How Kings must quickly adapt with Marvin Bagley missing significant time

How Kings must quickly adapt with Marvin Bagley missing significant time

SACRAMENTO -- If Wednesday night’s blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns was a gut check, what exactly would one consider Thursday’s Marvin Bagley injury news?

Sacramento’s prized big man is on the shelf for four to six weeks after an MRI revealed a non-displaced fracture of the right thumb. A league source confirmed to NBC Sports California that the injury is not expected to need surgery.

Bagley was injured in the fourth quarter with the game completely out of hand. According to head coach Luke Walton, someone tried to strip the ball from the Kings’ starting power forward and came down on his thumb.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Walton said. “He’s been making a lot of progress in the short amount of time we’ve been together. It will be up to him to make sure he’s still getting his conditioning in and learning what we’re doing so when he’s back and cleared that he’s ready to get right back in the mix of things.”  

The initial concern coming out of the game was not on Bagley, but on the Kings’ starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Fox banged knees with Deandre Ayton, but was able to practice on Thursday. 

Ayton stepped on Hield’s foot in the fourth and he missed practice on Thursday. He is listed as day-to-day, but he was on the court shooting while both Walton and Fox spoke.

Bagley’s absence is a huge blow for the Kings. Despite being just 20-years-old, he is the Kings’ most effective interior scorer and one of the best rebounders on the club.

“It’s definitely big, he’s a double-double guy,” Fox said. “He could have a bad game and still walk out with a double-double. You know what you get from Marv. That’s a lot of points, a lot of rebounds that go off the board.”

General manager Vlade Divac stocked up during the offseason, giving Walton plenty of options to work with. Walton’s initial instinct is to go with Nemanja Bjelica, who started 70 games at power forward for the Kings last season.

“That’s one of the advantages to having a deep team now,” Walton said. “We talk about it every year that it’s going to happen. Normally it doesn’t happen in the first game of the season, but guys are going to have to be ready to go and to step up. Roles will change a little bit, but we’ve got to be ready to handle that.”

Bjelica played very well during stretches last season, but he isn’t the only option Walton has. 

Harrison Barnes played almost exclusively as a stretch four for the Dallas Mavericks last season. He could easily shift over to the power spot in a small ball line-up for Walton. That move would also open up more time for both Bogdan Bogdanovic and Trevor Ariza at the three.

Walton could also go big and look to Richaun Holmes in a two-big system alongside Dewayne Dedmon. Holmes is very good in the pick-and-roll, which would allow Dedmon to play more on the perimeter like he has when paired with Bagley.

“It’s the regular season now,” Fox said. “You’ve got to keep pushing, whether a guy is playing or not. That’s why you have a team. One guy goes down, someone else steps up. That’s what teams do.”

The Kings have a player on the mend that could fill the void in the very near future. After playing three-on-three following shootaround on Wednesday, Harry Giles returned to practice on Thursday after being shutdown at the beginning of training camp with a sore left knee.

Giles’ injury has been a mystery around Sacramento. The 21-year-old showed tremendous promise last season after red-shirting his first year with the Kings. He averaged 7.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 14.1 minutes per game over 58 games, but missed the last few weeks of the season with a thigh bruise.

It’s unclear what kind of shape Giles is in at this point. He’s missed a lot of time with a new coaching staff, but he’s versatile enough to play either power forward or center in the Kings system.

“We aren’t going to speed that up because someone else got hurt,” Walton said of Giles’ return. “We’re going to make sure that Harry is healthy and when he’s healthy, we’ll start getting him out there on the floor.”

While Giles is getting closer to a return, he still is a week or more away from a return and he still needs to get comfortable in the Kings’ new offensive and defensive schemes. Losing Bagley is not good news for Sacramento, but it might give Giles a way back into the rotation, at least in the short-term.

None of this is an ideal situation. The Kings were hoping for Bagley to join Fox and Hield as the team’s third major scoring option this season, but injuries are part of the game. 

[RELATED: Turnovers, lack of chemistry burn Kings]

Bagley missed 20 games with two separate knee injuries in his rookie campaign last year. Despite the injury, he should be able to keep in shape and be a part of the non-contact portion of practice over the next few weeks. Once the thumb heals, integrating him back into the rotation shouldn’t take long.

This isn’t the way anyone envisioned the first week of the season going to the Kings, but this their new reality. The games stop for no one. Next up, the Portland Trail Blazers Friday evening at Golden 1 Center. 

NBA rumors: Kings' Vlade Divac rejected shared role with Joe Dumars

NBA rumors: Kings' Vlade Divac rejected shared role with Joe Dumars

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive reportedly wanted a new voice to help Vlade Divac make roster decisions.

The now-former Kings general manager didn't like that idea, so he resigned from the position Friday.

