The Kings have touted their depth this season, and that will be tested in the next two games.
All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins will miss the next two games to rest his strained right Achilles’ tendon, leaving Sacramento without its leading scorer and rebounder. The Kings host Memphis on Tuesday and play at Phoenix on Wednesday.
Cousins left Saturday’s loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles late in the second quarter with what was announced as a sore right Achilles’. An MRI on Sunday revealed a strain.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac said Monday that Cousins felt soreness Saturday when he landed after jumping for a rebound and he’ll be day-to-day after Wednesday. The Kings host Houston on Friday and Golden State on Saturday.
Last season, the Kings went 29-53 overall and 6-17 without Cousins, and Divac made improving depth a priority in the offseason.
To have a good team, you have to be deep in case things happen like that. You can’t rely on one guy. Obviously, DeMarcus (Cousins) is our main guy and one of the top players in the league, but we want to make sure we can play some games without him.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac
“To have a good team, you have to be deep in case things happen like that,” Divac said. “You can’t rely on one guy. Obviously, DeMarcus is our main guy and one of the top players in the league, but we want to make sure we can play some games without him.”
Kings coach George Karl said he still likely will start a big lineup against the Grizzlies, who feature the powerful tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Koufos played for Memphis the last two seasons, so he knows what he, Cauley-Stein and the rest of the Kings will face.
“We’re all going to step up and play the best we can tomorrow and figure it out,” Koufos said.
Cousins is averaging 22.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in just 26.1 minutes. He had 13 points and nine rebounds, well on his way to his third double double in three games, when he left Saturday’s game.
“Cuz is a big hole,” Karl said. “He gives us a lot of offense; he gives us a lot of defense. I’m probably a little more worried about the defensive end of the court as much as trying to find 20, 25 points.”
Koufos has practiced against Randolph and Gasol, but it will be the first time Cauley-Stein tries to defend them.
Although a rookie, Cauley-Stein has shown he’s not easily intimidated, but he knows he’s playing against veterans and likely will learn some lessons.
“If you get busted, they’re supposed to do that,” Cauley-Stein said. “So you’ve got to have that in the back of your head – even if you do get busted on some stuff, you’ve got to keep on playing hard.”
On offense, Cauley-Stein said, the solution is simple.
We’ve got to share the ball more. … Obviously, we’re missing about a third of our offense. We’re going to have to figure out different spots to score the ball and play together.
Kings rookie Willie Cauley-Stein, about playing without DeMarcus Cousins
“We’ve got to share the ball more,” Cauley-Stein said. “ … Obviously, we’re missing about a third of our offense. We’re going to have to figure out different spots to score the ball and play together.”
When asked what adjustments he needs to make, Karl didn’t point to going with a bigger or smaller lineup.
“I’d say smarter,” Karl said.
The Kings have shown a lot of positives in the first three games of the season, Karl said, but must reduce mental mistakes. Karl said he’d like his players to improve their shot selection and not get caught up in trying to outscore teams rather than outwork them.
“I see a team that needs to get better and get smarter and get serious about those two things,” Karl said. “We’re not a connected team yet.”