Is the wait finally over?
The Kings got a huge boost on Friday when head coach Luke Walton announced that starting small forward Harrison Barnes has cleared the NBA’s coronavirus protocol and is on his way to Orlando.
“He finished his Sacramento protocol, so he is on a flight to Orlando now,” Walton told the media on his post-practice Zoom call. “We’re happy to be getting him in here. He’ll have to start his two-day quarantine once he gets here and pass that protocol before he can join us on the court.”
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Barnes, whose positive test shut down the Kings’ practice facility over the Fourth of July weekend, still has to clear bubble protocol. His availability has been up in the air for the last 20 days as he tried to string together consecutive days of negative tests, but Walton made it clear that the Kings were going to hold his roster spot open.
The virus impacts each player differently, but according to Walton, Barnes was in top tier shape heading into training camp before the positive test and Walton expects to get him back on the court sooner rather than later.
“We’re going to evaluate him when he gets here,” Walton said. “We’re going to be smart about it, but Harrison was probably the guy working the hardest building up to when he tested positive. We’ll see where he’s at, we’ll do some physical test, but if he’s ready to play by the first game, he’ll play.”
The 28-year-old forward is one of the Kings’ most versatile players. He starts at the small forward, but he plays plenty of small-ball four in Walton’s offense.
On the season, Barnes is averaging 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and he’s shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range.
With Barnes in protocol, Walton joked earlier in the week that he was growing a beard until he arrived.
"I told Harrison last night when we talked that now he's on his way out, the beard is coming off," Walton said. "He tried to convince me that it's a good luck beard, but no, the beard's done."
Barnes joins Buddy Hield, Alex Len and Jabari Parker as the fourth Kings player to test positive and clear NBA protocol. With a week before the official restart to the season, it appears the Kings are getting healthy at just the right moment.