Dave Joerger has said it many times in some form, but it’s worth repeating for the next two or three seasons: This is a long process and the Kings are building the foundation of what they want to be.
Still, there are games to be played. It’s up to Joerger to sort out a starting lineup and rotation for a team that includes 10 players who begin the season with three years or less of NBA experience while making sure veterans aren’t treated like glorified babysitters.
Don’t ask Joerger about the starting lineup or rotation. He’ll look at as you as if you asked him for his ATM card and PIN.
Just don’t mistake Joerger’s mum response for a lack of a plan.
“I just play dumb,” Joerger joked after Monday’s practice.
Wednesday begins the process of blending youth and experience when the Kings host the Houston Rockets in their season opener. This isn’t a situation where the Kings can say the rotation now will be the one they use next month.
Young players need a chance to develop, but not be left on the court simply to get beaten down every night. The veterans need to play to give the Kings a chance to win many nights, but Joerger can’t run them into the ground, either.
“The guys play and you get an opportunity to take a look at them ... ,” Joerger said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’re already dealing with some injury bugs and stuff, so there’s a lot of minutes there.”
George Hill (strained right groin) practiced Monday while Bogdan Bogdanovic (sprained right ankle) missed practice. The guards were injured Thursday in a preseason loss at the Los Angeles Clippers.
Both are targeting to be available against Houston, and Hill said Monday that leaving Thursday’s game was more precautionary.
“Didn’t want to continue to go out there and rupture it even more or do anything bad to it,” Hill said.
That’s important because no Hill would mean throwing rookies De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason on the floor for a baptism by fire in the form of Houston’s Chris Paul, one of the best point guards in NBA history, and perennial MVP candidate James Harden, who served as a point guard last season.
It’ll be up to Joerger to figure out how much either first-year player sees of Houston’s talented backcourt. More importantly, he’ll have to keep the big picture in mind all season and communicate that with the team.
“There’s going to be times where I’m going to go to a veteran and ask him to sit down for a game because I want to look at something else,” Joerger said. “...Those guys don’t like that stuff because they’re competitive and they want to be competitive and try to win as many games as possible. It’s not that we’re not trying to win, we’re trying to serve a lot of masters. So at different points you might see that but it’s also predicated on the injury situation.”
Zach Randolph played for Joerger in Memphis at a time when the starting lineup could have been etched in stone, barring injury. Winning teams don’t worry about juggling the rotation, finding time to develop multiple young players or what the team might be in three years.
Randolph, however, believes Kings fans will like what they see starting Wednesday.
“We’ve got a young team and we’ve got a bunch of great young guys and older guys who are going to come out and play hard every single night,” Randolph said. “And it’s going to be exciting and we’re going to to leave it all on the court.”