Kings' De'Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes building bond at Team USA camp

Kings' De'Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes building bond at Team USA camp

LOS ANGELES -- Playing for USA Basketball is an opportunity. It’s a chance to represent your country on a tremendous stage. It’s also a time for players to challenge themselves against some of the best the game has to offer while building lifelong relationships.

For two Kings players, competing for spots on Team USA's 12-man FIBA World Cup roster have provided an extra few weeks to create a bond during a busy summer, and that could pay huge dividends down the road.

When the whistle blows to conclude practice, De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes can often be seen standing together in the ensuing scrum. Following media sessions, they head off together to get a lift in or treatment.

Regardless of whether one or both make the team that will represent the USA in China next month, this has been a valuable experience for two of the Kings’ core players to build chemistry and get to know each other better.

“Spending time with D has always been great, he’s a character for sure,” Barnes told NBC Sports California following Wednesday’s Team USA practice in Los Angeles. “I’m definitely looking forward to this trip and continuing to spend more time, continue to develop a relationship and see that translate when we get back to Sacramento.”

This is a new relationship. Barnes joined the Kings at the trade deadline and spent the final 28 games of the season trying to get acclimated to a new team in a new city that was trying to stay in the playoff hunt. Basketball came first. Friendships take time to develop.

Barnes is the veteran who has won a championship and an Olympic gold medal. Fox is the budding star still learning the ropes and trying to improve as a player.

“It’s just trust,” Barnes said about the opportunity to spend extra time together. “Anytime you can hang out with somebody, break bread with somebody, play Playstation, whatever it is, that just builds the camaraderie, the trust that you have with somebody.”

While they didn’t have a lot of time together during the season, you can see Fox leaning on Barnes for advice and leadership as he tries to navigate the new world of USA Basketball.

“It’s definitely grown a lot,” Fox said of his relationship with Barnes. “He’s one of the only guys that I’ve ever played with here, we play on the same team, so we’re a little bit comfortable together.

“For me, it’s definitely still been a bit of a learning experience and I can use him, basically as a vet that has been through this before."

Fox is the face of the Kings’ franchise and Barnes is a smart player who can see the potential in his young understudy.

Through his seven seasons in the NBA, Barnes has played with a few legends, including Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Dirk Nowitzki. He has witnessed the sacrifices stars make both on and off the court, and he is willing to impart some of that knowledge to his young Kings teammate.

“It’s just a matter of me seeing great players demonstrate good habits,” Barnes said. “Knowing the potential that De’Aaron has and just trying to help him foster that. Obviously, he can be one of the best point guards, if not the best point guard in the league. So it’s just helping him stay on those little things to help him get there.”

Barnes jumped at the chance to play for the national team again and it appears that the experience comes with the added bonus of building a better relationship with a young man who likely will be at his side for the next four seasons -- or more.

[RELATED: Why Fox isn't upset at Kings having only one national TV game]

The 27-year-old forward gambled on the potential of Fox and the young core of the Kings this summer when he inked a new four-year, $85 million deal to remain in Sacramento. He’ll spend his prime in purple and black, and it appears he’s willing to invest in the players around him

Fox is a sponge and he’s learning as fast as he can. Having a big brother to guide him through his Team USA experience this summer could make all the difference down the road.

Kings struggle with communication, physicality in road loss to Jazz

Kings struggle with communication, physicality in road loss to Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY -- On their way to a 15-27 record, the Sacramento Kings have lost in many different ways this season. More often than not, it’s in the closing moments of games that they come up short.

That wasn’t the case Saturday night in Utah. From the opening tip, the Jazz jumped all over the Kings and they refused to let up.

“They’re obviously one of the best teams in the West,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “Even though they lost that winning streak against New Orleans, they showed they’re a really good team. After one bad loss at the end, they stepped it up against us and they showed their quality as a team. It’s frustrating, but we gotta look forward from this point. We can’t look back.”

At 29-13, the Jazz are one of the most complete teams in the NBA. They lost their 10 game winning streak Thursday in overtime against the Pelicans, but they are starting to move up the standing in the Western Conference.

With their 123-101 drubbing of the Kings, the Jazz are now just a half-game behind the Nuggets and the Clippers, who are tied for second in the Western Conference standings.

