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Rowdy Online Dads Play Critical Role In Dragging Sacramento Kings Into The Mud

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15: Marvin Bagley III #35 of the Sacramento Kings stands on the court during their game against the Dallas Mavericks at Golden 1 Center on January 15, 2020 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

For exactly five games, the Sacramento Kings were enjoying a charmed season. A 3-2 record wasn’t much to get excited about, but the team nabbed impressive early wins against Denver (twice) and Phoenix thanks largely to an even more in-control De’Aaron Fox and the all-encompassing skills of Tyrese Haliburton, the absolute steal of the draft. Naturally, it took just one bad loss to reset the “DAYS SINCE LAST EMBARRASSING KERFUFFLE” counter back to zero.

The foremost reason for this is the posting habit of Marvin Bagley III’s father Marvin Bagley Jr., who operates what is essentially a stan account for the second pick of the 2018 draft and his other sons. On its own, vocally supportive online fatherhood isn’t a problem at all, or anyway not intrinsically a problem. But Bagley Jr. has spent his son’s two-plus seasons in Sacramento yelling at his team’s coaching staff and management any and every time he perceives a slight against Bagley III, who I will henceforth refer to as “Bagley” because this is exhausting. In the past, Bagley The Elder reserved most of his fire for Dave Joerger for the crime of playing Nemanja Bjelica over Bagley, which was objectively the correct choice for a team in contention for a playoff spot.

During the fourth quarter of the Kings’ loss to the Rockets on Saturday, from which Bagley was conspicuously absent, dad came out with a new demand: Trade my underachieving son. He deleted the original tweet but did retweet the following from two Kings bloggers.

Bagley and the Kings are both in a tough position here. As the crime of skipping Luka Doncic for a power forward who can’t shoot, block shots, or pass has revealed itself as an ever-more-damning screwup with each passing week, tensions have ratcheted up on both sides. Bagley is a tricky player to use, and while he is springy and quick for a 4, his inability to spread the floor or protect the rim demands a particularly supportive lineup. The Kings have been closing games without him, and while Bagley starts, what has been inarguably the team’s best lineup features Haliburton taking Bagley’s spot. Also, Bagley is more or less playing in his second season after injuries robbed him of all but 13 games in 2019-20, and he is obviously not showing the form he flashed during the back half of his rookie year. All of which is to say that his subterranean value is not even the only reason the Kings almost certainly don’t want to trade him. Bagley dodged the matter during his most recent media availability, which, fair.

This being the Kings, that is only the beginning of this story. It turns out that an unlikely source agrees with Bagley Jr. and his demands. De’Aaron Fox’s father Aaron (so much cooler than amending a Jr.) was even more succinct than Bagley Jr. in replying to a different Kings blogger. Fox and Bagley have never quite synced up in their years together, but any version of the Kings with legitimate playoff aspirations will necessarily have to feature Fox and Bagley operating together to deadly effect. Fox is now signed to a long-term deal in Sacramento, while Bagley faces a prove-it year. This War of the Dads is not really evidence of a rift between the two players, though it’s not encouraging either.

De’Aaron obliquely weighed in half an hour later, and after the Kings got smoked by Golden State on Monday—Bagley was minus-27 in 24 minutes with five points, three turnovers, three fouls, and one light singing—Fox shrugged it off with vigor.

There are two truths we can glean from this drama: One, Tyrese Haliburton is already essential to this team’s on-court fortunes to an alarming degree, as the loss that prompted this meltdown occurred thanks to a Haliburton-sized hole in the fourth quarter. Fox is having another great season, but without Haliburton on the floor he is cast as the lone playmaker on a team with the second-fewest three-pointers this season. The other truth is that Richaun Holmes’s mother Dr. Lydecia Holmes remains the unquestioned alpha in the Online Sacramento Kings Parents rankings.