Kings look to a future without Cousins
From the time he was hired, Dave Joerger hasn’t promised that turning the Kings from annual lottery participant into a playoff team would happen quickly.
And that was with a roster of veterans including All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.
Joerger always said it takes up to 1 1/2 years to install a new system and culture.
Thursday’s NBA trade deadline passed with the Kings making no additional moves, so that process continues with a roster that looks a lot different from the one at the start of the season.
Cousins and Omri Casspi are in New Orleans after Sunday night’s trade that brought Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway from the Pelicans. Matt Barnes was waived to make room for the three new players.
Rudy Gay is out for the rest of season because of an Achilles’ injury.
So without the Kings’ two leading scorers this season, among other injured players, Joerger essentially must reboot, integrating new players and giving more responsibility to the likes of rookie Skal Labissiere.
The combination of new and inexperienced players puts Joerger into more of a teaching mode.
“A little bit, yes,” Joerger said before the Kings hosted the Denver Nuggets at Golden 1 Center. “Today we walked through stuff – it’s simple stuff. It’s nothing that (anybody) has not seen – they’re basketball players. It’s just how you do it in different places.”
In the weeks since Gay was lost to injury, Cousins carried the offense with his scoring and passing.
“No one is going to go out there and make up for 28 (points) and 12 or 11 (rebounds), whatever (Cousins) was averaging, so we all know it’s going to take a collective effort to come close to competing,” said forward Anthony Tolliver. “So at the end of the day, each of us has to take on the individual responsibility to take on a new role, an extended version of their role.”
“No one has to change their game; no one has to change what they do. We’re going to have to play a little faster and get up and down the court a little bit more. We’re just going to have to build and try to figure this out.”
Barnes’ loss also is big. He could convey Joerger’s message because he’d been with him last season in Memphis and was a trusted voice in the locker room.
Joerger said he didn’t know how the team will replace Barnes.
“Somebody’s just going to have to step up,” Joerger said. “It might not be somebody of the same size or experience, but it gives someone else an opportunity to grow as a player.”
Tolliver said it will take a group effort to figure out new roles.
“It’s just about staying consistent,” Tolliver said. “At the end of the day, (opposing teams) can only play five guys just as we can only play five guys. We’re going to have to implement the (new) guys and communicate with them and help them along.”
The changes give the Kings some freedom in that little is expected from them the rest of the season, even though they began Thursday 1 1/2 games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
But there is pressure, particularly on Hield, the key piece, along with the top-three protected first-round pick, acquired from New Orleans.
But the rookie from Oklahoma still has a lot to learn.
“(Hield’s) got a lot flying around,” Joerger said. “You just try to let him get his feet on the ground, and then you just say, here’s what we’re expecting of you and here’s what we need you to do, and this is what the vision is going forward for the next couple of years.”