As Spencer Hawes infamously found out last week, questioning Paul Westphal's rotations is a recipe for sitting on the bench. The Kings' coach has never been shy about his lineup shuffling and has insisted that no player is entitled to guaranteed playing time unless he earns it. Although he's inarguably sending the right message, the Kings biggest question mark entering the season, the logjam at the small forward position, has not only gone unanswered, but has instead become even more complicated.
For anyone who's still counting, Westphal has now employed 25 different starting units (17 shy of tying Larry Brown's NBA record), including no less than six small forwards. Desmond Mason started the first four games, but was promptly waived after averaging just 2.6 points per game in 13 minutes of action. Since then, Omri Casspi, Donté Greene, Andres Nocioni, Ime Udoka, and the recently-activated Francisco Garcia have earned at least one start apiece, and with the exception of Casspi, each forward has played over 20 minutes in one game and less than a minute in another over the last month. A breakdown of their playing time in the last 10 games (number of starts in parenthesis) reveals that making sense of Westphal's decisions is harder than figuring out the plot of Lost, and that the odd man out today is just as likely to be the the flavor of the day tomorrow.
While Casspi has averaged around 29 minutes per game since late November, his field goal percentage dropped by nearly 10 percent and his points have dipped in each of the last three months. The grind of an 82-game season and the constant media attention have led to nights when Casspi isn't as effective and would be expected to play fewer minutes due to fatigue. Yet the standout rookie has come the closest to being a staple in the first unit, starting 12 straight games and 28 of the last 36, and playing fewer than 20 minutes only twice in February (a rarity for just about any player in Westphal's rotation).
Donté Greene's playing time has become far more random. Following a season-high 42 minutes against the Suns on February 21, he's played a total of 20 minutes over the past three games combined and didn't even get off the bench against the Jazz on February 26. Whether it's poor practice habits or perceived showboating during games, Westphal has suddenly elected to go with seasoned veterans at the expense of the versatile swingman after Greene had started 37 of the first 52 games of the season.