Marvin Bagley III

Pacific Notes: Looney, Lakers, Suns, Kings

When it comes to Warriors players facing free agency this summer, the focus has rightly been on Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, but those aren’t the only players on the roster with expiring contracts.

One key role player up for a new deal this offseason is Kevon Looney, who played regular minutes at center this season as DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Jones dealt with injuries. Now, his role has increased once again with Cousins expected to miss the rest of the playoffs, perhaps putting him in a position to boost his value as he nears free agency.

The Warriors hold Looney’s Bird rights, allowing the team to go over the cap to re-sign him. But if Thompson and Durant return, it’s not clear how high Golden State would be willing to go to retain a role player. Asked about Looney’s upcoming free agency, teammate Andre Iguodala acknowledged that a more lucrative payday may await the youngster elsewhere.

“I hope he gets paid,” Iguodala said, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (video link). “So I hope he doesn’t come back because I hope he gets all the money.”

Here’s more out of the Pacific:

  • Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka met with Sixers assistant Monty Williams earlier this week to discuss the club’s head coaching vacancy, and there’s an expectation on both sides that a second visit will occur at some point, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Williams is one of three known candidates for the Lakers’ job, along with Tyronn Lue and Juwan Howard.
  • The Suns‘ approach to the offseason will hinge largely on where the team’s first-round pick lands in the lottery, as Gina Mizell of The Athletic explains. Mizell sketches out multiple potential paths for Phoenix’s offseason — one that involves Zion Williamson, one featuring Ja Morant, and one in which the Suns land outside the top two in the draft.
  • In a story published shortly after Dave Joerger was let go by the Kings, Jason Jones of The Athletic passes along some fascinating tidbits on Joerger’s tenure in Sacramento. According to Jones, Joerger never really seemed to connect with youngsters Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles, favorites of the front office. Sources also told Jones that Joerger favored drafting Luka Doncic over Bagley, and would have been on board with trading Buddy Hield before the 2018/19 season.

Pacific Notes: Bagley III, Ball, Johnson

There’s no set return date scheduled for Marvin Bagley III but the standout Kings rookie has at least returned to basketball activities, Sean Cunningham of ABC10 Sacramento tweets. Bagley has been sidelined since spraining his left knee on Feb. 27.

Earlier this week, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee wrote about the 20-year-old’s recovery status after a scary injury, noting that he was “feeling good” and walking without a limp. That’s good news for a Kings team on the outside of the postseason looking in.

The ninth-seeded Kings have managed to keep their heads above water in their pursuit of a playoff berth since Bagley has been out, managing .500 basketball in the four games that they’ve been without him. In 10 February contests, Bagley averaged 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • We wrote yesterday that Lakers coach Luke Walton said there was a chance point guard Lonzo Ball would miss the remainder of the season. Now, in the wake of the announcement that forward Brandon Ingram will miss the final month of the season, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets that the “expectation” is that Ball will also be shut down following a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
  • The addition of scrappy veteran Tyler Johnson has brought a new sense of stability to the young Suns, Katherine Fitzgerald of The Arizona Republic writes. Head coach Igor Kokoskov anticipates that the 26-year-old trade deadline acquisition will start at the point guard position for the rest of the season.
  • The Lakers will not fine Rajon Rondo for sitting in a courtside seat removed from his teammates, Dave McMenamin of ESPN reports. “I was just in my head contemplating the game. That’s kind of what I do. I don’t think I have to explain myself as far as my relationship with the team, the players and the coaches,” Rondo said.

Marvin Bagley III To Be Re-Evaluated In 1-2 Weeks

After watching Marvin Bagley III leave Wednesday’s game with a left knee injury, the Kings got some good news on Thursday. According to the team, an MRI didn’t show any major damage to Bagley’s knee, confirming the original diagnoses of a sprain. The rookie big man will be re-evaluated in about a week or two, per the announcement.

Bagley, who will turn 20 in March, has enjoyed a successful rookie year so far, averaging 13.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 1.0 BPG in 47 games (24.8 MPG). The former Duke star has played some of his best ball this month — in the five games before his injury, he was averaging 23.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG with a shooting line of .534/.444/.767.

While the Kings will miss Bagley during their playoff push, today’s announcement suggests that he could return in mid-March for the final month of the regular season. As long as he’s on the shelf, Willie Cauley-Stein, Nemanja Bjelica, and Harry Giles are among the players who could be leaned on more heavily. Kosta Koufos is also a candidate to re-enter the rotation, as he did during Bagley’s absence earlier in the season.

The Kings have an open spot on their roster which could be used to add another frontcourt player for depth, but I wouldn’t expect the team to rush out and make a move.

