Kings

NBA return: Five things to watch as Kings get invite to Orlando restart

NBA return: Five things to watch as Kings get invite to Orlando restart

The NBA is set to return and the Kings have a golden ticket to the festivities.

On Thursday, the league voted overwhelmingly to return to action under Commissioner Adam Silver’s 22-team format. After a modified training camp and a cross-country flight to Orlando, beginning July 31, the Kings will have just eight games to prove they are worthy of joining the league’s elite in the postseason.

Sacramento is just three and a half games off the pace of the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, but they have plenty of company. There is no margin of error if the Kings are going to track down Ja Morant and Co. and earn a seat in the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

In case you forgot, the Kings currently sit at 28-36 on the season, and had just rattled off a 13-7 mark over their previous 20 games. They’ll have to outlast a field that includes the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns if they hope to earn a shot at either an eighth seed or play-in opportunity as a ninth seed.

The rules are complicated, but the end result is simple. Win or go home.

Here are five keys for the Kings as they jump back into the fray in the craziest season in NBA history.

Put the ball in Fox’s hands

De’Aaron Fox is taking huge strides in his third NBA season, but you can see that there is more he can do. The Kings need to fully hand the reins over to the 22-year-old and see if he can take another leap in production.

An ankle injury cost Fox 25 games early in the season, but beginning Jan. 1, the Kings’ starting point guard put on a show. In his final 29 games before the shutdown, Fox was averaging 22.3 points, 6.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 32.8 minutes per game.

There still is plenty of room for growth from Fox, especially as a 3-point shooter. But he’s getting to the free throw line 6.8 times per game and he’s figuring out how to take over a game in the fourth quarter.

When the season went on hiatus, Fox was playing the best basketball of his career. The Kings need to see if he’s ready to take his game even further.

Run

With Fox running the show, the team has no excuse for not pushing the tempo. After leading the league in pace last season, coach Luke Walton’s squad was 25th in the league when everything came to a screeching halt.

With only eight games to work with, the Kings need to come into camp in incredible shape, run wind sprints after every practice session and run teams off the court when the ball tips off. They have the personnel, but they have to get back to what made them so successful last year.

Walton spent a lot of the season trying to institute new systems on both ends of the court. With so little time to prepare for the restart, he needs to play to his team’s strengths and pull off any and all restrictions.

Be a star in your role

One of the reasons the San Antonio Spurs are the gold standard of professional sports is due to their players’ understanding of their role and how they can impact winning. The Kings have plenty of players on their first contracts, which often means that they have yet to establish their place in the league.

In a condensed eight-game window, it is imperative that every player who steps on the floor does so with purpose. Is Buddy Hield happy that he’s coming off the bench? No, but this isn’t the time for that debate. Who plays the minutes at a crowded center position? That shouldn’t matter as long as everyone is playing to their strengths.

Whichever team can pull together the fastest has a huge advantage in the chase for the eight seed. The Kings haven’t always been on the same page this season, but they were playing excellent basketball when the pandemic hit.

If they can buy-in and play as a singular unit, the Kings have as good a chance as anyone to get a shot at a play-in series.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Let it fly

Walton stunned a few people early in the season when he said that he would like to see his team shoot 35 3-pointers per game. When the league was suspended, the Kings were averaging 34.7 triples per game and were 10th in the league in 3-point percentage, hitting 36.4 percent.

Sacramento is packed with shooters at almost every spot on the floor. They have six players shooting 35 percent or better from long range, including a team-leading 42.4 percent from forward Nemanja Bjelica.

If Sacramento can turn up the pace and get a few extra shot attempts per game, a good portion of those extra looks should come from deep.

[RELATED: Kings' Barnes shares funny origin of 'Black Falcon' nickname]

The Marvin Bagley situation

When last we checked in with head coach Luke Walton, second-year big man Marvin Bagley had been cleared to return to action after missing most of the season with thumb and foot issues. That doesn’t mean the team is ready to throw him into the mix.

