The regular-season finale Wednesday at Staples Center had major implications for the Kings and Los Angeles Clippers.
The Kings, with a loss, would finish with the eighth-worst record in the league. They keep their pick if it’s in the top 10. However, worst-case scenario would be if they fall the maximum three spots possible, the Kings won’t get that pick.
The Clippers need a win to secure home-court advantage in their first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, who beat the San Antonio Spurs earlier Wednesday.
Kings coach Dave Joerger has a long history with the Clippers from his playoff meetings while coaching the Memphis Grizzlies. He quipped he’d love to “wreck” the Clippers’ postseason plans.
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Admittedly, that would be difficult.
“We’re playing like six guys tonight,” Joerger said before tip-off. “So we’re going to try hard.”
The Kings actually had seven players available players due to injuries and rest. They thought they’d have eight players, but Tyreke Evans was a late scratch because of a sore right big toe.
So, if there was to be an upset, it would be with the starting lineup of Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield, Arron Afflalo, Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein with a two-man bench of Ben McLemore and George Papagiannis. Afflalo was the only player with more than four years of experience.
Joerger’s talk of wrecking the Clippers’ playoff plans might have been tongue-in-cheek, but he believes the Clippers have an opportunity to make a deep run in the postseason.
The Clippers have had a lot of regular-season success, but have yet to get past the postseason’s second round in their history.
With a win Wednesday, the Clippers would be the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
“This is a great opportunity for them and I’m excited for them,” Joerger said. “Those guys, I’ve been coaching against for years and they’ve got a real chance to make some real noise this year.”
So as the Kings begin their offseason planning this week, Joerger said he wants to see the Clippers do well.
“I wish them nothing but the best,” Joerger said. “This year I’ll be cheering for them.”
Leadership gains – Joerger said one area that changed after DeMarcus Cousins was traded was how the leadership dynamic changed for the Kings on a suddenly younger team.
When Cousins was traded during the All-Star break, the Kings lost the player who said it was his job to lead in addition to being the team’s best player.
Matt Barnes, who also served in a leader’s role, was waived as part of the trade.
The deal put that responsibility on Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, Garrett Temple and the rest of the vets who might have been viewed simply as role players.
“It’s not an easy situation, after a trade of a big franchise player,” Joerger said. “Different guys filled in spots, different leadership voices are heard or magnified and you’ve got to get in line and follow. When guys get along, it’s pretty cool.”
But, as Joerger noted, you can’t make a player a leader. Players will decide which voices they do and don’t want to hear.
“The No. 1 thing about the league is always no play, no say,” Joerger said. “You can’t be the 12th guy and saying all the right things ... But if you’re playing, it’s a good opportunity, especially for veteran guys, to be leaders.”
Sitting out – Collison (migraine headache) was able to make the trip but sat out his second consecutive game.
Lawson, Kosta Koufos and Temple were given the night off for planned rest.