Marvin Bagley

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Six players to watch during NBA’s restart

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NBA teams recognize that bench strength will likely be more of a factor than usual during this pandemic-delayed title chase in which a positive coronavirus test could sideline an elite player at any moment.

“Depth is going to be at a premium for everyone,” New Orleans Pelicans general manager David Griffin said.

The good news for teams is that league officials said last week that 346 players had been tested on the NBA campus since the last coronavirus results were announced July 13, with no positives. But the reality they also recognize is how a positive test could impact a team’s roster.

Notable players to test positive for the coronavirus before teams left for Disney’s Wide World of Sports include Houston’s Russell Westbrook, Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes and Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe, though all of them have since cleared protocols to return to Florida. Washington’s Bradley Beal heads the list of players who have opted out of participating in the restart.

The Brooklyn Nets won’t have Wilson Chandler, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Taurean Prince for the restart and already were without injured stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

And that doesn’t even account for basketball-related setbacks such as the foot injury Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley sustained in practice to knock him out of the restart.

Because of the more than four-month break between regular-season games, teams are likely to give their starters limited minutes, particularly in the early going.

The increased risk of losing players for an extended period at any time also will require teams to prepare backup plans.

“If you’ve been in the league a long time, you’ve had to deal with one injury, two injuries, three injuries, and the timing of it can be not the best,” Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “You have to find a way to continue to persevere ad work and get better and find ways to advance if it’s the playoffs. We’re in a bubble. It’s unique. It’s different. But there are things that all of us have had to deal with if you’ve been in long playoff runs for a long time.”

Here’s a look at some players who might not be on fans’ radars but could play bigger roles during the restart:

Troy Brown Jr., WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Brown already was averaging 24.9 minutes before the hiatus, but he could turn into even more of a featured performer during the restart with the Wizards missing Beal and Davis Bertans. The 6-foot-6 forward from Oregon has 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Alex Caruso, LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Notes: Caruso was averaging 5.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 17.8 minutes when the hiatus began. With Avery Bradley opting out of the restart and Rajon Rondo breaking his thumb in practice this month, the 6-foot-5 Caruso should have a greater role in the Lakers’ bench during the restart. The Lakers announced July 13 that Rondo would miss six to eight weeks.

LU DORT, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

The rookie from Arizona State has thrived this season with 6.2 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. Oklahoma City has a 16-5 record in games that Dort has started. Although the potential return of Andre Roberson from a ruptured patellar tendon that has kept him out 2 + years could complicate Dort’s situation, Dennis Schroder expects to leave the bubble temporarily at some point with his wife due to give birth. Dort figures to get more minutes in Schroder’s absence.

George Hill, MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Hill was shooting 48% from 3-point range – well above his career average of 38.5% and light years better than his 2018-19 average of 28% – before the stoppage in play. The 34-year-old guard as well as teammate Donte DiVincenzo could be even bigger factors in the early part of the restart since Bucks teammates Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton have tested positive for coronavirus, though both are now in Florida.

Tyler Johnson, BROOKLYN NETS

Although he just signed with the Nets a month ago, Johnson could have a featured role because of all the players his new team is missing. The 6-foot-4 guard had played in 31 games for Phoenix this season and averaged 5.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 16.6 minutes before getting waived in February. He posted double-figure scoring averages three straight seasons from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

Gary Trent Jr., PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Trent showed flashes of his potential in the month prior to the pandemic, as he scored 22 against Miami on Feb. 9, 20 against Indiana on Feb. 27 and 24 against Orlando on March 2. The 6-5 guard has averaged 7.7 points and 20 minutes but likely will get more playing time now that teammate Trevor Ariza has opted out of the restart.

Kings’ Marvin Bagley out for NBA restart with lateral right foot sprain

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Sacramento hoped to use the NBA restart in Orlando to get two of their young cornerstones quality time on the court together. No such luck. First De’Aaron Fox went out with a sprained ankle and is not practicing with the team (but could return for the seeding games).

Now comes the word from the Kings big man Marvin Bagley out for NBA restart with a lateral right foot sprain.

Bagley had an MRI a couple of days ago, after injuring it on Sunday. Coach Luke Walton said Bagley’s latest injury occurred when he went up to get a rebound and landed on another players’ foot.

Bagley played just 13 games for the Kings this season due to a left foot sprain and a thumb injury.

Sacramento has had tough luck keeping players healthy and on the court for the restart. Four players tested positive for the coronavirus — Buddy Hield, Jabari Parker, Alex Len, and Harrison Barnes — and Barnes is still in quarantine and has yet to join the team. Richaun Holmes was just released from in a 10-day quarantine after accidentally leaving the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus to meet a food delivery person. Then came Fox’s ankle and Bagley’s foot.

