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Kings vs. Raptors preview: The small ball era is upon us

Dave Joerger is changing things up. Probably.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

After Friday nights 121-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Dave Joerger made a statement some of us have been waiting to hear since it was announced that Kosta Koufos would be starting next to DeMarcus Cousins before the season opener - the Kings are going small.

Dave Joerger, via James Ham / CSN -

“I’ve seen enough, I’m going to play small. DeMarcus is going to play center. I don’t know who else is going to play with him, but it gives us more zip, more life, more experience,”

The Kings went small in the second half against the Clippers, and while it was mostly glorified garbage time, the offense looked much smoother. It’s a change that probably could have happened several games ago, but Joerger took his time. That’s fine. We’re here now, and we’ll get our first glimpse of the new Kings rotation tonight. Despite my general depression over where the Kings are right now, I’m excited for tonight. I’m excited for change.

What ‘small ball’ means to Dave Joerger remains to be seen. I thought it was kind of bizarre that Joerger said that going small gives the Kings ‘more experience’. More experience? What does that mean? Kosta Koufos is a pretty experienced ball player.

I took it as a little hint that Matt Barnes would be the man replacing Koufos ‘inside’. It’s not that Koufos isn’t experienced, it’s just that Matt Barnes has been in the NBA for a thousand years and thus any increased role for him includes that ‘experience’ bump. Barnes was probably going to be the guy anyway, but reading into Joerger comments, that seemed like the direction he was heading despite telling the media that he didn’t know who else would play with Cousins versus Toronto.

This is where I forcibly reach my one blog quota of mentioning how nice it would be to see Omri Casspi factor into the new ‘small ball’ approach. I’d even suggest that keeping Barnes on the second unit and starting Casspi in the frontcourt would keep Barnes’ much-needed ‘edge’ on the bench, but I won’t get greedy. I’d settle for any Omri minutes I can get. I’m not expecting it, but if you’re looking for small ball hustle, floor spacing, or as Joerger said postgame ‘zip’ and ‘life’ - Omri Casspi is that guy. He’s perfectly that guy. Anyway.

Ty Lawson was decent against the Clippers on Friday, which is noteworthy because he’s been pretty bad for a while now, and that performance may have saved his spot in the starting lineup for one more night. I’d like to see Darren Collison replace him at some point, if not immediately, and I think that would help the Kings’ struggling offense more than simply swapping Koufos and Barnes, but that is one position to keep an eye on. Lawson and Collison played well together on Friday against the Clippers. I wouldn’t even rule out those two starting together tonight, but it’s hard to say.

Arron Afflalo isn’t having a great year as the Kings’ starting shooting guard, but Joerger really seems to like him, so I’m not even sure if giving someone like Garrett Temple or Darren Collison the nod as the starting two is even being discussed. It should be if it isn’t.

No offense to the Raptors, but my interest in tonight’s game has very little to do with them. I can’t fake being worried about stopping DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry when half of the Kings’ roster is tangled up in trade rumors, players are frustrated with playing time, the pregame shootarounds stink, and Kanye West is running a amok at the Golden 1 Center. There are too many problems in Sacramento to worry about Toronto, basically.

With that being said, the Raptors are really damn good. If the Kings don’t show up with improved focus and effort, it could get very, very ugly.

I think we’ll get a pretty good indication on how Joerger’s message is resonating with the Kings’ locker room after tonight’s game. He’s finally showing his frustration. He’s pushing buttons. He’s trying to mix things up, find a group that’ll play hard, etc. If his new lineup doesn’t deliver tonight, at least from an energy and effort standpoint, I’m not sure where you turn next.