Kings

Breaking down Kings' roster heading into NBA restart in Orlando bubble

Breaking down Kings' roster heading into NBA restart in Orlando bubble

The NBA restart is quickly approaching. For the Sacramento Kings, they are scheduled to leave the friendly confines of their practice facility at Golden 1 Center on July 8 and make the cross-country flight to the Orlando bubble.

From there, it’s more quarantine and a build-up to an eight-game schedule beginning on July 31 against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Kings currently have three confirmed cases of coronavirus amongst their players. Alex Len and Buddy Hield currently are quarantined in Sacramento. Jabari Parker stayed in Chicago due to a positive test, although he was seen out and about over the weekend.

Normally we wouldn’t hit a full primer for an eight-game stretch, but it’s been almost four months since the Kings and the league as a whole shut everything down on March 11. There was an evolving rotation at the time that had just added Richaun Holmes back to the mix, but Marvin Bagley was still out of action for Sacramento.

Now with a full roster of 17 players, the Kings are ready to hit stage three of the restart. Beginning Wednesday, the team will conduct mandatory individual workouts and there is even hope for a Zoom call with coach Luke Walton and a player or two this week.

Walton’s crew can’t begin practicing as a team until July 9 or 10 in Orlando, but they are moving closer to putting it all back together. Here is a look at what to expect once the Kings take the floor for their first game.

Starters

De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica, Richaun Holmes

Fox is the straw that stirs the drink for the Kings. The speedy third-year guard was taking a tremendous leap forward in production at the time of the shutdown and the added layoff likely did wonders for his left ankle that he injured early in the season.

Walton made a move to Bogdanovic in late January and the team responded with a 13-7 record. When the season went on hiatus, Bogdanovic had started to settle into his role, averaging 17.0 points on 52.5 percent shooting from the field and 41.0 percent from 3-point range over the last five games.

Barnes spends much of his time on the court moving back and forth between the two forward positions. The team’s leader in minutes played, he’s reliable and his versatility has helped Walton create mismatches on the court.

For the second straight season, Bjelica has stepped in and helped stabilize the Kings. The 31-year-old out of Serbia leads Sacramento in 3-point percentage at 42.4 percent and he’s averaging career highs across the stat sheet.

Holmes is the best free-agent find the Kings have stumbled upon in years. The 26-year-old plays hard on both ends of the court and the break is just what his ailing shoulder needed.

Second Unit

Cory Joseph, Buddy Hield, Kent Bazemore, Harry Giles, Alex Len

Joseph kept the Kings from completely falling apart when Fox went down with an ankle injury. He is a steady hand that plays defense and rarely makes a mistake.

There has to be at least a small amount of concern regarding Hield after the coronavirus diagnosis. The Kings’ leading scorer from a season ago, Hield has begrudgingly moved to the bench and flourished. One of the great 3-point shooters in the game, the Kings need Hield at 100 percent if they have a shot at making the postseason.

From the moment Kent Bazemore walked into the Sacramento locker room, he started making an impact. A versatile defender and streaky scorer, Baze is the type of catalyst player the Kings needed to turn their season around.

When Holmes went down with a shoulder injury, Giles and Len stepped in and became a nice two-headed monster. Giles is a gifted passer and Len is the big defender and rebounder. The Kings aren’t going to need both of them every night, but they provide nice depth for Walton to work with.

Wild Cards

Marvin Bagley, Corey Brewer

Bagley’s season was completely derailed by injury. First, a broken thumb slowed him down and then a foot issue lingered. Now healthy, Bagley can provide a scoring punch and rebounding, but he has missed a ton of development time. Will Walton turn to the former No. 2 overall pick or make him watch from the sidelines?

Sacramento was the first team to sign a free agent when the league opened back up. Brewer finished last season with the Kings and provides defense, energy and the ability to create chaos on the court. He’s also a veteran that can step on the floor and fit into any system.

Barring injury, Walton won’t play 11 or 12 players on a nightly basis. Bagley is the future, but the addition of Brewer allows the Kings’ head coach to use Barnes for more minutes at the four with Bazemore, Hield, Bogdanovic and Brewer filling time at the wing.

Depth

Yogi Ferrell, Justin James, Jabari Parker, Kyle Guy, DaQuan Jeffries

Ferrell played in 71 games last season for Sacramento and can score in bunches. With the addition of Joseph, Ferrell’s minutes have been limited, but he keeps himself in great shape and should be ready to step in if the moment calls for it.

General manager Vlade Divac found James deep in the second round last season, but he has instantly become a favorite inside the walls of Golden 1. He has a ton of energy and projects as a young Bazemore/Brewer-type player.

Parker came over with Len in a midseason trade. He played in a single game before finding his way to the end of the Kings’ bench. As of Saturday, the Kings were looking into reports that he was both out at a local Chicago restaurant on Friday and that he was photographed playing tennis on Saturday, all while he was supposed to be under quarantine with the coronavirus.

Guy and Jeffries are both two-way players who will be needed for practice and emergency bodies. Guy is the scorer and Jeffries is a physical perimeter defender. Neither is expected to break into the rotation in Orlando.

[RELATED: NBA did Kings no favors with one tweak to Orlando schedule]

Overview

Sacramento was on a roll when we last saw it, but that was a long time ago. There is hope that Hield, Len and Parker all will be ready when the game action starts in late July.

Walton has a deep and versatile roster to work with. The Kings were playing a much slower pace than expected, but they were launching 34.7 3-pointers per game and their 3-point percentage (.364) ranked 11th in the league.

