Kings

NBA rumors: Kings on shortlist for potential playoff play-in tournament

NBA rumors: Kings on shortlist for potential playoff play-in tournament

Momentum is building for the return of NBA action. After honing in on Orlando as the most likely venue to host the end of the 2019-20 schedule and postseason, it appears the league is preparing to get creative with how they move forward.

Details still are being worked out as to how the league will move forward, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Kings might make the shortlist of teams invited to the Magic Kingdom to participate in the action.

According to Wojnarowski's source, “teams have become increasingly skeptical of the league bringing back all 30 teams to complete the season.”

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While nothing is confirmed, the plan appears to be inviting the 16 teams that currently would qualify for the postseason and then a quartet of Western Conference clubs that are fighting for the eighth seed. The league has yet to decide on the exact path moving forward, but a play-in tournament, pool play bracket and a continuation of regular-season games all are under consideration.

When the league suspended play on March 11 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Kings were preparing to host the New Orleans Pelicans in one of the most important home games in Sacramento in over a decade.

In a virtual tie for the ninth spot with the Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers and three-and-a-half games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final postseason berth, the Kings had 18 remaining to make a move.

Memphis was facing the toughest schedule in the league down the stretch and already had lost tiebreakers against both the Kings and Pelicans. The Kings and Blazers split their season series and the Kings trailed the Pelicans 0-1 with two more games still on the schedule.

The Kings was playing their best basketball of the year at the time of the shutdown. They were 13-7 in their last 20 games. Richaun Holmes was playing his way back into game shape after missing 25 games with a shoulder injury and Marvin Bagley was on the mend as well.

The Kings aren’t the only team that was playing well. Memphis and New Orleans both were 11-9 over their previous 20 games and the Blazers were at an even .500 over that stretch.

In addition to the Kings, Pelicans and Trail Blazers, the San Antonio Spurs were just four games behind the Grizzlies at the time of the shutdown. Gregg Popovich’s crew was scuffling a bit, posting a 7-13 record over their previous 20.

The Kings have yet to make a statement on a potential return, instead deferring to the NBA’s spokesman for comment.

[RELATED: 20 Kings Questions: Can Holmes and Bagley play together?]

Roughly half of the team currently is in Sacramento and according to a league source, most of those players have been at the practice facility for scheduled individual workouts over the last few weeks.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, there is hope that teams will hold in-market training camps in July with a potential restart set for late July or early August in Orlando.

Players who were currently outside of the United States will be allowed back in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said, according to Charania.

Nothing is written in stone, but there is positive movement for a return of NBA basketball. It won’t include fans, but there is growing optimism that the Kings will be part of any ramp-up.

Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years'

Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years'

On Jan. 22, the Sacramento Kings were absolutely embarrassed on the road by a less-than-stellar Detroit Pistons team by a final of 127-106. You could tell that changes were coming before the final horn sounded.

That was the sixth straight loss for the Kings and their season looked like it was over.

When the team came out for the next contest in Chicago, Bogdan Bogdanovic had replaced Buddy Hield in the starting lineup and Kent Bazemore became a bigger piece to the rotation.

Acquired just days earlier in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, Bazemore instantly became the high-energy catalyst off the bench the Kings hoped they were getting when they signed Trevor Ariza to a two-year, $25 million contract.

Sacramento responded to the changes in the rotation and finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 13 of its final 20 games.

In 21 total games with the Kings, Bazemore, 31, averaged 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 23.5 minutes per game. He was a disruptive force on the defensive end and his energy on the court was contagious.

A free agent at the end of the season, Bazemore will have plenty of options on the open market. His ability to defend multiple positions and provide an offensive spark when needed earned him a massive four-year, $70 million deal in the summer of 2016.

It’s unlikely that Bazemore comes anywhere near that figure again this offseason, but he believes he has found a new home in Sacramento and this isn't the first time the veteran has voiced that opinion.

“This is definitely a place that I can see myself play for the next couple of years,” Bazemore said during a Zoom call with the media on Friday. “With a team with so much promise, I definitely want to be a part of that.”

General manager Vlade Divac has plenty of decisions to make during the upcoming offseason, but bringing Bazemore back for another tour of duty makes too much sense. He’s still young enough to play substantial minutes and his ability to play both the two and three allows coach Luke Walton to slide Harrison Barnes to power forward for long stretches.

[RELATED: Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500]

The NBA’s salary structure is bound to take a big hit with the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world. Sacramento likely will have to take a wait-and-see approach to the offseason, which includes decisions on free agents Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harry Giles and Alex Len.

In just a quarter of the season, Bazemore has proven his worth and the Kings aren’t done quite yet. Sacramento has eight games remaining to try and earn a shot at the playoffs. If Bazemore hadn’t come along when he did, it’s very unlikely the Kings would be in this position.

Harrison Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500 record

Harrison Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500 record

Committed.

Harrison Barnes showed up for the latest edition of the Kings' Zoom call with the media still sporting his playoffs-or-bust beard. The Kings’ forward stopped shaving in mid-December, committing to letting it grow until the Kings reached the .500 mark.

“The beard is good, I think it’s plateaued a little bit,” Barnes said. “That’s been nice from a management perspective. But I think I’m excited to hopefully shave it off when we make the playoffs and keep going from there.”

At the time of Barnes' pledge, the Kings were 12-14 and facing a three-game road trip in Charlotte, Indiana and Memphis. Sacramento would go on to lose all three...and then five more to fall 10 games under .500 at 12-22.

[RELATED: Kings' Marvin Bagley, family stayed focused on hoops during NBA hiatus]

True to his word, Barnes let it grow, although he’s modified the rules slightly. He now has a .500 or playoffs mantra, which could possibly get him off the hook.

A .500 record would take an 8-0 stretch by the Kings in the Orlando bubble restart. Looking at their schedule, that is going to be difficult. But a 5-3 stretch might be enough to sneak into the play-in game, which couldbe grounds for a good shaving.

This decision was a bold move by Barnes. While the Kings have the most talented and deepest roster they’ve had in years, the franchise also is riding a 13-year playoff drought.

If the Kings don’t make it and Barnes stays true to his word, he might be able to near James Harden's beard length by the start of next season. Should that be the case, he really could use a Game 1 win to put the team over the .500 mark.