Gone are the Dragon Ball Z spikes. The bony shoulders are filled out with muscles. And while De’Aaron Fox still plays video games obsessively, he’s engaged to be married and settling into a real life, not some NBA dreamscape.
Fox is growing up in front of our eyes and the metamorphosis from a skinny 19-year-old to a 23-year-old star has been a journey worth watching.
“It’s fun to watch, it really is,” coach Luke Walton said following his team's 141-119 win over the Warriors. “To see him continue to figure things out, to see him continue to grow as a leader, both vocally and leading by example with his play, is a lot of fun.”
On the second night of a back-to-back, against a Golden State Warriors team missing two stars, Fox showed no mercy. He’s developing the killer instinct he needs to make take the leap to superstar status and the Warriors had a front row seat for the show.
“Fox is obviously on a tear right now,” Warriors forward and Fox’s former AAU Kelly Oubre said. “He’s the fastest point guard in the league, it’s hard to stop that when we’re on our heels the whole game.”
Oubre and his teammates aren’t the only ones to feel this way. Fox is getting down hill on teams and running through defenses at will. After dropping 30 on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday and following that up with a 37 point night Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks, Fox flirted with his first 50-point night against the Warriors.
“It was super fun, he’s just super humble,” Kyle Guy said. “He was like, ‘I just want to win, let's just get this game over with.’ We were obviously pushing for 50, but he was just trying to make the right play.”
Fox fell short of the magic 50-point mark, but he did manage to score a career-high 44 points on 16-of-22 from the field, 3-for-7 from 3-point range and 9-for-10 from the free throw line.
Without fans in the building you could hear the Kings’ bench cheering and pushing Fox to keep going. He let off the gas for a while and then hit a pair of 3-pointers to really put the game away.
“I love when De’Aaron’s in attack mode, he’s in place right now where the game feels like it’s really slowing down for him, at least from what I’m seeing from the sidelines,” Walton said. “He’s doing a real nice job of attacking the defense and taking what’s there, getting to his spots and getting the shots he wants.”
There wasn’t some magical moment when it all came together for Fox. He’s put in the work with the Kings’ staff, his fiancée and former Cal standout Recee Caldwell, as well as with his trainer/agent Chris Gaston. This isn’t an accident, it is the culmination of focusing on his craft and growing into his game.
After his 44-point blow up, Fox has pushed his season scoring average to 24.6 points per game. He’s shooting a career-best 48.1 percent from the field and he’s now shooting 33.4 percent from long range.
“I wasn’t actually looking for a career-high or anything, but if shots are there, I’ll take em’, get to the free throw line and make em’, that’s pretty much how I think about it,” Fox said.
The Kings took a leap of faith in the offseason when they inked Fox to a massive five-year, $163 million max contract extension. That deal is looking like a perfect move for Sacramento at this point with Fox turning his incredible potential into star level production.
While Fox is in his fourth season with the Kings, it feels like we are just seeing the beginning of what is to come for the 23-year-old guard. The next step in his development is to turn the numbers into victories.
The Kings have won three in a row and five of their last six games. They currently sit at 20-25 on the season, but they are quietly climbing back in the playoff chase. After the win over the Warriors, the Kings sit just two games out of the play-in game and 4.5 games behind the Mavericks for the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings.
“We want to be able to continue to take this one day at a time, one game at a time,” Fox said. “You don’t want to get ahead of yourself. Whoever that next game is, that’s what we look forward to and just try to keep this rolling.”
Sacramento has been on a roll like this before this season and then had it all crash down around them. If Fox continues to play like he has of late, the Kings have a shot to stay in the race down the stretch.