Can you get a restart, in a restart? Sacramento Kings' big man Marvin Bagley hopes so.
After playing in just 13 games this season, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft is in serious need of a redo for his sophomore season. A broken thumb cost him 22 games early. A foot sprain forced him out twice for a total of 29 games.
When the season went on hiatus, Bagley was still out of action, but there was a glimmer of hope for a return in the final 18 games. With a four-month break, he is healed up and ready to roll. He couldn’t even recall the last time he felt pain in his troublesome left foot.
“I feel great, I feel 100 percent,” Bagley said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “I’m ready, I’m ready to go. It’s just about controlling what I can control and keep continuing to move forward and get better. I’m excited.”
When Bagley sat down for a Zoom media session on Thursday, he looked noticeably bigger, even in a tiny box on a computer screen.
“I was like 230-something and it went down as the season progressed, but since we started coming back, I’m at 240 and I feel great, I feel strong, I still feel fast, I still feel like I can do what I do, but adding a little muscle on,” Bagley said.
With coach Luke Walton using Bagley primarily at the center position when he’s been available, the former Duke University star knew that he needed to bulk up to handle the position.
In addition to hitting the weight room, Bagley focused on extending his range out past the 3-point line.
“I’ve been focusing on my shot a lot, along with the other parts of my game,” Bagley said. “But my shot and getting stronger was the main thing that I wanted to focus on and work on coming back with the team and getting ready for Orlando.”
If Bagley can provide consistent shooting from the perimeter, it might change his entire trajectory as a player. In his lone college season, he shot 39.7 percent from deep. In his rookie season, he didn’t get a lot of opportunities, but he still managed to shoot 31.3 percent from behind the arc.
“It’s gotten a lot better,” Bagley said of his shot. “I still have a lot of work to do and I’m excited to keep building on it.”
With Bagley injured, Walton has used Nemanja Bjelica as his starter at the four and shifted Harrison Barnes over to play major minutes at the power forward spot as well. Bjelica leads the Kings in 3-point percentage at 42.4 percent and Barnes isn’t that far behind at 38.3 percent.
Due to the injury issues, Walton has used Bagley primarily at center, but if he can provide consistent perimeter shooting, it would open the door for the Kings’ coach to go with both Bagley and center Richaun Holmes on the floor at the same time.
When Walton was asked about the potential of playing Bagley in the eight-game restart, he was non-committal on Wednesday. The Kings had a rotation of players that were working well together and with so little time to add Bagley to the mix, there is still a chance that he sits out.
“I’m thrilled that he’s feeling better and looking good,” Walton said. “You look into the season and one of the things where you look at missed opportunities and unfortunately, injuries are part of the game, but he missed a ton of this season. That’s just so much room for growth for a young player that needs to happen. You need to play to continue to get better."
Walton did leave a door open, but there are a lot of variables to work through between now and July 31 when the Kings tip-off against the San Antonio Spurs.
“So we’ll take a look at it when we get to Orlando and we’re really scrimmaging and we’ll see who’s playing well,” Walton added. “We were playing really well at the end of the season so we weren’t really going to mess with what we had going on rotation-wise at that time. Now that there’s been this much time off, we’ve got to take a look at it again.”
Bagley clearly wants to play, but during his interview session, he was asked about the possibility of not being part of the short term plan for the Kings.
“I think right now it’s about the team as much as possible,” Bagley said. “Obviously I missed a lot of time during the season than everybody else. I think with these eight games coming up, it’s more important for everybody to be on the same page as a whole. I don’t think it’s about me. I don’t think it’s about any other individual on the team. It’s about coming together.”
The Kings haven’t given up on Bagley and they still think very highly of his talent and future with the team. He is still likely to begin next season as a starter at either the four or the five.
It’s Walton’s job to make sure that he is putting Bagley in a position to succeed. Throwing him in after more than six months off with an abbreviated training camp and no real practice time between games is a recipe for disaster.
Bagley is doing what he needs to do to get back on the court. Whether it’s in Orlando or next season, the work he is putting in should pay dividends.