Stein’s Latest: Porzingis, Heat, Raptors, Kings

Marc Stein of The New York Times reported last week that after meeting with Knicks‘ management, Kristaps Porzingis‘ camp gave the team a four-team list of preferred destinations in the event of a trade, with the Nets and Clippers among those would-be landing spots. In his latest newsletter for The New York Times, Stein fills in the other half of that wish list, reporting that the Heat and Raptors were also on it.

Of course, the Mavericks weren’t on the reported four-team list, which – as Stein explained last week – is one reason why the Knicks elected to move quickly and send Porzingis to Dallas. While Porzingis will only be a restricted – rather than an unrestricted – free agent this summer, it still might have cost the Knicks some leverage in trade talks if that wish list had leaked.

Here’s more from Stein’s latest newsletter:

  • Before sending Porzingis to Dallas, the Knicks made an effort to engage with the Kings on a potential swap involving Marvin Bagley III, but Sacramento “flatly rejected” those inquiries, according to Stein. Last week, Stein reported that the Kings had a similar response when New York asked about De’Aaron Fox.
  • Stein argues that the Suns‘ trade for Tyler Johnson was “far tougher to digest” than their decision to buy out Tyson Chandler so early in the season, since the deal with Miami saved the Heat a ton of money and didn’t address Phoenix’s most glaring need (a true point guard).
  • Stein’s newsletter also features a Q&A with Dirk Nowitzki, in which the Mavericks‘ longtime power forward discusses his involvement in All-Star weekend, his somewhat “frosty” history with Dwyane Wade, and Luka Doncic‘s potential, among other topics. Here’s what Dirk had to say about those comparing Porzingis and Doncic to him and Steve Nash: “I think they’re going to be great together. They both fit the new style of the NBA so well. Luka is bigger than Nashy, so he can make plays that Nashy could never make. And Zinger is even longer than me and more athletic and shoots it super easy from deep. He’s a good dude, hard worker — he wants to be great. We hope to see that combo in Dallas for a long, long time.”

Kings In Position To Be Active At Trade Deadline

Sacramento remains the only team in the NBA to have any cap space on its 2018/19 payroll, and as the February 7 trade deadline fast approaches, this means that the Kings are positioned to be a major player in the trade market, if they so choose, writes James Ham of NBC Sports California.

That being said, the Kings aren’t interested in taking on any long-term deals with their cap space unless a player on a long-term deal can help the team win now and in the future. Additionally, the team is reportedly not interested in taking on any expiring contracts to help another club save money unless assets are attached to said contract.

So, what do the Kings want? Per Ham, the Kings are motivated to add more length and size at the small forward position, while also interested in adding a veteran point guard to bring off the bench in a back-up/potential mentorship role for budding star De’Aaron Fox.

[RELATED: Kings Among Teams Interested in Jeremy Lin]

In addition to their $11MM in cap space, the Kings have the expiring contracts of Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and Ben McLemore to worth with. Swingman Iman Shumpert is also in the final year of his contract, but has provided a veteran spark to a young team still competing for a playoff spot. Then again, Shumpert is only 6’5″ and plays small forward. As mentioned above, the team is interested in adding length to that position, so Shumpert could also be expendable if an attractive enough deal comes along.

As for the Kings’ current assets, Sacramento has no interest in moving any of its young talent (e.g. Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley, or Buddy Hield) unless it means the team is making a massive long-term investment in a star-level player. And even then, the aforementioned core group of youngsters is close to untouchable.

In Ham’s view, general manager Vlade Divac should look to be active, as Sacramento has worked hard to be a player in the trade market and is the only team with cap space to use. However, the Kings should also be wary of using that cap space to take on future money that could eat into future cap room. Ultimately, Ham would be surprised to see no moves made before the deadline.

Marvin Bagley III Out At Least Two More Weeks

An on-court return isn’t imminent for Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III, according to a press release issued by the team. While Bagley is making progress in his recovery from a left knee bone bruise, he isn’t expected to resume full basketball activities for about two more weeks.

Bagley, who suffered his knee injury on December 14 against Golden State, was initially ruled out for at least 10-14 days. He hasn’t suffered any setbacks, but Sacramento announced a new recovery timetable as a result of a re-evaluation today.

The second overall pick in this year’s draft, Bagley had settled into a regular role off the Kings’ bench, averaging 12.7 PPG and 6.1 RPG in his first 26 games (23.1 MPG) in the NBA.

In Bagley’s absence, starting power forward Nemanja Bjelica has seen a slight uptick in his minutes, while Justin Jackson has played more frequently at the four. Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere have also seen some occasional playing time up front.

Joerger: Fox, Bagley Are Next Westbrook, Durant

Kings head coach Dave Joerger made some headlines after he praised standout rookie Luka Doncic following Sacramento’s tilt against the Mavericks on Sunday. Despite some skepticism about Doncic’s ability to translate his overseas success to the NBA, the 19-year-old is the early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.

