De'Aaron Fox's ankle passes first test in Kings' scrimmage loss to Bucks

De'Aaron Fox's ankle passes first test in Kings' scrimmage loss to Bucks

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.”

[RELATED: Barnes clears coronavirus hurdle, travels to Orlando]

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.

Why Luke Walton should go young, pull Kings starters to end NBA bubble

Why Luke Walton should go young, pull Kings starters to end NBA bubble

Is it time for the Kings to pull the plug on the Orlando bubble experience?

No, they can’t just pack up and leave Florida, but after being eliminated from playoff contention Sunday afternoon, the Kings are faced with playing two completely meaningless games.

Sacramento’s medical staff already has ruled starters De’Aaron Fox (shoulder soreness) and Richaun Holmes (hip soreness) out for Tuesday’s matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans, but it might be time to clear the bench.

With training camp set for November, and Dec. 1 still being discussed as the beginning of the 2020-21 season, the Kings, as well as the Pelicans, need to shift their approach to player safety for the future.

That means sitting players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, Cory Joseph, Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica, at least for much of the game.

On Sunday, coach Luke Walton said his squad hoped to play out the final games, but that was when elimination was a possibility, not a reality.

“With so much uncertainty, we don’t know when we’ll be playing again and these last three games are a great chance for us to continue to grow and to push,” Walton said. “We need to look at it as any other game.

"This is a great chance for us.”

[RELATED: Walton says Kings must 'feel that pain' after playoff elimination]

After losing to the Houston Rockets, this approach probably isn't appropriate or necessary. The chance of a player getting injured might not be extremely high, but if somehow it costs a veteran part of next season for a basic exhibition game, then the decision will have been a complete disaster.

The Kings brought a full roster. Yogi Ferrell deserves to show NBA teams that he can still play, despite being out of the rotation for most of the season. Justin James needs time on the court to develop, as does two-way player Kyle Guy.

DaQuan Jeffries has been a breath of fresh air for Sacramento, but like Guy, he’s on a two-way contract. Let him play 48 minutes if need be. Every minute is crucial for evaluating and building his level of experience.

Walton will need a few minutes from some of his veterans just to get the party started, but this should be development time, especially when you consider that the NBA standings for non-playoff teams was set on March 11 and wins and losses will not change how many lottery balls the Kings get on Aug. 20.

This isn’t tanking. This is the reality of the final two games of the 2019-20 season. They have zero value and the possibility, no matter how remote, of a player getting injured, should outweigh any other priority.

NBA power rankings: Where 22 teams stand with seeding games concluding

NBA power rankings: Where 22 teams stand with seeding games concluding

We’re into the final week of the restart, which looks a lot like the final week of any other season. Teams locked into their seed are going easy on the regulars. Those still jockeying play roster games and watch scoreboards. Those going nowhere make vacation plans at halftime.

It’s where are, though, and it’s intriguing. Four very different teams are waging a fierce battle for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and that’s the action we need while approaching the finish line.

With apologies to the eight teams not invited to the bubble, we present the Power Rankings of the 22 squads in attendance:

View NBA Power Rankings here