The losses are piling up for the Sacramento Kings, but that doesn’t change the trajectory of the team’s star player.
In his fourth NBA season, De’Aaron Fox is elevating his game at almost every turn, but there are nights when the officiating crew doesn’t give him the respect that he wants or deserves.
Following the Kings’ sixth straight loss Saturday night in Utah, Fox sounded off on the officiating crew of Pat Fraher, Michael Smith and Mitchell Ervin. His comments will likely earn him a fine from the league.
“It was god-awful,” Fox said following the 128-112 loss. “Mine wasn’t even about me getting there or anything like that. It was calls they were getting on the other end. If you’re going to call something on one end, call it on the other end. And when someone tries to talk to you, you can’t get into your feelings so quick.”
Following the game, Fox could be seen talking to the officials and before it turned ugly, the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell stepped in to cool down Fox.
“He was talking to the ref, but the game was over and Fox has been a friend of mine since high school,” Mitchell said of the moment. “There’s no reason to lose money over a situation like that. The games over, the competitions over, so now, that’s my guy, I’m going to make sure he doesn’t lose money in that situation.”
It was probably too late, which Fox admitted later. He still appreciated the gesture from Mitchell.
“The way the NBA works, I’m probably going to get fined anyways for talking to a ref, that is what it is,” Fox said of Mitchell. “Donovan and I are cool off the court, obviously. Between the lines, we’re competitors going at each other. It’s great to have somebody like that.”
Fox and Mitchell are both part of the 2017 NBA Draft class that is turning out to be one of the better groups in years. The bond between this class runs deep, with many of the players having long term relationships.
The Kings’ point guard wasn’t the only one who was unhappy with the officiating crew. Coach Luke Walton had multiple loud discussions with the group and the fact that he wasn’t hit with a technical foul, like Fox was during the game, was a surprise.
Following the game, Walton spoke on the situation and like Fox, he vented some of his displeasure with the way the game was called.
“He’s a very good player,” coach Luke Walton said of Mitchell. “He’s a very good player, but that’s part of the frustration. I mean, De’Aaron Fox played the same way, right? It’s not like Donovan was just attacking the rim, he shot 12 threes, right? He’s shooting a lot of jump shots too. As a team, they shot 50 threes and 35 free throws and we had 22 free throws.”
Both Fox and Walton focused with the inequity of whistles called. The Jazz shot 30-of-35 from the line, while the Kings finished just 14-for-22. Sacramento missed eight freebies, but they may have had a legitimate beef about how the game was called, especially when Fox and Mitchell’s numbers were compared.
“If you tell me that Donovan attacked the rim any harder than De’Aaron Fox, I would strongly disagree with you,” Walton added. “So I don’t see how in the same game, and this is to take nothing away from Donovan, he’s an incredible player. But how he gets 17 free throws and De’Aaron gets, what’d he shoot? Six free throws.”
Fox finished the night with 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting and 4-of-6 from the line. Mitchell hit the Kings for 42 points on 31 shot attempts, but he also knocked down 14-for-17 from the stripe.
Fox had plenty to say about the overall officiating, but the general tenor of his comments were that his team didn’t get a fair shake and that the officiating crew were not approachable.
“It was terrible, it was terrible,” Fox said. “And when you tried to talk to him, he didn’t want to hear anything or he was too good.”
Known for his aggressive takes to the rim, Fox, as well as Walton, wanted an explanation about the disparity in calls between the two players. Neither received the answers they were looking for from the officiating crew.
Walton and Fox could both be facing league fines for voicing their opinions about the officiating crew. Fox may have even made out the check already.
Utah is a very good team and the game wasn’t decided by free throw shooting as much as it was by the Kings’ lack of execution in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter.
That doesn’t mean that the game should be called differently for a 40-win team versus one that has just 22. Especially when both teams have rising stars.