“Perhaps there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him.,” Joerger said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I don’t see it, unfortunately for us. But he’s great for them and he’s great for our league”.

Some interpreted Joerger’s comments as veiled criticism of the organization, given his reportedly tumultuous relationship with certain front office members — the Kings passed on Doncic in the NBA Draft and instead used the second overall pick on Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. Doncic was taken third overall by the Hawks and traded to Dallas.

On Monday, Joerger clarified his comments, stating this praise for Doncic involved “no veiled shots at anybody,” per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Instead, Joerger used a high benchmark to predict the ceiling on the Kings’ young core of Bagley and De’Aaron Fox, the fifth overall pick in 2017.

“When we drafted Marvin at 2, we were high-fiving like crazy,” Joerger added. “We got the right guy for us. This isn’t going to be a story in three days and it’ll be definitely buried five years from now when we have the next Durant-Westbrook. That’s how good they’re gonna be.”

Marvin Bagley III To Be Reevaluated In Approximately Two Weeks

Kings forward Marvin Bagley III underwent an MRI on Friday that revealed a bone bruise in his left knee and he will be reevaluated in 10 to 14 days, the team announced in a press release.

Bagley, 19, suffered the injury in the second quarter of the Kings’ 130-125 loss to the Warriors on Friday night. The second overall pick in last year’s draft landed awkwardly following a rebound attempt and never returned to the game.

The Duke product is averaging 12.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG and 53.6% shooting in 23.1 minutes per game this season. The Kings (15-13) have been a surprise in the Western Conference this season and are currently half a game back of the Trail Blazers for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The loss of Bagley could impact the Kings’ postseason push in the coming weeks.

Latest On Dave Joerger, Kings

Over the weekend, a report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports suggested that Dave Joerger and the Kings‘ front office don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on the team’s priorities and direction, potentially putting Joerger’s job in jeopardy. General manager Vlade Divac swiftly issued a statement dismissing the report, suggesting that Joerger has the team’s “full support and confidence.”

Digging into the situation in Sacramento a little deeper today, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports that Joerger is not in danger of being fired anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean that Haynes’ report is “much ado about nothing,” according to Amick, who says there’s a genuine disagreement within the Kings’ ranks about player development.

Haynes wrote on Saturday that Joerger is focused on winning as many games as possible, while team management would like to prioritize the development of young prospects a little more, and Amick’s report seems to confirm that. Sources tell Amick that there’s concern within the organization about insufficient playing time for Marvin Bagley III and other young prospects.

Here’s more out of Sacramento:

  • Although Joerger has another year on his contract beyond the 2018/19 season, his assistants are in the final year of their respective deals, per Amick, who describes the situation as “a second-level sort of lame-duck status.”
  • Joerger has believed since last season that assistant GM Brandon Williams was in the market for a new coach to replace him, sources tell Amick.
  • Amick describes Williams as a “major backer” of Bagley. Conversley, Nemanja Bjelica – the veteran power forward who is currently starting ahead of the club’s No. 2 overall pick – was a “Divac-driven” acquisition during the offseason, per Amick.
  • Now that the Kings have lost three of four games and have failed to deal internally with the possible discord within the organization, Joerger will face an even tougher task as he looks to hold his young team together, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Kings Considering A Coaching Change?

The Kings‘ surprising start may not be enough for head coach Dave Joerger to keep his job, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Joerger is locked in a philosophical battle with the front office over minutes for some of the team’s younger players, Haynes explains. Management sees this as a development year for the organization, while Joerger is focused on winning as many games as possible.

Of particular concern is the way  Joerger is treating Marvin Bagley III, the second player taken in this year’s draft, who is playing just 22.3 minutes per night. The 19-year-old is putting up decent numbers despite the limited playing time, with per-36-minute averages of 18.7 PPG and 8.9 RPG.

The front office wants to build around a core of Bagley, point guard De’Aaron Fox and young forwards Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere. Joerger has preferred to rely on veterans, including 30-year-old Nemanja Bjelica, who has started every game this season.

While management recognizes Joerger’s contributions to an 8-7 start, there are concerns that may lead to a coaching change. Several voices in the organization are calling for more playing time for Bagley, who many in the front office projected as a starter before the season began. Bagley is still seeing much more action than Giles, who is averaging 10 minutes per night, and Labissiere, who is at a career-low 5.6 minutes and has gotten into just five games.

The discontent in the front office, coupled with frustration from players over lack of consistency in their roles, could prove too much for Joerger, even though his contract runs through next season.

However, GM Vlade Divac responded to the report with a statement of support for Joerger, tweets James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Dave has our full support and confidence,” Divac said. “We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.”