Who starts for the Sacramento Kings will be determined today. Head coach Michael Malone told media yesterday that he’d reveal his starting lineup for opening night to players sometime during practice this afternoon.
“I think most of the guys probably have an idea of who we’re going to go with,” Malone said Sunday. “But I’ll get into that tomorrow with who’s starting and who’s coming off the bench and assigning and defining roles for guys.”
Malone said none of his players had asked him about his pending decision. As nice as it would be to start, Jason Thompson noted that being productive and having consistent playing time is more important to him and his teammates.
“It’s all good when you hear your name called as a starter and all that type of stuff,” Thompson said. ”But if you’re not there at the end of the game, if you’re not playing more than 20 minutes as a starter, it really doesn’t mean nothing. If you’re not producing, it doesn’t mean nothing either.
“I think (f0r) all of us, it doesn’t really matter (who starts),” the veteran big man added. ”I think it’s you want to be the most productive guy out there, you want to be on the floor as many minutes as possible and that’s all that matters.”
Two things are certain about the Kings’ starting lineup: DeMarcus Cousins, who received a $62-million extension earlier this month, will start at center, and rookie Ben McLemore will come off the bench. Despite entering the conversation for the starting shooting guard position in preseason, Malone likes what he saw out of McLemore as a reserve. The 20-year-old rookie averaged 11.4 points off the Kings’ bench in 23.6 minutes per game.
“You can make a case for him as a starter,” Malone said of this year’s seventh overall pick, “but I love him in an off-the-bench role right now.”
Friday’s preseason game affirms certain ideas for Malone and staff
Other than Cousins’ place at center and McLemore’s role off the bench, the rest of Malone’s lineup and rotation has yet to be defined. But the Kings’ win Friday over the Los Angeles Clippers in their preseason finale could be a strong indication of things to come.
Malone started a lineup in Los Angeles that featured Greivis Vasquez, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Cousins. Vasquez, who has been working his way back to full health following offseason ankle surgery, put together his best performance of the preseason on Friday. He recorded nine of his 12 assists in the third quarter and committed zero turnovers in the Kings’ final win of the exhibition season.
“It was just great to see Greivis have that kind of a game,” Malone said yesterday. ”You know, he had been struggling. He hadn’t been playing the way he wants, that we want him to. But we also realized that we weren’t ready to hit a panic button. The guy hasn’t played in four to five months.”
Vasquez’s competition at point guard, Isaiah Thomas, also compiled one of his best games of the preseason. In a reserve role, the 24-year-old out of Washington scored 27 points in the 10-point victory.
“He’s three games in a row come off the bench,” Malone said of Thomas. “He has just completely changed the complexion of the game each time he’s come in with his energy, his effort, his playmaking ability (and) his ability to get to the foul line. He attacks.
“He’s becoming a defensive stopper as well,” Malone added. “(We) put him on Steph Curry, (and he) got into him. Jamal (Crawford) was getting off against Ben a little bit. We put Isaiah on Jamal Crawford, and he did a good job on him.”
Like Vasquez, Thornton struggled for much of the preseason. But the veteran guard saved his best for last, scoring 17 points on an effective 7-of-13 from the field in the victory over the Clippers. Malone was particularly pleased with Thornton’s defense and effort on the glass.
Patterson, meanwhile, earned the lion’s share of playing time at power forward in the preseason. He started two more games than Thompson and played the most minutes (205) out of all his teammates in the preseason.
“It just really kind of confirmed some things for us as a coaching staff moving into the regular season,” Malone said of the final preseason game against the Clippers.
DeMarcus Cousins pleased with his consistency in the preseason
I asked Cousins after practice Sunday what aspect of his game he was most happy about coming out of the exhibition season.
“Consistency,” the 23-year-old big man said. “That’s the main thing to me. I have good nights and I have bad ones, so just staying consistent through the whole season is my biggest thing.”
In the preseason, the Kings starting center averaged 19.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.17 steals and shot 51.9 percent from the field in 24.1 minutes per game.