DALLAS - One of Keith Smart's lineup changes late in the season has been to start Donte' Greene instead of Jason Thompson against "hybrid fours" who play power forward based on a good perimeter game.
The Kings tried that again Tuesday with Greene starting against Dirk Nowitzki in the Kings' 110-100 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
It worked when the Kings beat the Mavericks last month in Sacramento, but that doesn't mean it's been easy for Thompson to take a seat against Nowitzki or Phoenix's Channing Frye.
"I'm not going to lie, it's tough," Thompson said. "But those are some of the sacrifices you make and sometimes I have to sacrifice by coming off the bench. For the most part it's not if you start but it's if you're finishing the game. If I start and play more that's good, if I come off the bench and play more that's good."
Thompson actually finished Tuesday's game against Nowitzki. Overall, Nowitzki didn't have a stellar game (15 points, 4-of-14 shooting) but Thompson is confident he can handle the task regardless of when he's asked to play Nowitzki or any other hybrid power forward.
"Over the years I've guarded him but when you have a new coach and I've had four new coaches," Thompson said. "And every coach has different strategies and that's what buying into the coach means."
Smart explained following the game why Thompson played the entire fourth quarter:
"I just feel I've got to get him to the stage where he's going to play hybrid fours. Starting the game I needed to have someone that had know how to play against Dirk because Dirk was going to play out on the perimeter a lot....but he has to start getting himself and I need to get him understanding how to play those hybrid fours. How much do we help when your responsibility is to get back to the great hybrid shooter? How much do you get to the basket on penetration knowing that you've got to release from the basket to get back to the shooter?"
Barring the Kings winning the NBA Draft Lottery and the right to draft Kentucky's Anthony Davis (if and when he declares for the draft) Thompson will be the starting power forward next season because the Kings plan to re-sign him.
Smart said there are "six to eight" games were Thompson might not start a game during a season because of matchups.
In those situations, Thompson has to become more adept at balancing rebounding with pressuring the shooter.
If Thompson can do that, his sacrifices might continue into next season.