Kings

NBA schedule release 2020: Kings game-by-game picks, season prediction

NBA schedule release 2020: Kings game-by-game picks, season prediction

Despite 16 out of 320 players testing positive for the coronavirus this week, the NBA is ready to press forward with their eight-game restart.

On Friday afternoon, the league released the schedule for all 22 teams heading to the Orlando bubble to finish off the 2019-20 season. For the Kings, most of the schedule follows their remaining games, although they are out of order from where they were previously.

The one exception is a nice little gift from the league that saw a game with the Indiana Pacers disappear and a battle with the Los Angeles Lakers magically dropped at the end of the Kings' eight-game run. 

Can the Kings snap their 13-season postseason curse? Will it all be decided in the first game? Can they find the pace and tempo they played with last season and shock the league?

There are a lot of questions that need answering, but here is a look at the schedule and predictions on whether the Kings have a shot to make it to the play-in games that will decide who represents the Western Conference as the final playoff team.

Spurs

Date: July 31, 5 p.m. PT, NBC Sports California

Out with the old, in with the new? San Antonio has a 22-season postseason streak on the line, but they’ll have to go to battle without big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who had season-ending shoulder surgery. Sacramento swept the Spurs last season and have split the season series this year. The Spurs also have the disadvantage of playing one fewer regular-season game than the Kings and Pelicans, which will make any postseason push difficult.

Season record against: 1-1

Prediction: Win

Magic

Date: Aug. 2, 3 p.m. PT, NBC Sports California

Last we checked, Al-Farouq Aminu was going to miss the restart and there was a huge question mark regarding Jonathan Issac as well. The Magic were just 9-12 over their final 21 games. This, like the Nets game, is a must-win for Sacramento. Orlando has talent, but their lack of 3-point shooting and offensive woes make them beatable.

Season record against: 0-1

Prediction: Win

Mavericks

Date: Aug. 4, 11:30 a.m. PT, NBC Sports California

Is Luka Doncic in shape? Will Willie Cauley-Stein sitting out the restart have any impact at all? Dallas is a dangerous team, especially with Kristaps Porzingis stepping up his game. This is one of the tougher matchups of the tournament for Sacramento. The Mavs weren’t playing great basketball when the league went on hiatus and the Kings could steal one here and even up the season series. But Kings will be underdogs in this battle.

Season record against: 1-2

Prediction: Loss

Pelicans

Date: Aug. 6, 10:30 a.m. PT, NBC Sports California

The Kings wanted to play this game on March 11. They stayed on the court while the Pelicans sat in the visiting locker room at Golden 1 Center. If they had played that game, Sacramento had a very good shot of coming out ahead, especially with J.J. Redick on the shelf. Now that both teams come in healthy (in theory) and without the benefit of the home crowd, this is a true toss-up game.

Sacramento has yet to face off against Zion Williamson, and will have to make adjustments on the fly as the big man tears through their defense. It will take all hands on deck, including big men Richaun Holmes and Alex Len, both of whom have been a defensive difference-makers in their time with the Kings.

Season record against: 0-1

Prediction: Win but it’s a nail biter.

Nets

Date: Aug. 7, 2 p.m. PT NBC Sports California

If this is the 2020-21 season, the Kings would be in a lot of trouble. While Sacramento has struggled against Brooklyn over the last two seasons, the Nets will be without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. The Nets play hard and they had strung together a three-game winning streak before the shutdown, but this is a must-win for Sacramento. Keep in mind that Brooklyn parted ways with head coach Kenny Atkinson right before the shutdown. Can interim head coach Jacque Vaughn pull this team together on the fly?

Season record against: 0-1

Prediction: Win

Rockets

Date: Aug. 9, 5 p.m. PT, NBC Sports California

This should be an entertaining affair, with 100 more combined 3-point attempts. The Kings stunned Houston once this season on a wild back-to-back. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they do it again, but the Rockets likely will be 7-8 point favorites in this game. Sacramento has to keep James Harden off the free-throw line if they have any hope. This might be the game coach Luke Walton turns to Corey Brewer to wreak havoc.

Season record against: 1-1

Prediction: Loss

Pelicans

Date: Aug. 11, 6 p.m. PT, NBC Sports California

This is probably the most important game on the schedule for the Kings. If they can get past the opener against New Orleans, the season series would be tied. If they can squeeze by in this game, they not only knock back their prime competition, but they also win the season series.

Season record against: 0-1

Prediction: Toss-up

Lakers

Date: Aug. 13, TBD, NBC Sports California

This was supposed to be a game against the Indiana Pacers, but the powers that be made a switch. This isn't exactly the best thing for Sacramento. The Pacers are a tough Eastern Conference foe, but the Lakers are the odds-on favorite to win the title. One bit of luck is that this is the final game for both teams, and it's possible the Lakers will have already secured the top seed in the West. If not, the Kings are in for a battle. Sacramento was burned by the NBA's Last Two-Minute report early in the season when they lost in the closing moments to the Lakers. Game two wasn't competitive. 

Season record against: 0-2

Prediction: Lakers take the night off, Kings win

[RELATED: Kings tab Gerould as interim play-by-play announcer]

Final Prediction

A 5-3 record might be enough to get the Kings into the play-in game against the No. 8 seed. The two games against the Pelicans will likely decide the fate of the Kings’ season.

Portland, who the Kings don’t play in the restart, has a slight mathematical advantage with the league, basing the final standings off of win percentage. They’ve played two additional games and while they are in a virtual tie with the Pelicans and Kings coming into the final eight games, they hold a .001 advantage in the overall standings.

