Preview: Andrew Wiggins joins Poole in Covid protocols, will miss game along with six Kings players
The show must go on? NBA changes the rules, adds more roster spots
Andrew Wiggins has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He’ll join Jordan Poole — as well as six Sacramento Kings players — to ensure that the Golden State Warriors will play their second consecutive funky game. It’s a reality that all too many people around the globe have had to embrace, but in the NBA, the show must go on.
So in that spirit, the team will turn its attention towards development. With Klay Thompson not ready, and both Poole and Wiggins out for an unknown duration, it’s time for the Warriors to look at the far end of the bench and start handing out opportunities.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (24-6) vs. Sacramento Kings (13-18)
WHEN: Monday, December 20, 2021 // 7:00pm PDT
Blog Buddy: Kings Herald
Some rules changes as the NBA claws to maintain schedule
Cynical viewpoint or not, the reality is that the NBA is working as hard as it possibly can to keep some semblance of safety margins while running their business. A business that just so happens to include a whole lot of air travel, and close contact with large groups of strangers that are living the same jet-setting lifestyle.
In an attempt to balance this against the undeniable surge of players either infected with Covid or captured by the league’s stringent contact tracing and quarantine policies, the NBA is pushing through some rule changes.
New roster spot availability (some now mandatory), and a removal of game count limits on two-way contracts:
Since both Poole and Wiggins are out, Golden State is now required under this new rule to bring in another player. Thankfully, both missing Warriors are vaccinated, but they’ll still need two clear tests that are at 24 hours apart before they can return to action soon.
For the mandatory backup player, the Warriors have some options in the G League, or could retread the tires on someone like Glenn Robinson or Marquese Chriss.
The Kings are missing six players and their head coach, also due to health and safety protocols. And no, it’s not just you, these cases are ballooning in the NBA right now.
Turns out, jetting all over the country and playing maskless basketball against a group of strangers is risky behavior in a global pandemic. Because the Kings are so ravaged by Corona, barring a roster change, they’ll be required to sign three replacement players ahead of today’s game. I get that this is the league’s way of avoiding scheduling delays that would quickly spiral into a mess, but this situation really feels untenable. Of course, we’ve all been saying that for like two years now.
What can you do but keep going, and try to squeeze some enjoyment out of the world.
Time to develop!
Ok, forget about all that and shift focus to this game. The Sacramento Kings always seem to play the Warriors tough, and though short-handed, the Kings just beat the San Antonio Spurs. So this is still going to be a challenge tonight.
In the one game that the Warriors have played without Poole or Wiggins, they decided to start Chris Chiozza — something that will be fairly shocking were it to repeat. I looked up the rotation chart to see who else was in during that game, and I see a lot more Juan Toscano-Anderson. You can see the image larger (or play around with the on-off here):
After his 26 point (on 15 shots!) showing in the first start of his career, Jonathan Kuminga should see plenty of action. The Warriors have gotten off to a strong start by leaning heavily on their veteran players, but without the playmaking of Poole, or the defense of Wiggins, Kuminga seems as good of a place to turn for answers as any.
After the previous game, coach Steve Kerr offered up plenty of praise for Kuminga, but the part I want to draw your attention to now is the shooting. Monte Poole summed it up pretty well, so pardon the large block quote here:
… the early book on Kuminga was similar to that of Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo when he entered the NBA in 2014.
“He’s going to need to make some shots, some 3s, to be able to build an offensive game,” Kerr said. “So much of a young player’s development is figuring out, ‘What am I in this league? What position do I play? What’s my game?’ In today’s game, to be a top-level player, almost without exception, you have to be able to knock down perimeter shots. For him, that’s going to be the case.
“I want him shooting 3s. I want him shooting open 3s. But I want him to recognize when to shoot, when to drive and when to pass. Those are things that sound simple, but it’s not simple.”
Kuminga was 4 for 6 from deep.
One of the most intrinsic values in high draft prospects is tied to the chance that these young men can turn into a better basketball version of themselves. With the Warriors “win and develop” plan, they’re banking on these players getting enough run time around the fringes of the main team. With a strong position in the standings, a weird time for the league as a whole, and a roster missing a couple of key cogs, this is a perfect time to experiment and give the rookie more time on the court.
He’s earned it.
The Kings aren’t going to be pushover tonight. Harrison Barnes continues to have an impressive season, Moe Harkless is leaning back into his defensive roots, and Tyrese Halliburton looked great taking over the lead duties now that De’Aaron Fox is on the shelf. He posted a double-double in the first half and then finished with 11 assist, 27 points and 4 rebounds. Add a couple of sharpshooters in Buddy Hield and Damian Jones and you’ve got yourself a ball game.
Check out the trio’s line from their last game:
Buddy Hield hit 7 of 9 3-pointers and led all scorers with a season-high 29 points. Tyrese Haliburton had a double-double with 27 points and a career-high-tying 11 assists, and Damian Jones scored a career-high 23 points to give acting coach Doug Christie his second victory in three games.
That said, Curry and Green will be back, and if the Warriors play their game right should have little trouble putting away this version of the Kings.