The Athletic's Sam Amick reported Friday, citing sources, that Ranadive told Divac he wanted advisor Joe Dumars to share in the responsibilities of roster decisions for the Kings.

Divac, according to Amick's sources, had "zero interest" in a power share. He wanted full control of the roster decisions.

So, a day after the Kings returned from a disappointing eight-game NBA restart in Orlando, Fla., Divac stepped down.

Dumars will step in as the interim executive vice president of basketball operations, and spearhead the search for a new general manager of the Kings.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But Dumars might not hire a new general manager right away.

Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill reported Friday, citing sources, that Dumars could use the 2020-21 NBA season to evaluate prospective candidates, meaning the Kings would go one year without an official GM.

The Kings, led by Dumars, now head into an offseason of uncertainty. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a restricted free agent. Kent Bazemore, Harry Giles, Alex Len, Yogi Ferrell and Corey Brewer are unrestricted free agents. Marvin Bagley just finished off an injury-riddled second NBA season. Buddy Hield signed a lucrative contract last year, but was moved to the second unit before the season was shut down in March.

[RELATED: Source: Walton safe as Kings coach for 2020-21 season]

And the Kings also have a lottery pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.

So with no new GM reportedly coming for a while, all these decisions rest on Dumars, who Ranadivé wanted to have a voice in the room anyway.

Vlade Divac's Luka Doncic miss not only reason he's out as Kings GM

Vlade Divac's Luka Doncic miss not only reason he's out as Kings GM

Did the decision to not draft Luke Doncic in 2018 cost Vlade Divac his job as the Sacramento Kings' general manager?

The easy answer might be yes. But it’s a lot more complex than that.

There was a list of missteps and mistakes, dating to his first few months on the job, that Divac had been able to overcome until Friday, when he resigned.

His initial trade that sent Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry to the Philadelphia 76ers cost the Kings two draft swaps and their 2019 first-round pick. The payoff was a one-season rental of Rajon Rondo.

From that moment on, Divac made a series of decisions, most of which did not work out in his favor. His free-agent signings of players such as George Hill, Zach Randolph, Dewayne Dedmon and Trevor Ariza all were busts, but Divac was able to Houdini his way out of each of those deals.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Divac picking De’Aaron Fox No. 5 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft provided the Kings with a young star to build around, but he also selected Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgious Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles in the first round.

The only player remaining on the team from that group is Giles, and even his time with the team likely is up after Divac decided not to pick up the big man's fourth-year option for next season.

For a small-market team like the Kings to succeed, it needs to hit home runs in the draft, make savvy moves in free agency and get lucky.

Divac found success in free agency with undervalued players such as Nemanja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes. His trades that landed players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Iman Shumpert, Kent Bazemore and Alex Len all worked out to some degree.

And even with all of these issues, the Kings, under Divac and coach Dave Joerger, were better than they'd been in over a decade last season. They ran teams off the court and were a joy to watch.

The Kings missed the playoffs, but their 39-43 record had them on the right path, although personality conflicts between Joerger and assistant GM Brandon Williams caused a rift behind the scenes.

Known for his ability to bring people together, Divac wasn’t able to mend fences. Instead of making a midseason move to separate one or the other, Divac allowed the situation to become cantankerous.

By season’s end, Divac decided to fire both, but in doing so, he set himself up for the situation the Kings are in now. Divac hired Luke Walton to replace Joerger without interviewing another candidate.

Walton might be a very good coach, but in having him teach a new system, with new terminology, the Kings lost their momentum from the previous season, and the identity of the team went out the window.

Now the Kings sit in a situation where the Memphis Grizzlies have passed them in the incredibly tough Western Conference. The Phoenix Suns also went 8-0 in the NBA bubble this month and look like a team on the rise.

It’s possible that the Kings will improve next season and take a leap in standings, but the road to snapping a 14-year NBA playoff drought looks even more difficult than ever.

All of these items added up, but at the end of the day, there's still that issue that Divac passed on Doncic.

Allowing Doncic to slip through the franchise’s fingers -- regardless of whom the Kings selected instead -- was a catastrophic move for a team that's always had a difficult time bringing in top-tier talent.

Divac had concerns about Doncic’s ability to play with Fox and also his position in the NBA.

His position doesn’t matter: Doncic is a flat-out superstar. Also, Fox would have figured out how to work with him, and the Kings would've had two young stars to build around.

[RELATED: Divac kept his word after Cousins trade, give or take 18 months]

The Kings still don’t know what they have in Marvin Bagley, the player Divac selected over Doncic, but that doesn’t matter. Doncic is a generational talent who just destroyed team after team in the bubble, and has his Dallas Mavericks set for a deep playoff run.

Divac is an exceptional human being. He’s funny and gregarious. He meant well, and there's no question the Kings are in a better place than when Divac took over five years ago.

in the end, that wasn’t enough.