Kings

Gameday: De'Aaron Fox may be primed for big game vs Spurs

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USATSI

Gameday: De'Aaron Fox may be primed for big game vs Spurs

SACRAMENTO -- Back to the grind. After a big win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday evening, the Sacramento Kings finish their six-game homestand Monday against the San Antonio Spurs at Golden 1 Center.

The Kings stand at 2-3 over the first five games of the stretch. They’ve shown that they can take down the heavyweights of the league with wins over the Cavs and the Nuggets, but they’ve struggled against the lower tier of the league, dropping games to the Suns, Grizzlies and Hornets.

San Antonio rolls through Sacramento for the second time in a month and like the previous visit, they’ll play short-handed. Four regulars will sit with various ailments, but that hasn’t slowed the Spurs in the past.

BETTING LINE

Spurs by 5.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

De’Aaron Fox vs. Tony Parker -- With George Hill out for a second straight game and Frank Mason down with a heel injury, Fox is primed to play substantial minutes. The rookie point guard has averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 assists in two games since returning from injury. In his 17th NBA season, Parker is no longer the speedster he once was, but he can still take a young player to school.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 13-25, fourth place in Pacific

Spurs: 27-14, second place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: PG George Hill (personal) out, PF/C Zach Randolph (oral surgery) probable, PG Frank Mason (heel) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out.

Spurs: SF Kawhi Leonard (shoulder) out, SF Rudy Gay (heel) out, SG Manu Ginobili (rest) out, SG Danny Green (groin) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Finish the Homestand Strong -- The Kings have proven time and time again that they beat anyone and also lose to anyone. The Spurs are missing a ton of veterans, but they still have Popovich at the helm and Aldridge and Pau Gasol running around in the post. With Fox running the show, the Kings need to get out and run and put on a good show for their hometown crowd.

Defensive Intensity -- Against the Nuggets, the Kings flew all over the court, notching 34 deflections and a season-high 16 steals as a team. Cauley-Stein picked up a career-best seven steals in the win, showing a new level of activity on the defensive end. If the Kings allow the Spurs to run their offense, it could be a long night. If they bring the same energy, they have a chance.

Take Advantage of the Schedule -- The Kings are fresh off a three day break, followed by a game, followed by another day off. San Antonio lost in Portland on Sunday and is playing their fifth game in seven nights. This game is prime for the taking.

SERIES HISTORY

The Spurs beat Sacramento on Dec. 23 and currently own an 11-game win streak over the Kings. San Antonio holds an 89-39 lead during the Sacramento-era and a 117-55 advantage all-time.

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

It was a track meet from the opening tip Saturday evening in Houston. The Rockets looked like an inspired team after a rough start to the season, running over the Kings over for a 132-112 win

Houston rained down 3-pointers at a startling clip and when they weren’t burying the 3-ball, they were finishing at the rim. James Harden dropped in a game-high 34 points and Chris Paul added 24 points and nine assists in Houston’s win.

The Kings had plenty of chances, but their inability to slow the Rockets offense cost them any chance at a win.

Here are six notes as the Kings fell back to .500 on the season at 8-8.

Buddy scores 

After failing to reach the 20-point plateau for four straight games, Buddy Hield found the basket against Houston. The third-year guard posted 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists. He’s taken a few games to adjust to the return of Bogdan Bogdanovic, but the Kings second-leading scorer should be just fine.

How good is Fox? 

In his second season, De’Aaron Fox has put the NBA on notice. Not only is he a Most Improved Player candidate, he should be in the discussion for an All-Star bid. Against a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul, Fox finished with 19 points and three assists in 25 minutes of play. He can’t control whether his teammates hit open jumpers, but if he’s playing 36 minutes a night, the Kentucky product is putting up nearly 21 points and eight assists per night. 

Impactful 

Bogdan Bogdanovic completed the second-biggest step in his recovery from offseason knee issues. First, he made his way back to the court. On Saturday, he completed his first back-to-back and should be cleared for regular duty asap. The Serbian-born wing finished the night with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and added five assists in the loss. He’s ready for stage three, which is returning to the starting lineup.

Play me 

Marvin Bagley struggled against the Grizzlies and was clearly outplayed by fellow rookie Jaren Jackson. He had a bounce back game in Houston, finishing the evening with 16 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Bagley is a talent, but he needs time to figure out the defensive end.

[HAM: Kings deny report that coach Dave Joerger, front office have disconnect]

There will be a point this season when he jumps ahead of Nemanja Bjelica in the starting rotation, but he needs to show activity on both ends of the floor first.  

The disappearance of Willie Cauley-Stein 

If nothing else, Cauley-Stein has been consistent this season. Often times, he’s been extraordinary. Against Clint Capela, Cauley-Stein with less than serviceable. Cauley-Stein went 1-of-9 from the field and finished with three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. It’s possible he was winded on the second night of a back-to-back, but he can’t have nights like this if he hopes to cash in this summer.

Play some D 

The Kings struggled to contain the Rockets from the early stages of the game. In the end, the Kings couldn’t stop penetration, struggled with the pick-and-roll and they allowed Houston to shoot as many 3-pointers as they could muster. The Kings defense gave up a 132 points on 56.8 percent shooting and they allowed Houston to hit 20-for-47 from long range. It’s hard to stay in a game when your opponent outscores you 60-33 on 3-pointers. The defense has to get better, especially against top tier teams.

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status

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AP

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status

Dave Joerger wasn't in a mood to talk about his job status moments after his Kings lost to the Rockets on Saturday night.

Asked by reporters about a Yahoo Sports story claiming "substantial disconnect" between him and the Kings' front office, Joerger tried to deflect the question back to basketball.

"Well, usually, I would say, 'I'd be happy to answer all your questions about tonight's game,' but in this case, I'm going to tell you that my focus is with our team," Joerger said. "And coaching our team and getting better every single night. And we've got young guys, and they're mixed with older guys, and go in there and rally them up.

“This is a tough five-game stretch for us, so I want to make sure we stick together, grab onto each other ..."

Pressed on the reported disconnect, Joerger refused to address it.

"I'm not going to get into that stuff," the coach said before exiting the scrum after no other questions were asked.

The Yahoo story came out about 30 minutes before the Kings and Rockets tipped off in Houston. During the game, Kings general manager Vlade Divac issued a statement to NBC Sports California's James Ham and denied there was any issues between Joerger and the front office.

"Dave has our full support and confidence,” Divac said in the statement. “We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.”