Not every team in the NBA bubble is 100 percent focused on the eight-game seeding tournament. In fact, there are many motivations for those eight games.
For a team like the Washington Wizards, who enter the week without Bradley Beal, John Wall and Davis Bertans, it's about surviving the experiment. They have flown to the Orlando bubble with very little opportunity to make the playoffs and their focus likely will be on developing young players and doing right by the NBA.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, whose sights are set on an NBA championship, not eight meaningless build-up games, the focus is different. Sure, they want to find a rhythm, but the first two rounds of the playoffs will provide that opportunity. They need to make it through eight games without an injury to one of their stars and they likely will play accordingly.
And then there is a group of playoff hopeful teams. The Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento are ready for a fight. They have zero margin for error as they battle it out for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Are the Kings ready for that challenge? That is the million dollar question.
"It's an eight-game tournament and we want all that smoke," Buddy Hield said earlier this week. "We're going to go out there and compete and try and win this tournament."
Hield isn't alone in his thinking. The Kings appear laser focused on the prize, which is snapping the franchise's 13-year playoff drought.
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"Our goal is to make the playoffs, that's what we're here for," De'Aaron Fox told NBC Sports California. "We're not here just to give teams a tuneup for their little playoff runs or anything like that."
"We're coming out here and obviously in that very first game trying to make a statement, just to show that we belong here and we have a shot, just like everyone else, to make the playoffs," Fox added.
With games every other day, the Kings have to stay focused on the task at hand. They have eight games to prove that they are worthy of either taking the eighth seed or at least finishing in ninth place with an opportunity to take part in a play-in game.
Sacramento has had some hiccups getting the roster healthy and in the bubble together, but the team walks into the seeding tournament with about as healthy of a group as they've had all season long.
"We've been through a lot this season," coach Luke Walton said. "We've been through a lot of injuries, we've been through getting off to a really slow start. We've been through different lineups. We kind of came through all of that before the stoppage of play and really found a nice groove as a team. When you go through difficult things as a group, you start to become battle tested."
Before the shutdown, the Kings were in a good place. They had won 13 of their previous 20 games and they had some momentum. After a four-month break, they've come back together and appear ready to prove they belong.
"We should all be motivated for this, it's quite a unique chance to play in this bubble," Bogdan Bogdanovic said. "It's going to be hard for everyone else, but the most mentally-ready team and physically, will at the end win."
The Kings have been working closely together on the court. They've also spent a lot of time together in the bubble, fishing, playing golf and even bowling. It's a tight-knit group, which is extremely important in a situation like this.
"We've spent a lot of time together over the last couple of weeks and I love the work we've gotten in and I love the group we have," Walton said. "Now it's time to get out there on the court. The pressure is going to be a little different tomorrow."
The Kings have a small group of players in Harrison Barnes, Kent Bazemore, Cory Joseph and Corey Brewer who have real playoff experience. And then they have another group of younger guys who have never been within reach of a postseason berth with eight games remaining on the schedule.
To add to the complexity of the situation, the NBA's bubble is a unique experience. The Kings, like every team in attendance, will have to adjust to having no fans in the building. They are playing for a hungry group 3,000 miles away, but during the game, they will have to make their own fire.
"We have to go in with an all-time high confidence," Hield said. "We have to bring our own energy and that comes from loving each other and communicating with each other and understanding us."
The Kings sound like they are ready for the challenge ahead. They've struggled to prove that in the past, but this team seems different. They are deep at every position and if they play with pace, there are very few teams that can keep up with them.
Beginning on Friday, they'll have an opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong. They'll open up against the Spurs, but then the games come fast and furious. The Kings will have a 15-day window to make their mark and either earn a chance to advance to the next round or head back home and start planning for next season.
Kings 'want all that smoke' in NBA restart, focusing on playoff run originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area