De'Aaron Fox pushes Kings from brink of defeat to comeback road win

De'Aaron Fox pushes Kings from brink of defeat to comeback road win

DALLAS -- With 5:04 remaining in the fourth quarter and his Kings trailing by five points Tuesday night, coach Dave Joerger sent three of his starters back into the game and hoped for the best.

Center Willie Cauley-Stein and forward Harrison Barnes both had solid games coming into the fourth, but in the last five minutes, it was all De'Aaron Fox.

The sophomore point guard turned on the jets, running right at the heart of the Dallas Mavericks' defense. He hit floaters. He hit layups. He got to the free-throw line.

“You’ve just got to be in attack mode, just try to keep going to the rim,” Fox said. “When we got stops, we were able to run back at them.”

After scoring 11 points through the first three quarters, Fox hit Dallas with a 12-point outburst in the closing minutes to lead the Kings to a 125-121 win at American Airlines Center.

“We have a lot of guys in here that want to take that big shot," Fox said. "We were able to do it today. We knocked it down, but you’ve got to have that confidence, you’ve got to have the guts to be able to shine in those moments.”

It was like a switch was flipped. After letting the refs know his displeasure with the lack of whistles early, the 21-year-old turned up the intensity late. For stretches, he looked like a man possessed.

“Man, he’s so talented, he’s so fast, too fast,” Joerger said. “He got very competitive. He felt like he was driving earlier and not getting to the foul line. He put a little extra juice in it coming down the stretch. You see the competitor that he is.”

Fox finished the night with 23 points, eight assists and five rebounds. His final rebound came off his own missed shot and led to another basket that helped seal the Kings' win.

There was an aggression in Fox’s game that he shows in flashes. As he gets stronger and more mature as a player, it’s likely that we'll see more of this version.

“He’s going to come back next year a lot stronger than he was this year, just like he came back a lot stronger than he was the year before,” Cauley-Stein said. “He’s growing into his body, and it’s going to make his finishing a lot more crazy. I don’t know what people are going to do when he can muscle them.”

The Kings haven’t been eliminated from the playoffs quite yet, but it’s close. They would need a miracle to make it to the postseason -- they're 5 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot with eight to play -- so their focus now is on finishing the right way.

[RELATED: How Kings not drafting Doncic shows trust in Fox]

“We’re trying to win as many games as we can before the season ends,” Fox said. “You just try to take that momentum into next season.”

The 37-37 Kings would like to get to the 41-win mark and cement a .500 record for the first time since the 2005-06 season. It won’t be easy. Not only do the Kings have a handful of difficult games, but they're grouped together oddly without much of a break.

What Lakers' Anthony Davis trade could mean for Kings' offseason plans


What Lakers' Anthony Davis trade could mean for Kings' offseason plans

The wild, wild West.

With the strong smell of the Warriors’ blood fresh in the water, at least one Western Conference team is shooting its shot, and that definitely will impact the Sacramento Kings.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday that the Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to acquire star center Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans for a package of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft.

It’s an interesting trade for Davis, who has missed plenty of time over his NBA career because of myriad physical ailments. The six-time All-Star played in just 55 games this past season, although it was more a precautionary move by the Pelicans after Davis’ representation made a trade demand prior to the All-Star break.

Ball has yet to establish himself in the league after being selected No. 2 overall by the Lakers in the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s missed 63 total games in two seasons, and his shooting woes are monumental.

Hart is a solid rotational player with upside, but he’ll likely be lost in a crowded New Orleans backcourt with Ball, Ingram and veteran Jrue Holiday. His addition in the deal also puts Elfrid Payton’s return in question after his solid season for the Pelicans.

Ingram is a wild card. He had a breakout 2018-19 season, posting 18.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the Lakers. But a late-season blood clot cost him time and is a concern moving forward.

So, what does this all mean for the Kings, their standing in the West and what they should do this offseason?

The Pelicans likely won’t be an immediate threat, since they’re starting over with a young core, which should include Zion Williamson, the expected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. They’ve lost a star, but they could quickly reload, especially if they can move the No. 4 pick acquired in the Davis deal for another major piece.

The Lakers, meanwhile, are swinging for the fences, and at 34, LeBron James is getting long in the tooth by NBA standards. By adding Davis while retaining Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers put themselves back on the map and considerably changed their age arc.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka also has somewhere between $27 million and 32 million to play with in free agency, which is a good thing because his roster is filled with holes.

So, expect LA to add substantial pieces around James, Davis and Kuzma. Then the Lakers should come into the season as championship contenders and a tough matchup for the Kings.

The Pacific Division just became a lot more difficult, which isn’t good news for Sacramento, although Golden State likely will slip from its perch with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both entering free agency and having just suffered major injuries.

The Kings, however, have a young core in place and $38 million to spend in free agency. That gives them an opportunity to greatly improve their roster with the right moves this summer, but their rise in the standings still will depend on the growth of players such as De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley.

This group needs more help, and this isn’t an offseason for the Kings to sit on their hands. Even before the Davis trade, general manager Vlade Divac hoped to upgrade at center, with a decision to make on Willie Cauley-Stein.

Now that the Kings will play against the Lakers and their new star big four times per season, whomever mans the position for Sacramento will become even more important. The team has been linked to Nikola Vucevic, DeAndre Jordan and Dewayne Dedmon in free agency rumor mills, and they could be a better fit against Davis.

[RELATED: Kings troll Warriors over Finals loss]

The Kings have high hopes for next season, including playoff aspirations. They can’t completely base their summer plans off what happens with the Warriors, Lakers or any other team, but it’s clear that one team in the Pacific just became a major player, and Sacramento needs to do the same with player development and smart free-agent signings.

Former NBA player turned Kings scout Predrag Drobnjak stops by Sacramento


Former NBA player turned Kings scout Predrag Drobnjak stops by Sacramento

SACRAMENTO -- The NBA draft process is entering its final week, and that means it’s time for the Kings to call all of their scouts back from afar and whittle the list to a handful of prospects for pick Nos. 40, 47 and 60.

During Wednesday’s workout, former player-turned-European scout Predrag Drobnjak was seated courtside next to longtime friends Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic. Following the workout, he hit the floor, took some shots and showed off some of his old moves.

In his playing days, Drobnjak was known for his ability to knock down a long-range shot, and in Seattle, he became a bit of a cult hero for his television ads, which still can be found hidden deep on the internet.

There used to be an entire website devoted to Drobnjak and the Drobnjak Manjaks. Unfortunately, it no longer is available.