With training camp underway and the first preseason game set to be played in less than a week, the unofficial start of the NBA season is upon us. A different kind of optimism was in the air throughout media day, both from Sacramento Kings’ brass and players.
As the date for the regular season tip-off draws closer, here are a few storylines from Monday’s interviews that will follow the team throughout the season:
Marvin Bagley III and Buddy Hield are here to stay ... for now
This might have come as a surprise more to Bagley and Hield than to fans as their names were thrown around in just about every trade the Kings were rumored in this summer. It seemed that at the end of last season, Bagley had played his final game in a Kings uniform, but after a summer of front office who-knows-what, Bagley remains a member of Sacramento’s squad.
“What’s important now is [Bagley’s] got a Kings jersey on and he’s part of this group and what is most important about all of that is the group,” Luke Walton said to reporters on Monday.
For Bagley, being on the Kings is “God’s plan.” In fact, his excitement level to be in Sacramento seems higher than ever.
“My only thing is to continue to give everything I’ve got to this team as long as I’m here.” Bagley said.
That “as long as I’m here” is what will be interesting to see as the season progresses.
Hield’s case is a bit different. He was everything but inked as a Los Angeles Laker the afternoon of Draft Night, just minutes from joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis before the blockbuster trade from the Washington Wizards sending Russell Westbrook to La La Land instead.
When asked about almost wearing the purple and gold, Hield was interrupted by new teammate Tristan Thompson in a funny scrum, as if to say “next question.”
Bagley and Hield’s time in a Kings uniform is pretty up in the air at this point. Both Walton and Monte McNair have made it clear that this is the roster we’re heading into the season with, so the binoculars will be out come trade deadline (or another chapter in the Ben Simmons saga) where these two end up.
Walton will play the three-guard lineup in Fox-Mitchell-Haliburton
In what capacity, for how long and when this will transpire is unknown. Walton made a point to inform the media that various lineups will be flying: from a more veteran savvy Terence Davis-Moe Harkless-Alex Len rotation, to the three guards Kings fans have been excited to see take the floor together.
“Part of the fun is watching them go at each other and part of the fun is watching them play side-by-side,” Walton said.
On a guard-heavy, wing-starved roster one thing is certain amongst the team: defense is a must.
As Fox told reporters last week, it’s an essential upgrade to his arsenal. Walton also added that for the entire team — it’s a ‘“priority.”
With the addition of seven centers and the defensive chops of Davion Mitchell, Sacramento should see an upswing in their gamesmanship on that end of the floor.
Ending the playoff drought is on everyone’s mind
It’s been talked about at nauseam, but the Kings’ postseason absence the last decade and a half top of mind for everyone. Hield didn’t hold back about aspirations to reach that milestone.
“If you don’t want to play in the postseason I don’t know why you’re playing,” Hield told reporters. “I don’t wanna play regular season basketball for the rest of my life in the NBA.”
Fox shared the same sentiment, stating that he wants to get Sacramento “back to where they were.”
Playing competitive basketball this season is imperative. Making the play-in is realistic for this team. After fifteen years of ending the season bright and early - I’ll happily take that.
Vaccination status of the team wasn’t entirely disclosed
Covid-19 will continue to cast its shadow over society, and the sports landscape at large. Though each person’s time at the podium was drama-free in terms of stating opinions on public health, nobody would completely disclose who was and was not vaccinated.
Walton did, however, confirm that every member of the coaching staff was compliant, however left it up to the players to share their personal vaccination status.
“At the end of the day it’s going to be the individual player’s choice...we respect what the players choose and what their opinions are,” Walton said.
Haliburton confirmed he is indeed vaccinated, but no other players were candid.
In the neighboring market of Golden State things will change come October 13th, when non-vaccinated players will not be allowed to play in their own home games. Should Sacramento adopt a similar mandate, this will be an interesting storyline to follow.
Bunsen burners are lit, this team has some serious chemistry
All-in-all, it just looked like a good vibe from Golden 1 Center. Kings digital caught some goofy antics, like Haliburton and Robert Woodard II helping Chimezie Metu with what brands he’d like to sponsor him this season. (Hint: he really wants that Costco promo).
A delightful game of “Pass the Phone” revealed Harrison Barnes keeps it old-school with his NBA fashion and Mitchell clowns Fox’s gaming skills.
Fox dished is right back, as he was heard in the distance of Hali’s interview talking about his long-gone calling as a Kings 2K team member.
This is going to be a team full of guys who are easy to root for, and with a new season comes new hope for a season of winning basketball. I would deem media day in the 916 to be a success, with heavy anticipation for the preseason next week.