LOS ANGELES -- Injuries are part of the NBA game and for a young player, they can be particularly cruel. A lot of first and second-year players have never experienced the lows that sitting out can bring. Watching from the sidelines can be a very lonely game.
If the right approach is taken, an injury can also be an opportunity to reassess what’s working and what’s not on the court. Watching a game from the sidelines, listening to a coach or a veteran and hitting the film room can help develop a player as well.
Marvin Bagley has seen action in 54 games this season for the Sacramento Kings, but two separate stints on the injured list cost the top prospect a total of 17 games. The injuries were spaced out and may have even helped break the season into smaller blocks.
The first injury came 26 games into Bagley’s career when he came down hard against the Warriors and sustained a bone bruise on his left knee. After missing 11 out of 12 games, he returned to action and instantly started to produce.
A second injury 21 games later cost Bagley another five contests and since his return, he’s become a double-double machine.
“I was still doing stuff while I was out - still working out, conditioning, and doing stuff like that,” Bagley insisted. “I feel pretty good. It’s just about finishing off these last few games we have strong and leading that into the next season.”
While away from the game, the former Duke star didn’t just sit around. He worked on both his body and his mind. The mental aspect of the game may have been the most important piece.
“Oh yeah, I was watching and studying it, watching film, seeing what I could do better,” Bagley said. “I’ve been trying to work on it. Ever since I got back in, it’s been working for me. I just have to keep going, keep playing, and, like I said, finish out strong.”
Bagley roasted the Lakers for 25 points and 11 rebounds Sunday evening in the Kings’ 111-106 loss to the Lakers. He played 36 minutes off the bench for Dave Joerger, seeing time at both the center and power forward position.
“He’s got lots to learn and we’re always trying to teach him throughout the course of games different things,” Joerger said.
Against the Lakers, it was trial by fire. Joerger even left the rookie in to face one of the greatest players the NBA has ever known.
“It was a good experience for him. He guarded LeBron [James], LeBron guarded him a little bit,” Joerger said. “There’s a lot of experience there.”
Following his first stint against James, the coaching staff took a moment to go over the positives and negatives they saw in his approach on both ends of the court. Bagley is a sponge and took it all in for the next time he saw the matchup.
“He jots all of that stuff down,” Joerger said. “He’s very cerebral and he’ll continue to learn and get better.”
Since returning from his latest setback, Bagley is crushing the opposition, despite playing on a minutes restriction for much of the time. In the seven games since his return, the athletic big is averaging 20.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in just 26.1 minutes per game.
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He’s also added the 3-point shot to his game since his return, knocking down 8-of-16 from long range over the stretch. Bagley has always had the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but his confidence, despite coming off an injury, is at an all-time high.
The Kings have nine games remaining on the 2018-19 schedule. At 36-37, they are playing for pride and the possibility of finishing the season above the .500 mark.
As they get closer to the season’s conclusion, it’s clear that Bagley is a keeper. He has the look and feel of a franchise cornerstone. He has a nice long break coming up to continue his development both on and off the court.