SACRAMENTO -- Losses are piling up for the Kings, but every once in a while, there is a silver lining to a defeat. Marvin Bagley III’s play was exactly that Monday night in the team’s heartbreaking 114-112 loss to the Orlando Magic.
Bagley battled a minutes restriction in his return to the court after an eight-game layoff and still managed to score 18 points and grab six rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
“Put it in the book and send him to the line!" pic.twitter.com/UP0u4f6dU3— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) January 14, 2020
Known for his offensive potential, it was Bagley’s effort on the defensive end that stood out to everyone in a Kings uniform.
“He looked good, he had some good sequences, especially on defense,” forward Nemanja Bjelica said. “On offense, everyone knows he can score, but his defense was very good and we’re happy he’s back with us.”
Bagley was active as a help defender, swatting at balls around the rim and coming away with two blocks. He also played better in the pick-and-roll than he has early in his career.
“He came in knowing the game plan and executed,” guard De’Aaron Fox said. “His rotations were great tonight. I think he probably had his best game of the year - obviously, it’s not all about the offense, but he did a hell of a job on the offensive end as well.”
While he was away from the game, Bagley did his best to stay in shape, but the nature of his foot injury didn’t allow him to keep up with his cardio like he wanted. Despite the more than two week absence, he was impressive in the short bursts that he played.
Without the ability to hit the court hard, Bagley spent plenty of time in the film room focusing on increasing his understanding of the game. The early results were impressive.
“I’ve been watching everything - defense, offense, whatever I can do better, watching my teammates and what they were doing great and what they need to work on so I can come back and just kind of do it,” Bagley said. “I’ve been watching a lot, so I think it’s been helping and I’m just going to keep building on it.”
Bagley has the tools and athleticism to be an impact player on the defensive end, but he’s missed 30 of the team’s 40 games due to injury. Taking a step back and watching can sometimes be as beneficial as trying to learn on the court.
He spent plenty of time on 6-foot-11, 260-pound All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. Despite the tremendous disparity in weight, Bagley made adjustments and held his own, specifically in the second half as the Kings came charging back.
Bagley on both ends of the court 🔥 pic.twitter.com/MUfgUa2iL9— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) January 14, 2020
It’s a disappointing start to the season for the 2018 No. 2 overall draft pick. He, along with his Kings teammates had high hopes for the season, but injuries have slowed both Bagley and plenty of others on the roster.
“I put a lot of work in the summertime to be ready for the year and sometimes things don’t go as planned and you’ve just got to move forward and control what you can control and that’s what I’ve been doing throughout this whole process,” Bagley said. “I’m going to keep continuing to do that and have faith in God and just keep continuing to move forward.”
Bagley attacked the Magic frontline and even took 17 field goal attempts. It was almost as if he never missed a game and Walton showed faith in his young big when he put him back in a close game in the final minutes.
Despite the setbacks, Bagley hasn’t lost his confidence and he’s very excited to prove the naysayers wrong.
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“To be honest, you all haven’t seen anything yet, and I mean that in the most humble way possible,” Bagley said. “But there’s a lot more to my game. Whatever the team needs, whatever we need to do to win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
If all goes well, Bagley will see an increase in minutes over the next few games. Wednesday’s matchup against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks should be interesting to say the least. Sacramento passed on Doncic in order to select Bagley and the Slovanian phenom has turned into a superstar in just his second NBA season.
While they won’t see a lot of time defending each other one on one, there will be plenty of eyes on the pair of 20-year-olds.