Expect this to mean more run for Harry Giles, a center who has shown flashes of potential and is heading into free agency this offseason.

Kings’ Richaun Holmes quarantined after leaving NBA bubble for food delivery

Kings center Richaun Holmes
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Coronavirus cases are surging in Florida. The NBA’s bubble is in Florida.

Is that a problem?

Theoretically, the bubble location shouldn’t matter. The NBA’s setup at Disney World is designed for players never to come into too close of contact with the surrounding community. So, it wouldn’t matter how prevalent coronavirus is in the surrounding community.

Unless someone violates the protocols.

Which nobody eeeeever expected would happen.

Kings center Richaun Holmes:

Presumably, Holmes – like Rockets forward Bruno Caboclo – faces a 10-day quarantine

That’s the way to ensure Holmes didn’t contract coronavirus from the deliverer. Holmes would almost certainly test positive and/or show symptoms within 10 days if he has coronavirus. A player spreading coronavirus within the bubble is the ultimate fear for the NBA.

Unlike some other players, Holmes even vouched for the quality of food brought to his room. Yet, he still wanted outside delivery.

Maybe there’s a safe way to get it. The deliverer – away from people – could set the food down at the edge of the campus then retreat at least six feet. At that point, Holmes could go pick it up.

But without those precautions, Holmes put himself – and therefore everyone else in the bubble – at too great of a risk. Hence, the lengthy quarantine.

Holmes has been essential to Sacramento’s turnaround. Yes, Marvin Bagley III should be healthier. But the energetic Holmes is the Kings’ most dependable center.

To make the playoffs, they’ll need him following the rules and allowed outside his room.

De’Aaron Fox on Kings: ‘I see myself being here. I want to be here.’

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The NBA restart in Orlando — however long it lasts for the Kings — will be the end of the third season for De'Aaron Fox, which means its time to talk about him getting paid.

Except nobody is talking about that because we are all trying to adjust to his new hairstyle:

However, we should be talking payday. The end of his third season makes eligible for a contract rookie extension this offseason — which always brings up talk of “does this player want to stay?” The Kings have yet to make the playoffs in his tenure, and are a longshot to end that playoff drought in Orlando.

Fox has been clear: He wants to stay and build something with the Kings. The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the season does not change that, he said during a media conference call this week (via James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It’s all the same, it’s all the same, I don’t think there’s much to say about that,” Fox said. “I see myself being here. I want to be here. Obviously, you know we want to win and right now, I think last year, we put ourselves in a good position. This year, we’re sort of in the same position to still make the playoffs. So that’s what we all want and then continue to take the next step forward.”

The Kings see him as a franchise cornerstone. Fox is not going to turn down a max — and he expects the 25% of the cap max — rookie contract extension. He’s going to grab the bag. Expect a deal to get done.

The questions Sacramento should ask: Is Fox the point guard they want to build around? If so, are they building out a roster that maximizes his talents?

Fox averaged 20.4 points and 6.8 assists a game for the Kings this past season playing at a near All-Star level. The Kings’ offense was +5.2 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court. However, Fox is not a great defender, and he took a step back and shot 30.7% from three this season. He doesn’t space the floor, what he does do is attack the rim — 59.4% of his shot attempts came within 10 feet of the rim. He is a blur in transition and finished 63% of his shots at the rim, so this works for him.

Fox’s attacking style fits well with Buddy Hield at the two, but how it will mesh with Harrison Barnes and Marvin Bagley III (who missed a lot of time due to injury this season) are the bigger questions. Do they all fit in Luke Walton’s slower offensive system? How the whole plan comes together in Sacramento remains to be seen.

But whatever it becomes, Fox wants to be part of it.

Kings forward Jabari Parker tests positive for coronavirus

Jabari Parker coronavirus
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As the NBA ramps up coronavirus testing in advance of resuming at Disney World, players – who, like everyone, live in a world plagued by coronavirus – are predictably testing positive. So far:

Now, Kings forward Jabari Parker.

James Ham of NBC Sports California:

It’s good Parker’s COVID-19 was detected. Hopefully, he recovers quickly enough – and without long-terms complications – to join Sacramento in Disney World, as he desires. That he finds that goal realistic is a positive indicator of his current condition.

Parker, who holds a $6.5 million player option for next season, has at least some contractual security.

The Kings enter the resumption as playoffs longshots. This explains why they signed Corey Brewer. Parker more power forward/small forward, and Brewer is more small forward/shooting guard. But if Marvin Bagley III is healthy, Sacramento will have another option at power forward, anyway.