Corey Brewer

De'Aaron Fox close to Kings return while rehabbing his ankle injury

De'Aaron Fox close to Kings return while rehabbing his ankle injury

When De’Aaron Fox went down with a left ankle sprain in the middle of last week, the Kings’ season appeared all but over. Less than a week later, Sacramento's starting point guard already is back on the court in a limited role.

“He looked good, he’s getting up and down,” Walton said. “He’s still not doing any contact, but he’s definitely making some good progress and I’m expecting him back with us soon.”

A notorious quick healer, Fox is the one player the Kings can’t live without. The front office designed the team around his ability to push the tempo and his speed is what drives the Kings’ offense.

“He just turned his ankle a little bit, he’s going to be fine,” veteran Corey Brewer said of Fox. “It’s always good to see him running around out there and shooting and just working on his game.”

The Kings will take it easy with regards to Fox. He won’t play in Wednesday’s scrimmage against the Miami Heat and there is a possibility he doesn’t see action in Saturday’s game against Milwaukee as well.

With so many injuries and coronavirus-related issues, the Kings will need some luck if they hope to walk into the restart with a reasonably healthy rotation.

On a good note, center Richaun Holmes returned to practice after spending 10 days locked in his room for violating NBA protocol rules in the bubble. Holmes bolsters the Kings’ front line, which has been hit hard by injury and positive coronavirus tests.

“Even though he looks great and getting up and down a little bit, we’re going to take our time and ease him into it,” Walton said of Holmes.

Sacramento's training staff filled Holmes’ room with training equipment, including a punching bag, in an attempt to keep him in the best shape possible.

[RELATED: Kings learning firsthand that no two coronavirus cases are similar]

The plan is to have Holmes fully ready to go by the restart opener on July 31. That might be a more realistic target date for Fox as well.

Sacramento still is awaiting the results of Marvin Bagley’s MRI, although his season is in doubt after injuring his right foot Sunday in practice. Alex Len still is working his way back after 24 consecutive days of testing positive for the coronavirus.

Harrison Barnes, the fourth and final player to test positive for the coronavirus, still is in Sacramento awaiting two consecutive days of negative tests. If and when he is ready to join the team, it will take time to get him back up to speed and in full game shape.

With 10 days remaining before the season restart, there is still a small window for Barnes to recover and make his way back into the lineup, although he is fully at the mercy of the virus. The Kings will hold a spot open for their starting small forward with the hopes that at some point, he will arrive in the bubble.

In the meantime, Walton has no choice but to play the hand he’s dealt. Three of his five starters aren’t currently practicing. There is an opportunity for young players to get some burn in practice, but also for veterans to learn new positions in case of an emergency.

The Kings aren’t the only team facing adversity in the Orlando bubble, but they’ve been hit hard early.

Kings holding spot for Harrison Barnes after positive coronavirus test

Kings holding spot for Harrison Barnes after positive coronavirus test

Lost in limbo.

The coronavirus has impacted almost every one of the 22 NBA teams in Orlando in one way or another. For the Kings, they've had four positives tests, three of which now have cleared protocol and made it to the bubble.

Sacramento still is waiting for Harrison Barnes to return and so far, there is very little information on when that might happen.

This is a difficult situation for coach Luke Walton. He's piecing together practices without a handful of rotational players almost every day. An injury to De'Aaron Fox and a rules violation by Richaun Holmes has added to the Kings' woes in Orlando.

On Friday, Walton was asked how long he will wait to on Barnes or if the team is preparing to bring in another able-bodied free agent to bolster the roster under the new modified NBA rules. The answer from the Kings' head coach was as expected.

[RELATED: Kings' Buddy Hield gets a green light, Jabari Parker still limited]

"That's a conversation I have with Vlade [Divac] all the time and then that's also a conversation that the players need to be involved in, because ultimately, it's also up to them and come out here," Walton said. "As long as Harrison wants to keep pursuing joining the team, we're not going to replace him."

When is too late? It doesn't sound like Walton is putting on a deadline on anything.

