It didn’t take long for Kings guard De’Aaron Fox to turn the page from NBA All-Star Weekend.
"I’m done with this," Fox told reporters Sunday shortly after the All-Star Game concluded at Vivint Arena in Utah [h/t FOX 40's Sean Cunningham]. "As soon as this game was over, as soon as I checked out for what I knew would be the last time, I go, ‘There’s no Fourth-Quarter Fox tonight. Don’t expect that. Leave me on the bench right now.' "
Fox, one half of the Kings’ first All-Star duo since 2004 along with Domantas Sabonis, returned to Sacramento late Sunday night. He'll rejoin teammates for practice Tuesday as the Kings prepare for the final 25 games of the regular season.
The Kings, working to snap their 16-year playoff drought, are in a good spot heading out of the All-Star break. They are 32-25 and in third place in the Western Conference, three games back of the Memphis Grizzlies (35-22) for the No. 2 seed but just four games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder (28-29) in the 10th and final play-in tournament spot.
Per Tankathon, Sacramento owns the fourth-hardest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way. The Kings’ remaining opponents have a combined .520 winning percentage, trailing just the 76ers (.540), Clippers (.523) and Hawks (.523).
The final 25 games include matchups with Eastern Conference heavyweights in the Celtics and the Bucks, Western Conference front-runners in the Nuggets and two clashes with the Suns, who made the biggest trade-deadline splash by acquiring superstar Kevin Durant.
The Kings have six back-to-back sets remaining on their schedule. Sacramento went 5-4 playing when on zero days' rest over the first 57 contests of the season.
“I’m ready to just be geared up for the last part of the season,” Fox said. “We have a lot of back-to-backs, so we’re going to be in a gauntlet for the rest of the year. ... We know that schedule is going to be tough, but for us, it’s what we prepare for.”
When did Sabonis’ attention switch from the annual festivities for the playoff push?
“Right now,” Sabonis said Sunday night [h/t Cunningham]. “Got to rest, try to get my legs up and try to get ready for our last 25 games.”
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It has been a thrilling ride for the Kings and their fans this season. While the rest of the Western Conference flip-flops in the standings nearly every night, Sacramento has held strong in third place for over a full month.
Fox and Sabonis were properly recognized for their starring efforts in the All-Star showcase in Utah. Now, they have 25 games to etch their legacy in Sacramento.
“It was dope,” Fox said of being introduced as an All-Star for the first time. “Had a lot of friends that were able to watch. For me, that was a really big moment for me.
"I think the next big moment for me will be once we’re hopefully in the playoffs.”