The wait is almost over. De’Aaron Fox is nearing a return to the court after a 17-game hiatus. His sprained left ankle is feeling much better and according to the Kings' starting point guard, he intends to suit Tuesday night in Charlotte when Sacramento faces the Hornets.
Head coach Luke Walton confirmed to NBC Sports California that barring a setback, the plan is to get Fox on the court against the Hornets.
Fox, who was averaging 18.2 points and seven assists per game before rolling his ankle at practice on Nov. 11, is itching to get back on the court. He’s worked tirelessly and has taken the opportunity to watch plenty of film with the hopes of jump starting the team when he returns.
“I feel my presence is missed in a few areas and I just want to come and plug up those areas and just make us a better team when I step back on the floor,” Fox told NBC Sports California.
The Kings are 9-8 since Fox went down and at 12-14, they are in sole possession of seventh place in the Western Conference standings.
With Fox out, head coach Luke Walton has tightened his rotation. He’s only played eight or nine players in each of the last four games, but that will have to expand with Fox’s imminent return.
“I’m extremely excited, we’ve seen what we can do with a shortened roster and with us getting our full roster back, we feel like the sky’s the limit,” Fox said. “There are a lot of things that we feel we need to tighten up on, especially with getting leads and losing games. As a team, we have to figure out how to put teams away.”
Cory Joseph has moved into the starting lineup in Fox’s absence and played well for Walton. While he’s not the offensive weapon that Fox is, Joseph is a steady hand and the best perimeter defender on the Kings’ roster.
“He’s a huge part of our organization, everybody knows that, so we’re happy to get him back,” Joseph told NBC Sports California. “He looks good. He’s running good. So we’re excited. He’s huge to what we do here.”
In addition to Joseph, reserve guard Yogi Ferrell has stepped in and played solid minutes for the Kings as well. Known as a spark plug off the bench, there have been nights when his ability to get easy buckets has helped the Kings win games.
“We can’t just overlook the job that guy’s like Yogi’s done for us,” Joseph added. “Me and him have tried to do our best with him out and we’re all happy to get him back, but Yogi’s done an amazing job being a professional.”
Fox isn’t the only player to miss major time for Sacramento. Marvin Bagley returned to the court three games ago after missing 22 straight with a broken right thumb. Without two of their primary scorers, Walton has chosen to slow down the offense. That is likely to change.
Sacramento led the NBA in pace for most of last season before finishing fifth overall. With both Fox and Bagley on the shelf, they are 30th this season.
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“I feel like I can ramp up any team’s pace with the way I play the game,” Fox said. “I think the pace will pick back up when I step on the floor, but with most teams, it’s about taking the ball out of bounds quicker, the point guard passing the ball up the floor quicker.”
There will be an adjustment period for the team as they try to work two major pieces back into then rotation. They will have nights where the newness is too much to overcome, but in the long run, this is the group that the Kings are banking on to turn the franchise around.