De'Aaron Fox shakes off bumps and bruises, leads Kings to much needed win

De'Aaron Fox shakes off bumps and bruises, leads Kings to much needed win

SACRAMENTO -- A week ago, De’Aaron Fox was wearing strips of tape all over his shoulder trying to support the ailing joint. Saturday against the Golden State Warriors, he took a brutal knee to the thigh from Kevon Looney that sent him to the locker room. He also needed stitches in his right eyelid after a hard foul.  

This is the life of an NBA point guard, especially one that runs circles around his opponents. When teams get an opportunity to get physical with the 6-foot-3, 175-pound guard, they tend to play rough.

Fox hasn’t quite looked himself of late. The wear and tear of playing 32 minutes a game and not missing a contest all season appears to have taken a toll. On Monday against the Magic, he finally started looked like his old self.  

“I had treatment, had a day to get back,” Fox said. “It’s the first game I think I truly played healthy in a while. I mean, it felt good.”

The 21-year-old missed nine games due to injury in his rookie season. With him being the focal point of the team, he took on the challenge of preparing better for the grind during the summer.

“I prepared to pay 82 games this year,” Fox said. “Going into my rookie season, we were preparing for it, but we didn’t know what that felt like. I think playing that year of experience, going through that, you kind of know what it feels like and I think you can better prepare yourself for it.”

Fox finished the night with a team-high 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting in just 23 minutes of action. He was aggressive on both ends of the court and helped put the game away early.

He was even finishing with a couple of highlight-reel dunks, including a hammer over Magic big man Nikola Vucevic.

"All I see is Fox is flying,” Buddy Hield said. “He gets up there. He's sneaky athletic. When he gets up there, he makes everybody go, wow. That's Fox, man. He's a special talent."

Fox picked up a technical for trash talking after the dunk.

“I really said something nice to him, but Mike [Callahan] didn’t hear it, he just saw me talking,” Fox said.

It was the third technical foul call of the season for the Kings’ sophomore phenom. Evan Fournier hit the free throw, but it didn’t have an impact on the game with Sacramento coming away with the 111-95 win.

[RELATED: Dave Joerger dismisses rumors of Timberwolves job opening]

The victory snapped the Kings four-game losing streak and moved them back to the .500 mark at 20-20.

“It’s great for us to get a game like that,” Fox said. “We dropped a few that we probably should have won. We had a game where we were up 14 at halftime and lost. So it was good for us to have that.”

There’s no time to celebrate for Sacramento. They hopped on a plane for Phoenix following the game where they’ll take on the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back. With a win, the Kings would secure a .500 record at the midway point of the season, which hasn’t happened since 2004-05 season.

Kings continue to balance development, winning in surprise season

Kings continue to balance development, winning in surprise season

SACRAMENTO -- Coming into the 2018-19 season, the Kings' plan was to develop the young guys. That idea had to be augmented early in the campaign when Sacramento decided to make winning a priority as well.

This isn’t an easy task for Dave Joerger and his staff. Balancing a roster filled with young players has its challenges, especially when games matter.

It hasn’t always been pretty. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but through 69 games, the Kings have not only fought to stay in playoff contention, but they are identifying a core that they can build around for the long haul.

The starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield was the first to make the leap, but there are others on the rise as well.

[RELATED: Fox believes Kings 'growing,' details franchise's next step]

Bogdan Bogdanovic has struggled as of late, but he looks like a long-term fixture in the rotation. The Harrison Barnes addition at the deadline brought in another young body and Willie Cauley-Stein has had moments for the Kings.

It doesn’t end there for Sacramento. Down the stretch of the season, the young duo of Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles are forming a fierce frontline for the future.

Giles struggled with foul trouble early in the year, but he’s continued to improve as the season has progressed. Joerger has slowly increased his role with the team and he’s answered the call.

“I’m starting to come into myself,” Giles said following Sacramento’s win over the Bulls on Sunday. “Just taking my time, patience. It’s all starting to come along for me. It took some time, but it’s right where I want to be. [I’m] making the right steps and I’m just going to keep going with it.”

