SACRAMENTO -- There is no question that the Sacramento Kings consider De’Aaron Fox the head of the snake. He is the engine that makes it all run and without him, the Kings were forced to change their entire style of play.
With the 22-year-old point guard healthy and getting back into game shape, you can see the outlines of the star player the Kings believed they landed when they selected Fox with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
In the team’s 113-104 loss to the Houston Rockets, Fox spent the first half of the game making plays for others. With so many mouths to feed, he often has to put his own offense on hold.
“Early in games, I try to get everyone involved, get everyone touches, if somebody’s hot, keep feeding them,” Fox said. “At the same time, still try to get to the basket, still try to create for myself at the same time. There’s always a fine line in that and I think I’m still learning it.”
Once he had a few players going, Fox turned on the jets and helped his team climb back in the game late. He dominated the action in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 of his career-high-tying 31 points in the final 12 minutes as the Kings outscored Houston 25-16 in the frame.
On the defensive end, Fox gave both James Harden and Russell Westbrook fits late in the game. He was active, forcing Harden into an over-and-back call and Westbrook into 1-of-5 shooting from the field in the fourth.
“You have to get stops, especially playing against a team like that,” Fox added.
In just his fourth game back from a 17-game absence due to a severely sprained left ankle, Fox was able to play 36 minutes. It was also the third game in four nights for the Kings, with the team flying home from Memphis on the only off-day.
“When he was hurt, he didn’t travel a lot with us because of the amount of travel and treatment at home, but he was in that weight room every day, he got stronger,” coach Luke Walton said. “He was watching all the games, he was watching edits. I’m sure, knowing De’Aaron and knowing how he sees the game and how intelligent of a player he is, I’m sure he saw some of how we were playing and how that impacted the difference between winning and losing.”
Fox is still working to get completely back in basketball shape, but there is no question that he’s getting close. His acceleration is back and he has instantly improved the pace of the Kings’ offense.
It wasn’t a perfect night for the Kings’ lead guard. His team lost by nine and he shot just 4-of-9 from the free throw line, with all five misses coming in the fourth quarter.
In his four games since returning, Fox is averaging 20.0 points and 6.0 assists per contest. The Kings are winless since his return, but they have a long stretch of games at home coming up.
The team plays nine of the next 11 games at Golden 1 Center and the Kings will have plenty of practice time to try and integrate returning players back into the system.
If the Kings have any hopes of turning around their season, getting Fox back to full strength is a must. So far, he looks like a difference-maker for Sacramento, but he has to find a way to lead the team to victories.