Blazers notebook: Kings coach likes Blazers, Lillard to be force in playoffs

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Malone was an important assistant on Mark Jackson’s staff last season with the Golden State Warriors.

Last year, the Warriors were much like the Blazers in that they were a young team that made the playoffs.

For Malone — who saw Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson lead the Warriors to a first round victory over Denver and play six tough games against the San Antonio Spurs in their first playoffs ­— expects the Blazers young players to be excited.

In fact, the ignorance of not knowing the playoffs and Portland’s strong home court is something that could play to their advantage according to Malone.

“Yeah, ignorant, excited, this is a new opportunity for these guys. We all know what this place is like in the regular season so in the playoffs this will be one of those places to play. That was one of the advantages we had in Golden State.”

Malone singled out Damian Lillard, unprompted, as someone he expects to be ready for the moment experience or not.

“Damian Lillard, I can’t imagine him saying ‘this is my first playoff.’ He is going to go out there and show everybody this is a time to step up and make a name for yourself,” he said. “Regular season is fine, but players make a name for themselves in the playoffs. I’m sure all those guys over there will fair well.”

Keeping rhythm, ­flipping no switches

Blazers coach Terry Stotts is reluctant to rest players just yet.

“I pretty much plan on playing it the way we played the last few games,” Stotts said prior to Wednesday’s game.

Stotts feels that they would be in a tough position to rest and then just flip a switch once the playoffs begin.

“I think it’s important to have an edge in the playoffs no matter what conference you’re in,” said Stotts. “The playoffs, valuing ever possession, all the cliches. I think our team, if we turn off now, it’s going to be difficult to turn it on next week.”

Former No. 2 pick Williams­ struggling

In the 2011 draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Derrick Williams with the overall number two pick behind Kyrie Irving.

To say that Williams hasn’t lived up to those expectations would be an understatement.

“I think Derrick has shown at times that he’s a very capable player when he plays with confidence, when he plays with aggression in attack mode he’s a much different player,” Malone said. “And when he’s not active and he’s not as aggressive, he’s just an average player.”

Williams was traded to the Kings earlier this season but hasn’t been able to carve out a consistent role and he is a restricted free agent at the end of next season.