Kings' Richaun Holmes nearing return to lineup, won't play vs. 76ers


While the Kings were away on their last road trip, their practice facility got a minor facelift, adding replicas of the jerseys that hang in the rafters of Golden 1 Center.

The embroidered banners brought some color to an otherwise bare room. They weren’t the only new editions to the practice courts.

Richaun Holmes, who has missed the previous 24 games due to a labral tear in his right shoulder, was there working out. Initially, the 26-year-old began with hoisted shots, but eventually graduated to some full-contact, 2-on-2 basketball.

While Holmes is in shape, it was abundantly clear that basketball shape is a different beast. He played well, but more importantly, he came out of the drill unscathed and ready to move to the next step in his recovery.

“We’ve been progressing a lot this last week or so and I got a chance to play 2-on-2 today and it was successful,” Holmes said.”I feel good, the shoulder feels good, so I’m looking to keep making progress.”

Though he is progressing, Holmes is not quite ready to return. The team would love to see him play 5-on-5 before returning to game action, but it's a banged-up group and Sacramento is unlikely to go fully in practice anytime soon. 

Coach Luke Walton made it known that Holmes won’t play Thursday against the Philadelphia 76ers and the team still wants to assess him before throwing him back out on the court.

“He was cleared to be a full participant today,” Walton explained. “We just couldn’t get it done today. The nagging injuries we do have, the minutes some of these guys are playing and with three [games] in four [nights] coming up, we just couldn’t get a full 5-on-5 action today.”

Holmes originally damaged his shoulder in the Kings’ 111-98 win over the Golden State Warriors back on Jan. 6. He tried to make a comeback a month ago, but was shut down again after struggling with pain in the joint. 

Three weeks ago, Holmes underwent PRP (platelet-rich plasma) treatment on the joint and it seems to have cleared out some of the inflammation.

“It was a huge needle,” Holmes joked. “It definitely worked out for me. I didn’t know too much about it at first, but now my shoulder has responded well, so it helped me.”

A lot has changed since Holmes went out of the lineup. The Kings are rallying and two faces have emerged in Walton’s center rotation.

Second-year big man Harry Giles has quickly earned minutes and newcomer Alex Len is providing Sacramento with a big, defensive-minded rebounder in the middle of the post. 

“They’ve been great,” Holmes said of Giles and Len. “Harry’s come in with his playmaking and energy. He has been amazing through this stretch. Alex coming in, just being a presence in the paint, 7-footer, blocking shots. They’ve changed the game and the identity of our team and got us in position for the playoff push.”

Giles is a bit of an unknown. He has shown flashes in the past, but you can see him settling into a role with the Kings and he’s starting to excel.

“For Harry, we all knew it was only a matter of time before he got his opportunity, he was going to show everybody,” Holmes said. “I’m very proud of him and happy for the success he’s having.”

Len is known around the league. Taken with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, he has spent the last seven seasons trying to establish himself.

“He is big, he is a problem,” Walton said.”I knew he hadn’t played in a while, so I didn’t really have many expectations of what he was going to do, but I was excited to get somebody of his size out here and see what that would look like with what we’re trying to do defensively. Boy, he has been really really good.”

Len spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since joining the Kings in a deadline deal with the Atlanta Hawks. The Ukranian-born big is quiet and tends to shy away from the spotlight.

“Bring energy, everybody plays hard,” Len said of how he is fitting in with his new team. “You’ve got to play hard to fit in with this group and that is how I play. Get it going on the court every time and give it everything you’ve got.”

It sounds like Walton is a few games away from having a dilemma on his hands in the post. Giles and Len are playing extremely well and the Kings are winning with them at center. Holmes was perhaps the Kings’ most consistent player through the first 37 games before getting injured.

[RELATED: Holmes' impending return to Kings creates issue for Walton]

It’s unlikely that all three will see significant action in the same game. Walton likely will play matchups and ask that players stay patient and ready. 

With Sacramento sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, just three games out of the eighth spot, players are going to have to make sacrifices in the name of wins.  

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