About two hours before tipoff Friday night, Kings coach Dave Joerger was asked how his team looked during the morning shootaround.
Two nights earlier, Joerger had said one reason for the team’s “horrendous” start in a loss to San Antonio was a “loose” shootaround.
Friday night, Joerger wasn’t in the mood to break down the morning workout.
“The comment I made the other day, I was trying to get my team’s attention,” Joerger said. “Trying to deflect some things they have to answer to on certain nights. There was a sense of overreaction. It was just a shootaround – Jiminy Christmas.”
Well, panic is nothing unusual around Sacramento, especially when so many seasons were doomed by early strife. It doesn’t help when two starters echo the coach’s concerns.
DeMarcus Cousins and Ty Lawson said the Kings needed more focused preparation, pointing out the team looked sloppy running 5-on-0 drills.
Joerger, however, wasn’t panicking. He stuck with the same starting lineup for Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Golden 1 Center.
Joerger said Wednesday starting lineup changes would be considered to give the team more life but Friday was not the time.
Lawson, Cousins, Arron Afflalo, Rudy Gay and Kosta Koufos remained the starters.
“I don’t think you can get after a group and not give them a chance to rectify the situation,” Joerger said. “They’re not the only problems that we had the other night.”
The Kings started slowly again against the Clippers. Los Angeles led 40-24 after the first quarter. Less than two minutes into the second quarter, the Kings trailed 48-26, and there were smatterings of boos in the arena.
Joerger, a big Minnesota Vikings fan who loves to use a “Monday Morning Quarterback” analogy when discussing lineups, reiterated that there would be plenty of second-guessing.
Many would suggest subbing Darren Collison for Lawson, who has struggled lately as a speedy player in a slow lineup. Lawson entered Friday shooting 31.5 percent and scoring 5.4 points with 5.0 assists per game.
Collison was averaging 11.3 points and 5.8 assists in four games since returning from his eight-game NBA suspension. Collison’s play has led to a decline in Lawson’s minutes, too.
But starting Collison means taking a scorer away from the second unit. Joerger also prefers not to start the game with Collison, Afflalo, Gay and Cousins, which would put his top four scorers on the floor together.
All four might operate best in one-on-one situations, causing the offense to stall.
Another option would be to start a smaller lineup and bring the 7-foot Koufos off the bench. Joerger did that in Miami to match up with the Heat’s small lineup, replacing Koufos with Matt Barnes.
Generally, Joerger likes to start Koufos and Cousins for defensive purposes.
Clearly, the Kings must figure out what’s wrong because slow starts add up, and the Kings quickly could find themselves looking toward next season.
Note – The Kings recalled rookie center George Papagiannis from the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League for Friday’s game.
Fellow rookies Skal Labissiere and Malachi Richardson remained with the Bighorns
“I think the idea is you don’t want to have them down there the whole time,” Joerger said. “… Get your NBA per diem more often, be around the big club.”
Joerger said it’s unlikely the Kings will keep all three rookies in the D-League at once.
“I think you’ll probably see two out of the three and rotate,” Joerger said. “I think that’s kind of the idea. Also, if all three of them are playing, they all can’t shoot all the balls.”