Kings, NBA in uncharted waters after season suspended for coronavirus

Kings, NBA in uncharted waters after season suspended for coronavirus

SACRAMENTO -- The game that almost was.

The Kings were in the middle of warming up Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. Fans had filled the building in anticipation of one of the most meaningful games in over a decade.

But in the NBA, it takes two to tango.

The visitors' side of the court remained empty as the clock approached the 7:30 tip-off time. Media lined the tunnel waiting for the visiting team, but the New Orleans Pelicans were nowhere to be found.

As the clock hit 7:32, Alvin Gentry appeared out of the New Orleans Pelicans locker room taking off his jacket. It was like a player coming out without his uniform on. 

Moments later, public address announcer Scott Moak came through the loudspeaker, “Out of an abundance of caution and at the direction of the National Basketball Association, tonight’s game has been postponed.”

A packed house of fans already in their seats, many of whom had already hit the concession stands for food and beverage, let out a collective groan. And then the boos started.

The cancelation came as no surprise for anyone who was tracking the events of the day, but the reasoning behind the move adds another layer to the situation. 

According to a league source, NBC Sports California learned that the Kings intended to play the game, but the Pelicans weren’t comfortable with referee Courtney Kirkland calling the game.

Kirkland was in Utah on Monday officiating the Jazz' game against the Toronto Raptors. Earlier Wednesday, it was announced that Jazz starting center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The league had already announced that the season would be suspended following Wednesday’s action, but the game in Sacramento was confirmed as late as an hour before tipoff.

Like the fans, the Kings lingered for a few minutes in shock before finally leaving the court. New Orleans' Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram had come out on the floor to get some shots up, but were turned away by security and returned to the locker room before leaving the building. 

It was a surreal situation for everyone involved. Fans loudly booed. Eventually, they started “Sac-ra-men-to!” chants. And then the building was quickly cleared out.

In a stroke of luck, Jim Lumbumbard, Senior Director, Basketball Communications, was in attendance and worked hand-in-hand with the Kings and Pelicans to work through the situation. 

Once the building was cleared, the arena fell silent for what could be the first of many lonely nights.

The league has shut its doors for the foreseeable future. If and when the season returns, there are no promises that it will resume where it left off with the Kings in the midst of a postseason chase.

[RELATED: Report: 'Not a lot of optimism' NBA season will resume]

We have entered uncharted waters. The hiatus could last a few weeks or perhaps much longer. A few teams have already begun telling their players to self-quarantine for the next 14 days. That’s the baseline for a return of hoops, but it’s likely going to be much longer.

The Kings are in wait-and-see mode. They have no idea what the next step brings. In the words of one PR member, “I’m sure we’ll talk tomorrow.”

NBA rumors: Kings part of plan for 22-team season restart in Orlando

NBA rumors: Kings part of plan for 22-team season restart in Orlando

We're going to Disney World.

That is what more than two-thirds of NBA teams are waking up to Wednesday morning. According to the reporting of both Adrian Wojnarowski from ESPN and The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the NBA has a plan in place to recall 22 teams and get the season going again.

The details still are coming in, but reports suggest that 13 Western Conference teams and another nine from the East will fly to Orlando where they will each play eight games. If after the eight games, the eighth seed has a four-game lead, the league will go straight to the postseason. If not, there will be a play-in format to decide who the eighth seed will be.

All of this is music to the Kings' ears. They currently sit in a virtual tie for ninth place in the Western Conference standings, three-and-a-half games behind the Memphis Grizzlies.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

If NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s plan is ratified Thursday, as expected, the Kings will be part of a group that will battle it out with a chance to snap their 13-season postseason drought.

A handful of players have been at the Kings practice facility for weeks now, working out under stringent rules. They have yet to be cleared for full contact and still have to play on individual courts.

The rest of the team is scattered across the US and eventually will have to make their way back to Sacramento for a training camp followed by a long stay at the Magic Kingdom.

According to reports, the league is scheduled to start up on July 31 with Game 7 of the NBA Finals taking place on October 12.

[RELATED: Can Holmes and Bagley play together on Kings' frontline?]

In addition to the Kings and 16 teams currently in the postseason picture, the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards will join the festivities as the league attempts to restart during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

We will have more on this story as more information becomes available, but it appears that the NBA is on its way back and the Kings are going to be part of the fun.

Kings' Harrison Barnes shares funny origin of 'Black Falcon' nickname

Kings' Harrison Barnes shares funny origin of 'Black Falcon' nickname

If you know Harrison Barnes as "The Black Falcon," the Kings forward is a bit bewildered as to why.

That's what happens when you give yourself a nickname largely as a joke, as Barnes revealed to Howard Beck "The Full 48" podcast last week.

“It was funny, I was a huge Kobe (Bryant) fan, as so many people were, and he was always known as the 'Black Mamba,' " Barnes recalled (H/T Sactown Royalty). (Michael Jordan) was his favorite player, MJ was the Black Cat. So we were in New York my senior year (of high school) getting ready for Elite 24, and I was with (then-ESPN anchors) Mike Hill and Jay Harris, and we were just talking, talking about just different nicknames. We came up with that one, and I was like, 'Oh, okay.' ...

"... So I jokingly said that and when I got to [the University of North Carolina,] like one of my first days on campus, I saw this magazine that was like ‘The Black Falcon’ and it had a picture of me. I was like, 'Oh man, this nickname’s gonna stick for a while,' and it’s been around ever since. I mean, I don’t use it or do much with it, but it’s around.”

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Barnes' nickname was in far more regular rotation during his time with the Warriors, and he told the team website in 2013 he hoped to be nicknamed after an animal a la Bryant and Jordan. The moniker didn't stick around, nor did Barnes stay put with Golden State. He joined the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent in 2016 when the Warriors signed Kevin Durant, and the Mavericks traded Barnes to the Kings ahead of last year's trade deadline.

Sacramento's Twitter account only referred to Barnes as "Black Falcon" once, on the day he officially joined the team.

[RELATED: Barnes wants chance for Kings to make playoffs upon restart]

Barnes also picked up the nickname "The Senator" from Warriors broadcaster Jim Barnett, and he has expressed interest in heading into politics after his playing days are over. Former Warriors teammate asked Andrew Bogut during a Twitter Q&A if "The Black Falcon" moniker would follow him to Capitol Hill.

If the NBA season resumes and the Kings return to the court, the more pressing question is if the nickname will even follow him to Orlando.