Bagley is one of the cornerstones of the franchise, but after playing just 13 games, he needs time to integrate back into the rotation. Sacramento could definitely use his rebounding and scoring ability in the post, but he’ll need to turn heads in training camp and learn the additional nuances to the schemes in place if he hopes to steal some time.

If the Kings have a shot, they need a tight eight- or nine-man rotation. In a normal situation, Bagley would be a huge part of that group, but normal left a long time ago.

2020 NBA season restart: Teams, format, schedule, location and odds

2020 NBA season restart: Teams, format, schedule, location and odds

Welcome to the unknown.

The Kings and 21 other NBA teams are about to venture down a path of complete uncertainty. Even the all-powerful commissioner Adam Silver has no idea how the league restart in Orlando will fare, but the league has done its best to put safety measures in place.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the United States, basketball is coming back. While the uncertainty is real, we’ll try to keep you updated as best we can. Here are some of the questions that we now know the answer to.

When does the NBA season resume?

The NBA is now ready to restart the season. It all begins July 30 in Orlando on the Disney campus, but Kings fans will have to wait an extra day before seeing their squad take the court.

After nearly four months away, the Kings and Spurs are scheduled to tip off on July 31 at 5 p.m. PT. Over a two week period, the Kings will face a difficult schedule, including two games against the Pelicans, run-ins with both the Mavericks and Rockets and a game against the top-seeded Lakers to close out the season on Aug. 13. 

Once the seeding round concludes on Aug. 14 and the play-in games (if necessary) are finished on Aug. 15-16, the opening round of the playoffs start on Aug. 17. The conference semifinals are scheduled to begin Aug. 31, with the conference finals starting Sept. 15.

The NBA Finals fire up on Sept. 30.

What is the return to play format?

The overall format is the same as a standard regular season, although the NBA made some adjustments to the schedule. Instead of finishing an entire 82 game schedule, teams will play a total of eight games, which will be added to their current standings. 

All 22 teams were allowed to max out their roster at 15 players and bring up to two two-way players as well for a total of 17 players. Teams are also allowed to replace players who are opting out of the NBA bubble. 

The Kings are one of five Western Conference teams chasing the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot -- but there’s a twist.

All 22 teams in the Orlando bubble will play eight regular-season games to finish off the 2019-20 season. If the eighth seed has a four-game lead in the standings, they advance directly to the playoffs, where they’ll face the No. 1 overall seed. If the ninth-place team is within three and a half games, there is a play-in tournament of sorts between the eighth and ninth-place team.

Under the rules for this season, the eighth seed has a double-elimination, while the ninth seed has a single elimination. If No. 8 wins game one, they advance. If No. 9 wins Game 1, they’ll play a second game, with the winner moving on to face the No. 1 overall seed on Aug. 15-16.

All playoff series are scheduled for seven games, with single days of rest between each game.

Which teams will be in the playoffs?

In the Western Conference, the top seven seeds are basically locks to make the playoffs. They can move up and down in the seeding, but it would take a catastrophic finish to the season for the Dallas Mavericks to fall to the No. 8 seed and have to play in the play-in game.

Memphis holds the No. 8 seed when the restart begins. If they had to play out the entire 82 game schedule, their chance of making the playoffs was slim with five teams chasing them for No. 8. But in the abbreviated restart, 3 1/2 games is a lot of ground to make up over an eight-game stretch.

Barring a complete collapse, the Grizzlies will be the team with double elimination for the play-in game(s). Of the remaining teams, the Pelicans have the easiest road to the playoffs, but the Blazers have the additional advantage of being slightly ahead in the standings because they’ve played two additional games.

Sacramento is in the running, but the league’s decision to add the Lakers to the end of their schedule was brutal. San Antonio is a half-game behind the pack, but they are at a disadvantage due to playing one less game on the season and the fact that LaMarcus Aldridge is on the shelf.

Phoenix is two and a half games behind the three teams tied for ninth place and six games back of the Grizzlies. They would need to jump over four teams and make up 2 1/2 games on the Grizzlies to have a shot.

