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LAS VEGAS — Being a fan of the Sacramento Kings requires a special kind of patience – the kind that hasn’t necessarily been rewarded with time, involves immediate second-guessing of possible mistakes and doesn’t include watching that can’t-miss prospect leaving for something better because you never had him anyway.
In the past 12 years of lottery purgatory, the Kings have changed ownership, front office regimes and coaching staffs, fended off two relocation attempts and seen the lone all-star drafted in that time jettisoned in a move that was necessary for both sides to possibly function properly. And, most recently, loyalty to a franchise that has done little to earn it has required accepting that the league’s superpower is a short drive down Interstate 80 West and a rival from the only period when the team was good is relevant again with the addition of LeBron James.
The failures are plentiful, yet under the mound of disappointments hope remains that this is when the Kings will finally get it right. This summer, when Sacramento added No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III to a young core that includes De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles III, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin Jackson and Buddy Hield, general manager Vlade Divac added the latest comment to elicit eye rolls, face palms and laughter when he explained that the Kings could compete with the league’s best because, “My team is a super team, just young.”
By adding, “just young,” Divac put the patience of Kings fans to the test once again. But Giles has a message for those skeptically wondering how to process Divac’s statement: “Believe it,” Giles recently told Yahoo Sports.
Foundation for success
Fox, the cocksure speed demon, and Bogdanovic, the sharpshooter who made second-team all-rookie and won MVP of the Rookie Challenge, provided some encouraging signs for the future last season. Hield, the centerpiece of the DeMarcus Cousins trade, has yet to flash superstar potential but has hit more threes in his first two seasons than any player other than Damian Lillard. Bagley and Giles offer another layer of hype to the Kings hopes of eventually ending the NBA’s longest active playoff drought (12 years and counting).
The desire from fans to return to, or possibly exceed, that Chris Webber-led period in franchise history was evident to Bagley the moment he stepped on a private jet and landed in Sacramento, where fans – some already wearing his No. 35 jersey – greeted him at the airport, seeking handshakes and autographs. “That was a good feeling to get off the plane and see all the fans who support the team there. That just made me want to work harder and do whatever I can to play hard for the fans,” Bagley told Yahoo Sports.
Bagley is a throwback to that early 2000s era, with a developing back-to-the-basket game and a penchant for getting buckets. Though his summer league play was cut short because of a pelvic contusion, Bagley had his moments when he revealed why Divac chose him over Luka Doncic – such as a monstrous dunk over Los Angeles Lakers rookie Moe Wagner in his debut. But he also needs a lot of work to become a consistent, effective low post scorer in the modern NBA.
“I always say, ‘I’m never losing, always learning.’ That’s the one thing I always go by. Whatever happens, win or lose, I’m always learning and trying to take something new from that experience,” Bagley told Yahoo Sports. “Coming into the game as rookie, that’s all you can do. Every day, I’m trying to soak something else new in. It’s the most exciting part of the game, to find different tricks. Not every game is going to be perfect. I don’t feel any pressure to go out there and be something that people want me to be. It’s just basketball. It might not be now but once I figure out the game, I’ll definitely be comfortable.”
As one of the new faces of Puma’s basketball brand, Bagley finds the parallels in elevating a shoe company and a franchise that have either been overlooked or ignored over the past decade. The lefty possesses a unique offensive repertoire and the confidence that he can handle what’s ahead. “It’s definitely something that I’ve been thinking about. It’s definitely a challenge, coming into something new, on and off the floor,” Bagley told Yahoo Sports. “I’m excited for it and I can’t wait to continue to grow and build.”
The revival of Harry Giles
Bagley would perhaps feel more pressure if he were forced to confront the responsibilities alone but he’ll have fellow Duke alum Giles around to share in the experience. Giles, whom the Kings drafted and stashed in 2017, will be one of the more interesting rookies, having missed all of last season while recovering from a torn right ACL injury that cost him his senior season in high school and contributed to an ineffective freshman season in college.
After being considered the top prospect from a high school class that included Jayson Tatum, Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson and Fox, Giles slipped to 20th in the draft, a slight that led to him choosing to wear No. 20. An intense competitor who has drawn comparisons to Kevin Garnett for his passion and chirpiness, Giles has included Garnett’s nickname, “Big Ticket” into his Instagram handle – @bigticket_hg. Giles is eager to show the rest of the league what it has been missing, but his best friend and former Duke teammate, Tatum, and mentor, Chris Paul, have all advised him not to be in a hurry to regain his lost status or prove anything.
“It’s my time. I’m anxious to be out there, attacking every day,” Giles told Yahoo Sports. “It’s hard. I’m still trying to get through that. My coaches are telling me to slow down, my teammates and my peers, people that I look up to, just telling me, ‘Slow yourself down. You’ve been away from the game for almost two years, your rhythm will come back.’ Jayson told me, ‘Let it come to you. You can’t get it all back in one game.'”
Giles said the experience of sitting out the entire season helped him mature and learn how to manage life outside of basketball while also understanding the work required to be a professional. Ben Simmons’s rookie-of-the-year performance after sitting out his first season has served as an inspiration for taking his time. “You’re in a state where you want to play but you can’t and you have to be patient, let your body heel and let your mind grow, become a student of the game, completely. You’re in the student phase before playing. Once that comes together, your time comes, you’ve put in your work, put in your pain, and learn, it’ll come back and be a great thing,” Giles told Yahoo Sports. “You feel like you want to give up at times, but you’ve got to think about why you started playing, that love for the game, and that’ll bring you through it every day.”
Waiting out the Warriors
By the time the Golden State Warriors have decided to quit ruining the NBA and James has long since relented the title as the game’s best player, the Kings want to have a collection of talented players entering their respective primes and poised to reward their dedicated fans for an excruciating wait. They might not live up to Divac’s “super team” proclamations but Bagley maintains that they have the potential to reach that standard.
“I think we do. It’s just nobody sees it yet,” Bagley told Yahoo Sports. “We believe. I can see, if we continue to grow as a team and get the chemistry where [we] want it to be, it’ll definitely be up there. It takes work. It’s a process to get to that point. But I believe with our age, everybody is young, we can build up and we can definitely get to that point.”
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