The emotional roller coaster won’t stop for the Sacramento Kings. Prolonged winning streaks and even longer losing streaks have the team on the brink of eliminate from NBA playoff contention. And then the injuries have started to pile up.
Already without the services of De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes, Sacramento was dealt another blow in their 111-99 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.
Midway through the third quarter, star rookie Tyrese Haliburton tried to advance the ball into the front court when he stepped on Josh Richardson’s heel with his right foot. The contact knocked Haliburton slightly off-balance, which caused him to come down early on his left leg.
Haliburton stayed down for an extended period of time. When he finally was helped from the floor, he was surrounded by players from both teams, as well as the Kings’ training staff.
Marvin Bagley, who played extremely well in the game, but is also a player who has struggled with injuries throughout his three years in the league, had some words of support for his teammate.
“It was just one of those things where I was giving him that extra encouragement as he was walking off,” Marvin Bagley said. “I know how that can be, playing in a game and you just get hurt and have to leave the game. That’s not a good feeling."
As he made his way to the locker room, Haliburton was able to walk under his own power, which could be a good sign for the 21-year-old.
Minutes after the injury, the Kings sent out an update, confirming that Haliburton would not return to the game due to a left knee injury. Following the win, head coach Luke Walton fielded questions about the team’s budding young star.
“He’ll get an MRI tomorrow and we’ll hope for the best,” Walton said. “We won’t know anything until tomorrow.”
While Walton didn’t have anything immediate, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted out during the game that, “there’s initial optimism he may have avoided a serious injury.”
“We’re very hopeful that it’s not [a serious injury], but there’s no reason for me to guess right now,” Walton said.
At the time of the injury, Haliburton was having another strong game starting in place of Fox. In 23 minutes of action, he had already accumulated 11 points and five assists and was well on his way to another stellar game.
“Tyrese was having another really good game leading up to that, from a floor general perspective,” Walton said. “The pace he was playing at, the way he was getting us into the offense and again, defensively, he was making some nice rotations as well.”
According to Walton, Haliburton was in good spirits after the game, but that is typical of his demeanor, especially after a victory.
“He’s an upbeat guy and his spirits were fine after the game,” Walton said. “He was happy for his teammates and he was happy for us getting a win.”
At this point, the Kings are running on fumes and are so shorthanded that it’s possible they won’t even be able to dress 15 players.
Fox is lost in the league’s health and safety protocols and his date for a return is unknown at this time.
Barnes traveled with the team on the current four-game road trip after suffering tightness in his adductor. He was upgraded from out, to doubtful before the game in Dallas, but there is a shot that he can make a return when the Kings face the Spurs on Tuesday.
Chimezie Metu was also doubtful on Sunday after taking an incredibly hard fall against the Lakers on Friday.
On the plus side, Bagley is back in the rotation after missing 23 games with a broken hand. He showed flashes of his incredible potential against the Mavericks, posting 23 points and nine rebounds in 34 minutes.
Whether Walton has any of these players back or not in the coming games is unknown, but the Kings seemed to have finally figured out how to manage without starters in the last couple of games. They have received strong play from players like Delon Wright, Terence Davis, Damian Jones and even Justin James has played valuable minutes.
“We wish Ty well, we hope the best for him, but it’s always going to be next guy up,” Wright said. “We still have some young guys who are dying to get some playing time. So it’s going to be some opportunities for some different guys.”
Outside of the drubbing the Kings took against the Jazz on Wednesday, the team is battling down the stretch. They’ve won two straight and five of their last eight. Postseason chances are a discussion for another day, but the team is playing a gritty style and at worst, they want to play spoiler down the stretch. At least one player has larger goals than that.
“Win em’ all, win em’ all,” Buddy Hield said.
With eight games remaining, the Kings currently sit 4.5 games out of the play-in tournament. The team holding that spot is the San Antonio Spurs, who the Kings face for the third and final time on Tuesday.
If Haliburton, Fox and Barnes all miss that game, the Kings are in trouble. If one or more suit up, then things could get interesting.