Rookie big man Marvin Bagley III still hasn’t targeted a date for his return from a knee injury, but his recovery might be progressing quicker than the Kings anticipated.
The Kings announced Dec. 28 that Bagley would “resume full basketball activities” in two weeks, but Bagley said Wednesday he’s already running, jumping, sliding, shooting and working on his ball handling. Bagley said he has also been in the weight room, strengthening his quadriceps and other muscles in his legs, and he’s doing so without pain.
“Everything basketball related, I’ve been doing that, and I’m getting more comfortable with it every day,” Bagley said. “I’m just continuing to get better and get stronger.”
Bagley has missed nine games since suffering a bone bruise in his left knee in the Dec. 14 loss to the Golden State Warriors. He was averaging 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game before the injury and established himself as a key member of coach Dave Joerger’s rotation, averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds in his last 10 games.
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Bagley was also emerging as a better rim protector than many analysts predicted when the Kings selected him with the No. 2 pick in last summer’s draft. He had 11 blocked shots during one seven-game stretch in November and used his remarkable leaping ability and length to contest shots around the basket.
With Bagley out, Joerger has used more small-ball lineups with Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos or Nemanja Bjelica at center and Justin Jackson at power forward. Scoring hasn’t been much of a problem, as the Kings have averaged 113.8 points per game in Bagley’s absence, but they are allowing 118.9, a number that must improve if they are going to vie for their first playoff berth since 2005-06.
“(Bagley has) a lot of size and he’s a terrific rebounder,” Joerger said. “It’s unfortunate he can’t be out there, but we’re playing a lot more small lineups. So who plays behind (Bjelica)? It’s been Justin Jackson. That’s opened up some minutes at the wings a little bit. ... On nights where I don’t play Yogi Ferrell, that means that (Bogdan) Bogdanovic and Buddy (Hield) play point guard by committee a little bit and that opens up more minutes. And I played (Bjelica) at the five the other night, which I think we’ve done twice now, just to see how that looks.”
The Kings will conclude a stretch of 13 games against Western Conference playoff contenders this week when they play host to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday and the Warriors on Saturday. They went 4-5 in their first nine games without Bagley, but his return and a more favorable schedule could help them get on a roll over the next couple of weeks.
Bagley said he's eager to return, but first his conditioning will have to improve.
“Sitting out two, three weeks, I realize ... that you can get out of shape fast, so now that’s the focus, getting in shape and making sure I’m 100 percent before I get back out there,” Bagley said. “ ... I’m trying to get back in shape. I’m pushing myself. I’m just trying to make sure that I can get my wind back.”