Kings

Kings' Harrison Barnes back at practice, could play in final scrimmage

Kings' Harrison Barnes back at practice, could play in final scrimmage

Harrison Barnes' Kings career began on a short turnaround. He fittingly will have another one in Orlando ahead of the restarted NBA season.

Sacramento acquired Barnes in a trade from the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 7, 2019. Then-coach Dave Joerger started Barnes at small forward the following day, playing him 37 minutes in a 102-96 win over the Miami Heat.

Now playing under Luke Walton, Barnes practiced Sunday for the first time since arriving in Orlando on Friday. There's a good chance Barnes will suit up in the Kings' scrimmage a day later against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Today was a non-contact day for us with tomorrow’s game being at [4 p.m. ET], but we have him playing some 3-on-3, 4-on-4 right now since practice has officially kind of ended,” coach Luke Walton said Sunday. “He looks good. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and if he feels well, we’ll try to get him out there a little bit in that Clipper game.”

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Barnes waited in Sacramento for 20 days trying to clear the NBA's coronavirus protocol. Once in the bubble, he needed to twice test negative for the coronavirus before joining the Kings on the practice court.

The 28-year-old is averaging a team-high 34.9 minutes per game this season, and Barnes is yet to miss a game since joining Sacramento. The Kings aren't getting an All-Star back in their lineup, but they are getting an extremely productive, stabilizing force in the rotation.

Barnes is the fourth King to make their way through the coronavirus protocol, and each has been a little different. Buddy Hield was back on the court and ready to roll within days, while Jabari Parker needed an extra week to get into game shape. Alex Len, on the other hand, still is trying to get full clearance to practice after testing positive well over a month ago.

Hield quickly fought through some mild symptoms, while Parker never had any symptoms. Len's the one player who was hit hard and Barnes, according to Walton, is one of the lucky ones.

“He never got any symptoms, so I think he’s probably doing as well as he can when you’re in quarantine for a long time,” Walton said. “He looks good. He passes the eye test and he was moving around, feels confident and he wants to play. So that’s all good news.”

Monday's scrimmage with the Clippers is the Kings’ last. Following the matchup on Monday, Sacramento will have three days to prepare for the opener of the restarted NBA season against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.

Walton said he would love to treat Monday’s game as a dress rehearsal for the season, but he doesn't have that luxury with so many players missing time.

[RELATED: Fox's ankle feels '100 percent' after return]

On a positive note, De’Aaron Fox had no ill effects after playing in Saturday’s scrimmage and Walton also expects Richaun Holmes to make his scrimmage debut Monday after clearing protocols and working his way back into shape during practice last week.

The Kings are getting healthy at the right time, although not having the entire squad together throughout camp could cause some chemistry issues. Getting Barnes, Holmes and Fox back on the court together Monday is crucial.

With just eight games to play, the margin for error is almost nonexistent. The Kings need to hit the ground running and find their stride quickly if they hope to end their 13-season playoff drought.

Why Luke Walton should go young, pull Kings starters to end NBA bubble

Why Luke Walton should go young, pull Kings starters to end NBA bubble

Is it time for the Kings to pull the plug on the Orlando bubble experience?

No, they can’t just pack up and leave Florida, but after being eliminated from playoff contention Sunday afternoon, the Kings are faced with playing two completely meaningless games.

Sacramento’s medical staff already has ruled starters De’Aaron Fox (shoulder soreness) and Richaun Holmes (hip soreness) out for Tuesday’s matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans, but it might be time to clear the bench.

With training camp set for November, and Dec. 1 still being discussed as the beginning of the 2020-21 season, the Kings, as well as the Pelicans, need to shift their approach to player safety for the future.

That means sitting players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, Cory Joseph, Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica, at least for much of the game.

On Sunday, coach Luke Walton said his squad hoped to play out the final games, but that was when elimination was a possibility, not a reality.

“With so much uncertainty, we don’t know when we’ll be playing again and these last three games are a great chance for us to continue to grow and to push,” Walton said. “We need to look at it as any other game.

"This is a great chance for us.”

[RELATED: Walton says Kings must 'feel that pain' after playoff elimination]

After losing to the Houston Rockets, this approach probably isn't appropriate or necessary. The chance of a player getting injured might not be extremely high, but if somehow it costs a veteran part of next season for a basic exhibition game, then the decision will have been a complete disaster.

The Kings brought a full roster. Yogi Ferrell deserves to show NBA teams that he can still play, despite being out of the rotation for most of the season. Justin James needs time on the court to develop, as does two-way player Kyle Guy.

DaQuan Jeffries has been a breath of fresh air for Sacramento, but like Guy, he’s on a two-way contract. Let him play 48 minutes if need be. Every minute is crucial for evaluating and building his level of experience.

Walton will need a few minutes from some of his veterans just to get the party started, but this should be development time, especially when you consider that the NBA standings for non-playoff teams was set on March 11 and wins and losses will not change how many lottery balls the Kings get on Aug. 20.

This isn’t tanking. This is the reality of the final two games of the 2019-20 season. They have zero value and the possibility, no matter how remote, of a player getting injured, should outweigh any other priority.

NBA power rankings: Where 22 teams stand with seeding games concluding

NBA power rankings: Where 22 teams stand with seeding games concluding

We’re into the final week of the restart, which looks a lot like the final week of any other season. Teams locked into their seed are going easy on the regulars. Those still jockeying play roster games and watch scoreboards. Those going nowhere make vacation plans at halftime.

It’s where are, though, and it’s intriguing. Four very different teams are waging a fierce battle for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and that’s the action we need while approaching the finish line.

With apologies to the eight teams not invited to the bubble, we present the Power Rankings of the 22 squads in attendance:

View NBA Power Rankings here