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.”
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.