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Kosta Koufos helps ease Kings’ transition to new coach Joerger

Kosta Koufos poses at the 2016 Sacramento Kings Media Day. Koufos will help the Kings become familiar with Dave Joerger and his coaching style. The two have a rapport from their days in Memphis.
Kosta Koufos poses at the 2016 Sacramento Kings Media Day. Koufos will help the Kings become familiar with Dave Joerger and his coaching style. The two have a rapport from their days in Memphis. © 2016 Eli Hiller

On media day last Monday, Kosta Koufos had to chuckle when asked if he was surprised he was at the event as a King.

After all, many were surprised Koufos was still a King.

Most of the offseason, the speculation had been the Kings would trade the veteran center to free up the glut of big men on the roster.

Koufos wasn’t dealt, and through the first two preseason games, he’s been a starter at center and one of the players new coach Dave Joerger is counting on to help implement his system of offense and defense.

And since he’s still a King, Koufos is willing to do his part to help Sacramento succeed.

“You know for me it’s a simple mindset of go out, play hard and contribute the best I can,” Koufos said. “And if my number is called upon, I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Koufos is doing those things in practice by helping the coaches teach in addition to starting, which allows DeMarcus Cousins to play power forward.

Koufos is the only King from last season to have played for Joerger when he was the head coach in Memphis. Rudy Gay was in Memphis with Joerger, but that’s when Joerger was an assistant under Lionel Hollins.

“I have a familiarity with the offense, the defense,” Koufos said. “(Joerger has) been to the playoffs, he knows how to coach and he has the right players to do so. This is what the preseason is for; it’s a little bit of a learning curve, but we’re getting better every day, and I think we’re transitioning very well.”

Koufos sees himself as one of the veterans Joerger counts on to serve as an instructor at times. Matt Barnes and Jordan Farmar were with Joerger in Memphis last season.

The more players familiar with Joerger, the better the chances the team can pick up the philosophies.

“Matt Barnes, Jordan Farmar, they’ve been in the offense before,” Koufos said. “They know what we’re doing very well, and they’re here to help the other guys transition into the offense. I feel like it’s going to be great for us this year.”

Joerger said having Koufos on the team is a plus.

“You also have the relationship component which takes time,” Joerger said. “With every guy, you have a different relationship, so we already have that history, and I can ask him things and what he thinks, and that’s different from guys that we’re just starting a relationship with so him It’s fantastic.

Added Joerger: “He can also help other guys, so that’s real positive.”

Koufos said the team is coming along on offense and is responding well to Joerger’s defensive focus.

Like many of the Kings from last season, Koufos likes the approach on defense. The Kings allowed a league-high 109.1 points per game last season.

“It’s very simple,” Koufos said. “I think simplified defense is the best.”

Notes – Ty Lawson replaced Darren Collison as the starting point guard for Thursday’s preseason game against the Golden State Warriors at SAP Center in San Jose.

The rest of the starting lineup remained the same with Arron Afflalo at the other guard spot, Cousins and Gay at forward and Koufos at center.

Joerger said before the game that part of his job in the preseason is grooming Lawson to play for the regular season, knowing the team will be without Collison for the first eight games while he serves his eight-game suspension.

Joerger also must figure out how to get Garrett Temple work at the point, too.

“You still want Darren to keep his timing and get those minutes in practice and get those minutes in (preseason) games,” Joerger said. “It’s a very difficult thing for me to handle.”

Kings point guard Ty Lawson doesn't feel like he's lost a step.

▪ Collison and Omri Casspi were given the night off for rest.

Barnes also made his preseason debut after not playing in Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Anaheim.

Barnes had been held out of Saturday’s open scrimmage at Golden 1 Center for precautionary reasons after “dinging” his knee, according to Joerger. But Barnes has practiced this week.

Kings forward Matt Barnes tries to lead by example.

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has wanted to play with Matt Barnes for awhile.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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