Healthy competition is the key phrase of the Sacramento Kings’ 2019-20 training camp. With multiple quality options at every position, the Kings are deep and ready to compete for a playoff spot in the crowded Western Conference.
New additions mean players will fight for minutes in training camp and throughout the preseason. While the competition will be fierce, there are a few players on the roster who will play major minutes when the regular season opens up on Oct. 23.
“It’s exciting, I think that’s what makes a team better, that’s what allows competition to occur,” forward Harrison Barnes recently said to NBC Sports California. “Over the course of the season there is always so much that happens that depth is really one of the most underrated things you can have.”
Barnes might not know the exact number of minutes he’ll play, but he is expected to start at small forward and is a lock for 30-plus minutes per game.
In preparation for the season, Barnes took part in Team USA festivities, including trips to Australia and China for the FIBA World Cup.
“USA is obviously a great honor to play,” Barnes said. “It wasn’t the result we wanted, but I definitely learned a lot -- developing those relationships, being around those coaches. I’m excited to just come into this season ready to go.”
Barnes spent time with both De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley at Team USA camp. He went on to play in the World Cup for the national team, while both of his young Kings teammates opted to stay home.
The veteran forward is coming into training camp in incredible basketball shape after playing until mid-September with Team USA. Kings coach Luke Walton will monitor his minutes, along with Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Bjelica and Cory Joseph, who also spent time playing for their respective countries.
Barnes joined the Kings last season for the final 28 games after a trade from the Dallas Mavericks. He instantly jumped into a starting role with Sacramento, but he welcomes a training camp and preseason schedule that will give him a better opportunity to get comfortable with his teammates.
“It’s good to be able to have this training camp, for a number of reasons,” Barnes said. “One, to develop that chemistry, but two, just to have everyone spend that time together. We’ve all traveled and done a lot of things this summer separately, two or three of us collectively have done some stuff, but having all 17 guys in the gym working towards a collective goal is something we’ve all been anticipating.”
Sacramento has an abbreviated schedule to implement Walton’s game plan. They started with a three-day camp, but the team boarded a plane for India on Monday evening where they’ll spend nearly a week visiting owner Vivek Ranadivé’s homeland, as well as playing two preseason games against the Indiana Pacers.
“For us, more mentally than physically, we have to be keen on what we’re learning,” Barnes said. “We’re not going to have the practice time that other people might have. We aren’t going to have the experience that other teams might have of being together, but mentally, if we can lock into things that we need to lock into, I think that’s going to be what prepares us the most.”
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Barnes has a leg up on most of his teammates. He spent time with Walton when the two were members of the Golden State Warriors during the 2015-16 season. Walton led the team to a 39-4 record filling in for head coach Steve Kerr. Barnes started 59 games that season for the 73-win Warriors.
“The biggest thing with Luke is you need to be ready to read and react and pick things up on the fly,” Barnes said. “I think he’s done a good job, kind of taking guys to the side, talking with them, giving them a feel for what they prefer -- what things they don’t like, what things they want to do differently.”
The Kings invested heavily in Barnes over the summer when they signed him to a four-year, $85 million contract. Walton will use him at both forward positions and will rely on the 27-year-old to be a coach and leader on the floor.