Kings wasting De'Aaron Fox's career high vs. Spurs 'tough to swallow'

Kings wasting De'Aaron Fox's career high vs. Spurs 'tough to swallow'

In one of the biggest games in the last decade and half of Sacramento Kings basketball, the starting backcourt showed up in force. The rest of the team? Not so much.

The sprint to the finish line just got a whole harder when the Kings fell by a final of 129-120 to the San Antonio Spurs in their opening game of the restart.

De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic carried the team with a combined 63 points, but the Kings failed to close out on perimeter shooters, didn’t box out on the glass and when the game was on the line, the Spurs were the team that executed.

The Kings have been waiting for that moment when Fox transformed himself from a very good young player to a star. We might have just seen the turn.

“De’Aaron had a pretty special game and we’re going to need it out of him again when we play in two days,” coach Luke Walton said.

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Fox absolutely torched the Spurs for a career-high 39 points on 17-of-33 shooting. He got to the rim anytime he wanted to and without his production, it would have been a blowout loss.

“He makes the game a lot easier for us, shooters especially, but we’ve got to be able to help him,” Bogdanovic said. “That was a good game. I’m sure he’s not happy about it.”

Fox’s ability to draw and kick left Bogdanovic open from the perimeter. The Kings’ starting shooting guard knocked down 6-of-11 from long range to finish with 24 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Despite the strong performance, both Fox and Bogdanovic were clearly frustrated in their post game media sessions.

“It’s just tough to swallow because we feel like we had a chance to win,” Fox said following the loss. “But at the end of the day, the starting group can’t start like that, having to fight back. And that fourth quarter, they just executed down the stretch better than we did.”

Fox has every right to be frustrated. He had the game of his life, but he also spent a lot of energy digging his team out of holes. When the game was on the line, he may not have had enough gas in the tank to finish the way he wanted to.

In a stunning performance to open the Kings’ restart schedule. Sacramento was confident coming into Game 1, especially against a team like the Spurs, who were missing an All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Kings have an extremely difficult schedule in front of them. The Spurs have made the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, but they are having a down year. This was an opportunity for the Kings to keep pace with the Trail Blazers for ninth place and even pick up a game on the eighth place Grizzlies.

But the Spurs are still coached by NBA legend Gregg Popovich. They still have veterans DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay. They are always prepared and against Sacramento, they were the more physical team and aggressive team.

“I think they wanted it more,” Fox said following the game. “They got after loose balls more than we did tonight. That helped them. That kept them in the game in the time being and then at the end they were able to execute better than us.”

It’s back to the drawing board for the Kings. They have Saturday to make adjustments, but then it’s right back to the schedule on Sunday when they’ll play the Orlando Magic.

Games come fast and furious as the Kings play eight games in a total of 15 nights.

No Defense

During the three-game scrimmage schedule, Sacramento was slow to close out on perimeter shooters. That was the case again on Friday.

San Antonio shot only 25 3-pointers, but most of them were uncontested and 11 of the attempts went through the net.

“Tonight, it wasn’t good enough from the things we could control, and then you’ve got to give San Antonio credit, their guys stepped up and knocked down shots when they had a chance,” Walton said.

Overall, the Spurs shot 53.3 percent from the field. They moved the ball well, finishing with 32 assists on 48 made baskets.

[RELATED: Kings, Spurs kneel during anthem]

The disappearance of Buddy Hield

Hield is always streaky, but seldom does he have a game like he did on Friday. The Kings’ second leading scorer on the season is one of the better 3-point shooters in the NBA. Against the Spurs, he shot just 1-of-8 from behind the arc and 2-for-13 overall.

If the Kings have a shot to bounce back, they need more than six points and three turnovers from one of their better players.

NBA rumors: Kings' Vlade Divac rejected shared role with Joe Dumars

NBA rumors: Kings' Vlade Divac rejected shared role with Joe Dumars

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive reportedly wanted a new voice to help Vlade Divac make roster decisions.

The now-former Kings general manager didn't like that idea, so he resigned from the position Friday.

The Athletic's Sam Amick reported Friday, citing sources, that Ranadive told Divac he wanted advisor Joe Dumars to share in the responsibilities of roster decisions for the Kings.

Divac, according to Amick's sources, had "zero interest" in a power share. He wanted full control of the roster decisions.

So, a day after the Kings returned from a disappointing eight-game NBA restart in Orlando, Fla., Divac stepped down.

