Kings

De'Aaron Fox's return unable to save Kings vs. another sub-.500 team

De'Aaron Fox's return unable to save Kings vs. another sub-.500 team

The Sacramento Kings are getting very good at pulling off the unexpected.

They have beaten some of the best teams in the NBA, like the Mavericks and Rockets. They have also lost to some of the worst, like the Knicks and Bulls.

Just when you think all is lost, it’s not. Just when you feel like they’ve figured things out, they haven’t.

Part of the Kings’ issue has been the devastating early season injuries to Marvin Bagley and De’Aaron Fox. Bagley returned four games ago after missing 22 games with a broken right thumb, and on Tuesday evening in Charlotte, De’Aaron Fox stepped on the court after a 17-game absence.       

“It was nice to get De’Aaron Fox back out there,” head coach Luke Walton told reporters following the team’s 110-102 loss to the Hornets. “I thought he looked good and was moving well, created some good looks and opportunities for us and we will continue to get better and learn from this game.”       

From the moment Fox stepped on the floor in the middle of the first quarter, the speedster looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. One of his first touches he caught a pass from Buddy Hield at the elbow and then fired it back to his shooting guard for an open 3-pointer in the corner.

“It was different,” Fox told reporters following the game. “You can do all of the conditioning that you want, it’s not the same as playing basketball.”

Fox didn’t look like a player who had just missed two-thirds of the early season with a severely sprained left ankle. He also didn’t play like one.

Despite jumping the timeline for recovery by 2-3 weeks, Fox was ready to compete. He played just under 30 minutes off the bench for Walton, scoring 19 points, dishing out eight assists and picking up two steals.

Fox turned the ball over three times, including a tough one late in the fourth, but he didn’t miss a beat after five weeks away from the team.

Adding both Fox and Bagley back into the lineup is a huge challenge for Walton. The team has played well as of late without them, but both players are the future of the franchise.

In his first year in Sacramento, Walton has had to build new offensive and defensive schemes on the fly while balancing a preseason trip to India and a roster overhaul.

His team had just found a rhythm, and now they have two major minutes-eating young players to work into the fray while fighting to stay in postseason contention.

“It’s different because the whole time I was out and De’Aaron [Fox] was out, they had a certain group and we just need to work our way back in,” Bagley told media members. “It changes it up a little bit, but I think it’s coming along. It’s coming along fine. Like I said, we just let this one go. It’s nothing to worry about. We just have to fix our mistakes and continue to move forward and try to win.”

Cory Joseph stepped up in a big way in Fox’s absence, and reserve Yogi Ferrell did as well. In the post, Nemanja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes formed a dynamic forward/center combo.

The adjustment period to adding both Fox and Bagley won’t be easy. Offensively, the pair looked solid against the Hornets, but on the defensive end, there were struggles.

“We have to try to make every possession as tough as possible, try to make them miss shots and try to force them to turn the ball over,” Fox said. “I don’t think we were making them miss shots and they had a lot of offensive rebounds, a lot of second chance points today.”

Fox can attack as an inline driver, but his lateral quickness isn’t quite where it was before. He’s probably still a week away from being back to his old disruptive self on the defensive side of the ball. In the meantime, he will need support from his bigs.

Bagley is in a different boat. It looks like he’s kept up with the offensive game plan, but defensively, he needs a lot of work. Whether it’s scheme or just defensive instincts, Bagley has been slow to rotate and out of position as a help defender on plenty of occasions in his four games since returning.

Bagley will need to work overtime with the coaching staff to clear up some of the issues he is having. Walton has used him primarily at the center position in his return. He’s playing alongside Bjelica for long stretches, with an occasional stint with Harrison Barnes.

[RELATED: How Bagley can take next step]

Barnes is a combo-forward and holds his own, but he’s not a natural shotblocker. Bjelica is a decent team defender and plays with a high basketball IQ, but he struggles in space and isn’t a true shotblocker.

Sacramento signed Dewayne Dedmon to play alongside Bagley in the front court. The veteran big is solid defensively and coming into this season, he was a strong perimeter shooter. The Kings planned to have Dedmon start in the frontcourt with Bagley, but he has struggled with his shot and is currently riding a streak of six straight DNP-CDs. 

