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Joerger already taking off Kings’ training wheels. Why it’s the right, but tough, call

Kings coach Dave Joerger calls for players to defend a play against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
Kings coach Dave Joerger calls for players to defend a play against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Doing what’s right for the future isn’t easy.

 
Opinion

Kings coach Dave Joerger had to tell two veterans they’re going to get a night off for rest – when their workloads have been light and neither has played since Thursday – and watch as the youngsters take over. But decisions like this are why Joerger’s fourth-year option was picked up before the season.

Point guard George Hill and power forward Zach Randolph will sit out Sunday’s game against the Washington Wizards at Golden 1 Center for “rest.” Look for a lot more De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere, with some Frank Mason III.

It’s the right call.

There is no reason to wait until the Kings are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, or the All-Star break, or sell the fallacy that the team is “trying” to win before committing to giving the young players meaningful minutes.

This season is about Fox, Labissiere, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson and developing the young core. So every time the Kings can get Fox a start against a John Wall, or allow Jackson to match up against an Otto Porter for meaningful minutes, it’s a good thing.

This can’t be easy for Joerger, however. As he said earlier this season, he essentially has to serve two masters.

One master says to win. And believe me, Joerger wants to win.

The other master says develop the young players. Keep the veterans on the bench. Watch the young players get taken to the learning tree nightly.

Sunday’s scenario provides an example of the kind of balance Joerger will have to show all season. It’s not a complete surrender, which is what tanking teams do in the second half of the season.

It’s easing the young players into the NBA grind with the knowledge they are expected to compete and win. Veterans Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos and Vince Carter will still be in uniform, so the young players will not entirely be left on their own.

But Fox will also have to figure out how to run the show without the safety net of Hill.

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Who said you have to be a starter to lead a team statistically?

Fox leads the Kings in scoring and assists with 14.8 points and 5.0 assists per game.

Fox has scored in double digits in four of five games. If he plays more than 30 minutes on Sunday, don’t be surprised if he tops 20 points for the first time in his career.

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Where is the speed? The Kings still get into their offense too slowly too often. When the Kings get across halfcourt quickly and attack, they are fun to watch (like the first half against New Orleans).

When the Kings aren’t fast (the second half against New Orleans), the game is not nearly as fun to watch. So please, more speed.

Looking ahead

Fox’s introduction to playing elite point guards this week continues with a three-game trip that includes a game at Boston against All-Star Kyrie Irving.

Don’t expect Fox to be flustered, but he will be tested by Irving, one of the best scoring point guards in the league.

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

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