Trades and performance had Kings coach Michael Malone changing his starting lineup and player rotation more times than what’s ideal early last season.
Through 13 games this season, Malone has used the same starting lineup of Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins.
Ramon Sessions, Omri Casspi and Carl Landry have emerged as the most trusted players off the bench.
“I’m pretty comfortable with seven, eight guys,” Malone said Saturday before the Kings defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 113-101 at Target Center. “And depending on the game, the matchup, the lineup, the flow of the game that may dictate who plays after those guys.”
Malone threw in some changes lately by not using veteran power forward Reggie Evans and Derrick Williams against teams that use smaller lineups.
Injury watch – Gay has appeared on the Kings’ injury report with right Achilles’ tendinitis recently but has not missed any playing time even though he’s been listed as questionable at times.
Through Saturday’s game against Minnesota, Gay is averaging a team-high 36.8 minutes.
Gay has played through any discomfort, but Malone is keeping tabs on the situation.
“If he’s struggling out there, I’m definitely going to get him out,” Malone said. “I’m never going to put his health or livelihood in jeopardy. But once he gets loose and plays through it, it hasn’t been an issue. But if it becomes one, I’ll definitely curtail his minutes.”
High praise – Cousins’ start has him poised to become a first-time All-Star.
Minnesota coach Flip Saunders sees Cousins playing at a level that would put him among the NBA’s elite players.
“To me, look at him and how he’s playing; he’s playing like an MVP,” Saunders said. “There’s five guys every year you say they’re in the running, and that’s where he’s been.”
Saunders, like most, have cited Cousins’ experience with Team USA over the summer with making him a better player.
“He’s kept his head under control,” Saunders said. “He’s just playing at a high level.”
Cousins entered Saturday leading the Kings in scoring average (22.5 points) and rebounds (11.8).
Northern invasion – At one point Saturday, there were three Canada-born players on the court.
The Timberwolves started forwards Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the first overall picks in the 2014 and 2013 NBA drafts.
Kings rookie Nik Stauskas was also in the game.