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Kings finding comfort as George Karl settles on rotation

Sixteen games into the season, it appears Kings coach George Karl has settled upon an eight-to-nine man rotation. Kings guard Rajon Rondo, left, says the consistency helps produce a rhythm. ... Rondo reacts during an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Milwaukee.
Sixteen games into the season, it appears Kings coach George Karl has settled upon an eight-to-nine man rotation. Kings guard Rajon Rondo, left, says the consistency helps produce a rhythm. ... Rondo reacts during an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Milwaukee. The Associated Press

It’s been about a month since the Kings began the regular season, or as George Karl cautioned during training camp, the part of the season that would still require a lot of learning.

Karl needed to learn which of his 10 new players fit together best. The Kings needed to adapt to what Karl wanted.

With 16 games down, Karl appears to have settled on an eight- to nine-man rotation, which should help ease the angst that dominated the locker room to start the season.

Familiarity breeds a comfort on the court that’s beginning to show.

“I think so,” said guard Rajon Rondo. “The more you’re out there, the more of a rhythm you get in to. So I have no complaints.”

Even with injuries that have shaken the rotation, the Kings have gone 5-3 since their much-publicized team meeting. That mark would be 6-2 had they not blown a 22-point lead at Charlotte.

Kings coach George Karl said the team played some “(darn) good” basketball in going 2-3 its recent trip.

“I think I’m learning who plays well with who,” Karl said.

Karl learned a lot about his team on the recent five-game trip that ended with a win at Milwaukee.

Karl said the team played some “(darn) good” basketball in going 2-3 on the trip. In three of the games, the team was without either All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins (twice) or forward Rudy Gay (once).

The Kings won one game without Cousins and one without Gay. But players such as Omri Casspi and Kosta Koufos stepped in with a better understanding of what is expected.

“Injuries don’t help that,” Gay said. “But guys are learning their roles and getting better at them.”

(Omri Casspi) is like a wild card. He does a little bit of everything. That’s what I love about him.

Kings forward Rudy Gay

It also helped that Darren Collison returned from a hamstring injury to start the trip. Rondo doesn’t have to play nearly 48 minutes with Collison available, and Karl can play both point guards together.

The rotation isn’t automatic yet, but Collison said the Kings are making progress.

“Coach is going with whoever is playing best,” Collison said. “But I think for the most part, guys are getting their most consistent minutes and they know what to do when they’re in there.”

For Karl, the trip helped him get a better grasp of his rotations. His four key reserves are Collison, Casspi, Koufos and Marco Belinelli when the Kings are healthy.

And the veteran coach is figuring out how he likes to mix his lineups to be most effective.

“I think I’ve got to keep Omri with Rudy as much as possible,” Karl said. “That combination really complements. There’s some size there that can rebound, but there’s also the ability find a mismatch or a matchup situation that’s beneficial to us.”

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Gay enjoys the pairing, too, as both have had good games together recently.

“O.C. is like a wild card,” Gay said. “He does a little bit of everything. That’s what I love about him.”

And as the Kings figure each other out, they’ll love more about each other on the court.

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

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