Marvin Bagley III had a ball game. After Bagley played just 12 minutes in the opener, Kings head coach Dave Joerger turned the rookie loose in the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, and the 19-year-old answered the call.
The No. 2 overall pick went at All-Star Anthony Davis, showing a variety of skill moves in the paint on his way to an early, career-best 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He added eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block.
All of those numbers are nice, but they came in a 149-129 loss to the Pelicans.
It wasn't an effort issue, and the Kings' offense is running just fine. Sacramento has all kinds of issues on the defensive end, which is why Bagley, who had a perfectly nice break-out game, led the team with a minus-21 in the plus/minus category.
This isn't a carryover from his college days at Duke. The NBA is a different beast, and the Kings are running a squad of young players out there. Bagley is one of nine players who stepped on the floor for Sacramento with four years or fewer of professional experience.
Every night is an opportunity to learn and get better for all of these players. Following the game, Bagley said the right things.
"I did all right, I would like to win," Bagley told reporters in New Orleans. "Get that going in that direction, but it's a process. This is game two of a long season, so we've just got to figure out what we need to do to pull games like that out."
In the end, wins and losses are the ultimate goal, and if the Kings lose sight of that, they've made a huge mistake. It's good that Bagley already has that perspective in mind.
When speaking about Bagley and fellow Kings rookie, Harry Giles earlier in the week, Utah Jazz big man, Rudy Gobert, made a point along these same lines.
"The most important thing is that you really play to win," Gobert said. "When you start playing just to play or just to show what you can do, but if you don't play to win is when things get ugly."
In his rookie season, Gobert's Jazz team went 25-57. They improved to 38-44 in year two and 40-42 in year three before finally breaking through for 51 wins in year three.
Utah didn't win right away, but they continued to show improvement and played the game to with the right intentions.
The Kings are going to take their lumps this season in a similar way that the Jazz did. Sacramento isn't predicted to make the playoffs and Vegas has them falling short of the 30-win total.
Wins might not come easily for the Kings this season, but that doesn't change the approach. They need to play every game with the intention to win. If they lose sight of that goal, that's when things get ugly.