In a packed gym full of spectators without masks, Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield lit it up in a pick-up basketball game last month. And then he had to sit out the beginning of the Kings training camp in Orlando, Florida while he recovered from the coronavirus.
Hield is one of four Kings players to test positive, along with Jabari Parker, Alex Len and Harrison Barnes — who announced his test results on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters on a video conference call following his first practice with the Kings after clearing quarantine, Hield was asked if he had any regrets about how he handled the NBA hiatus.
“I wouldn’t do nothing differently,” Hield said Tuesday. “I don’t think I got it playing basketball because a lot of guys I was playing with, none of them got it.”
The University of Oklahoma alum dropped 45 points in the Skinz League in Edmond, Oklahoma, in June — a league that also had Atlanta Hawks star, and fellow Sooner, Trae Young drop by to play while the NBA was shutdown — drawing attention around the league for what was seen as a brazen decision.
Hield tested positive for COVID-19 weeks later and had to travel to Orlando separate from his team while he completed a league-mandated recovery protocol. The fourth-year guard admitted he should have paid more attention to his surroundings, been vigilant about washing his hands, refrained from touching his face and wore a mask, but he also said that the virus only caused him “a little head cold” and “chills one night.”
His greater concern, he said, was for his friends, family and loved ones who were around him after he caught it.
“The Covid reacts to everybody differently,” he said.
Barnes announced that he tested positive for COVID-19 in a tweet Tuesday, saying he is “primarily asymptomatic and am doing well.”
“I’m quarantined and am abiding by the safety protocol until I’m cleared for action,” the tweet continued. “I hope to join my team in Orlando when it is safe to do so! Stay safe out there.”
Kings coach Luke Walton revealed last week that a fourth member of Sacramento’s 36-person traveling party did not initially join the team in Orlando, but did not identify Barnes. Barnes, like Len, is currently in Sacramento, a league source told ESPN. Parker rejoined the team along with Hield on Tuesday.
“We have to prepare as if we’re not going to have either one of those guys,” Walton said Tuesday. “And that’s just getting ready for what worst-case scenario would be. And there’s a reality that might be it. So our mindset is we prep that we’re not going to have them with us and we’re hopeful that they rejoin us.”
Per NBA guidelines, two weeks after a player tests positive, he is given a cardiac screening. At the point of the cardiac screening, a team has seven days to determine if the player will rejoin the team or they will opt to sign a replacement player in his spot.
It’s been an uneasy beginning to life in the bubble for the Kings. Over the weekend center Richaun Holmes inadvertently broke the perimeter of the NBA campus in order to pick up a food delivery. The infraction, which Walton said was discovered by a league official and reported to the team, forced Holmes to have to restart his quarantine for an additional 10 days before he can return to practice.
While Walton said Holmes’ mistake was “learned the hard way,” he said the NBA’s sprawling campus at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is not as intuitive as one might expect.
“It’s a little challenging in the bubble. The borders are a little everywhere,” Walton said. “I almost walked out the first day I was here [accidentally].”
Hield, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, said he wasn’t sure if the bubble could contain him. “I’ve been trying to find ways to get out,” Hield said with a smile. “I want to do something like chop open a tunnel under the hotel so I can sneak my ass out of here.”
Holmes, who had exercise equipment delivered to his room while he finishes up the re-upped quarantine over the next week, struck a different tone. “I apologize for my actions and look forward to rejoining my teammates for our playoff push,” he tweeted Monday.