It wasn’t one player that did damage against the Kings. It was all of them.

Rudy Gobert dominated the post, scoring 28 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. With the Kings collapsing to paint trying to stop Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic launched from the outside, hitting 6-of-9 from long range on his way to 30 points.

Donovan Mitchell worked the two-man game with Gobert to finish with 22 points and Jordan Clarkson came off the bench to drop in 20.

“We just have to be more physical on the defensive end,” De’Aaron Fox said. “You know, execute the game plan and live with the results. But I don’t think we did that. You know, Rudy [Gobert] got easy shots, easy layups, easy dunks. You know Bojan [Bogdanovic] got some easy ones. I just think, you know, throughout the game it was too easy for them offensively.”

The ball moved around effortlessly for Utah. They ran their playsets and while there wasn’t a lack of effort from the Kings, they seemed a step slow and completely out of sync.

“We’ve got to talk more, we’ve got to communicate more,” Marvin Bagley said. “Sometimes it happens so fast that we don’t communicate. If we keep allowing that to happen, we’re just going to get beat all game like we did tonight.”

It’s been a difficult season for Sacramento when it comes to injuries to key players. They got Bogdanovic back after a six-game absence with an ankle issue, but they are still missing starting center Richaun Holmes who may be back as early as later this week.

While missed games are part of the issue, the team is trying not to use it as an excuse.

“You can’t control the injuries, but we can control how we approach every day in practice, how we come together, how we try to lock in and win,” Bagley added. “I think if we continue to focus on what we control, then we’ll be alright and we’ll to where we want to be.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier over the next few games. The Kings fly to Miami on Sunday where they’ll face a Miami team that is not on 29-12 on the season, but they are extremely physical.

[RELATED: Fox's development is silver lining in tough season]

Head coach Luke Walton is trying to make adjustments on the fly as he gets players back, but it’s a tall order. You add in Saturday’s trade that once again shook up the roster and the lack of continuity and overall playtime together is tough to overcome. 

With 40 games remaining on the schedule, Walton has no other option but to continue to feed the core minutes together and hope that they find the chemistry that is currently missing on the court. With any luck, the current group stays healthy so the team can assess what they have and what they need heading into the offseason.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 123-101 blowout road loss to Jazz

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 123-101 blowout road loss to Jazz


SALT LAKE CITY -- The Jazz knocked the Sacramento Kings onto their heels in the first quarter and never let up Saturday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. 

Maybe it was an afternoon trade that sent Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan to Portland that distracted the Kings, or maybe they were just unprepared to match the home team’s intensity. Whatever the reason, the game was over early as the Jazz dropped the Kings by a final of 123-101

Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert, Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell all broke the 20-point barrier and Joe Ingles picked the Kings apart with a game-high 12 assists.   

Here are three takeaways as the Kings fell a season-high 12 games under .500 at 15-27 on the season.  

Missed assignments

The Jazz are a very good offensive team, but the Kings made them look like the Houston Rockets.

It started with the two-man game featuring Mitchell and Gobert. When the Kings tried to slow the pair in the pick-and-roll, the Jazz’s shooters started launching at will.

In one of their worst defensive performances of the season, the Kings allowed the Jazz to shoot 50.6 percent from the field on their way to a 22-point blowout. 

Fouling Fox 

De’Aaron Fox loves to go up against Mitchell, a fellow 2017 draftee. The speedy guard continued his recent hot streak, finishing with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go with eight assists and four rebounds. 

Unfortunately for Sacramento, their starting point guard struggled with foul trouble beginning early in the game, which limited his aggressiveness on the defensive end. 

Fox managed to play 31 minutes, but he fouled out with 3:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Battle of the Bogdanovics

Bogdan Bogdanovic made his return to the court after missing the previous six games and he looked rusty. The Kings’ six-man scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting and chipped in four rebounds and four assists.

[RELATED: What Bazemore, Tolliver trade means for Kings]

The Jazz’s Bojan Bogdanovic (no relation) hammered the Kings for 30 points on 10-of-15 from the field and 6-of-9 from behind the arc. Sacramento had no answer for the 30-year-old sharpshooter.

Bogdan has struggled with injuries all season long. Bojan is having a career-year after signing in Utah as a free agent. On Saturday night, the Jazz’s version was the better player.