|Spurs, Kings begin seeding games with clear goal|
The Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs reboot their final run toward the NBA playoffs when they square off Friday at the Visa Athletic Center near Orlando, Fla., in the two teams' first official game since the stoppage for COVID-19 on March 11.
Twenty-two teams (13 of them in the Western Conference) will return to play during the 2019-20 season restart. The teams consist of the 16 (eight per conference) already in playoff position and the six teams, five of them from the West, that are within six games of the eighth seed in their respective conferences.
The teams will play an eight-game schedule at the NBA "bubble" in the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World.
From these, the top seven teams in each conference will advance, with the final eighth seed in each conference being determined by a potential play-in tournament before the traditional 16-team playoffs.
The Spurs hit the reboot with a record of 27-36, the second-worst record of the Western Conference teams here. San Antonio's initial goal is to win games and climb over Portland, New Orleans and Sacramento into ninth place and to within four games of Memphis to force a play-in for the eighth, and final, playoff spot.
The Spurs will have a pretty good idea right away of their chances, with the first two "seeding" games against Sacramento, which is a half-game ahead of San Antonio, and Memphis.
"We are not here for no reason," Spurs' leading scorer DeMar DeRozan told the San Antonio Express-News. "Despite whatever the odds, whatever the percentages may be, we can't feed into that. We just have to go out there and compete.
"For us, it's exciting to be in this position to go out there and compete and give ourselves a second chance throughout this chaos that's been going on and see what we can do," DeRozan said.
The Spurs are shorthanded in their attempt to secure a 23rd straight playoff spot. Center LaMarcus Aldridge, a seven-time All-Star, is not with the team after having shoulder surgery in April, and center Trey Lyles had an appendectomy two weeks ago and was sent home.
Sacramento's goals are similar to the Spurs' - win and climb high enough in the standings to get into a play-in with the Grizzlies. The Kings begin play Friday at 28-36, and seek their first trip to the postseason in 14 seasons.
The Kings are one of the deepest and most versatile teams in the bubble. With conditioning a league-wide issue heading into this unique stretch, Sacramento could have an advantage, especially if it can get off to a quick start.
"It's a new season in the sense that we have eight games to try and get ourselves into that playoff spot," Kings coach Luke Walton said. "We're going to go (with) whoever is playing at the highest level."
Sacramento will be without power forward Marvin Bagley III for the rest of the season after he sprained his right foot in practice on July 20.
"We're getting right at the right time," Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox said. "This is probably the most guys we've had ready for a long time. We're confident and we're ready to go."
The two teams have split the season series so far, but Sacramento is 4-1 against San Antonio over the last two seasons.
--Field Level Media