OAKLAND, California — When the Golden State Warriors signed free agent Andre Iguodala this summer, most figured that meant Harrison Barnes would be coming off the bench.
Klay Thompson had 17 points and four rebounds playing his second straight preseason game as a reserve and Golden State beat the Sacramento Kings 94-81 on Monday night (Tuesday, Manila time), while Barnes started alongside Iguodala again.
Thompson finished 8-for-17 from the field in 30 minutes. Barnes missed all four shots he took and had one rebound in six disappointing minutes.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said his starting lineup will shuffle throughout the preseason, which includes two exhibitions in China against the Los Angeles Lakers. He said whatever lineup he uses in the regular-season opener on October 30 against Los Angeles will be a set rotation that will not fluctuate depending on matchups.
The decision will not be determined by who is the best player.
"It's what makes us the best team. It's what completes us as a team," Jackson said. "What unit's starting, which guy coming off the bench, to me, that's key. I don't think any team I played on, it wasn't necessarily the best five players starting. Sometimes you needed different things off the bench that completed us as a team. And I'll look at all of those things and make a decision."
The call between Barnes and Thompson is the only major one Jackson will have to make before the season. The third-year coach believes choosing between two proven players is a blessing and not a burden.
All five starters — Thompson, Barnes, Stephen Curry, David Lee and Andrew Bogut — are back from a team that won 47 games last season before beating the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs and losing to the eventual Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs in six games.
Iguodala turned down Denver's offer and signed a four-year, US$48 million deal with the Warriors. While Jackson didn't rule out Iguodala coming off the bench, that scenario seems unlikely given the veteran's contract and abilities.
What makes the decision difficult is that Thompson and Barnes lack experience in a reserve role.
Thompson played 37 games as a reserve during the 2011-12 season, his rookie year. He has started 122 straight games, including the playoffs. Barnes never came off the bench as a rookie last season.
Both former first-round draft picks said they have no problem wherever and whenever they play — so long as they still have a significant role. Thompson even joked with reporters after Monday's morning shootaround that he's "trying to get Sixth Man of the Year."
Thompson has clearly been the better of the two so far, though it's a small sample size — and the preseason.
Barnes scored 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had seven rebounds and three assists in Saturday's 104-95 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Thompson scored 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting in 37 minutes off the bench. He added one rebound.
Against Sacramento, Barnes brought his turnover total in the preseason to five before getting replaced midway through the first quarter with the Warriors down 16-8. Thompson scored eight points in 15 minutes in the first half, going 4 for 10 from the field, as Golden State sliced Sacramento's lead to 44-39 at halftime.
Thompson started the second half and highlighted a 14-3 spurt with a breakaway dunk on a pass from Curry that put the Warriors up 58-52 late in the third quarter.
Curry scored 23 points and Lee had 14 points and 13 rebounds to help the Warriors build a 16-point lead with 4:33 remaining. Iguodala finished with seven points, three assists and three rebounds in 32 minutes.
Both coaches began putting in fringe players and the only other noteworthy item of the night left was whether new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive would be a winner in his debut, which also came on his 56th birthday.
Isaiah Thomas had 15 points and six rebounds and DeMarcus Cousins added nine points and four rebounds as Sacramento fell short.
Ranadive, the TIBCO software chairman and former minority owner of the Warriors, won his fight with the NBA to buy the Kings and prevent the franchise from moving to Seattle in May. He has since hired Mike Malone, who was a Warriors assistant the last two years, as head coach and former Golden State great Chris Mullin as a consultant.
Sacramento has had seven straight losing seasons and far more modest expectations in the early stages of its rebuilding project.
"Our reasonable expectation is to compete, play hard, be unselfish and defend," Malone said. "I'm not going to put any amount of wins or numbers on that because that would be unfair to this team."