Word is that Marvin Bagley Jr. is LaVar Ball all over again.
No. That wouldn’t be fair to Ball.
Bagley Jr. is worse.
Not as a dad, or a person, or a coach, but he is worse as a fan. Bagley Jr. is barreling down the wrong lane on social media, with tweets calling out the Kings, wondering first why the club would sit him and then later pleading for a trade under the Twitter name of Team Bagley.
That’s unusual for an NBA father, and a bad look for him and his son, Marvin Bagley III. Bagley, the father, is worse than Ball in that he wants to be relevant when he should be silent. This isn’t AAU ball and it’s not daddy ball. It’s the big time.
Ball has gone from boastful to silent, or a great deal more toned down in his basketball bluster. When this season’s training camps started, he had three sons in the NBA. LaVar is jovial and likable, even if some of his media takes on how great his sons figure to be were laughable, or that he could handle Michael Jordan on the court in his day.
LaVar is approachable. He will chat with fans, with the media, poke fun at himself. Bagley Jr. isn’t so approachable. He draws no crowd. This is all by design. His tweets to the Kings were not impulse emotional reactions. They were calculated, by design, and it casts him in the image that most of us see him: glowering and disgruntled.
Bagley Jr. also believes in his basketball sons. He has three of them, the oldest being 21-year-old Bagley III of the Kings. You know him: second pick in the 2018 NBA draft, selected and signed for a fortune to be a difference-maker. But Bagley III has missed almost as many games as he has played, due to myriad injuries, and he has been more emphatic in his misses than his in-game makes.
He has been benched in stretches for ineffective play. His father is also a coach, having worked with his sons since they could walk and dribble. But as a coach, he somehow forgot it’s not about one guy. Bagley Jr. wants to have a say in his sons’ basketball lives because he has always had a say in their lives.
Bagley Jr. soured quickly on his son’s first NBA coach, Dave Joerger, once calling him “Yogurt” on Twitter. Bagley Jr. was delighted when Joerger was not extended. Now he’s soured on coach Luke Walton. The father of Kings star De’Aaron Fox, Aaron, may have soured on Bagley Jr., tweeting that the Kings should trade Bagley III. Or he’s in on the fun.
Kings fans are too pained to be amused by all of this. They’re tired of being a national punchline, of missing the playoffs every season since 2006. Tweets have put the Kings in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons, dulling a promising start that now includes four losses in the last five games entering Wednesday’s home contest against the Chicago Bulls.
Bagley Jr. knew me before I knew him.
He approached in good spirits after his son was introduced to the media for the first time, having signed his rookie contract at Golden 1 Center in 2018. Bagley Jr. was friendly and curious. He knew I covered high school sports for years at The Sacramento Bee and wanted to know about the top basketball programs in the region, saying, “We’re a close family. We’ll be moving up here as a family from Southern California, and my middle son, Marcus, will be a junior.”
We talked about area schools, the region in general, then I said, “Mr. Bagley, I’m working on a story on who your son is as a person, beyond the player. Can you offer some insight and background?”
“No. I don’t talk to the media,” he offered, citing trust concerns.
Bagley Jr. regularly attended Sheldon High School games, sometimes with Bagley III in tow. Marcus quickly emerged as a star, a hard-working, hard-charging 6-foot-8 forward now on scholarship at Arizona State.
The Bagley boys are polite, well-liked. They have a unique family bond. The boys have spoken glowingly of their parents, including mother Tracy.
Marcus had to be pulled out of the gym after some practices, he cared so much. Marvin Bagley Jr. sometimes cared too much, too sensitive about how his son was used. A year ago this month, Bagley the dad was so irked with Sheldon coaches for how they used or didn’t use his son in the final quarter of an upset loss that he didn’t allow Marcus to travel with the team to a national tournament.
That the Bagley family donated thousands of dollars to the program was a kind gesture, but does it include making the call on if the best player in town travels or not? Sheldon got Marcus back in the lineup and finished the season ranked No. 1 in Northern California.
Marvin Bagley Jr. called The Bee to speak to management, to express disappointment in how his sons have been covered by the local press. He did not think the coverage was favorable. He was friendly, even jovial, I’m told, a father protecting his boys.
Truth is, the Sacramento media market remains a friendly lot. The coverage and critique has been more than fair on Marvin III — and it’s been glowing on Marcus, who was a co-Bee Player of the Year as a junior and who made our Bee All-Decade team.
Bagley Jr. made it known at Kings home games during his son’s first two NBA campaigns that he wasn’t pleased with the coaches. His expressions said as much. Fans could overhear him saying changes could be coming, including a trade.
Now it’s continued via tweets. Wishful thinking like that doesn’t help the cause. It makes one a target. Sports KHTK 1140 morning radio host Carmichael Dave refers to Bagley Jr. as “Marvin Dadley” — and Dave is a Kings fan to the core. Wears Peja jerseys to church, to bed, or both.
During Saturday’s loss to the Houston Rockets, Bagley Jr. tweeted, “PLEASE trade Marvin Bagley III ASAP” and he ended it with “Love - Coach Bagley” The Kings soon made Bagley III available to the media, a prime chance for the power forward to settle this fracas once and for all. He declined to talk about what his father tweeted, and he did not address if he wanted to be traded or remain put, stressing that he would only talk about the next game.
That next game was Monday, a complete dud.
Bagley III had 1 point, two turnovers and no impact in the first half at Golden State, and he finished by shooting 1-for-9 from the floor as his struggles continued. He blew layups. He ran over people and turned the ball over. He forced things. The Warriors sought him out to exploit him on defense and switches. Golden State rolled 137-106.
Players afterward insisted tweets did not lead to such erratic play, with Fox, the speedy guard, saying, “I don’t think anybody’s out there playing basketball worried about two tweets, and if you are, this ain’t what you should be doing because motherf------ are going to tweet you every day of your life while you’re playing in this league.”
Bagley III did not speak to the media afterward, though he might have offered, “I’m not talking about my game. I’ll talk about my dad only.”
Bagley III has to play better. His dad has to tweet better. Bagley III will make $11.3 million next season and $14.7 in 2022-23, the final year of his rookie contract. The Kings were purchased from the Kansas City ownership group in 1985 for $10.5 million, so longtime Kings fans have every right to be irked with the early returns on the investment.
Bagley III hasn’t played like a franchise savior. He needs to be more Anthony Davis than Willie Cauley-Stein. If he plays well, Bagley Jr. will let everyone know, and we look forward to those tweets.