Reinforcements are on their way.
The Kings were forced to play short-handed in their preseason opener on Friday evening with both Hassan Whiteside and Marvin Bagley staying back in Sacramento. The pair haven’t made their way to Portland for Sunday’s rematch, but Luke Walton left assistant coach Rico Hines behind to assess the duo and the reports from the practice facility on both big men is positive.
“They played some one-on-one today, both reportedly looking good and feeling good in that,” Walton said. “We’ll move that up to three-on-three on Monday and hopefully get them some spot minutes in the preseason games next week.”
Bagley is still working his way through the final stages of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol after testing positive before the start of training camp. He’s been able to watch practice, take in terminology and learn the playbook, but he’s been limited to individual workouts so far.
It’s unknown if the 21-year-old power forward will receive clearance to play in Tuesday’s match up against the Warriors because he has yet to play five-on-five, which is typically the process for recovery with the team’s medical staff.
If Bagley doesn’t make it back on Tuesday, there is an outside shot he’ll play in the preseason finale on Thursday against Golden State.
Whiteside is dealing with a mild calf strain, but he has reached the same point in his recovery as Bagley. He is ready for three-on-three workouts, but with his absence involving an injury, not an illness, the Kings might take a more cautious approach with the opening night just 11 days away.
“I think it was pretty clear last night, we miss those guys,” Walton said. “Those are two of our bigger, stronger NBA bodies. We’ll be excited to get them back in the mix of things.”
Before setbacks, Bagley and Whiteside were both in the running for starting jobs in Walton’s lineup. They still have time to work themselves back into rotation, even with the time lost.
Bagley has struggled with injury throughout his two seasons in the NBA, playing a total of 13 games last season for the Kings. He’s an incredible talent and the team is hopeful that he can become the player they envisioned when they selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Whiteside led the league in shot blocks per game last season while averaging a 15.5-point, 13.5-rebound double-double. He is a goalie on the back line that can help solidify the Kings’ rim protection.
Both bigs are considered part of the Kings’ nine or 10-man rotation this season, although how they fit in is still up in the air. Walton has a lot of players to work with and only so many minutes to work with. How he manages all of the hungry mouths on his team will be one of the storylines early in the season.