The final score of the Kings’ second scrimmage game in the Orlando bubble won’t be remembered. There is only one number that matters right now for Sacramento if they have any chance of upsetting the odds makers and making a run to the NBA playoffs.
“I think I’m 100 percent,” point guard De’Aaron Fox told the media following the game. “I think now, with my ankle, I feel a lot better.”
One hundred percent is music to the Kings’ ears. Fox is the straw that stirs the drink for Sacramento and they need him at peak performance level if they have a shot in the NBA’s restart.
Fox's health was in doubt when he rolled his ankle during practice on July 15. Historically a quick healer, Fox returned to a full contact practice on Friday and was able to suit up against the Bucks.
The numbers were modest for Fox - seven points on 2-of-7 shooting to go with six assists and two rebounds. But the numbers rarely tell the entire story for a point guard.
He used his speed to break down the Bucks’ defense and found his teammates for open looks. He easily could have finished closer to 10 assists if the Kings were hitting more shots earlier in the contest.
The fact that Fox was able to log 19 minutes of action after missing 10 days with a sprained ankle is huge for the Kings.
“Everything I saw was encouraging, we got him back on the court,” Walton added. “We know how important he is to us. So him being back out there, hearing his voice, knowing that he’s out there getting those reps, all of that’s encouraging.”
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Fox is taking baby steps in his recovery, but he needs reps in a 5-on-5 setting to get the pace and rhythm of the game. His shot was off a bit, which translated to an 0-for-3 shooting performance from long range, but he looked healthy and ready for more.
“I just needed this game to see what adjustments I need to make,” Fox said.
The Kings have another game Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers, which is just another opportunity for the 22-year-old to fine tune his game. Walton’s goal was to get him out there, let him get a good feel for the action and then escape without a setback.
“We knew De’Aaron hadn’t played in a while and a big part of getting him out there today is trying to get his body and his feet under him again, so it was great having him out there,” Walton said.
The Kings were built with Fox in mind. They have surrounded him with shooters and high energy athletes so he can push the pace and use his incredible speed.
Getting him back on the court is a boost for the entire roster. Not only is he the team’s floor general, but his presence allows the rest of the Kings’ pieces to fit into their natural roles.
“We’re getting better every day and having Fox is definitely a breath of fresh air,” Kent Bazemore said. “He looked amazing yesterday in practice and it kind of carried over today. Once he gets timing and stuff back, watch out.”
Sacramento is still down two starters in Richaun Holmes and Harrison Barnes. Holmes is working his way back into shape and Barnes is hoping to clear coronavirus protocol on Sunday after joining the bubble on Friday.
In the meantime, the Kings have to prepare for their first game of the restart on Friday without knowing who will be available.
“Of course we want all of those guys back, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to work with the hand that you’re dealt,” Fox said. “Guys that are out there know what they need to do.”
Walton and his staff have no choice but to cobble a rotation together and hope for the best. There is a shot that the Kings walk into the season with 16 healthy bodies. There is also a chance they’ll still have a stack of players on the injury list.
The team needs to wrap Fox in bubble wrap over the next few days and make sure he is physically ready for the challenge ahead. If not, it could be a long eight game finish for the Kings.