"It's one of those things that even if he's not ready for the first game, Harrison means to much to our team that look, we're out here trying to make a playoff push," Walton added. "If we can somehow make that happen and Harrison can join for that part of the bubble, we're not going to give his spot away if that option is available."

Barnes joined the Kings in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks last season and instantly stepped into the starting small forward role. The Kings inked him to a new four-year contract during the summer and the coaching staff loves his versatility and professionalism.

"Harrison allows a lot of freedom as far as us playing different styles of basketball," Walton said. "And everything is on the table coming into this thing. We miss Harrison a lot. We need him back, we want him back, but we can't plan on him being back, just because we don't know."

With Barnes out, the Kings are turning to veteran Kent Bazemore to fill the void in the starting lineup and the late addition of Corey Brewer adds to the depth at the position as well. If Barnes misses major time, Sacramento will have to patch work their way through the eight-game restart and hope for the best.

That will mean more opportunities for players like Bazemore and Brewer, but also Nemanja Bjelica and Marvin Bagley. The next man up mentality never has meant more. The team that can battle through adversity the best has the highest chance of advancing to the playoffs. 

Welcome to the reality of the NBA's Orlando bubble, where even a player like Barnes, who rarely misses a game, is a complete unknown. 

Kings' Luke Walton forced to get creative at center spot in Orlando

Kings' Luke Walton forced to get creative at center spot in Orlando

What do you do when your most versatile position on the floor becomes a weak spot? You have to get creative.

Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton has depth all over the floor, but at the center position, he typically has three very different players, each with his own unique ability.

With Richaun Holmes locked in his room for 10 days for violating bubble rules and Alex Len still in Sacramento in coronavirus protocol, that group is now down to just one player in Harry Giles.

To augment the position, Walton has turned to second-year big man Marvin Bagley for minutes in practice, and on Wednesday the Kings’ coach even asked veteran forward Corey Brewer to help fill the void.

Brewer, who joined the team as a late free-agent signing, is familiar with the players from his time in Sacramento last year. He also played for Walton during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We just felt like everyone had a great comfort level with Corey,” Walton said. “Everything we’ve asked him to do already since he’s been with us -- he has played the three, he has played the four and today when Harry or Marvin needed a sub, we even got him in at some five and he was great.”

It's unlikely that Brewer will ever see actual game time at center, but at least Walton knows that he has additional bodies that can help out in a pinch, especially with so much uncertainty surrounding the NBA's restart.

Bagley began the season as the Kings’ starting power forward, but a broken thumb cost him time, followed by a series of foot issues. He has played in just 13 games this season and Walton has used him primarily at center when healthy.

“We want him to do both, but for right now, with the bodies we’re at, we’re playing him mainly at the five,” Walton said. “When we sit with him and we teach with him, he’s going to be someone we play at both positions. But in the limited time we’ve been here in the bubble, most of his reps have been at the five.”

Holmes will be released from quarantine on July 22, the day the Kings open their scrimmage schedule against the Miami Heat. The Kings have filled his room with workout equipment, but he is inside a much smaller bubble within the Orlando bubble. 

“It’s different with everybody, we’ll see how he looks,” Walton said of whether Holmes can jump right back into the action. “That much time off, he wouldn’t be put right into contact drills, but we’ll see what kind of shape he’s in, how he’s moving and then we’ll make the decision.”

While the center position is at less than full strength, Walton did get Buddy Hield and Jabari Parker back into the mix. Hield went through two-on-two contact drills and made it through roughly 75 percent of practice.

“He looked good, but he hasn’t played basketball in a while and it’s going to take some time,” Walton added. “He’s one of those rare athletes that he can play all day long without getting tired. He’s not back to that level, but because of that, he’ll be back quicker than most people who have been out as long as he has.”

[RELATED: How Kings' rough start could be an advantage in Orlando]

Parker also got on the floor, but isn’t quite as far along as Hield and he has played in only one game since coming to the Kings from the Atlanta Hawks at the trade deadline.

The Kings have plenty to figure out between now and July 31 when they open the eight-game sprint to the finish line against the San Antonio Spurs. This is a fluid situation. Players are going to come and go. The team that can hold it together the longest has the best chance to advance to the playoffs.