James Ham

De'Aaron Fox lives up to billing, looks ready for primetime after solid debut

2-fox-rockets-blur.jpg
USATSI

De'Aaron Fox lives up to billing, looks ready for primetime after solid debut

SACRAMENTO -- Watching tape of De’Aaron Fox looks like a video stuck on fast forward. The comparisons to John Wall don’t do him justice. Teams deliberately sag off the rookie and dare him to shoot and he still manages to race by them in a blur.

If his opening night performance against the Houston Rockets was any indication, the Kings have landed a special player. From barking orders on the court to his teammates to going at NBA veteran defenders, Fox looked ready for primetime just 24 minutes into his professional career.

“I got to get my first NBA game out the way, I think it went well,” Fox told a huge crowd surrounding his locker. “We played hard. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, we wanted to get the W, but there’s a lot of things we learned out of today.”

Dressed in a burgundy suit and shoes that would have made Omri Casspi blush, the rookie hung around for way too long after the game, giving every camera and microphone a good talking to. He’ll learn quickly that the media is drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

His numbers look modest - 14 points on 7-of-15 shooting and five assists. But he was facing a title contender in the Houston Rockets and the moment wasn’t too big for the 19-year-old point guard. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni even showed the rookie respect when he shifted one of his better defenders in Trevor Ariza over to cover the speedster.

“This is game 1, we’re not expecting him to be a Hall of Famer right now,” George Hill said. “It takes steps to do it and baby crawls. But I think he took a huge step today in proving what he can do. He looked good out there.”

Hill started in front of Fox, but the two guards played alongside each other for plenty of minutes. That is the plan this season, although there are plenty of other players vying for minutes in the backcourt.

Everyone in the building seemed impressed by the youngster. He has an ability to drop the pedal down on an opponent and then downshift on the fly to stay under control.

“He’s pretty fast, you know,” Dave Joerger said of his star rookie. “He has a terrific charisma about him and I think he’ll be fun to play with.”

His teammates appeared to have no problems keeping up. They ran the floor and pushed the tempo when Fox was in the game and the team seems to feed off his energy.

“They play hard, man,” Vince Carter said of Fox and team’s other young players players. “They just go for it and that’s all you can ask. It’s just great and it’s going to get better. You can show them all the film you want, but they’re not going to learn until they get thrown into the fire. That’s the best lesson.”

Game 1 is in the books and Fox is already earning a longer look. The team embarks on their first road trip of the season beginning Friday night against the Mavericks. Waiting for them in Dallas is another young point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., setting up the first of many battles between the star-studded draft class of 2017.

Kings adamantly disagree with perplexing foul call at end of loss to Rockets

Kings adamantly disagree with perplexing foul call at end of loss to Rockets

SACRAMENTO -- Every time the Houston Rockets tried to pull away, the Sacramento Kings answered Wednesday night in the team’s home opener. It was a heavyweight contender throwing body blows at a 100-to-1 underdog riding a huge home crowd advantage.

And then the ref called the fight.

With the Kings trailing 98-95 with 26 seconds remaining, the Rockets attempted to inbounds the ball and George Hill made a play. From the video replay, it appeared that the ball tipped off the fingertips of Houston's Eric Gordon and the nearest official called Kings ball.

Hill and teammate Garrett Temple celebrated the turnover and the sold out crowd went crazy.

The play went under review and not only was the call overturned, but Hill was assessed a personal foul. Gordon went to the line and hit two freebies to give the Rockets a 100-95 lead and effectively ended Sacramento’s chances.

In the confusion of the moment, it turns out that an official on the opposite side of the court called a personal foul and the replay wasn’t to check on possession, but to determine which Kings player would be assessed a personal foul.  

The Kings can’t call shenanigans on the officials, the league has stiff penalties for that. But they seemed just as confused as everyone else in the building when asked about the call during postgame interviews.

“I could have swore that the refs pointed out of bounds, our ball, but they said they called a foul, so it is, what it is,” Hill said following the game.

Hill avoided digging himself a hole with the league and a potential fine as reporters tried to dig deeper. 

Head coach Dave Joerger gave an account of what the officials said following the call, but he too seemed perplexed by the play.

“That was a foul,” Joerger said of what the officials told him on the sidelines. “I adamantly disagreed. They said they called it at the time, which I didn’t see. So that was more my argument than whether it was a foul or not.”

Sacramento continued to compete in the final seconds, but they were forced to foul intentionally down the stretch and the Rockets were able to hold them at bay to come away with the 105-100 victory.

Gameday: Can Kings slow down Rockets from beyond the arc?

harden-ap.jpg
AP

Gameday: Can Kings slow down Rockets from beyond the arc?

Sacramento rebooted the franchise at the trade deadline last season and begin anew this season with veteran additions Vince Carter, George Hill and Zach Randolph to compliment a bevy of young players. 

Houston reloaded in the offseason, adding nine-time All-Star Chris Paul and a veteran defenders P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. They put on a show against the Warriors and look like one of the best the Western Conference has to offer once again. 

BETTING LINE 

Rockets by 8

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Kings defense vs. The 3-pointer -- Houston launched an incredible 180 3-point attempts versus Sacramento last season, hitting a robust 75 (41.7 percent) of those shots. It’s a new-look roster for the Kings, but they’ve had very little time to develop defensive chemistry. Dave Joerger and his staff will game plan to slow the Rockets perimeter game, but Mike D’Antoni has a deep group that comes at you in waves.

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 0-0

Rockets: 1-0

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle sprain) out, PF Zach Randolph (tooth) out

Rockets: PG Chris Paul (bruised right knee) questionable

SERIES HISTORY 

The Rockets swept the Kings last season 4-0, including a 135-128 victory in the final week of the season. Houston leads the all-time series 124-88 and they hold an 83-42 advantage during the Sacramento-era. 

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE ROOKIES - The Kings walk into the 2017-18 campaign with five rookies on the roster, four of which should see time early in the season. De’Aaron Fox is the headliner, but don’t be shocked if Justin Jackson, Frank Mason and Bogdan Bogdanovic play important roles on this team.

ROTATIONS - With 10 new faces on the roster, Joerger needed more than an abbreviated training camp and six preseason contests. Expect the coaching staff to try different looks throughout the first 20 games of the season as they search for answers.

BALANCING THE ROSTER - Joerger has five veterans and 10 players with two years of experience or less. If he goes with the vets, fans will call for the rookies. If he plays the rookies and the losses stack up, fans will call for his head. It’s an unenviable position that will require patience and a little faith.

QUOTE

“I’m expecting a high-paced game. I feel like our fans are going to come out, they’re going to give us a lot of energy, playing a team as good as Houston is.” -De’Aaron Fox