Last season George Karl saw just how bad the Kings could be without DeMarcus Cousins.
Overall, Sacramento was 6-17 without Cousins. The last two wins came against the Los Angeles Lakers, a team so depleted by injuries that they used a player in a game who arrived less than 90 minutes before tip-off.
Cousins sat out Tuesday’s preseason game against the Lakers at MGM Garden Grand Arena to rest up for the preseason finale Saturday.
It also gave Karl the chance to see how the rest of the team responded without its All-Star center.
“I kind of my give my better guys the option if they want to take one off,” Karl said. “And I know he wants to play in Lexington (Kentucky). We need to learn how to play without him, too. There was a reliance on him last year that was probably over-reliant.”
The Kings finish the preseason Saturday at the University of Kentucky against the New Orleans Pelicans. Cousins, along with Kings Rajon Rondo and Willie Cauley-Stein, played for Kentucky.
Karl already has expressed concern that the Kings are too reliant on Cousins to rebound, leaving them vulnerable when he’s not on the floor.
Karl also wanted to see how the offense flowed without Cousins. The coach was asked if players might not know how to balance their roles with and without Cousins on the floor.
“I want a team if we shoot it 85 times in a game, 75 of those shots are good shots,” Karl said. “Sometimes your scorer, the guy that you rely upon to score takes some shots, and sometimes that’s harder for a team when a player is being yelled at for taking a shot where maybe if Cuz takes it, it’s OK. There’s a hypocrisy to developing shot personality. I don’t think it’s that difficult to find, but it does take time.”
Without Cousins, the Kings started Kosta Koufos at center. Rudy Gay moved from small forward to power forward and James Anderson started in Gay’s usual spot.
Shooting guard Ben McLemore and point guard Rondo started in the backcourt.
Bye, rankings – ESPN releases its player rankings annually, which if anything gives players something to talk about.
This year, Gay dropped from 51st to 70th, even though last season he averaged career highs in points and assists.
Gay responded Monday via Twitter with a “Bye, Felicia” reference from the movie “Friday,” which is about as dismissive as you can be to someone who is up on urban slang.
Gay said all he can really do is laugh at such rankings.
“That’s all you can do,” he said. “Some of these people sit in their cubbyholes and never touched a basketball a day in their life or stepped between these lines. They can’t rank these players, but it is what it is. I’ve been underrated my entire life.”
Stopping Kobe – Karl joked that Anderson would be his “Kobe stopper” but said even in his 20th season he expected Bryant to be tough to cover this season.
“He’s always going to be able to score the ball,” Karl said. “He makes a lot of shots, but he also makes tough shots and defense sometimes doesn’t matter.”
Bryant has missed most of the last two seasons with injuries.