Keith Smart made two surprising decisions with his lineup prior to last night’s 106-105 win at Sleep Train Arena.  Many (including me) were expecting DeMarcus Cousins to come off the bench in his return to the court yesterday evening.  Instead, the Sacramento Kings center was back in his place in the starting lineup.  Coinciding with that decision was a change to the Kings’ starting backcourt.  After an 18-game stint off the bench, Isaiah Thomas was re-inserted into the first unit.

Statistically speaking, Thomas didn’t have the greatest outing in his return to the starting lineup.  He went 3-of-10 and finished with 11 points and four assists.  Meanwhile, Cousins played decent in his return.  With the exception of a few second-half struggles, he posted 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals.   But the benefits of their placement in the starting lineup went beyond the box score.

  • After the game, Smart noted a reason for Thomas’ return to the Kings’ starting five had to do with Cousins: ”I thought having DeMarcus back, I needed someone that was a little will-wise strong to be able to play there.”
  • Thomas also touched briefly on the credibility he holds with his big man teammate: “I mean, me and DeMarcus got a good relationship where he really listens to me when I say things to him.  And he just let the game come to him today.”
  • Though he may not admit favorites, there is a different level of respect that the 22-year-old center has for Thomas.  He was wise to bite his tongue when asked in the locker room.  ”I’m not going to really get into that.  I’m not going to say who I have a better connection with between Aaron (and) Isaiah.  They both bring something to the game and our team benefits from both of them, so I’m comfortable with either one.”

Watch the video below to hear the rest of their thoughts on last night’s change to the Kings’ starting five.