The Sacramento Kings had arguably the toughest scrimmage schedule of any team and have had to go through the first two contests without key players on their roster. The going doesn’t get any easier in the final game of the exhibition phase, as the Kings take on their division rivals, the L.A. Clippers, who are 2-0 thus far in Orlando.
The Clippers are also without several key players, but they still have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. That combination led the Clippers to their lone win over the Kings this season in December. Meanwhile, in the two games when L.A. had only one of its star wing duo — both at Staples Center — Sacramento came away with the win.
Where: The Arena, Orlando, Florida
When: 1 p.m. PT
How to watch: Kings.com
Kings: Marvin Bagley III, Alex Len — OUT
Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac — OUT
According to head coach Luke Walton, however, the Kings have enough to sort through in their own house without worrying about the Clippers. In an ideal situation, they could use this last scrimmage as a run-through of sorts for the seeding games. However, given the amount of personnel they are working back into the lineup, this matchup has to serve another purpose.
“If we had kind of a normal training camp, I would treat tomorrow’s game as a dress rehearsal, and we will with certain aspects of it,” Walton said Sunday. “But, you know, with De’Aaron [Fox] coming back from his ankle, obviously Harrison [Barnes] just getting here, maybe playing a little bit, maybe not. We’ll get Richaun [Holmes] out there again tomorrow, so there’s just too many pieces to say that we’re going to treat it like a real game. But we are going to continue to push certain players minutes higher than they’ve been the first two scrimmages.”
Holmes’ return will help to clarify the frontcourt rotation, as Nemanja Bjelica has been stretched to play backup center minutes and Corey Brewer has been playing out of position at power forward. It will also reduce Harry Giles’ minutes load, because though Giles has had utility as an offensive hub, his rim protection pales in comparison to that of Holmes.
Barnes’ return may crowd a suddenly thriving Kings wing rotation. In his absence, Kent Bazemore has shown out as the starting small forward. Bazemore has scored 27 points and pulled down a team-leading 12 rebounds over the first two games, which unfortunately is as much of an indictment of Sacramento’s frontcourt as it is praise for Bazemore. He has been aggressive attacking the rim and playing the passing lanes as well.
Bazemore told the media postgame Saturday that he feels his legs are starting to come back. About a week ago, he said he got blocked by Bjelica during practice at the basket, but vowed to be finishing through contact in ten days, and he met or potentially exceeded that timeline with his powerful dunk against Milwaukee.
The Kings have also seen quality wing minutes from DaQuan Jeffries, who is the team’s fourth-leading scorer in Orlando with 22 points. Jeffries has optimized his athleticism in the best ways by throwing down hammer dunks and meeting opponents at the basket. His play has been a bright spot for Sacramento, and he has made his case for a spot in the rotation.
DaQuan Jeffries with the putback slam pic.twitter.com/bgaBote285— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) July 25, 2020
“He’s been impressive, and he’s doing everything we’re asking of him,” Walton said about Jeffries. “What I’m impressed with about DaQuan is it’s the little things, it’s the switching on defense, the two verticals at the rim he had yesterday, rebounding. Those little things that are important for role guys to do, he’s really embraced that, so we’ll see what it looks like. Obviously when Harrison’s back, Harrison’s our number one at that spot, and Baze is, you know, Baze is right there, too. So DaQuan’s doing everything he can, and then it’s my call to make the minutes decisions.”
Too many wings is never a bad problem, especially against a team replete with star perimeter players like the Clippers. Hopefully, Bazemore and Jeffries can build on their strong play thus far, and the return of Barnes and Holmes provides the extra push the Kings need to turn their fortunes before the restart begins in earnest.
Notes and updates:
- Walton said that Holmes will start in today’s scrimmage, but is on a minutes restriction.
- Barnes will play, also on a minutes restriction, and will come off the bench behind Bazemore.