Collison looks to guide Kings past Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. — Darren Collison could be in the starting lineup for the first time on Friday when the Sacramento Kings visit the Moda Center to face the Portland Trail Blazers.

The veteran point guard made his 2016-17 debut Tuesday night, coming off the bench to help Sacramento (4-5) beat New Orleans 102-94.

Collison, who missed eight games due to an NBA suspension after pleading guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery, had nine points and four assists while playing 28 minutes off the bench.

“Darren did a great job,” first-year Sacramento coach Dave Joerger told reporters. “He has worked hard and stayed after it, spending time with coaches, learning and making sure he was up to speed on everything.”

“It's tough playing your first game after everybody already has their legs under them,” Collison said. “I didn't look like I was losing a lot of breath or was tired or out of shape. I would have loved to play more, but I know what coach (Joerger) was thinking. It just felt good to get on the court.”

The Kings have won two in a row, thanks in part to a greater focus at the defensive end.

“It takes awhile to learn to play that hard (defensively) on a nightly basis,” Joerger said. “We are learning that, and I am impressed.”

“It's not something you can just come out and do,” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who ranks ninth in the NBA in scoring (25.8) to go with 8.6 rebounds per game. “It's a mindset. It takes a lot of energy and effort and also a lot of focus. You can talk it, but you have to go out and perform in on a nightly basis.”

Portland (5-4) will be coming off its worst performance of the season – heck, one of the worst in franchise history – in a 111-80 drubbing by the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night at Staples Center.

The Blazers trailed 36-16 after one quarter, 50-18 midway through the second quarter and 93-45 late in the third quarter.

Said Portland coach Terry Stotts: “We had trouble scoring all night. (The Clippers) were good on the perimeter. They were good on the ball. They were good rebounding. They were good at the rim. They were good in transition. It was a frustrating night.”

“We got our (butt) whooped,” said guard Damian Lillard, who made 1 of 10 shots from the field and had only one assist in 28 minutes. “(The Clippers) played fresh. They wanted it more than we did. They did what they had to do. We weren't making shots. We didn't execute well. That seemed to spark their energy.

“It was a rout. They pretty much just came out and handed it to us. We didn't bring it. No excuses.”

Portland went without starting power forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who strained his left calf in the win over Phoenix. Aminu's status is questionable for the game against the Kings.