Sometimes, a coach doesn’t need advanced statistics or analytics to make a decision.
The only numbers Dave Joerger needs to see change are 4-9, the Kings’ record, including four straight losses.
Joerger plans to scrap the big lineup that has opened games most of the season, with DeMarcus Cousins and Kosta Koufos in the frontcourt. Cousins will play center, and Joerger will try to figure out which lineup works best around Cousins for Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors.
“That hasn’t been working,” Joerger said of playing big. “That’s not working so it’s not about being big or small.”
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Joerger said after Friday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers he wasn’t sure how the lineup would look, but the way he started the second half of that game might offer a clue.
Ty Lawson and Darren Collison were the guards, with a frontcourt of Cousins, Rudy Gay and Arron Afflalo.
“(We’re) just able to play at a little bit of a faster pace with Darren and Ty out there so we can push the pace,” Afflalo said.
Joerger has said since the start of training camp he would use several small lineups, even though the team had considerable size. Joerger, however, still preferred to start games with size on the court.
Only one time in 13 games has Joerger deviated from starting two big men. That was Nov. 1 at Miami when Matt Barnes replaced Koufos to play against the Heat’s small lineup.
That’s another way Joerger might go. Collison was still suspended by the NBA for the Miami game, so he was unavailable to start, but will also be an option.
Downsizing means less playing time for Koufos, who did not play in the second half Friday. It also means even less time for second-year center Willie Cauley-Stein.
It could mean more playing time for Anthony Tolliver and Omri Casspi. Both players had fallen out of the rotation recently but might be better suited to help now.
It will also benefit Lawson, who is at his best when the game is fast. But he struggled to play at that pace with two big men on the floor.
Cousins has 3-point shooting range, so he’s not married to the rim area, which will open the floor for Lawson and Collison to attack the basket.
“More energy, too,” Lawson said. “With Matt, well, I don’t know who’s going to start, but he’ll be able to ... be more active on the defensive end, and that helps us on the offensive end and gets us easier shots.”
While the faster pace on offense and putting more skilled players on the court could help, the Kings still need to play better defense. That was again obvious against the Clippers.
“We gave up 40 points (in the first quarter) so I don’t think it’s offense, I think it’s defense,” Afflalo said. “We gave up 40 points, and that’s a tough start. ... Defensively, no matter who’s on the floor, it has to be effective.”
Cousins said if Joerger believes starting games smaller will provide more energy, “We’re going to roll with” the plan.
But he also realizes if the Kings continue to start games with the kind of effort they’ve shown recently, a lineup change will be ineffective.
“We can’t come out with excuses,” Cousins said. “If we don’t play with energy and urgency from the beginning, it really doesn’t matter what lineup is out there. We’re going to continue to have the same type of game.”