Injuries can force players to pull out skills they haven’t needed in a while.
When it comes to Arron Afflalo, that means showing off some point guard skills that he hasn’t used much since early in his days at Centennial High School in Compton.
The Kings are short on playmakers these days. Behind Darren Collison, they had no healthy point guards when the Kings hosted the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night at Golden 1 Center.
Ty Lawson was out after suffering a hamstring injury in the second quarter of Wednesday’s victory over the Boston Celtics. Garrett Temple also is also out with a hamstring injury.
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So coach Dave Joerger asked Afflalo to step away from his usual duties as a shooting guard/small forward and initiate some offense so Collison could get a little rest.
“Probably my sophomore and junior year (in high school)” was the last time Afflalo recalled being a point guard. “My sophomore year I was the point guard. My junior year I was the best player on the team so I brought the ball down, and my senior year I played off the ball. And then in college I played off the ball, and in the pros I’ve always played off the ball.”
The Kings don’t have a young point guard. The last point guard the Kings drafted was Isaiah Cousins, a second-round pick out of Oklahoma in last year’s draft and is playing for their NBA Development League team in Reno after not making the Kings’ final roster.
Since 2013-14, Isaiah Thomas’ last season, the Kings have relied on veterans to fill the void at the point. And this season, DeMarcus Cousins has taken on a bigger role as a facilitator.
Cousins was back from his one-game suspension for technical fouls, giving the Kings another player to run offense through in their halfcourt sets.
Still, the Kings are short on ballhandlers, something that has been an issue for many of the previous Kings’ coaches.
When the Kings need to get the ball across the court without Collison, Afflalo, a 10-year veteran, is their man.
“It’s not really that much different; it’s just making sure the team gets into a play, into a set,” Afflalo said. “I’m pretty familiar with the sets, and a lot of our spots are interchangeable. ”
Afflalo said he didn’t envision Collison sitting out for long stretches, so his minutes as a point guard would be limited.
Afflalo sees a benefit of the change in his role, too. Rather than wait for his teammates to get him going on offense, he might find his rhythm a little earlier.
“It’s good to get to touch the ball, feel the ball,” Afflalo said. “Obviously if you play off the ball but you’re one of the focal points of the offense, you don’t have to worry about it so much. But when you have to play off other guys, sometimes just being able to get outlets from the rebounds, push the ball and kick it gets you into a rhythm.”