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What Kayte Hunter misses most about sports amid coronavirus hiatus

What Kayte Hunter misses most about sports amid coronavirus hiatus

Editor's note: Like you, Bay Area athletes and NBC Sports Bay Area insiders, reporters and analysts are feeling the sports void during the coronavirus stoppage. They'll share their thoughts twice a week in "What I Miss About Sports." Next up in the series: Kings sideline reporter Kayte Hunter.

The world feels like it is in complete disarray. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic have caused unprecedented actions forcing restaurants and bars to close, employees are working from home, schools are shut down, and the world of sports has come to a complete standstill. 

Sports is a business. A massive business that employees millions of people throughout the world. I am one of those people. 

When we found out that the NBA was suspending games due to the first NBA player testing positive for COVID-19, it threw the world that I work in into a state of the unknown. Never before has this happened in the history of the league. 

It was the responsible thing to do. The only thing to do. 

But the thing about sports is that they have forever been an escape from the sometimes harsh realities of the world. So to say that I miss sports is an understatement. 

It’s not just that I miss being on the sidelines or in the NBC Sports Bay Area studios. I miss the excitement of the hunt. The Kings had 18 games remaining on their regular season schedule and they were in the thick of the battle for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. 

This team was coming into their own. They were showing who we all thought they had the capability of being when the 2019-20 season started. They had endured a rash of major injuries that kept key players out for long stretches. There was a point in the season in January when things seemed to be hopeless. But then things started to shift. 

There was a lineup change and moves heading into the trade deadline. It was like they suddenly had been given a lifeline and momentum started to build. There were new career highs. 

First Buddy Hield in Minnesota after the Kings came back from an unthinkable deficit with less than four minutes in the fourth quarter to win on the road. Then a huge win on the road in Los Angeles against the Clippers behind a career night from De’Aaron Fox. 

There was a synergy building. 

And then suddenly the world came to a halt. And my world, the NBA, became frozen in time. No games. No indication when or if things will pick up again.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

High school playoffs ... cancelled. 

I won a California Division V State Championship at Arco Arena in 1998. That experience is something that I will never forget. And now I think of all the kids that have worked so hard to try and attain that same goal. There is a moment of time that is stolen from them. 

March Madness was canceled.

I participated in the NCAA tournament all four years in college. It’s THE thing that you work for. It’s where you know that anything can happen. The Cinderella stories. The little guys taking down the giants. The entire country becomes invested. People that haven’t watched a college game all season are filling out brackets and are glued to their TVs.

Sports has that ability to bring people together. 

There is no telling what will happen with the NBA season as we wait to discover what the fate of this season will be. 

But as we wait, there are so many things that I miss.

It’s not just the hunt for the playoffs and seeing players step up and find ways to win that I mentioned earlier. Those are things that are a common denominator for everyone that are sports fans.

I miss the little things that nobody else sees or knows.

I miss the routine. Prepping and crunching numbers. Trying to figure out how to highlight players, stats, stories that are important and unique in each and every game.

I miss the interactions with the people. The security guards in the tunnel where my table is. Reggie has been in the tunnel by my table since Golden 1 Center has opened. I miss his jokes and sarcastic humor. His conversations about the kids at the high school in Vacaville where he works. 

I miss eating in the media lounge before Luke Walton’s press conference. That’s the only part of game day that I get to see Jerry Reynolds and be graced me with his wit, humor and a dive into his basketball genius. But it’s not just Jerry, it’s so many people that you get to see and interact with that make my game day experience what it is. 

I miss going into the truck for the five minutes a night to go over the video elements and graphics I will be discussing. Seeing my guys, the guys that I have been working alongside and traveling with for years. My producer Ro, director Birdy (Mike Bird), Houde (Josh) who builds my graphics for me and Justin who edits together my video elements. I miss hearing about their babies, wives, girlfriends, kids playing hockey and all the sarcastic sometimes inappropriate humor that exists within our friendships.

I miss Jim Kozimor. His brilliance and humor. James Ham and his sweater vests!

I miss hearing Grant Napear bring me in for my first hit right before tip-off and the countdown in my ear when we are coming back from break.

The postgame interview with players after a big win. 

I miss the studio and the whole staff at NBC Sports Bay Area in San Francisco, and being able to do the pre, halftime and postgame shows. 

I miss the conversations with my husband when I get home from work about the game and how his night went with the kids. 

I miss it all. I love my job and am so lucky and fortunate to “work” in the NBA and for the Kings.

But most of all, during this bizarre and frightening time, I miss the escape.

More from "What I Miss About Sports"

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.