Two of the four missing members of the Kings’ travel party are expected to join the team in Orlando soon after clearing COVID-19 protocols, including sharpshooter Buddy Hield.
Kings coach Luke Walton offered an update on the situation in a Zoom call with reporters following Saturday’s practice at Walt Disney World Resort. Walton previously said four members of the team’s 35-person travel party were prevented from traveling to Orlando due to COVID-19 protocols. Walton declined to name those individuals, but Hield, Alex Len, Jabari Parker and a fourth unidentified member of the organization all tested positive for COVID-19.
“We’re going to continue to respect the privacy of the travel party as far as who’s not with us,” Walton said. “I can tell you that two of the people that did not travel with us have had back-to-back negative tests now, so they will be joining us in Orlando soon.”
Hield provided an update of his own, telling The Sacramento Bee he planned to travel to Orlando “soon.”
The fourth missing member of the team’s travel party remains a bit of a mystery. The team has not indicated if it is a player, coach or staff member, but other than Hield, Len and Parker, Harrison Barnes is the only Kings player who hasn’t been seen in photos, videos or social media posts from Orlando.
Hield and Len are both believed to have tested positive on June 22, the first day NBA teams conducted mandatory testing after players returned to home markets. Parker said he tested positive several days earlier in Chicago. The Kings closed their practice facility after reporting the fourth positive test July 5.
Under the NBA’s health and safety guidelines, any player who tests positive must quarantine and produce two negative tests results before receiving medical clearance to make the trip to Florida. Protocols also require players who test positive to refrain from exercise training for a period of two weeks from the date of the first positive test or the resolution of viral symptoms, whichever date is later. Under those guidelines, any player who tests positive will be out a minimum of 14 days before he can participate in practices or games.
Hield is the team’s second-leading scorer and one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in the NBA. He is averaging 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point range.
Barnes is the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 14.7 points per game. His ability to toggle between small forward and power forward is critical to Walton’s plan to deploy small-ball lineups.
Len was establishing a role as a defensive enforcer following a midseason trade. Parker appeared in only one game for the Kings before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he could provide quality depth in an unpredictable bubble environment.
Walton said teams participating in the return of NBA play must be prepared to practice and compete in the absence of key players.
“That’s part of the things that all the teams are going through right now because with this is so much unknown,” Walton said. “There could be a week. There could be — hey, someone doesn’t come at all. That’s just the reality of what it is, so I’m very open to our team about that.
“We’re trying to create the mindset that we’re going to embrace all of it. We know it’s going to be crazy. People are going to join us. Maybe they won’t. Maybe people who are here test positive at some point, and every team has to go through this, so we’ve got to be ready to accept what our roles are. Our roles are going to change as this thing goes, and the teams that do that most efficiently are going to give themselves the best advantage.“