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Kings’ Joerger feels ‘strange’ in Memphis return

Friday morning at shootaround, Dave Joerger visited a place at FedExForum he’d never been – the visitors’ locker room.

It was the Kings’ coach’s first time back since the Memphis Grizzlies fired him in May. Joerger spent nine seasons with the Grizzlies, the last three as head coach in which he was 147-99 (.598) and reached the playoffs each season.

Joerger received a warm round of applause when his name was announced following the Kings’ starting lineup, and Memphis center Marc Gasol came over to greet him before tipoff.

The Kings had a day off in Memphis on Thursday, so Joerger was able to catch up with friends, but Friday was still an unusual experience for him.

Joerger said before the game it felt “strange coming down the concourse that I’d never been in in my 10 years and the visiting locker room that I’d never been in. It was definitely different.”

Joerger said Memphis is similar to Sacramento because of the passion of the fans and the community. He saw that up close the day he was dismissed.

“I picked up my (young) daughter, which was a mistake, from the last day of school last year after getting fired, and she was bawling and all her friends were bawling,” Joerger said. “We loved it here, and part of us will always be Memphians. Now that’s what’s attractive about Sacramento.”

The Grizzlies entered the game18-9 under new coach David Fizdale, even with guard Mike Conley missing time with a back injury. Conley returned to the lineup Friday.

“They’re doing great, and I’m happy for them,” Joerger said. “They’re winning close games, and a lot of things are the same. The pace is still slow; Mike and Marc do their thing, Zach (Randolph) is still a stud, Tony (Allen) is still the best defender on the perimeter in the last 20 years in the NBA since Bruce Bowen, and they’ve been together a long time.”

Lineup shuffling – The Kings gained one starter when Ben McLemore returned after missing one game with a left quadriceps contusion. But Rudy Gay (right hip flexor strain) missed his second straight game.

Forward Omri Casspi sat out because of illness.

That led to a starting lineup of Darren Collison and Garrett Temple at guard and a frontcourt of McLemore, Cousins and Kosta Koufos.

Honoring Sager – Fizdale coached Friday while wearing a “SagerStrong” T-shirt in honor of TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager, who died Thursday because of complications from leukemia. The shirts are sold to help raise funds for cancer research.

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

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