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Kosta Koufos likes to keep things simple. Why that works for the Kings

Kings center Kosta Koufos may not be flashy on the court, but he's well respected by his teammates and coaches.
Kings center Kosta Koufos may not be flashy on the court, but he's well respected by his teammates and coaches. The Associated Press

One King received an ovation from the fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday night.

That was Kosta Koufos. When the basketball became stuck in the cameras and equipment behind the backboard in the first half, it was the 7-footer who used his height to his advantage and freed the ball with a mop handle.

It was the simple thing to do, and it was the right thing to do.

That's what Koufos does for the Kings. He does his job, focuses on the details and doesn't complain – and it's why he's respected by his teammates.

Along with his play, teammates like Koufos' dry and witty sense of humor which can be found in how many clichés Koufos can string together when speaking to the media.

"Just play efficient, just play hard, whenever my time comes," Koufos said. "That's how I was raised in the game of basketball and most importantly, play within the system. We've got a lot of talented guys on this team, so just keep chipping away each day and that's the biggest thing for this team, just keep chipping away and improving every day."

Koufos started Monday's 106-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder to do the thankless job of banging against rugged Thunder center Steven Adams, who left the game in the third quarter with a bruised left hip.

Koufos, whose success for the Kings usually can't be measured by statistics, put up solid numbers with six points, 10 rebounds and an assist in just 16 minutes. It was the fifth time in the last seven games Koufos has grabbed at least 10 rebounds.

Koufos entered Monday averaging 6.6 points and 6.5 rebounds. The rebounds are second to the 6.9 he averaged in 2012-13 as a full-time starter for Denver. He's doing that even though he's averaging just 19.4 minutes.

"You could make a case Kosta has been one of our better two or three players over the course of the season," said Kings coach Dave Joerger. "What he did in Denver (Sunday), he was out there with a darn near mashed-up hand and thigh in the altitude and everybody had an excuse that day except Kosta went out (today) and played and in (16) minutes had eight points and 10 rebounds."

Joerger also coached Koufos in Memphis, so this is what he's come to expect.

"That's what a pro does," Joerger said. "And he doesn't make excuses, he goes out and competes and he's among the upper echelon of teammates that I've ever been around as a man and as a teammate."

Koufos is not one to praise himself and said he was "very humbled" by what Joerger said about him. He added that it's easy to be a good teammate "when you have a lot of good guys around you, too."

The center could easily be vocal and upset about his situation. As one of the five Kings who have more than four seasons of experience, he's been asked to sit out games so younger players can have minutes.

That's not easy because it's not as if Koufos is aging and at the end of his career. He turned 29 in February, an age where players are trying to maximize their physical abilities.

Koufos had always been on playoff teams until joining the Kings in 2015. This will be his third year out of the postseason. The idea of sitting out games while healthy in a losing situation was new to him, too.

However, he maintains a positive perspective.

"Overall, you're living a dream life," Koufos said. "You're part of the NBA and it's opportunity to play the game, no matter what the situation is, and you play to win regardless of what scenarios are at the end. That's how you have to envision it, you play, you play hard and keep it simple."

Kings rookie guard De'Aaron Fox said Koufos is a vet who brings "a lot of energy to the team." He also noted Koufos has chipped in on offense more lately, scoring at least 12 points in three of his previous five games.

"Kosta's a great guy," Fox said. "What happens on the court for him really doesn't matter. He's always going to be that guy, he's always going to lift you up. He does what a vet should do."

Garrett Temple, the other King known for his defense, calls Koufos the "ultimate professional."

"He's perfect in terms of he knows his role and just goes out and does it, no matter if he plays 15 minutes, 30 minutes," Temple said. "He's one of the best defensive bigs, if not the best I've been on a team with, knows where to be on offense in his rolling spots and hits that floater on offense."

Koufos has a player option for next season worth $8.7 million. Temple, who also has a player option for next season, is already campaigning for Koufos to return.

It's another example of how much the Kings value Koufos, even if his play isn't viewed as spectacular.

"Just what he can do on the defensive end is much needed for us and hopefully he signs back with us next year, picks up that option or whatever it is," Temple said. "He's a guy that's needed on the team, especially for the young guys who are learning how to be pros."

Koufos doesn't purposely seek to be an example for his teammates. It's just who he is. He doesn't know how to be any other way and that works for the Kings.

"I feel like that's my demeanor, to play hard in whatever minutes I get," Koufos said. "Do things right and occasionally score the ball when I'm there, rebound and keep it simple and efficient, that's it."

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