Sacramento has as good a shot as anyone. Their remaining opponent winning percentage of 54.2 percent is middle of the road out of all five of the teams vying for the No 8 spot.

If they lose Game 1, the Kings are in trouble. If they can beat the Spurs in the opener, play the Pelicans tough and steal one win against the grouping of the Mavs, Rockets and Lakers, they’ve got a shot.

Source: Kings shut down practice facility after positive coronavirus test

Source: Kings shut down practice facility after positive coronavirus test

A few days before the Kings were scheduled to leave for Orlando as part of the NBA’s season restart, the team has shut down their facility because of a positive coronavirus test for someone within their traveling party, a source confirmed to NBC Sports California's James Ham.

The Athletic's Sam Amick first reported the news Sunday night.

The Kings and the other 21 NBA teams scheduled to play at the Disney World complex in Orlando were set to leave their home markets beginning on Tuesday.

News of another positive coronavirus test comes 11 days after Jabari Parker and Alex Len confirmed they tested positive for the coronavirus. Guard Buddy Hield reportedly also tested positive for COVID-19.

Since July 1, as part of the NBA's Phase 3 of the restart plan, players have been allowed to participate in individual workouts at the Kings' practice facility at Golden 1 Center.

The Kings are the second team reportedly to shut their facility down Sunday. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday, citing sources, that the Milwaukee Bucks closed their operations after receiving the results of coronavirus testing conducted on Friday.

The Kings and Bucks are scheduled to scrimmage against each other in Orlando on Saturday, July 25.

[RELATED: How Kings are handling leaving families]

Sacramento faces an uphill battle to reach the NBA playoffs. The Kings currently sit 3.5 games out of the No. 8 seed, and are in a logjam with the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns as they all try to chase down the Memphis Grizzlies.

Any teams within four games of the Grizzlies after the eight seeding games will force play-in games for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

Luke Walton's team should be able to beat the Spurs, Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets, but they face tough matchups against the Pelicans (twice), Mavericks, Rockets and Lakers.

How Kings are handling leaving family behind for NBA's Orlando restart

How Kings are handling leaving family behind for NBA's Orlando restart

The NBA’s Orlando bubble -- it’s a concept that somehow we have begun to normalize.

Later this week, the Kings and 21 other NBA teams will travel via private jet to Disney World where they will be under lock and key for a minimum of five weeks.

On paper, it doesn’t sound all that bad. Five-star accommodations, tons of food options, a golf course, bowling alley, ping pong tables. The only thing that is missing are the players' families, who won’t be allowed to join the bubble until after the first round of the playoffs, somewhere around Aug. 31.

NBA players and staff are normal people, just like everyone else. The bubble concept is a way for the league to survive and save at least some of the revenue stream that has all but disappeared due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the league is asking its players to walk away from their families for an extended period of time.

“There’s no way around the fact that this is a sacrifice,” Harrison Barnes said. “Whether you’re being away from your family, whether you’re not going to be able to see your parents, your siblings, whatever it may be. And not having an end date too, definitely adds an extra bit of focus to you, that if you’re going to be away from your family for this long, you want to make it work, you want to make it something that you’re completely locked in and focused on and giving your all to, or else it’s a waste of time.”

Barnes is married, but does not have children. He might be in the minority on that front on the Kings' roster.

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

Nemanja Bjelica’s children can be seen on the court in pregame. Buddy Hield’s daughter waits for him after most home games. Richaun Holmes and De’Aaron Fox both have little ones.

Kent Bazemore has been known to post pictures of his little boy on twitter and his wife has another one on the way due later this year.

“It’s tough,” Bazemore said earlier this week during one of the Kings Zoom media calls. “It’s tough on being a husband and a father. I cried like a little baby when I left to head out here a couple weeks ago -- just seeing him and my wife standing on the front porch as I’m leaving, and he has absolutely no idea I’m gone as long as I’m going to be gone.”

“It’s definitely tough, especially him being such a young age,” Bazemore added. “It’s pivotal as a child to kind of have that stable foundation, and my wife is also pregnant with a little girl coming in September, so the realistic front is very tough.”

A week ago, Corey Brewer was out of the league wondering if he would get another shot at age 34. The 12-year vet will get that opportunity with the Kings, but again, it will come at a cost.

“That’s probably the hardest part for me,” Brewer said. “I have small kids. One’s six and one’s three months, so it was tough to leave them, but they understand I’m getting older. Any chance I get to play basketball, I have to take it. They’re happy. My son’s happy I get to play again, and we FaceTime every day for like five hours, so we still see each other.”

Modern technology has made the world a smaller place, but there is nothing that can replace physical contact.

“In your 20s and 30s, you make a lot of sacrifices, but I’m in a position to really set up my legacy and really help those behind me,” Bazemore said. “So It’s a tough decision and it’s something my wife and I are diligently working on, trying to stay connected, you know, phone calls, videos, FaceTime, doing everything we can to stay connected.”

[RELATED: Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years']

There is a human element that is being missed. Players aren’t just going to Orlando and risking infection by playing a sport. They are leaving everything behind for a month or two and perhaps longer.

This is a complex situation with real life consequences for players and their loved ones. Adding to the issue is that these aren’t normal times and that the world is in the midst of a pandemic.

The league is hopeful that they can limit the exposure to coronavirus by running a tight ship, but the families of the players will not be afforded that same luxury while at home.

There is no perfect solution, but fans should keep in mind that while they want to see NBA basketball and regain some of the escapism that professional sports provides, there might be times when players' minds are not 100 percent focused on the game at hand.