There was nothing but doom and gloom from the Kings earlier in the week. Harrison Barnes still hadn’t cleared protocol, Marvin Bagley was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a foot injury and De’Aaron Fox was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Coach Luke Walton’s crew isn’t going to get Bagley back on the court, but the news with the rest of the team is encouraging. Friday morning Walton announced that Barnes has cleared two consecutive coronavirus tests and is on a cross-country flight to Orlando to enter Stage Two of the NBA’s protocol. There is legitimate hope that he will be able to rejoin the team in time for the restart of the regular season on July 31.
The news was equally good for Fox. The Kings’ starting point guard rolled his ankle last week in practice, putting his season in doubt. He began working non-contact drills earlier in the week and on Friday morning, he was able to make it through a practice.
“De’Aaron practiced today, full practice, full go,” Walton said. “He looked good. We’ll see how he feels later on tonight and again tomorrow morning.”
Fox plans to play in at least one of the Kings’ two remaining scrimmages and hasn’t been ruled out for Saturday morning’s matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s extremely confident that he’ll be ready for the opener.
While putting Fox out on the court during a scrimmage is a risk, he hasn’t played 5-on-5 against an opposing team for four and a half months. There is value in the competition and Fox is looking forward to the opportunity to test his injured ankle.
“I feel like I’m ready,” Fox said. “I need one of the scrimmages to see where I am as far as an NBA game and being able to make adjustments before the Spurs game.”
Before the injury, there was a buzz around the Kings’ facility regarding Fox. He was in tremendous shape and his confidence level was at an all-time high.
“I think the game is continuing to slow down for myself,” Fox said. “Obviously, I continue to get stronger, I’m shooting the ball and just seeing the game better in general. I think I definitely attribute that to experience [which] plays a big part in it. I feel the game is slowing down both ways – being able to score the ball and defend and get guys the ball.”
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Fox and Barnes are huge pieces to the Kings’ rotation, but they aren’t the only two on the mend.
After being in lockdown in his room for 10 days, the Kings are taking it slow with center Richaun Holmes. He played two-on-two before practice on Friday, but did not participate in full contact once the practice began. That likely rules him out of the Kings’ scrimmage on Saturday morning, but he’s getting close to a green light and should be ready for the Game 1.
7-footer Alex Len is even further away from playing than Holmes, but he’s working his way back after 24 consecutive positive coronavirus tests. He played one-on-one but did not face contact in the regular session.
[RELATED: Barnes clears NBA protocol, heads to Orlando bubble]
The Kings seem to be getting healthy at the right moment. With a week to go before they open the season against the San Antonio Spurs, there is potential for the team to get three starters back on the court and a solid rotational piece in Len. Considering where the team was earlier in the week, this is all positive news.
“I think we’re getting right at the right time,” Fox said. “We’ll have most of the guys, obviously Marvin isn’t playing, but other guys have to step up and I think we’ve been doing that kind of stuff all year. This is probably the most guys we’ve had ready for a long time. We’re confident and we’re ready to go.”
Sacramento will have eight games to battle for position in the standings once the season restarts. While losing Bagley hurts, they aren’t the only club missing pieces in the restart. If they can stay healthy from here on out and hit the ground running with Fox leading the way, they have a shot of ending their 13-year playoff drought.
De’Aaron Fox returns to practice as Kings get healthy at right time originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area