Kings get adrenaline pumping in first full-contact practice in Orlando

Kings get adrenaline pumping in first full-contact practice in Orlando

As NBA teams begin to settle into the Orlando bubble, a sense of normalcy is starting to take over. The Sacramento Kings just finished their third practice and for the first time, head coach Luke Walton let them play with full contact.

“Day 1 of contact, we want to let the guys compete,” Walton said. “They enjoyed it, they got after it, there was some trash talking, some good communication happening. Another solid day of practice for our group.”

It’s a quick ramp up to the action. The Kings will take Monday off to ice up and give their bodies a break, although it’s likely they will still have film sessions or at least conversations as a group.

“It was great just to kinda get our blood going, get the cobwebs out again,” Harry Giles said of the first day of contact.

What separates the restart from a standard training camp is that the Kings already know the basics. The coaching staff won’t have to go over inbound passes, basic offensive and defensive sets or terminology.

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The real challenge is first and foremost getting every player healthy and in the bubble. Secondly, Walton and his staff have to have a Plan B and adjusting on the fly if a player can’t clear protocol or receive a positive test while in the bubble.

“A lot of this is going to be unknown and we have to be OK to make moves and make adjustments,” Walton said. “That’s one of the things that’s going to either have success out here or not."

The Kings are still short a few players, but Buddy Hield and Jabari Parker are on the ground in Florida and once they pass two coronavirus tests in a 24-hour period, they are welcome to join the festivities.

Hield has been in Sacramento working out and took a private jet to Orlando on Sunday morning. The last we saw Parker, he was quarantined in Chicago, but at this point, he appears ready to jump in the fray.

Still missing from the squad is big man Alex Len, who tested positive on June 23. There is also a fourth member of the Kings’ traveling party that has yet to be identified. Due to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations, the Kings are not allowed to disclose the name of the person who tested positive.

There are rumors swirling about who that fourth person is, but this isn’t time for speculation. The world is in the midst of a global pandemic. The fact that we might have basketball to look forward to in a little over two weeks is a minor miracle in itself.

“Regardless of what’s going on over there in the states, unless corona is literally just flying in the air like the plague or something, then we’re in trouble,” Giles said about the setting. “Other than that, we’ll be fine.”

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When the season went on lock down, the Kings were playing well. They had won 13 of their previous 20 games and they were the hottest team out of the group that is vying for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“I think we have a great shot,” Cory Joseph said. “I’m very very confident. We were rolling before the season got canceled. But what a lot of people on the outside don’t know is we were banged up.”

There is no way to predict what will happen from here on out, but the Kings are gearing up and preparing for what they believe is a battle for a playoff spot. They have at least 15 players in the bubble preparing for an eight-game sprint to the finish line.

Harrison Barnes places Kings' flameout in Orlando on himself, veterans

Harrison Barnes places Kings' flameout in Orlando on himself, veterans

The team that began the Orlando bubble saying “we want all of that smoke” just learned that smoke usually is accompanied by fire.

At 1-4 in the NBA restart, the Kings have shown they aren’t ready for the fire and they might not be ready for prime time.

“I think it starts with individual accountability, just in terms of the effort we are putting out there on a consistent basis,” veteran Harrison Barnes said following the Kings’ 119-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. “It’s hard to win in this league and to be consistent, you have to do that every single night.”

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The Kings have talent. But rarely is that enough at the NBA level.

You have to play together. You have to play for one another. In the end, you have to bring energy and effort every night or a team of no-names, like the squad the Nets threw on the court Friday, will embarrass you.

It’s a common theme with the Kings. They played a tremendous game in a 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, scoring 49 points in the first quarter

Just over 24 hours later, they looked like a collection of players that had never played together. There was no chemistry. No passing. No rotations on defense.

Just forced and ineffective basketball.

“Frustration is high,” Barnes admitted. “I don’t know if it’s disappointing, but it’s frustrating. Coming into this game, we knew it was more mental than physical. It was meeting force with force. It was being disciplined. It didn’t matter what scheme we had or what game plan we had if we didn’t have any effort.”

Who's to blame for the Kings’ flame out in Orlando? Coach Luke Walton has already drawn plenty of criticism, but at some point the players themselves have to take ownership for the things they can control on the court.

Following the loss to the Nets, Barnes fell on his sword as one of the leaders of the team. He placed the blame on himself and the rest of the veterans.

“I’ll be the first to say it’s definitely on us as veteran players -- guys like myself," Barnes said. "I’ll take responsibility for that because I’ve been to the playoffs, I’ve been to the Finals. I know the energy and effort it takes to win games and if you don’t bring that, you lose.”

“As a group, we have to learn that you can’t just turn it on,” he added.

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The Kings have a choice. They can pout and get their lunch handed to them for the next three games. They can also play spoiler and leave the bubble on as high of a note as possible.

Either way, this isn’t the outcome the Kings were hoping for. They have had a few bright spots, like the play of De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic, so the experience isn’t a total wash. But after five games, any talk of playoffs is over and changes likely are coming during the abbreviated offseason.

Kings takeaways: What you might've missed in 119-106 loss vs. Nets

Kings takeaways: What you might've missed in 119-106 loss vs. Nets


Consistently inconsistent.

After coming away with a huge win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, the Kings failed to show up Friday on the second night of a back-to-back against the completely depleted Brooklyn Nets.

Sacramento looked stagnant on offense and a step slow in its rotations on the defensive end. The result was an embarrassing 119-106 loss that all but extinguished the Kings' remaining playoff hopes.

Here are three takeaways from the Kings getting out-hustled and fell to 1-4 in the Orlando bubble.

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Loud Thud

The Kings came into the restarted NBA season talking a big game. They played well enough to win against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, but couldn’t close out games. Their win over the Pelicans gave folks a glimmer of hope, but blowout losses to the Orlando Magic and Nets were completely unacceptable.

With Friday's loss, Sacramento has completely fallen out of the race for the No. 8 seed and would need a miracle to finish ninth and force a play-in series.

The Kings still have three games remaining in the restart, but general manager Vlade Divac has to take a long look at his roster this summer and make some difficult decisions. Everything outside of trading De’Aaron Fox should be on the table.

Bogi puts up a fight

Bogdan Bogdanovic posted a career-high 35 points in the Kings’ win over the Pelicans, and he was back at it again against the Nets.

One of the few Kings players to stand out, Bogdanovic finished with a team-high 27 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including 4-of-8 on 3-pointers.

A restricted free agent at the end of the season, Bogdanovic has been really solid in four of the Kings’ five games. Unfortunately for Sacramento, it just wasn't enough Friday.

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Star still shining

Since the beginning of the restart, De'Aaron Fox has come out aggressive and put on a show. He didn’t match his 27.5 points per game average from the first four games on Friday, but he was effective in his time on the court.

The Kings' starting point guard finished with 21 points and seven assists. There is the outline of a star, but he needs another really strong offseason to take that next step.