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Kings notes: George Karl says Eastern Conference is improving

Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) goes up to shoot between Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, left, and forward Jason Smith during an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Cauley-Stein started the game as part of the 11th different set of starters in 14 games this season. The change was made because Rudy Gay (left shoulder strain) was out.
Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) goes up to shoot between Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, left, and forward Jason Smith during an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Cauley-Stein started the game as part of the 11th different set of starters in 14 games this season. The change was made because Rudy Gay (left shoulder strain) was out. The Associated Press

Perhaps it’s time to stop saying the Western Conference is far superior to the Eastern Conference.

The East has been dismissed for years – with good reason. Although it took 50 wins to make the playoffs in the West, some Eastern teams qualified with losing records.

Kings coach George Karl said before the Kings played the Orlando Magic on Saturday at Amway Center that the East is improving. Sacramento defeated Orlando 97-91 for its first victory on a five-game Eastern Conference trip.

The Kings are 1-2 on the trip, with losses at Atlanta and Miami.

“It looks like they’re playing better than the Western Conference,” Karl said. “Miami, Atlanta, I think are playoff teams. And from what I’ve seen from Orlando, they’re in the hunt for the playoffs, too.”

The Kings finish the trip with games at Charlotte (7-6) on Monday and Milwaukee (5-8) on Wednesday.

It looks like they’re playing better than the Western Conference. Miami, Atlanta, I think are playoff teams. And from what I’ve seen from Orlando, they’re in the hunt for the playoffs, too.

Kings coach George Karl on Eastern Conference teams

Karl sounded as if he wouldn’t take any team in the East lightly, even clubs like New York (7-6 entering Saturday) that have been comedy fodder in recent seasons.

“The Knicks – I don’t think anybody expected it – but they’re a damn good basketball team,” Karl said. “And they’re showing it by beating teams on the road.”

Odd delay – DeMarcus Cousins was having a calm conversation with referee Josh Tiven in front of Sacramento’s bench before the the second quarter when the Kings received a delay-of-game warning.

The Kings were unsure why it was called, and Cousins asked Tiven “Was that on me?” from the bench. Tiven shrugged his shoulders.

Turns out it was on Cousins because he was standing on the court while speaking to Tiven.

Cousins tried to explain to referee Tom Washington that he was speaking to Tiven, not holding up the game, but that didn’t matter.

The Kings were not called for another delay, which would have resulted in a technical foul.

Another lineup change – The Kings are used to different lineups this season.

Saturday’s starting lineup was the 11th different group in 14 games. The change was made because Rudy Gay (left shoulder strain) was out.

The Kings started Cousins at power forward, rookie Willie Cauley-Stein at center and guards Rajon Rondo, Darren Collison and Ben McLemore.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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