Kings

Marvin Bagley makes case to join starting lineup despite Kings' loss

Marvin Bagley makes case to join starting lineup despite Kings' loss

At some point, Marvin Bagley III is going to force Dave Joerger’s hand with his play. Sacramento’s head coach has been reluctant to start his prized rookie, instead choosing to go with 30-year-old Nemanja Bjelica at the power forward position.

There are reasons you start a player like Bjelica over an unproven rookie, but those reasons are starting to fade. The veteran forward is a high IQ player that stretches the floor with his jumper. He’s seldom out of position and he can stuff the stat sheet.

But over the last few weeks, Bjelica has struggled mightily and Bagley is starting to build momentum to move into the starting lineup with his energetic play.

With Bjelica taking an evening off to rest and recover on Tuesday evening in Toronto, Bagley picked up his first NBA start. The 19-year-old didn’t disappoint.

“I think I played pretty good,” the former Duke star told reporters following the game. “I made a couple of mistakes here and there, but that’s the part of being out there and learning and growing as a player.”

Bagley dropped in a career-high 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting in the Kings’ 120-105 loss to the Raptors. It was first time a Kings player has scored 20 or more in his first NBA start since Omri Casspi achieved the feat in Dec. 16, 2009.

He also added a game-high 11 rebounds to go with a pair of blocks in 38 minutes of action. His double-double was the first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound double-double in a first career start for the Kings since Nov. 29, 1972, when Mike Ratliff dropped in 20 points and 19 rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bagley continues to say the right things when asked about whether he would prefer to start or come off the bench. But he made it pretty clear with his play that he’s open to bigger role.

“I love playing and being out there,” Bagley said. “I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win. We came up short tonight, but every game I try and come out and play like it’s my last game.”

Taken with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bagley is a walking double-double. He’s missed 14 games this season with two separate injuries, but his ability to act as a primary scorer in the post adds a new dimension to the Kings’ offense.

Where Bjelica helps spread the floor, Bagley has an advanced offensive game down low. He also has incredible potential as a rebounder and he continues to lead the team in blocks per game.

Joerger’s cautious approach to the development of the talented young big was the right move. Bjelica’s play helped the team get off to a shocking start and he is a valuable piece to what the Kings are trying to do.

But the time is coming when Bagley will step into the starting lineup on a regular basis. It might already be here.

How injury stints helped Marvin Bagley develop mental, physical game

How injury stints helped Marvin Bagley develop mental, physical game

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.

[RELATED: What we learned from Kings' loss to Lakers]

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.

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- In a game of runs, the Sacramento Kings ran out of gas Sunday evening at Staples Center. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings couldn’t buy a bucket the entire night.

Sacramento continued to hang around throughout the game, but Kyle Kuzma put up huge numbers and LeBron James notched his 81st career-triple double to hand the Kings a 111-106 loss.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped back under the .500 mark on the season at 36-37.

Energizer Bunny

Marvin Bagley has springs in his legs, even when the rest of the roster doesn’t. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings’ rookie big looked fresh. The 20-year-old rolled through the Lakers' defense, scoring 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting in 36 minutes. He added 11 rebounds and a block, but it wasn’t enough to come away with the win. Since returning from injury, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft is crushing it, averaging over 19 points and eight rebounds per game.

A third to forget

The Kings couldn’t buy a bucket early, but they slowly came around in the second quarter to take a 49-48 lead into the half. Los Angeles came out hot in third and ran the Kings off the court. Led by the hot shooting of Kuzma, the Lakers outscored the Kings 39-28 in the period to take a 10-point lead into fourth. Kuzma torched the Kings for 21 of his 29 points in the 12-minute stretch, hitting 7-of-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from long range.

The Rally

Sacramento looked dead in the water coming out of the third, but the Kings never stop playing. Bagley and Bogdan Bogdanovic kept the Kings afloat in the fourth to make things interesting. After trailing by as many as 17 in the third, the Kings reduced the Lakers' lead all the way down to two multiple times in the final three minutes, but they couldn’t get the big shot to fall when they needed it.