Kings

Kings overwhelmed by last-minute trades, unrelenting Rockets in loss

Kings overwhelmed by last-minute trades, unrelenting Rockets in loss

SACRAMENTO -- Stunned. Shellshocked. Overwhelmed.

The Kings looked broken after their 127-101 blowout loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and it had nothing to do with the final score. It’s a young squad, and the two transactions that changed the look of their rotation seem to have taken a toll on the group.

Iman Shumpert? Gone. Justin Jackson? Gone. All within two hours of tipoff.

For point guard De’Aaron Fox, losing Jackson as a teammate was especially difficult. The two played high school basketball together, and Jackson served as a big brother of sorts to the Kings star.

“I’ve got to get through it myself,” Fox said. “We’re off tomorrow and we’ve got to just let this roll off our back, especially this game. We’re not going to let this become the norm, but it’s just one of those days.”

Fox went through the deadline last season. He watched guards George Hill and Malachi Richardson walk out the door and not come back. He also saw Garrett Temple, the team’s leader, leave over the summer.

While Harry Giles was with the team last season, he didn’t play or travel with the group full time. This experience was new, and he gave a heartfelt answer when asked about what Jackson and Shumpert meant to the Kings.

“You can’t put a enough appreciation on those two,”  Giles said. “The energy they brought was priceless in a way, very priceless. Something that shakes and you feel it when they leave.”

Fox was emotional. Giles was emotional. The entire room felt different. The vibe was off and the group knows that it’s still not over. The deadline doesn’t hit until Thursday at noon PT. There is time for another move or two.

Maybe it takes being traded to gain the necessary perspective.

Buddy Hield compared the feeling to switching schools and having to get used to a new environment, make new friends and figure out all the rules. After three trade deadlines, Hield knows what to expect.

"This is professional business and you've got to move on,” Hield said. “You can't dwell on it. If you dwell on it, you know, you get lost in the sauce."

Shumpert’s locker was next to Hield’s for the last year. They spent plenty of time together, and the banter between the two was comical at times. Saying goodbye to a friend like this just moments before a game is difficult.

“Today leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Hield added. “Everybody’s mind is all messed up. It happened so quick. We lost some guys we’ve been to battle with.”

[RELATED: Latest 2019 NBA trade deadline news, rumors, updates]

To add insult to injury, the Rockets came in and thumped the Kings. Houston was the agressor from the opening tip, and Sacramento looked lost.

Thursday should be a day to regroup. The Shumpert trade is not official through the league yet, although it is expected to go through the league office early on Thursday.

There is no early word as to whether Harrison Barnes or Alec Burks will be available to play Friday against the Miami Heat. All players from both trades have 48 hours to report and take physicals before the transaction can be finalized.

NBA Power Rankings 2019: Standing of every team at All-Star break

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USATSI

NBA Power Rankings 2019: Standing of every team at All-Star break

Welcome to another week of Power Rankings! We’re nearing the home stretch and very little is decided outside of the Warriors dominance.

There are surprising teams and some major disappointments. One of the biggest surprises is in Sacramento. 

Nobody expected the Kings to be in playoff contention. But at 30-27, the young squad is just one game back of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference with 25 games to go. 

[RELATED: De'Aaron Fox sends message on potential Kings-Warriors playoff series]

Here is where the league stands heading into the All-Star break:

VIEW THE POWER RANKINGS HERE

De'Aaron Fox sends message on potential Kings-Warriors playoff series

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AP

De'Aaron Fox sends message on potential Kings-Warriors playoff series

With a trip to All-Star weekend comes the barrage of media conversations. The Kings are a hot topic and De’Aaron Fox might be the belle of the ball.

After a brutal 120-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday evening, Fox was already sitting in front of a camera having conversations Thursday morning.

“We feel like we’re in a great position,” Fox said on ESPN’s First Take. “There’s been a lot of games that we’ve dropped that we probably shouldn’t have lost and there are games that we won, that we probably shouldn’t have won. But with 25 games left, I feel like we’re getting better and better.

"Marvin [Bagley] is growing throughout this year. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get the eight seed, if not, even the seven.”

Confidence has never been an issue with Fox. The 21-year-old has a moxie to him that makes him a natural born leader and he backs it up with a great work ethic.

With the Kings just a game out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff chase, Fox was asked about a potential matchup with the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

“I think every team can be beat,” Fox said. “We’ve played them three times this year already. I think we lost by a combined eight points and all three of those games, we probably had the game, but Boogie [DeMarcus Cousins] didn’t play. He adds an entirely different dynamic to that team, but like I said, everybody is human, so every team can be beat on any given day.”

Fox was off by a couple of points. The Kings have lost all three games this season to the Warriors by a combined 10 points, although they held leads in the fourth quarter in all of them.

The Kings were a Bagley tip-in from winning one game. Buddy Hield had shots in the final minute to either tie or win the other two games.  

Sacramento will get one last look at the champs next Thursday coming out of the All-Star break.

In his sophomore season in the league, Fox has taken incredible strides. Going into the All-Star break, he’s averaging 17.2 points and 7.2 assists while shooting 36.6 percent from 3-point range.

After shooting just 30.7 percent from long range last season, Fox was asked about his improved shooting stroke by Max Kellerman.

“All summer, I just shot the ball, that’s all it is, it’s all about work, it doesn’t just come overnight,” Fox said. “All summer, that’s literally all I did. I didn’t work on ball handling, I had that. I didn’t work on athleticism, I had that. I just worked on my strength and shooting the ball. That’s all I did the entire summer.”

In a ranging conversation, Fox gave Giannis Antetokounmpo his nod for the NBA’s MVP award. He spoke on the 2017 NBA Draft and why he might have been the third point guard taken. Lastly, he was asked about the Kings future and whether he and his teammates have spoken on sticking together for the long haul.

“It definitely comes up,” Fox said. “With Buddy in his third year and Marvin in his first year, me in my second and what we’re able to do already - we’re definitely competing. We go out every game, we’re competing against some of the best.”

Kellerman, a renowned Lakers fan, finished the interview by loudly proclaiming, “I can’t wait until you’re a Laker.”

[RELATED: Breaking down Kings' chances to break 12-year NBA playoff drought]

Fox replied quickly, “I don’t know about that one.”

Sacramento has put Fox as the centerpiece to their rebuild and through the first season and a half, he’s exceeding expectations. Sacramento fans can have confidence going out and buying a No. 5 jersey, Fox isn’t going anywhere for a long time.