday with the league’s eighth-worst record.
The decision to sit players comes from the front office, not coach George Karl. Some in the traveling party didn’t even know the resting players would not be on the trip.
It’ll be a bunch of interesting rotations out there. We seem to play a lot of rotations we don’t practice a lot.
Kings coach George Karl
For the final two games, Seth Curry is the lone point guard, with reserve swingman James Anderson as the backup.
“It’ll be a bunch of interesting rotations out there,” Karl said. “We seem to play a lot of rotations we don’t practice a lot.”
Karl joked that he looked to his coaching staff for help at point guard.
“I tried to get A.C. (Anthony Carter) to come out of retirement, but he said no,” Karl said.
Karl has tried to avoid elaborating on his feelings on sitting players. He has said he believes everyone in the NBA is paid for 82 games. But at this point, Karl won’t belabor the topic.
“I’m not philosophizing about what’s going on in the NBA today,” Karl said. “It just gets me in trouble. It’s interesting. It probably should be discussed. It would be my only word of advice to people smarter than me.”
Teams sitting players is not new. The difference is more injury reports are listing rest as the reason a player is idle. In some cases, teams are sitting their stars so they will be fresh for the playoffs.
Rondo lately has played through wrist, toe and ankle injuries, and Cousins has been bothered by tendinitis in his feet.
I think we have all known that at times teams have tried to play their younger players and the record didn’t matter. But there seems to be more reasons to go do that, rest. It just seems like the good teams are doing it as much as the bad teams are doing it.
Kings coach George Karl
The Kings are resting players to give themselves the best chance of keeping their draft pick, which they would have gladly surrendered if they had advanced to the playoffs. The team doesn’t have enough inexperienced players to justify the notion it is just trying to develop young players. Only one rookie, Willie Cauley-Stein, is in the rotation. The other rookie, undrafted forward Duje Dukan, has yet to appear in an NBA game.
Curry, who’s in his third season, is playing a lot more. But second-year forward Eric Moreland still is playing limited minutes because the Kings have depth at power forward and center even without Cousins.
Phoenix, meanwhile, is missing several players because of injuries and has the second-worst record in the Western Conference.
One team that should welcome the short-handed Kings is the Houston Rockets, who are tied with the Utah Jazz for the West’s final playoff berth and host Sacramento on Wednesday.
“There seems to be more reasons for it happening is probably the best way to phrase it,” Karl said. “I think we have all known that at times teams have tried to play their younger players and the record didn’t matter. But there seems to be more reasons to go do that, rest. It just seems like the good teams are doing it as much as the bad teams are doing it. The mediocre teams are doing it. Everybody’s doing it.”
And the Kings will do it once more before the offseason.