January 18, 2013

Smart to give some Kings more minutes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Keith Smart is prepared to deal with some unhappy Kings.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Keith Smart is prepared to deal with some unhappy Kings.

He's ready for the long stares as players walk to the bench when subbed out during a game.

That's because after spending most of the season trying to get as many as 11 players decent playing time, Smart plans to start giving some players extended minutes.

"I'm not saying they're going to be happy – that's not natural," Smart said. "But they have to accept the fact that if we can get out of the building with a win based on the guys who played minutes, that's what we've got to be thinking about. The most important thing right now is for us is to keep getting wins."

That's what Smart did in Wednesday's win over the Washington Wizards. Three starters – Tyreke Evans, John Salmons and DeMarcus Cousins – played at least 22 minutes in the second half.

Salmons and Evans played the entire second half. Smart rarely has given players such extended time this season.

Entering Thursday's games, the Kings' leader in minutes per game was DeMarcus Cousins at 31.4.

That placed Cousins 69th in the NBA. Evans, who has missed 16 games, is the only other King averaging at least 30 minutes at 30.0 per game. John Salmons is at 29.6 and Jason Thompson 29.2.

"I wish I could play 40-plus a night, but I can't control the minutes," Cousins said.

Considering the Kings are 15-24, it would seem playing their best players more, especially considering Salmons is the only starter over 30 years old, makes sense.

"I don't think it's a bad thing," Cousins said. "We would all like everyone to get in and play, but you can't do that. Some of the best teams in the league don't have all their players playing. I believe it's a good thing."

Smart said his rotation "probably won't be the way it has been" and there is a reason.

"One, we can minimize our mistakes," Smart said. "I think a lot of times going with a lot of players (leads to mistakes). Nothing to their fault, but I think we can slow our mistakes down, the turnovers that we have. And then looking at a guy in a rhythm, and our team has to accept that."

On Wednesday, Smart stuck with Jimmer Fredette for most of the second half instead of going back to starting point guard Isaiah Thomas or the Kings' third-leading scorer, Marcus Thornton.

That hasn't been the norm this season. Smart has been questioned more often for letting a player who's hot sit too long than for leaving a player in too long.

"Some guys played, some guys didn't, but that happens on every NBA team, and guys have to accept that from now on," Smart said.

Evans agrees Smart is headed in the right direction. Now that he's healthy, Evans sees no reason he can't play a lot.

Regardless, Evans said all the players must be prepared.

"We've just got to play," Evans said. "I think it would be better if we had a lineup that was consistent. We're all so good that we don't know who's going to play."

Nor do they usually know how much they're going to play in a game.

But as long as the Kings win, Smart will deal with players being unhappy with their playing time.

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