SACRAMENTO -- You can’t teach clutch. Either you got it or you don’t. De’Aaron Fox has it.
In his rookie season in the NBA, the 20-year-old out of Kentucky has found himself in plenty of big moments already.
Who can forget his 18-foot game-winning jumper over the outstretched arms of the Sixers Robert Covington back in November that gave the Kings a 109-108 win.
On the road in Miami on January 25, he went over the top of the Heat defense with a putback dunk to snap the Kings’ 15-game losing streak at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Two weeks ago against the Brooklyn Nets, Fox went baseline and hit a high arching floater over the top of a defender as time expired to push the game into overtime.
Wednesday at Golden 1 Center, the Kings blew a 16-point lead to the Heat, but again, it was Fox that saved the day.
With just three seconds remaining, Fox took the inbounds pass from fellow rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic. He instantly got into the body of veteran Goran Dragic, riding the All-Star guard right down the middle of the lane.
With four defenders converging on the play, Fox used his left hand to maneuver through a sea of arms and hit a 9-foot floater. The replay shows the ball leaving the 6-foot-3 guard’s hand just before the clock hits zero. The ball cut through the net and Golden 1 Center exploded.
“I feel like guys that want those moments, want to play in those close games, those guys are the ones who thrive,” Fox told media members following the Kings’ 123-119 overtime win. “You don’t usually see the guys that want the shot, miss the shot a lot. It’s the basketball gods just rewarding us for wanting to do it.”
Fox’s jumper extended the game by five minutes and the young Kings kept charging forward. The speedy guard came through with two big stops on Dragic down the stretch, showing that he is more than just an offensive weapon.
“I feel like I can be one of the best two-way players in this league in some time,” Fox said. “That guy, he’s an All-Star. He’s good. You just try to get him out of rhythm, try to make it tough. He had a great game, but down the stretch, I just tried to make it tough on him.”
Dragic finished the night with a game-high 33 points, but he shot just 1-of-3 from the field in the extra frame as Fox put the clamps on him.
Fox wasn’t the only player to come up big for Sacramento. Buddy Hield chipped in 12 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter and he added four points in the overtime session. Zach Randolph chipped in 22 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes and Bogdanovic hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining in the extra session to put the game away.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t scared,” Fox said. “Once we sent it to overtime, it’s pretty much crunch time the whole five minutes and we have a whole bunch of guys that can make plays and make shots.”
Injuries to Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere have forced Randolph back into action full-time for Sacramento. Despite a 22-47 record, the 36-year-old big sees major improvement in the team’s young core.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in my young guys,” Randolph said. “They play hard and they put the time in and they work hard. When we get on the court, it applies on the court and that’s what they’re doing. I’m proud of them.”
Fox isn’t the only young player to come up clutch for the Kings this season. Skal Labissiere drilled a 3-pointer against the New York Knicks on March 4 to give Sacramento a win and both Bogdanovic and Hield have come through plenty of times with the big shots.
The Kings return to the floor Friday in Oakland where they face the Golden State Warriors on the first night of a back-to-back. While out of the hunt in the Western Conference playoff race, they continue to play hard, posting a 4-4 over their last eight games.