Iman Shumpert reveals what makes De'Aaron Fox 'really, really special'

Iman Shumpert reveals what makes De'Aaron Fox 'really, really special'

De'Aaron Fox is the point guard and floor general for the Kings. Iman Shumpert is the wise, sage veteran. Together, they form two-fifths of Sacramento's starting five.

Fox and Shumpert have been teammates ever since the Kings swung a three-team trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Utah Jazz at the deadline last year that netted them the veteran swingman and other future assets.

Shumpert went from a veteran-laden Cavaliers team to a Kings squad full of players still on their rookie contracts. It was quite the adjustment for the 2016 NBA champion.

NBC Sports California's Kayte Hunter recently sat down with Shumpert for a lengthy discussion, and Fox came up during the interview.

Kayte Hunter: You have a group of a lot of young guys, lot of young guys, so obviously, there's a lot you can offer. I'm curious, now, looking at the team, who surprised you the most of the young guys and why?

Iman Shumpert: De'Aaron.

KH: Why?

IS: His love for the game. There's nothing you can do about it. His pure joy for life, there's just nothing you can do about it. I don't think there's a coach that could break him. I've ran sprints with him in practice. You can beat him in practice, but once the ball goes up and the lights turn on, it's a different energy because he just loves it and he can block everything out. You can tell him to do something, and what's in his heart comes out.

KH: I've talked to [Bogdan Bogdanovic], and you obviously came at the trade deadline last year, but Bogi said specifically, 'I saw a change in [De'Aaron] after the All-Star game last year after he wasn't chosen for the USA Team for the [Rising Stars Challenge]. He said, 'I noticed a change in him after he wasn't selected, and from that moment on, through the season, he's been a different player.' Did you notice that when you got here? A change?

IS: I didn't notice the change last year. I feel like last year, he still had ups and downs. I tell him all the time, 'Don't lie to yourself,' because there were times last year where he'd lie to himself. He knew he messed up, but it had to be somebody else or some other reason or something he was thinking. And I'm like, 'Bro, sometimes, you just messed up.' But the second he realized to just let that go, because he's so, like, the way he loves the game, it's contagious. Everybody has seen De'Aaron get a steal, the smile, the run back after he goes super fast, and then he's running back and it's like, 'How's he that fast?' and he jogs back to the huddle like that. He just jogs back, sorta barely picking his legs up. It's like, 'How do you move so fast if that's your job? Like, how does the speed change like that?'

But the smile, the energy that's behind everything he does, the willingness to, instead of taking three dribbles, which he could, he'll take one little half a dribble and just pass it 40 feet because he just sees a guy open, even if he's not sure, he's just like, 'Because he ran, I'm going to reward him.' And it's natural for him. It's not something someone has to say, 'Hey man, make sure you hit him.' He don't care if he has zero points, he really doesn't care. There's some games where he's shooting it awful, and if you saw him on the bench, you wouldn't know. And to me, that's what makes him really, really special. Because someone that's that talented, usually they can feel it when they're like, 'Oh, I gotta get it going.' You know what I mean? 'Ah, this might mess up my average.' For him, it's like, 'I just shot it man.' You ask him, and he's like, 'I don't know, I just couldn't make a shot tonight.' But he still loves it.

Programming note: Kings Central featuring Iman Shumpert debuts Monday at 11:30 a.m. PT on NBC Sports California.

Kings have no timetable for De'Aaron Fox's return from ankle sprain


Kings have no timetable for De'Aaron Fox's return from ankle sprain

Sacramento was hit with a gut punch when MRI results on point guard De’Aaron Fox revealed a Grade 3 ankle sprain that will keep the talented 21-year-old off the court for the foreseeable future. Fox will be re-evaluated in 3-4 weeks, but that time frame isn’t realistic for a return.

Before the Kings ventured to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Friday evening, Fox hobbled out on crutches to speak to the media.

“After I got the MRI and the X-ray, before I got the results, I knew I was going to be out for a while,” Fox said media members. “It wasn’t like any ankle sprain I had before.”

The injury happened at the end of practice Monday. Head coach Luke Walton had the team going through a halfcourt drill and Fox rolled the ankle and limped off the court early.

Initially, Walton and the rest of the team didn’t think much of the injury, until they checked back in with Fox in the training room a little while later. Despite leaving the court on his own, the Kings starting point guard knew something wasn’t right instantly.

“When it happened, I tried to walk and couldn’t walk and I was like, something’s wrong,” Fox told media members in Sacramento on Thursday. “I heard it pop. It happened so quickly that no one saw it until we watched the film and we saw what happened. Things like this happen.”

This is the first major injury for Fox in his career. He started 81 out of 82 games last season for Sacramento and the one game he missed was a decision made by the team after he had logged substantial minutes over a tough stretch in the schedule.

Fox went home Monday and braced for the news, knowing that it wasn’t likely going to be good.

“I kind of expected it, but at the same time, my heart dropped,” Fox said. “I’d never missed time like this. This will be more time than I’ve missed in my first two seasons combined.”

There is no timetable for Fox’s return, although he is not expected to need surgery. A Grade 3 sprain is the most severe of the sprains and includes a full tear of the ligament. Recovery time can take 6-12 weeks and it’s unlikely Fox will see the court again before the new calendar year hits.

“I’m not going to get back out there until I know I can play and I know I’m 100 percent and I’m able to help the team,” Fox said.

“I’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks, it could take six weeks, some players have been out for months, so you never know with a sprained ankle,” Fox added. “I’m just taking it day-by-day and taking my time with it.”

[RELATED: Hield blames headband after missing six threes in Kings' win]

Walton is now tasked with filling the void left by Fox, who is averaging 18.2 points, seven assists and four rebounds in 32 minutes per game this season.

Cory Joseph started in the Kings’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday and likely will continue to get the call with the starting unit. Bogdan Bogdanovic, who led the Kings with 25 points and 10 assists against Portland, likely will play plenty of point guard as well in the coming weeks as the team attempts to survive in Fox’s absence.

Kings' Buddy Hield blames headband after missing first six 3-pointers

Kings' Buddy Hield blames headband after missing first six 3-pointers

The mental game often can weigh on an athlete's performance. But what if it has to do with a headband?

Kings guard Buddy Hield missed his first six 3-point attempts during Wednesday's 107-99 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. His initial reaction was this ...

Later, after he lost the headband and drilled 2 of his next 5 threes, he admitted to NBC Sports California's Kayte Christensen-Hunter that it was more of a mental issue.

Hield then said it still wasn't an excuse.

Nonetheless, Hield managed to get 20 points by the end of the game. Don't be surprised if you see him without a headband for a while ... or ever.