Kings point guard Darren Collison returned to the court Tuesday but did not dislodge Ty Lawson from the starting lineup.
Collison, making his season debut after serving an eight-game suspension, checked in for the first time at four minutes left in the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Coach Dave Joerger said before the game that Collison’s return would not change Lawson’s role but could affect where he plays Garrett Temple, who backed up Lawson with Collison out.
Collison was suspended by the league after he pleaded guilty to an offseason misdemeanor domestic battery charge. Collison has been practicing with the Kings and accompanied the team on its five-game trip, which Joerger said makes it easier to work him back into the rotation.
“At home we’ve been going through and giving him good individual workouts, and at the same time trying to run through different offensive looks that we’re trying,” Joerger said.
“(We’ll) keep it simple for him. I want to make sure I know what he knows so that’s what I’m calling during the game.”
Collison was the Kings’ starting point guard for part of the 2014-15 season before getting hurt and made a case to reclaim that role during the preseason. Lawson is not a perfect fit for Joerger’s offense and has struggled to find his shot, going 0 for 10 from the field over the Kings’ previous two games entering Tuesday.
Lawson, who averaged 13.1 points per game coming into this season, was averaging 6.4 points on 32.1 percent shooting in his first eight games. But he has been an efficient distributor, averaging 6.6 assists and 1.5 turnovers per game.
“The number of times that he’s getting in the paint, his assist-to-turnover ratio is elite right now with the biggest names in our game,” Joerger said.
“So hopefully the shot comes around. The mid-range ones are ones I know he can make. And then there’s the kick-out ones where you’re playing off Rudy (Gay) or playing off DeMarcus (Cousins). Those, to get set and knock them in, should give him confidence.”
Defensive work in progress – The Kings haven’t had much chance to practice with 11 games in the first 17 days of the season. After playing Portland on Friday, they have four days without a game – a prime opportunity, Joerger said, to work on the defense.
Joerger said the Kings’ defense thus far has been “sporadic” and at times “very good,” but pointed to two areas where they must improve. One is rebounding.
“Our (guards and small forwards) have got to go get more rebounds when bigs have to help against the penetration and you’re in scramble mode a little bit,” Joerger said. “Those guys have to come back and get some more rebounds.”
The other problem: The Kings are averaging 14.6 turnovers a game, which Joerger said is “killing our defense.”
“You cannot set your defense when you turn the ball over,” Joerger said. “We call them catastrophic turnovers, the ones that don’t even go out of bounds … and (opponents) run out and shoot layups.”
The four-day stretch will also allow the Kings to regroup before playing five consecutive opponents who made the playoffs last season, followed by a six-game trip.
Joerger’s reaction when he saw that part of the schedule: “ ‘Mercy sakes alive.’ That’s what my mom would say.”
Wings up – For the first time this season, the hangar doors near the main entrance of the Golden 1 Center were open for a game. The Kings called it the first “indoor-outdoor” game in league history.