Injuries are part of the game. So is adapting to the return of players who have missed valuable time with the team. Walton had just started making inroads with his group and now he has to adapt again.

Five things to watch when Kings got first win of season on buzzer beater

Five things to watch when Kings got first win of season on buzzer beater

Programming note: Watch the re-air of the Kings’ victory over the Utah Jazz from Nov. 1, 2019 tonight at 3 PT on NBC Sports California.

NBC Sports California is bringing fans some of the best games from the last few seasons in their re-airing of instant classics. With the NBA season on hold, it's the closest thing fans can get to watching live action. 

In our 10th installment, we go back to the Kings' first win of the 2019-20 season when they snapped a five-game losing streak to open the season with an upset victory over the Utah Jazz.

While we know the final outcome, sometimes the nuances of the win are lost with time. Here are five things to watch from the Kings’ 102-101 win over the Jazz at Golden 1 Center.

The winner

With 6.5 seconds remaining, Nemanja Bjelica fielded a pass from a cutting De’Aaron Fox and lined up a clean look from the corner. The ball caught iron, but Harrison Barnes crashed the glass, read the spin and was there for the putback with two seconds remaining on the clock to give Sacramento the one-point advantage.

The Kings held on the defensive end to come away with an improbable victory over a very good Jazz team. Barnes finished with a modest 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, but his shot got the Kings in the win column for the first time during the 2019-20 season.

“I’ve had a few game-winners throughout my career, whether it’s been high school, college, pro,” Barnes told NBC Sports California. “I don’t know the exact numbers, but hopefully either the rest of this season or next season, I can build on that.”


Fox shines

This is Fox’s team and he started to show it early in the season. Against fellow 2017 draftee Donovan Mitchell, Fox came out in attack mode, scoring 11 points in the first quarter.

Fox continued to dominate the action throughout the game, finishing with a game-high 25 points.  

Fox shot 8-of-17 from the field and went to the free throw line for 12 of the Kings’ 17 attempts on the night.

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Buddy struggles from deep

Buddy Hield has become one of the most reliable 3-point shooters in the NBA throughout his three-plus seasons. Against the Jazz, he went cold from the perimeter, but made adjustments to his game.

Hield missed all five of his 3-point attempts, but he still managed to score 18 points on 9-of-16 shooting. This was the only time through the Kings’ first 64 games that Hield failed to register a made triple.

Holmes gets comfortable

In just his second start of the season, Richaun Holmes began to settle in with the first team. He and Bjelica instantly found chemistry which led to multiple highlight reel alley-oops. 

The Kings invested heavily in Dewayne Dedmon during the summer. Holmes not only stole his job, but made Dedmon completely expendable.

This wasn’t one of his best performances, but Holmes held his own against Rudy Gobert and he came up huge on the defensive end on the final sequence.

Controversy

Following the shot by Barnes, the Jazz had one more opportunity to win the game. With two seconds remaining, Mike Conley tossed the inbounds pass to Mitchell who played off a Gobert screen.

Holmes took Mitchell on the switch and gave the guard a small bump. Mitchell continued his dribble, hit Homes with a pump fake and hoisted a 23-footer that came up short.

Following the game, Mitchell claimed that he was fouled on the final possession and should have gone to the line with a chance to win the game. 

The following day, the NBA sided with the Kings on the Two Minute report, stating, “Holmes (SAC) makes marginal contact with Mitchell (UTA) that does not affect his SQBR (Speed, Quickness, Balance, Rhythm).”

Kings guard Kyle Guy reveals his grandfather died from coronavirus

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USATSI

Kings guard Kyle Guy reveals his grandfather died from coronavirus

The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forever changed Kyle Guy's family.

The Kings' second-round draft pick revealed Saturday that his grandfather died Friday night after contracting the virus.

"When I was 7 or 8 my grandpa had me sign a piece of paper saying he’d be my manager (jokingly) if I ever made it to the NBA 😂 something as small as that was always on my mind while I tried to make that dream come true. I know he’s up there waiting for his cut lmao.. and one day, I’ll give it to him ❤️," Guy wrote on Instagram.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 277,205 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and 6,593 deaths in the country.

[RELATED: Kings' former arena to be converted to hospital]

Guy, who grew up in Indianapolis and went to school at the University of Virginia, signed a two-way contract with the Kings in July.