After redshirting last season, the former Duke product has shown statistical improvement every month this season. In March, he’s taking his game to the next level, posting 11.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 19.9 minutes per game.

Giles has cleaned up a lot of his early mistakes, especially on the defensive end. He hasn’t had a breakout rebounding game, but he’s showing flashes as a passer and shot-blocker.

Taken with the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bagley came into the league with all kinds of fanfare. He’s lived up to the hype in year one, although injuries have set him back twice.

Bagley hit his stride in February, averaging 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game before going down with a left knee sprain.

Against Chicago, he totaled 21 points and nine rebounds in just 21 minutes as he continued to work through a minutes restriction with the Kings’ medical staff.

As good as they’ve been individually, the two 20-year-olds are showing signs of some incredible chemistry. They are making reads and cuts and they are looking for each other.

“There’s a lot of times where Harry could have gone up and scored a basket, but he decided to pass, and there are times where I could have had a bucket to score, but I see Harry and return the favor,” Bagley said. “We’re just playing off each other and having fun with it at the same time.”

Giles is the lunch pail guy. He’s physical and making his presence felt. Bagley is the scorer with the jaw-dropping athleticism and advanced offensive game. Both play with intensity and have big-time motors.

“I feed off of all my teammates, that’s what I try to do,” Giles said. “But with Marvin, he just brings so much energy so it’s not hard to feed off of him. I think he’s an easy guy to play with, especially for me.”

[RELATED: Kings' Giles explains the origins of the 'Litty Committee']

The pair has been together for just part of one season, but they have an opportunity to develop into something special. They both need to get stronger in the offseason and the sooner they are able to extend their shooting range, the better.

“It’s the start of something that can be -- who knows,” Giles said. “It’s our first year. We’ve had some success, but we have to take it with a grain of salt, knowing that anything can happen.”

Anything can happen, but if Giles and Bagley put in the work and make a jump anywhere close to what Fox and Hield accomplished, the Kings have the foundation of a winner.

De'Aaron Fox believes Kings 'growing,' details franchise's next step

De'Aaron Fox believes Kings 'growing,' details franchise's next step

Even though it appears the Kings will miss out on the NBA playoffs, there's no doubt this season has been successful.

No one expected them to win more than 25 games this season. But with their win over the Bulls on Sunday, the Kings now are 34-35 and have a legit shot to finish at .500.

In De'Aaron Fox's eyes, the Kings should have more than 34 wins.

"Looking back on this season so far, what do we have, 33 wins? I think we definitely could be close to 40 at this point right now," the point guard told NBC Sports California Kings analyst Doug Christie on the Uninterrupted Road Trippin’ podcast.

Fox and Christie talked about a handful of games the Kings gave away this season. They lost four close games to the Warriors, dropped two overtime games and fell by two points to the Nuggets and the Celtics.

While most people associated with the Kings feel it's a small victory to have exceeded expectations this season, Fox feels differently.

"I think we're growing, but I ain't with the moral victories," Fox told Christie. "But from last year to this year, last year, we probably wouldn't even be in those games. This year, we're in them and gave them away, so now you just gotta take that next step."

Entering Monday, the Kings are six games behind the Clippers for the final playoff spot with 13 games to play.

[RELATED: Why Fox admires Warriors]

Fox recently had to be convinced by his friend, Celtics star Jayson Tatum, that the playoffs feel differently.

"You got all these old cats, all the old guys saying, 'Ah, the playoffs are this much, it's night and day, it ain't the same.' It's like 'Yeah, whatever,' " Fox said. "But now that I have a peer that went through it, he's like, 'Man, the playoffs is crazy.' And he went to Game 7 of the conference finals. He's like, 'Man, the playoffs and the regular season are not the same.' "

Soon enough, Fox and the young Kings will get to experience what the postseason is like.

Listen to Fox and Christie on Road Trippin' in the player below, and subscribe here.