Kings

Kings' Marvin Bagley healthy, stronger, but status for restart unknown

Kings' Marvin Bagley healthy, stronger, but status for restart unknown

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.

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“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.”

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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.

Harrison Barnes places Kings' flameout in Orlando on himself, veterans

Harrison Barnes places Kings' flameout in Orlando on himself, veterans

The team that began the Orlando bubble saying “we want all of that smoke” just learned that smoke usually is accompanied by fire.

At 1-4 in the NBA restart, the Kings have shown they aren’t ready for the fire and they might not be ready for prime time.

“I think it starts with individual accountability, just in terms of the effort we are putting out there on a consistent basis,” veteran Harrison Barnes said following the Kings’ 119-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. “It’s hard to win in this league and to be consistent, you have to do that every single night.”

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The Kings have talent. But rarely is that enough at the NBA level.

You have to play together. You have to play for one another. In the end, you have to bring energy and effort every night or a team of no-names, like the squad the Nets threw on the court Friday, will embarrass you.

It’s a common theme with the Kings. They played a tremendous game in a 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, scoring 49 points in the first quarter

Just over 24 hours later, they looked like a collection of players that had never played together. There was no chemistry. No passing. No rotations on defense.

Just forced and ineffective basketball.

“Frustration is high,” Barnes admitted. “I don’t know if it’s disappointing, but it’s frustrating. Coming into this game, we knew it was more mental than physical. It was meeting force with force. It was being disciplined. It didn’t matter what scheme we had or what game plan we had if we didn’t have any effort.”

Who's to blame for the Kings’ flame out in Orlando? Coach Luke Walton has already drawn plenty of criticism, but at some point the players themselves have to take ownership for the things they can control on the court.

Following the loss to the Nets, Barnes fell on his sword as one of the leaders of the team. He placed the blame on himself and the rest of the veterans.

“I’ll be the first to say it’s definitely on us as veteran players -- guys like myself," Barnes said. "I’ll take responsibility for that because I’ve been to the playoffs, I’ve been to the Finals. I know the energy and effort it takes to win games and if you don’t bring that, you lose.”

“As a group, we have to learn that you can’t just turn it on,” he added.

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The Kings have a choice. They can pout and get their lunch handed to them for the next three games. They can also play spoiler and leave the bubble on as high of a note as possible.

Either way, this isn’t the outcome the Kings were hoping for. They have had a few bright spots, like the play of De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic, so the experience isn’t a total wash. But after five games, any talk of playoffs is over and changes likely are coming during the abbreviated offseason.

Kings takeaways: What you might've missed in 119-106 loss vs. Nets

Kings takeaways: What you might've missed in 119-106 loss vs. Nets

BOX SCORE

Consistently inconsistent.

After coming away with a huge win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, the Kings failed to show up Friday on the second night of a back-to-back against the completely depleted Brooklyn Nets.

Sacramento looked stagnant on offense and a step slow in its rotations on the defensive end. The result was an embarrassing 119-106 loss that all but extinguished the Kings' remaining playoff hopes.

Here are three takeaways from the Kings getting out-hustled and fell to 1-4 in the Orlando bubble.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Loud Thud

The Kings came into the restarted NBA season talking a big game. They played well enough to win against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, but couldn’t close out games. Their win over the Pelicans gave folks a glimmer of hope, but blowout losses to the Orlando Magic and Nets were completely unacceptable.

With Friday's loss, Sacramento has completely fallen out of the race for the No. 8 seed and would need a miracle to finish ninth and force a play-in series.

The Kings still have three games remaining in the restart, but general manager Vlade Divac has to take a long look at his roster this summer and make some difficult decisions. Everything outside of trading De’Aaron Fox should be on the table.

Bogi puts up a fight

Bogdan Bogdanovic posted a career-high 35 points in the Kings’ win over the Pelicans, and he was back at it again against the Nets.

One of the few Kings players to stand out, Bogdanovic finished with a team-high 27 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including 4-of-8 on 3-pointers.

A restricted free agent at the end of the season, Bogdanovic has been really solid in four of the Kings’ five games. Unfortunately for Sacramento, it just wasn't enough Friday.

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Star still shining

Since the beginning of the restart, De'Aaron Fox has come out aggressive and put on a show. He didn’t match his 27.5 points per game average from the first four games on Friday, but he was effective in his time on the court.

The Kings' starting point guard finished with 21 points and seven assists. There is the outline of a star, but he needs another really strong offseason to take that next step.