Nearly two weeks ago, Dave Joerger had seen enough of the Kings’ version of big basketball following four consecutive losses.
But playing big isn’t extinct for Sacramento. After going small in three games, Joerger has started a big lineup the past two contests with a two-center look featuring Kosta Koufos and DeMarcus Cousins. For the sake of pregame introductions, Cousins is a power forward.
Still, small ball seems to be the norm in the NBA. While Cousins and Koufos can coexist on the floor, the small lineup appeared to energize the Kings.
Joerger, however, has gone back to starting two bigs for defensive reasons.
“I’m trying to protect DeMarcus a little bit by letting Kosta take the hits on a bigger guy like (Washington Wizards center Marcin) Gortat,” Joerger said. “And defensively more pick-and-rolls and try to save (Cousins’) legs for the end.”
Entering Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Cousins said he’s not leaning toward any particular lineup.
“My preference is winning, so whatever coach feels is the best formula, I’m with it,” he said.
Even if the Kings start big, they don’t rely on that strategy most of the game.
For much of the season, the starting lineup has been Cousins, Koufos, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Rudy Gay. That unit has averaged only 10.3 minutes together with a plus/minus rating of plus-0.5. Joerger would start each half with that lineup before downsizing.
When the Kings went small, Koufos went to the bench. For three games, he looked good with the second unit, and Joerger said the center played some of his best minutes of the season as a reserve.
Asked whether he’d rather start or come off the bench, Koufos said, “It doesn’t matter. I’ve been in the league for nine years now. I’ve shown what I can do. Right now for me it’s just helping my team win games. Whatever my role is, it is. Just be professional about it and do the best of my abilities.”
Whether he’s a starter or a reserve, Koufos said he knows his duties are to rebound, defend, set screens and score when needed.
“Whatever coach wants, I’m going to do to the best of my abilities,” he said. “For me, it’s no nonsense. Whatever that role might be, I just go in and play as hard as I can. That’s all you can really do.”
Rather than see a big lineup as a problem, the Kings can use it to their advantage, Koufos said. A big lineup usually means a smaller player is guarding Koufos or Cousins.
“You can cause mismatch problems, but fortunately for us, we have so many talented players on this team where we can have different looks,” Koufos said. “That’s what makes us unique. But the key for us is we need to step it up defensively, and we just continue to take it game by game.”
Cousins said he’s “going to rock” in any plan Joerger uses.
“Whatever coach throws out there, whatever lineup, we’re going to play,” he said.