Carl Landry shaping into form

Carl-Landry-Dunk

For better or worse, Carl Landry is a familiar face in Sacramento. Many fans associate him with terrible Kings campaigns in the past, but he’s had success elsewhere.

“This is my third time coaching Carl,” Michael Malone reminded the media on Thursday. “I had him in New Orleans, and he stepped up big for us in the playoffs there when David West went out with an injury. He was big for us the year I was at Golden State and beat Denver in the first round and gave San Antonio a tremendous second round matchup, and when we signed him that was the Carl Landry we envisioned. Unfortunately with injuries last year we never saw that.”

After Landry signed a four-year, $26 million deal to play for the Kings a second time in July 2013, he tore his left hip flexor in training camp and missed the first 38 games of the season. The power forward managed to make 18 appearances (one start) at half-strength before suffering a torn right meniscus, which forced him to sit out the last 25 contests.

The 2013-14 season was the toughest of Landry’s career. The 31-year-old accepted responsibility for shorting expectations and dedicated himself to rehab in the offseason. Landry arrived healthy to camp and competed for the starting power forward job, but the Kings coaching staff believed he would best play off the bench.

That long, hard bench where Landry sat to start games was where he thrived in the past, and where he’s flourishing now. The 6-foot-9, 250-pounder logged limited minutes through the first five games of the season (17.4), but he’s often shared the floor with Reggie Evans and taken on the bulk of the offensive load in the post. Landry scored 14 points on 58.3 percent shooting on Monday versus the Denver Nuggets, and in Wednesday’s rematch dropped 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 10-of-10 free throws in 16 minutes.

“The biggest thing is his confidence,” Malone added. “Him having those types of games with scoring, getting to the free throw line, and even playing good post defense against the likes of Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. His confidence is getting back to where it needs to be. And when Carl gives you a low post presence like that off the bench, a guy that you can play through to get a bucket or get to the free throw line, that’s very comforting as a coach.”

Malone’s point was driven home on Friday night’s double overtime win against the Phoenix Suns. DeMarcus Cousins fouled out with 34 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, which led Landry to play the rest of the night. He finished with a statline of 12 points on 6-of-8 field goals, eight rebounds, a steal, a block and a turnover in 37 minutes. Landry had the largest differential of any King or Sun (+19), and even more impressively he performed at less than 100 percent.

“I’m getting better,” Landry reaffirmed on Thursday. “Just trying to take it a day at a time. Trying to make sure I improve weekly and not have any setbacks. And that’s all I’m doing. When I say I’m back to normal, I don’t know. But I’m getting there. And that’s all you can ask for after having two major injuries within the last year. As long I take my steps in the right direction, that’s all you can ask for.”

While Landry’s lower body continues to heal, the big can find peace in the fact his teammates have reached a level of determination that compares to his own.

“We’re hungry, we’re hungry. Every practice, we try to get better. Every game, we want to continue to win. We know it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and we just (have) to take it game by game.”

If we follow Landry’s advice we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves, but as the schedule moves along the Kings should improve and barring a setback, so should Landry.

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About: Rui Thomas

Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.