The Sacramento Kings are short-handed in Orlando.
On the first day they are allowed to practice as a team, coach Luke Walton confirmed that none of the three players who tested positive for the coronavirus have traveled with the team and a fourth unidentified member of the traveling party missed the team flight as well.
“We’re still in the protocol,” Walton told the media during a Zoom call following practice on Friday. “From our traveling party, I’m not going to get into names, I’ll make that a personal decision, but from the travel party, out of the 35, we left four people back. From those four, nobody has passed NBA protocol yet to rejoin us, but we are hopeful that some of them are getting close.”
We know that three of the four are Buddy Hield, Alex Len and Jabari Parker, all three of which are confirmed to have tested positive around the June 23 mark.
“There could be a week, there could be a hey, someone doesn’t come at all,” Walton added. “It’s just the reality of what it is. I’m very open to our team about that.”
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It’s a tough situation. If Hield can’t make it back in time to play, the Kings are without their second leading scorer and one of the better 3-point shooters in the game.
Len provided a massive lift to the team as a defensive roadblock in the middle of the key. His skill set could really come in handy against players like Zion Williamson. Parker wasn’t in the rotation, but with so much uncertainty regarding the coronavirus, there could be a time where his ability to score the ball could come into play for the Kings.
“The mindset is that we’re going to embrace all of it,” Walton said. “We know that it’s going to be crazy. People are going to join us. Maybe they won’t. Maybe there are people that are here that test positive at some point. Every team has to go through this, so we’ve got to be ready to accept what our roles are. Our roles are going to change as this thing goes and the teams that can do that most efficiently I think are going to give themselves a big advantage.”
The Kings, like the other 21 teams in the bubble, have to prepare for as many variables as possible. In the meantime, the players are communicating with teammates back in Sacramento with the hopes that reinforcements are on their way.
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“It’s a troubling time, a lot of unknowns and things like that, but we’ve definitely been in contact with those guys and always let their voice be heard in the group,” Richaun Holmes said. “We just want them to get healthy. Get as healthy as possible and make sure everything is good with them and their families and then when they get down here, be ready to rock and roll.”
Sacramento has another practice session on Saturday, which will be another limited contact practice as Walton and his staff slowly build towards scrimmage games beginning on July 22. It will be a quick ramp up with the Kings playing their first official game on July 31 against the San Antonio Spurs.