Kings coach George Karl is a fan of playing two point guards together.
The combination of playing the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento’s struggling starter at shooting guard gave Karl the opportunity to start two point guards Wednesday when the Kings played the Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Darren Collison replaced Ben McLemore to start alongside Rajon Rondo in the Kings’ backcourt. Karl started James Anderson at small forward and moved Rudy Gay to power forward. Willie Cauley-Stein started at center for DeMarcus Cousins, who missed his second consecutive game because of a strained right Achilles’ tendon.
Karl said the changes were made to match up defensively with the Suns’ small lineup that features two starting point guards, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. But McLemore’s slow start has given Anderson, a former first-round pick by San Antonio who spent last season playing in Lithuania, a shot at more playing time.
“I think James deserves an opportunity, and Ben’s got to go back and earn some minutes from the bench,” Karl said.
McLemore is averaging 4.3 points and shooting 6 of 21 through four games. Anderson, who had played just 12 minutes through the Kings first four games, scored 15 points in 25 minutes during Wednesday’s 118-97 loss to the Suns.
McLemore was the Kings’ first-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft and started every game last season. But McLemore’s only competition for minutes most of the season was rookie Nik Stauskas, who was traded to Philadelphia during the offseason. McLemore made the most of his 14 minutes Wednesday with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting.
Karl wants quick decisions and playmaking from guards, areas where McLemore has struggled.
“I think he’s in a little bit of a slump,” Karl said. “I think he’s searching for confidence a little bit.”
Karl was intrigued by the idea of playing Rondo and Collison together before the season. He believes the NBA game is tailored to playing two point guards.
He’s a fan of how Knight and Bledsoe play.
“I think the game is going to the perimeter and decision-making,” Karl said. “... I think ... guards have a lot more influence on the game. And the better guards you put on the floor, usually those teams play with better offense and better flow. And they’re both very good defensive players.”
On Wednesday, Collison had 13 points and six assists, while Rondo finished with nine points and six assists.
No more points – Karl said starting Collison does not mean he will necessarily use a third point guard, which would be Seth Curry. Instead, he’ll rely on backup shooting guard Marco Belinelli to help out.
“I think Belinelli has some point tendencies,” Karl said. “I think right now I’ve got to find Marco, try to get him to make more shots, feel more comfortable with it. Drastic overhaul I don’t think is necessary.”
Return home – The Kings will play six consecutive games at home starting Friday against Houston.
Karl, after reviewing Tuesday’s effort in a loss to Memphis, wants to see more from the Kings at home.
“We got outworked by a good basketball team that was playing with more urgency and passion than we played with on our home court,” Karl said.
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