Kings' De'Aaron Fox ready for opener, roster spots still up for grabs

James Ham

SACRAMENTO -- Preseason is over and the focus for the Sacramento Kings has shifted to preparing for the 2019-20 season. The team is beat up, but there is time for most of the bumps and bruises to heal up in time for opening night on Oct. 23 against the Phoenix Suns.

On Thursday afternoon, De'Aaron Fox was limited to non-contact drills. The Kings' starting point guard sat out Wednesday's preseason finale due to a sore lower back, but he is optimistic that he'll be available when the regular season tips off.

"It feels good, I didn't do a lot today, but I'll be ready for the first game," Fox said.

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The 21-year-old point guard isn't sure when he injured himself, but he tightened up during halftime of the Kings' win over the Utah Jazz on Monday. He made it 1:40 into the third quarter before leaving the game and did not return.

Cory Joseph, the man who will back up Fox during the regular season, is on the mend as well, The veteran guard told NBC Sports California on Wednesday evening that his right calf injury was feeling much better and he's recovered from the bug that went around the team following the trip to India.

"I'm right there," Joseph said about his health. "I'll be practicing shortly and I'll be ready by the time the season comes."

Joseph has played in all 82 games in the past two years and he's missed a total of four games over the last four seasons. He's a durable player, but he's missed most of training camp and will need time to work himself back into the flow.

Trevor Ariza made his way back to the court after having a minor procedure to remove a lipoma from his back. He was seen shooting with Marvin Bagley after practice and is a 100 percent cleared to play.

"It was good to have his leadership back, his physicality back," head coach Luke Walton said.

Starting center Dewayne Dedmon was at practice, but like Fox and Joseph, he didn't take part in the contact portion of the workout. He rested in the team's preseason win over Melbourne United, but he is expected to be ready for the opener, like the rest of the group who have sat out recently.

The mystery surrounding big man Harry Giles continues. The 21-year-old center hasn't been cleared to practice by the training and medical staff due to a sore left knee. He also hasn't spoken to the media since media day back on Sept. 27.

At this point, he's fallen way behind the rest of the team, including newcomer Richaun Holmes, who has impressed during the preseason slate.

"Once we get him back, we've got to get him on the court still,"  Walton said. "He hasn't been cleared to start playing with us yet. When someone's ready to go, he can go, but I'd say most likely he's not going to be ready to go but the start of the season as these days keep passing by."

Giles played in 58 games as a rookie last season for the Kings and was in line to compete for minutes in the rotation. He will need conditioning and then plenty of work with the coaching staff before they run him onto the court. 

Walton briefly addressed Buddy Hield's comments following Wednesday's preseason win. Hield has voiced his frustration over a potential contract extension, but it hasn't spilled over onto the court.

"Buddy was great in practice today, a lot of energy, competing," Walton said. "From our standpoint and seeing him out here at practice every day, it was another normal day and we had the same old Buddy."

Hield and the Kings have until Oct. 21 to work out an extension or wait until next summer when he becomes a restricted free agent.

The Kings still have cuts to make to get down to the NBA roster limit of 15 players. After waiving a pair of players in Isaiah Pineiro and Eric Mika over the weekend, the club currently stands at 17 players, plus their two two-way players in Kyle Guy and Wenyen Gabriel.

When asked if there was a possibility that a player had entered the conversation for a potential roster spot, Walton was coy.

"Yes, but I'm not going to reveal who," Walton said with a smile. "We'll talk to the players first and continue to talk to the front office."

According to league sources, Gabriel has quietly put together a very strong camp and he impressed the team with his work ethic over the summer. He's a versatile 6-foot-9 forward with big-time athleticism and a strong motor.

[RELATED: Kings' Twitter takes shot at Lakers after preseason finale]

There is a group of young players on the bubble, including Hollis Thompson, Tyler Lydon, Tyler Ulis and Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan is the only one of the group with a fully guaranteed contract for this season. The rest are on partially guaranteed deals and have the possibility to play this season with the Stockton Kings of the G League if they don't make the team in Sacramento.

Kings' De'Aaron Fox ready for opener, roster spots still up for grabs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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