Dumars will step in as the interim executive vice president of basketball operations, and spearhead the search for a new general manager of the Kings.

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But Dumars might not hire a new general manager right away.

Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill reported Friday, citing sources, that Dumars could use the 2020-21 NBA season to evaluate prospective candidates, meaning the Kings would go one year without an official GM.

The Kings, led by Dumars, now head into an offseason of uncertainty. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a restricted free agent. Kent Bazemore, Harry Giles, Alex Len, Yogi Ferrell and Corey Brewer are unrestricted free agents. Marvin Bagley just finished off an injury-riddled second NBA season. Buddy Hield signed a lucrative contract last year, but was moved to the second unit before the season was shut down in March.

[RELATED: Source: Walton safe as Kings coach for 2020-21 season]

And the Kings also have a lottery pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.

So with no new GM reportedly coming for a while, all these decisions rest on Dumars, who Ranadivé wanted to have a voice in the room anyway.

Vlade Divac's Luka Doncic miss not only reason he's out as Kings GM

Vlade Divac's Luka Doncic miss not only reason he's out as Kings GM

Did the decision to not draft Luke Doncic in 2018 cost Vlade Divac his job as the Sacramento Kings' general manager?

The easy answer might be yes. But it’s a lot more complex than that.

There was a list of missteps and mistakes, dating to his first few months on the job, that Divac had been able to overcome until Friday, when he resigned.

His initial trade that sent Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry to the Philadelphia 76ers cost the Kings two draft swaps and their 2019 first-round pick. The payoff was a one-season rental of Rajon Rondo.

From that moment on, Divac made a series of decisions, most of which did not work out in his favor. His free-agent signings of players such as George Hill, Zach Randolph, Dewayne Dedmon and Trevor Ariza all were busts, but Divac was able to Houdini his way out of each of those deals.

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Divac picking De’Aaron Fox No. 5 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft provided the Kings with a young star to build around, but he also selected Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgious Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles in the first round.

The only player remaining on the team from that group is Giles, and even his time with the team likely is up after Divac decided not to pick up the big man's fourth-year option for next season.

For a small-market team like the Kings to succeed, it needs to hit home runs in the draft, make savvy moves in free agency and get lucky.

Divac found success in free agency with undervalued players such as Nemanja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes. His trades that landed players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Iman Shumpert, Kent Bazemore and Alex Len all worked out to some degree.

And even with all of these issues, the Kings, under Divac and coach Dave Joerger, were better than they'd been in over a decade last season. They ran teams off the court and were a joy to watch.

The Kings missed the playoffs, but their 39-43 record had them on the right path, although personality conflicts between Joerger and assistant GM Brandon Williams caused a rift behind the scenes.

Known for his ability to bring people together, Divac wasn’t able to mend fences. Instead of making a midseason move to separate one or the other, Divac allowed the situation to become cantankerous.

By season’s end, Divac decided to fire both, but in doing so, he set himself up for the situation the Kings are in now. Divac hired Luke Walton to replace Joerger without interviewing another candidate.

Walton might be a very good coach, but in having him teach a new system, with new terminology, the Kings lost their momentum from the previous season, and the identity of the team went out the window.

Now the Kings sit in a situation where the Memphis Grizzlies have passed them in the incredibly tough Western Conference. The Phoenix Suns also went 8-0 in the NBA bubble this month and look like a team on the rise.

It’s possible that the Kings will improve next season and take a leap in standings, but the road to snapping a 14-year NBA playoff drought looks even more difficult than ever.

All of these items added up, but at the end of the day, there's still that issue that Divac passed on Doncic.

Allowing Doncic to slip through the franchise’s fingers -- regardless of whom the Kings selected instead -- was a catastrophic move for a team that's always had a difficult time bringing in top-tier talent.

Divac had concerns about Doncic’s ability to play with Fox and also his position in the NBA.

His position doesn’t matter: Doncic is a flat-out superstar. Also, Fox would have figured out how to work with him, and the Kings would've had two young stars to build around.

[RELATED: Divac kept his word after Cousins trade, give or take 18 months]

The Kings still don’t know what they have in Marvin Bagley, the player Divac selected over Doncic, but that doesn’t matter. Doncic is a generational talent who just destroyed team after team in the bubble, and has his Dallas Mavericks set for a deep playoff run.

Divac is an exceptional human being. He’s funny and gregarious. He meant well, and there's no question the Kings are in a better place than when Divac took over five years ago.

in the end, that wasn’t enough.