His talent is tantalizing. His injury history is growing by the day.
These two ingredients don’t usually mix well.
Kings big man Marvin Bagley did everything right during the NBA’s shutdown. Bagley worked hard with his dad and two brothers. He gained 10 pounds of muscle. The 21-year-old had a workout partner to battle in the post and clearly got stronger knowing that he was likely to play center moving forward.
In the short term, none of that matters now. A bad step in practice Sunday cost Bagley the remainder of the 2019-20 season, however long that will last for Sacramento.
Bagley goes back to square one. He eventually will be cleared to restart basketball-related activities, but it will be well after the season ends. Hopefully, he will be able to continue his workouts with a focus on his upper body and core.
The reality for the Kings is that Bagley’s season ended Jan. 20, when he reinjured his other foot while playing 38 minutes in a loss to the Miami Heat. He played in just 13 games in what now is a completely lost season for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Before the league shut down on March 11, the Kings did not intend to play Bagley another minute down the stretch. He was close to being cleared, but he was going to watch from the sidelines with 18 games remaining on the schedule and the team in the middle of a playoff chase.
With time to heal, the Kings were willing to take a “wait and see approach” to Bagley during the restart. Once Alex Len and Harrison Barnes tested positive for the coronavirus, a door was cracked open. When Richaun Holmes got sent to his room for 10 days, Bagley became one of the few options at center, along with Harry Giles.
Holmes came back to practice Tuesday and should be ready to log minutes by the end of the week. Len is further behind after testing positive for the coronavirus for 24 consecutive days, but it’s possible his workouts can be ramped up before the Kings open their eight-game schedule against the San Antonio Spurs on July 31.
Barnes still is in Sacramento awaiting clearance from the league, but the Kings are holding a roster spot open in anticipation of his arrival in the Orlando bubble in the near future.
Giles has earned a spot in the restart with his strong play in training camp. Nemanja Bjelica also has solidified his job as the starting power forward. Veterans Kent Bazemore and Corey Brewer are ready for action as well at both forward positions.
Finding a spot for Bagley was going to be difficult even with a short-handed squad. It’s not about talent or projecting out a career at this point in the season. It’s about experience and what is best for the team in an abbreviated sprint to the finish line.
Could Bagley have earned a few minutes here and there? Maybe, but Walton would have had the difficult task of putting him in perfect situations to succeed and then hoping for the best.
The Kings’ lineup survived without Bagley for 51 games this season. In fact, they were just 2-11 when he played.
There is no question that the Kings still consider Bagley the future at either the four or the five. But at this point, he is more than a year behind in development and his inability to stay on the floor has to make general manager Vlade Divac nervous.
This is a disappointing end to the season for a promising young player, but it isn’t the end of the world. Bagley won’t need surgery and, he reportedly is expected to be out of a boot in a couple of weeks.
Is it bad luck? Is it something more? We don’t know, but Bagley has a few months to get his body 100 percent and try again next season with considerably lower expectations.