Marvin Bagley III returned to the Kings lineup Monday after missing eight games due to a midfoot sprain on his left foot.
Bagley played 23 minutes in the 114-112 loss to the Orlando Magic, which is around the amount of playing time the training staff had pegged his current minutes restriction for, according to head coach Luke Walton. The second-year big man said he felt pretty good out on the floor and he finished the game with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
In his return, Bagley was focused on having fun, playing hard, and being there for his teammates. He also, of course, wanted to get the win, but said, “you win some you lose some, so on to the next.”
In recent weeks, Bagley spent his time rehabbing, making sure to stay in shape and also watching other players to try to soak up ways he could improve. That meant watching his teammates, but also players on other teams he would like to glean techniques from.
“It’s a blessing in disguise when you can kind of sit back and study a little bit more than you do when you’re playing. The times that I was out, I was watching everybody, especially the great players that we’ve been playing against just seeing what they do well, seeing how they get to their spots and stuff like that, and how they guard,” Bagley said after the game.
One of those great players he watched was Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Kings played the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 10, the last game Bagley sat out.
“Giannis, that was one that I really tried to study and watch. Just how he can get to the line, attack, create for his teammates …just moving constantly. That’s something that I have in my game so whenever we go against them or whenever I see him it’s always good because I can look, I can learn, and even if I am in the game playing against him I can pick up on things that he does while I’m guarding him and kind of take and put into my game,” Bagley said.
What’s it going to take for him to get to the level that Antetokounmpo is at?
“There’s really no magic trick to it, you’ve just got to put the work in. If you work, results are going to come,” Bagley said. “You can’t just say, ‘I want to do this, I want to take this from somebody and just expect it to happen,’ you’ve got to really put the work in and commit to it and then the results will come.”
Walton, who recently said that Bagley has the potential to be a player like Antetokounmpo in the future, was pleased with the big man’s defensive awareness on Monday night.
“I loved his overall passion and energy he played with. His communicating, all the things we’ve been talking about as a group. And a lot with him individually calling out coverages. It is so important for big men in this league to kind of anchor a defense and communicate things,” Walton said. “He was out there calling out coverages, he was making plays when we were beat – he came over from the weak side and had some big-time blocked shots for us. He’s going to be an elite rebounder in this league too as he continues to grow and get better.”
Bagley was asked by reporters how much we have not yet seen from his game at this point.
“To be honest, ya’ll really haven’t seen anything yet. I mean that in the most humble way possible, 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 so we’re just going to keep fighting man, keep pushing. We’re going to go through stretches like this, but if we keep continuing to lock in and stay together we’ll get to where we want to be,” said Bagley in his response.