The Kings were showing improvements on both ends of the court in March, but they currently rank 19th overall in both offensive and defensive rating on the season.

When Walton’s crew is on, it is a high-powered, fun team to watch. When Sacramento is off, however, it usually snowballs and leads to poor play on both ends.

At 28-36, the Kings are lucky to still be in the race. They are mostly healthy and plenty of players have been in Sacramento working out for a while. Whether that translates to victories is anyone’s guess, but they have eight games to prove they are worthy of a play-in game or two. If they hit the ground running in Game 1 of the restart, they have a shot.

How Kings are handling leaving family behind for NBA's Orlando restart

How Kings are handling leaving family behind for NBA's Orlando restart

The NBA’s Orlando bubble -- it’s a concept that somehow we have begun to normalize.

Later this week, the Kings and 21 other NBA teams will travel via private jet to Disney World where they will be under lock and key for a minimum of five weeks.

On paper, it doesn’t sound all that bad. Five-star accommodations, tons of food options, a golf course, bowling alley, ping pong tables. The only thing that is missing are the players' families, who won’t be allowed to join the bubble until after the first round of the playoffs, somewhere around Aug. 31.

NBA players and staff are normal people, just like everyone else. The bubble concept is a way for the league to survive and save at least some of the revenue stream that has all but disappeared due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the league is asking its players to walk away from their families for an extended period of time.

“There’s no way around the fact that this is a sacrifice,” Harrison Barnes said. “Whether you’re being away from your family, whether you’re not going to be able to see your parents, your siblings, whatever it may be. And not having an end date too, definitely adds an extra bit of focus to you, that if you’re going to be away from your family for this long, you want to make it work, you want to make it something that you’re completely locked in and focused on and giving your all to, or else it’s a waste of time.”

Barnes is married, but does not have children. He might be in the minority on that front on the Kings' roster.

[RELATED: Harrison Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500 record]

Nemanja Bjelica’s children can be seen on the court in pregame. Buddy Hield’s daughter waits for him after most home games. Richaun Holmes and De’Aaron Fox both have little ones.

Kent Bazemore has been known to post pictures of his little boy on twitter and his wife has another one on the way due later this year.

“It’s tough,” Bazemore said earlier this week during one of the Kings Zoom media calls. “It’s tough on being a husband and a father. I cried like a little baby when I left to head out here a couple weeks ago -- just seeing him and my wife standing on the front porch as I’m leaving, and he has absolutely no idea I’m gone as long as I’m going to be gone.”

“It’s definitely tough, especially him being such a young age,” Bazemore added. “It’s pivotal as a child to kind of have that stable foundation, and my wife is also pregnant with a little girl coming in September, so the realistic front is very tough.”

A week ago, Corey Brewer was out of the league wondering if he would get another shot at age 34. The 12-year vet will get that opportunity with the Kings, but again, it will come at a cost.

“That’s probably the hardest part for me,” Brewer said. “I have small kids. One’s six and one’s three months, so it was tough to leave them, but they understand I’m getting older. Any chance I get to play basketball, I have to take it. They’re happy. My son’s happy I get to play again, and we FaceTime every day for like five hours, so we still see each other.”

Modern technology has made the world a smaller place, but there is nothing that can replace physical contact.

“In your 20s and 30s, you make a lot of sacrifices, but I’m in a position to really set up my legacy and really help those behind me,” Bazemore said. “So It’s a tough decision and it’s something my wife and I are diligently working on, trying to stay connected, you know, phone calls, videos, FaceTime, doing everything we can to stay connected.”

[RELATED: Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years']

There is a human element that is being missed. Players aren’t just going to Orlando and risking infection by playing a sport. They are leaving everything behind for a month or two and perhaps longer.

This is a complex situation with real life consequences for players and their loved ones. Adding to the issue is that these aren’t normal times and that the world is in the midst of a pandemic.

The league is hopeful that they can limit the exposure to coronavirus by running a tight ship, but the families of the players will not be afforded that same luxury while at home.

There is no perfect solution, but fans should keep in mind that while they want to see NBA basketball and regain some of the escapism that professional sports provides, there might be times when players' minds are not 100 percent focused on the game at hand.

Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov announced as Fenerbahçe Beko head coach

Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov announced as Fenerbahçe Beko head coach

While Kings assistant coach Igor Kokoskov will travel to Orlando with the team, he has a new gig awaiting him after the NBA season concludes.

European basketball powerhouse Fenerbahçe Beko Istanbul announced Saturday that Kokoskov will be there next head coach.

Kokoskov has agreed to a three-year contract with Fenerbahçe, according to their press release.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Thursday that Kokoskov would take over Fenerbahçe. A league source confirmed to NBC Sports California's James Ham that Kokoskov would remain with the Kings through the completion of their 2019-20 slate.

Kokoskov, 48, has been an NBA coach since the 2000-01 season. He spent time as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Utah Jazz and Kings. He also spent the 2018-19 season as the head coach of the Suns, where he amassed a 19-63 record.

The 2019-20 season was Kokoskov's first on Luke Walton's staff.

Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who plays for Kokoskov on the Serbian National Team, congratulated his coach on his new job.

[RELATED: Bazemore open to Kings return]

Kokoskov and the Kings are scheduled to arrive in Orlando this upcoming week for the restart of the NBA season. They will participate in three scrimmages before playing eight seeding games. If they can remain within four games of the No. 8 seed, Sacramento would force play-in games for the last playoff seed in the Western Conference.

If the Kings can find a way into the playoffs, they can send Kokoskov out with a bang.