Sasha Vezhenkov didn’t get any playing time in the Kings’ win over the Blazers, and SPORT24 breaks down the reasoning behind it. The change in the starting five that brought a domino to the rotation, the player who took his place and the Mike Brown rant.
THE Sasha Vezenkov he found himself against the Blazers in the awkward position that rookies often find themselves in the NBA: He received the first DNP (Did Not Play – Coach Decision) of his career in the Kings’ 121-118 overtime win over Portland.
After 6 straight appearances since the start of the season, where he averaged 5.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 14 minutes, looking a bit stuck in his rolethe 2022/23 EuroLeague MVP saw Mike Brown decide to… shake things up a bit because the Kings were on a three game losing streak and bench him.
The SPORT24 analyzes the reasons behind this decision by Brown to change the role of Vezhenkov.
The Rockets game, Brown’s “reward” talk and the rotation change
A few days ago the Kings experienced their worst night of the year, coming off a heavy 122-97 loss to the Rockets in Houston, with Vezenkov held to 2 points just 11 minutes and 37 seconds into the game. This was the 3rd straight loss for the “Kings”, with Mike Brown using the starters – and Vezenkov – sparingly in the second half. He did the so-called “emptying” of the bench, dropping his benches on the floor. That’s when he saw something that piqued his interest and made him consider changing the rotation in the next game.
Brown tested Jordan Ford, Keon Ellis, Colby Jones, Kessler Edwards and Alex Lane on the court for the first time. This five scored +11 in 6.5 minutes. Kessler Edwards had a total of +11 in the +/- system in 12 minutes of action, while Keon Ellis and Alex Len had +10 in 14 and 7.5 minutes respectively. This also brought Brown’s inspiration.
With De’Aaron Fox still injured, the Kings coach decided against the Blazers to insert Ellis into the starting five in place of Davion Mitchell (returned to his intended role as the backup point guard), effectively adding a player to the rotation. But he didn’t stop there. He then chose to drop Edwards with the second five over Vezenkov at power forward and Len over JaVale McGee at center. And he explained the reason after the match.
“My job is to find ways to win. In the match against Houston, these three players who came off the bench and did a great job” Brown said characteristically, to add: “They played together, played fast and showed me things.
Every decision you make about change is difficult. I felt it was right to reward the players who did what I asked of them and know what our identity is.”
The things that Edwards and negative Duarte did
Edwards is in his third NBA season this year, while this is his second year with the Kings. He is a 2.01m combo forward who makes his living thanks to his defensive skills and the fact that he can mark from 1 to 4.
Against the Blazers, he showed that, coming off big saves late in the fourth quarter and overtime. His statistics recorded 0 points with 0/1 three-pointers, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and 1 foul in 16 minutes of participation, but also +4 in the +/- system. But what he did was enough to hear Brown make a special mention of him after the game, saying that “Edwards was important in his own minutes. He played good defense and got rebounds.”
At the same time that Kessler was winning with his sword every minute of participation, Vezenkov’s other competitor for playing time Chris Duarte was negative. The young scorer was limited to 3 points on 0/1 2-pointers, 1/3 three-pointers, 2 rebounds, 1 steal and – most importantly – had a -8 in the +/- system, the worst among his teammates. He played at small forward alongside Edwards (who played at power forward) and was noticeably out of rhythm. And he might be the next one to ring… bells.
The comeback that will make things difficult and Brown’s real message to Vezenkov
The Kings are waiting for their star DeAaron Fox to return, which doesn’t affect Vezenkov. But what could affect him even more is the return of Trey Lyles, who has yet to play due to a calf injury, but is expected to hit the floor soon.
When the Canadian forward/center is integrated then things will change quite a bit for the Kings – and Vezhenkov – as Lyles is a player who is calculated at both the power forward and center positions, with his primary weapon being the long range. shot. In general, there will be other changes in the rotation of the “Kings”.
While all of this is true, there is one more thing: Brown’s clear message to Vezenkov, and to all the Kings players: Every minute they spend on the floor, whether it’s at the start of the game or in garbage time game i.e. judged) counts in order to judge them.
He showed that by rewarding Edwards, Ellis and Len for their image in a losing game against the Rockets at the expense of Vezenkov and McGee. He had shown it in the pre-season, when he demoted Kevin Herter from the starting five (while he had 75 games as a starter last year) to a sixth man role for two friendlies to wake him up.
The NBA is the most competitive league in the world. Every player who competes in it is waiting for his chance to show what he can do, what he can offer to a team to help them. There is no room for relaxation or frustration. All players must immediately look to the next possession. This was also Brown’s real message to Vezhenkov. And the Bulgarian forward must now be ready, so that when he gets his chance again, he grabs it by the hair.