Sacramento Kings Starting Lineup Questions Still Exist


Remember the simpler times just a few days ago, when it seemed as though all questions about the Sacramento Kings starting lineup had been answered once and for all? Well, those days are long past now.

On Tuesday during his media availability, George Karl suggested no less than three potential changes from the expected lineup of Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein and DeMarcus Cousins. Obviously Cousins is safe, and Rondo hasn’t been supplanted by Darren Collison just yet. So who’s losing their spot?

Rudy Gay might not start opening night, but it’s certainly not because of his performance this preseason or last season. His absence is for a rather happier reason–he and his wife just had their second child!

So according to Karl, Gay will likely play anyway. But don’t be too surprised–or worried–if he isn’t able to make the first game. It’s a long season, and being with a child is probably just about the best reason one could have for missing a game.

The second King to prematurely lose their starting role (temporarily) is Willie Cauley-Stein. Trill isn’t being benched because of anything he did, and it’s not a lasting thing Karl plans to do–he just doesn’t want the rook to get lit up by Blake Griffin in his first regular season action.

That’s pretty fair, honestly. Cauley-Stein is a defensive savant who has fairly high expectations on him this season, but starting off against one of the NBA’s ten best players isn’t ideal for any rookie. Let Trill get his feet wet in the Association before he gets matched up against All-NBA caliber guys.

Kosta Koufos can handle starting occasionally just fine, so it’s not like Cauley-Stein can’t afford to take a night off every now and again. That should help his growth long-term, and the Sacramento Kings won’t suffer in the short-term because of it. Oh, how nice it is to have a deep team.

The last starting lineup switch is the most surprising and meaningful of the bunch. Where Cauley-Stein and Gay should one start–if that–Ben McLemore might’ve already lost his job entirely.

Sure, McLemore had a rough preseason. But I’m not sure anybody expected him to be in hot water over it this quickly. James Anderson wasn’t amazing in his preseason action, although he did outperform McLemore in essentially every way.

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This could be a temporary thing, to light a fire under McLemore and see if he can pick up his play sooner rather than later. Or, maybe this is real. George Karl wants to win, and if he likes what he’s seeing in Anderson better than what he sees in McLemore this could be an honest decision.

That would be surprising, considering McLemore is seen by many as one of the important young pieces on this Sacramento Kings roster. But it’s at least obvious that nothing on this team is given–not even to promising young players.

George Karl is going to make all 15 guys earn every single minute they get, for better or for worse. Young Ben McLemore just found that out the hard way. He may find his way back to a solid starting role, but that won’t happen without results in the minutes he does get.

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