The Eastern Conference is much simpler. Washington trails the Magic by 5 1/2 games and the Nets by six games. Brooklyn is without all of their star power, and will be lucky to crawl to the finish line in 8th place. The Wizards would need a lot of luck to get within 3 1/2 games of No. 8, especially since Davis Bertans decided not to join the bubble.

Coming into the seeding tournament, the Kings face +1200 odds to come away with the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference (meaning a $100 bet would win you $1200). They have three players currently who have tested positive for the coronavirus, but all three are expected to make their way to Orlando

2020 NBA League Schedule

The schedule is pretty simple. All teams play a total of eight games beginning around July 30, which is called the "seeding round." Teams will play every other day, except for one set of back-to-backs.

Sacramento has a 10:30 a.m PT game against the Pelicans on Aug. 6 and a back-to-back against the Nets at 2 p.m. on Aug. 7. In a normal setting, that would be a difficult stretch, but Brooklyn is depleted coming into the tournament.

Following the seeding round, there is a short two-day window for potential play-in games on Aug. 15-16. After the 16 playoff teams are established, the first round of the playoffs begin on Aug. 17.

All rounds remain a best of seven series.

Odds to win the 2020 NBA Championship

The Lakers are favored to win it all, but the swap out of Avery Bradley for J.R. Smith, and the uncertainty surrounding Dwight Howard, makes the chase for a ring close. Oddsmakers have the Bucks slightly behind LA. Sacramento is a middle of the road bet to make it in as an eighth seed, but come in as +50000 to win it all ($100 bet wins you $50,000).  

Lakers +240

Bucks +250

Clippers +333

Rockets +1300

Celtics +2000

Raptors +2200

Nuggets +2500

76ers +2800

Heat +3000

Jazz +3300

Mavericks +4000

Pacers +10000

Thunder +10000

Pelicans +12500

Trail Blazers +15000

Grizzlies +25000

Nets +30000

Magic +30000

Wizards +30000

Suns +50000

Kings +50000

Spurs +50000

Kings' De'Aaron Fox has new hairstyle, same contract extension desire

Kings' De'Aaron Fox has new hairstyle, same contract extension desire

New hairstyle. Same De’Aaron Fox.

When the new “Brady Bunch” version of media availability started Wednesday afternoon, the Kings point guard looked like a new man. Hiding in the top corner of the video conference call window was Fox without his signature spiked hairstyle.

Sorry folks, the spikes are gone for good.

“That was years of doing that, I’m not doing that again,” Fox said.

Not surprisingly, the look was a common topic during the 20-minute session. So much so that the real juice of the conversation was almost missed.

Towards the end of the call, Fox was asked if the season's shutdown as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic had changed his thoughts on his future with the Kings. His answer was music to the ears of both general manager Vlade Divac and Kings fans everywhere.

“It’s all the same, it’s all the same, I don’t think there’s much to say about that,” Fox said. “I see myself being here. I want to be here. Obviously, you know we want to win and right now, I think last year, we put ourselves in a good position. This year, we’re sort of in the same position to still make the playoffs. So that’s what we all want and then continue to take the next step forward.”

Fox is finishing the third of four years on his rookie-scale contract. Following the season, he’ll be eligible for a massive extension that could add as many as five additional years to his remaining season in Sacramento.

The Kings and Fox already have had conversations regarding an extension, according to a league source. There is no word on the specifics, but salary-cap uncertainty due to the pandemic could make things a little crazy.

Sacramento has two “Designated Player” rookie-scale extensions to use. If the Kings choose to extend one to Fox, it would allow them to go beyond the league’s rule of a four-year extension and add a fifth year. With a remaining year on his current deal, that would potentially keep Fox in a Kings uniform for another six seasons beyond this one.

[RELATED: Fox, Kings feel disrespected by national media coverage]

The Kings made Fox the face of the franchise after drafting him No. 5 overall, and he is living up to the hype in his third season. The 22-year-old point guard is averaging 20.4 points, 6.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds in 31.7 minutes per game under coach Luke Walton.

Regardless of his haircut, the Kings would love to keep Fox in the fold as long as possible.