George Karl’s search for better defense early in games has led to more minutes for swingman James Anderson.
Anderson started for the Kings on Sunday against the Boston Celtics in place of Rudy Gay, who had a sprained left ankle. On Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Anderson came in for Gay, who picked up two fouls in the first quarter.
Omri Casspi, whom Karl has praised all season, was the supposed replacement for Gay. Karl, however, chose Anderson, noting he is one of the team’s better defenders. Had Gay missed Monday’s game – he started despite having been listed as doubtful – Anderson again would have gotten the call and served as the primary defender on LeBron James.
“I think right now it’s an opportunity for me to get some defense into the game,” Karl said. “ ... You’re putting your better defender in against their starters is my mindset.”
The Kings have started slowly on defense during their recent slide. Cleveland became the eighth consecutive Sacramento opponent to score at least 30 points in the first quarter.
As for containing James, Karl offered a partly serious, partly tongue-in-cheek plan.
“I hope he gets in foul trouble,” Karl said. “Hurts his ankle.”
Good J.R. – Karl has coached many unusual personalities, but one near the top of the list must be Cleveland guard J.R. Smith, who played for Karl with the Denver Nuggets.
Notoriously erratic for most of his career, Smith has been solid for the Cavaliers this season. Karl believes James’ presence has brought “solid and simple” play to Smith’s game.
“I want to be complimentary of (Smith),” Karl said. “I think he’s done a good job of taking out the bad. He’s always had the spectacular; he’s always had the good. But he’d always throw some bad in there.”
Smith entered Monday’s game averaging 12.8 points.
More changes – The New York Knicks on Monday fired coach Derek Fisher, a former teammate of Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue.
The Knicks have lost nine of 10 and five in a row. Asked his reaction to the news, Lue shrugged.
“I wouldn’t say shocked,” he said. “Changes happen. Just think about our situation here.”
Lue replaced David Blatt on Jan. 22 even though Cleveland reached the Finals last season and leads the Eastern Conference this season.
“I’m not sure what happened in New York with Derek Fisher getting fired. I haven’t talked to him,” Lue said. “I’ll talk to him and just tell him my prayers and thoughts are with him and just move on from there.”
Rondo milestone – The Kings’ Rajon Rondo grabbed his 3,000th career rebound in the first quarter, becoming one of 30 players with at least 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists and 1,000 steals. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul and James are among the group.