SACRAMENTO -- Head coach Luke Walton's starting lineup lasted all of one game before requiring an adjustment. On Friday morning, he announced that veteran Nemanja Bjelica will start for the injured Marvin Bagley at power forward.
Bagley is out 4-6 weeks with a broken right thumb that occurred in the fourth quarter of the Kings' opening night loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Bjelica started 70 games at power forward last season for Sacramento and was an integral piece to their 39-win season. He averaged 9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 23.2 minutes per game.
"It's going to give us some spacing, Belly's a vet, he's done this before," Walton said following shootaround on Friday. "We're very confident in what he can do and knowing the offense with either group and at that spot."
Bjelica knocked down 40.1 percent from 3-point range last season and is a savvy veteran presence to put alongside Dewayne Dedmon. Walton said the Kings would use Harrison Barnes at the four as well and the plan is to tighten up the rotation with Bagley on the shelf.
After struggling in Phoenix, the Kings host the Portland Trail Blazers for their home opener Friday evening. Portland is a tough, veteran team that is coming off a 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets in their season opener.
"This is a proven team," Walton said. "I know they have new pieces, like everybody in the west, everyone in the NBA really. They've got two go-to guys that they've had for a while that know how to execute, that know how to win down the stretch, so we've got to be focused and locked in on really making life hard on those two."
Of course, Walton is speaking of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who led the Blazers to the Western Conference Finals last season. The dynamic guard duo combined to score 46.8 points per game last season.
Luckily for the Kings' new head coach, he should have the services of his starting backcourt as well. Both De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield were dinged up in the opener. Fox practiced on Thursday and Hield did not, and only Hield, not Fox, was listed on the injury report.
But Hield himself believes that the "questionable" tag is pretty funny.
Lol— Buddy Love !!!! (@buddyhield) October 25, 2019
You can expect Hield to be out there Friday night for the home opener.