A pro’s pro.
After four seasons in Sacramento, center Kosta Koufos is about to enter NBA free agency for the first time in a while.
The veteran center took a back seat to the Kings’ youth movement over the last two seasons, but at 30 years old, he still has plenty to give, whether it’s in Sacramento or somewhere else.
“I’ve been in the league for 11 years. I’ve started a numerous amount of games, and when given time, I can put up numbers,” Koufos told NBC Sports California on The Kings Insider Podcast.
Sacramento undertook a major facelift during Koufos’ time with the team. He had to adapt, and more that anything else, he had to accept a role as the team started from scratch.
From a starter on a 57-win Denver Nuggets team to a role player with the Kings, Koufos has done it all. He takes everything in stride and never has complained, be it to the media or the front office.
“From my perspective, knowing your role, knowing your situation and maximizing your role, whatever time is given to you,” Koufos said. “Whether it’s playing well on the defensive end or getting guys open with screens or scoring when the opportunity is there, it’s just being the best player you can be in whatever time is given to you.”
With the Kings continuing their youth movement, minutes weren’t easy to come by this past season for the 7-footer out of Ohio State. But when he didn’t see the floor or he played less than 15 minutes, Koufos would hit the practice-facility floor and the weight room after games to stay in shape.
“Have your mindset that you’re going to play 25 minutes a game, even if you’re not, just to be ready and keep your body ready,” Koufos said of his approach to this last season. “If you don’t play, then after the game you get your conditioning in, get your lifting in, get your shots up so you can stay sharp for the next opportune moment.”
For the first time in eight seasons, Koufos failed to register a positive in the offensive/defensive rating, but it had nothing to do with his effort. He played just 502 minutes with the Kings and played with countless teammates on the second unit. It’s hard to find a rhythm as a player when you’re playing half the games.
Circumstances have changed almost every year in Sacramento, but Koufos has rolled with the punches and been a team player every step of the way. While he wants to play, he also knows the NBA business, and the veteran center hasn’t ruled out a return to the Kings.
“You keep your options open no matter what, I believe in that,” Koufos said.
The Kings are looking for a major piece to drop into the center of their lineup, and Koufos will have to use a wait-and-see approach. It’s very possible that there is a club on the open market looking for a veteran big who understands his role and is willing to do all of the dirty work.
Although he didn’t get the best opportunity over the last year or two with the Kings, he enjoyed the fan base and would recommend the city to potential free agents.
“Honestly, there are a lot of friendly people in Sacramento,” Koufos said. “It’s more of a Midwest vibe, in California, which I like. The city is growing, the real estate market is booming, obviously, and I had a great time.”
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Kings haven’t closed the door on a reunion with the team’s longest-tenured player. The Kings hope to improve their frontline in free agency, but that doesn’t exclude a return by Koufos.
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Both sides will let the market dictate the next course of action. If they meet back up after the initial burrage of signings, and a deal make sense for both the team and the player, they will talk.
If not, Koufos should be remembered in Sacramento as the consummate professional who brought his hard hat to work every day and helped bring along the next generation of Kings players.