Kings

Source: Kings' De'Aaron Fox leaves Team USA to focus on making playoffs

Source: Kings' De'Aaron Fox leaves Team USA to focus on making playoffs

Well, so much for that.

Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox had been a standout this summer with Team USA, drawing rave reviews from just about everyone associated with the program, including head coach Gregg Popovich.

Despite only playing six minutes in Friday's exhibition win over Spain, Popovich informed the media that all 14 finalists, including Fox and Harrison Barnes, would be heading with the team to Australia as they continue their prep.

But Fox apparently had other ideas, as the Kentucky product has withdrawn from Team USA, a source confirmed to NBC Sports California's James Ham.

Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes was the first to report the news, noting Fox is choosing to focus on getting the Kings back to the playoffs. 

That is a bit of a shocker.

Last season, the Kings took a step in the right direction when Fox, Barnes, Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield led them to a 39-43 record and kept them in the playoff hunt for much of the year.

But the Western Conference got a lot tougher over the offseason. With Anthony Davis now a Laker, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joining the Clippers, Mike Conley being acquired by the Jazz and the Rockets swapping Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, the West will be the ultimate gauntlet this year.

And let's not forget about the Warriors, who despite the loss of Kevin Durant, still will be a threat.

[RELATED: Fox making most of Team USA time with Popovich]

A number of Western Conference stars elected not to participate in Team USA this summer, hoping instead to put all their focus on a title run next season in the wide-open NBA.

After a few weeks with the Red, White, and Blue, Fox apparently has chosen to put all his time and energy into helping the Kings snap their playoff drought.

Kings' season being defined by injuries but they're not making excuses

Kings' season being defined by injuries but they're not making excuses

PORTLAND -- No one is making excuses. The Sacramento Kings expect to win basketball games. When they don’t there is a lot of frustration to go around.

After a difficult 127-116 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers where the Kings were forced to play without Bogdan Bogdanovic, the team is limping through the early schedule and looking for some kind of boost.

“It’s difficult, we’re banged up,” Cory Joseph told NBC Sports California as he sat in his locker with an ice wrap on his back. “We are all banged up, but it’s the NBA, it happens. It’s a next man up mentality, we just got to figure out how to put a couple of wins together.”

Coach Luke Walton’s group has done a nice job of playing the next man up game, but losing Bogdanovic might be a tipping point for this team.

It’s not just that the Kings have lost three players. They’ve lost their starting point guard in De’Aaron Fox, their best interior scorer in Marvin Bagley and now their sixth man who has helped hold everything together.

“You don’t want any of your guys to get hurt, but a lot of what we built, we built around having certain guys, and they haven’t been with us,” Walton said. “Again, that’s why I go back to giving our guys credit, they’ve adjusted, adapted, continued to work. The NBA is tough, and the West is a monster, and even with that our guys are out there giving everything they have most nights.”

It’s become the theme of the season. Bagley broke his thumb in the first game of the season and has yet to make it back on the court. He wasn’t with the team in Portland as he prepared for another re-evaluation. It’s possible that he joins the team on the current trip, but nothing is certain.

Fox severely sprained his left ankle in practice a little over three weeks ago. He stayed back in Sacramento to continue his rehab and is still 2-3 weeks away from suiting up.

Nemanja Bjelica and Cory Joseph have stepped up to fill in, but neither player fits the mold of the one they are replacing. Bjelica is shooter and a high-basketball IQ player, but he doesn’t have Bagley’s post game or rebound ability.

Fox is an offensive weapon and the fastest player in the league. Replacing him with the defensive-minded Joseph is a difficult transition and that’s not a knock on Joseph.

“The biggest thing is, the people who are out there, we’ve got to get it done,” Harrison Barnes told NBC Sports California. “Tonight wasn’t a great performance on either side of the ball for myself and I know I can be better, but for everybody. We just have to find a way and we’ve done that this season and we’ll continue to do that. Hopefully at some point, we’ll all be healthy and on the court at the same time.”

Outside of Fox, Bogdanovic is the team’s best playmaker. Walton used Yogi Ferrell and Trevor Ariza to eat the minutes, but the second unit combined for five assists, which is really close to what Bogdanovic averages for the season on his own.

Bogdanovic is confident he’ll be ready to play on Friday when the Kings fly to San Antonio to take on the Spurs. He’s struggled with left hamstring tightness for the last week, but he told NBC Sports California during pregame that he was feeling much better. He had ice on his right knee, which has a contusion, but he’s a gamer that rarely sits out.

[RELATED: Latest NBA Power Rankings]

At 8-12, the Kings are still in the thick of things in the Western Conference. If they can get healthy, there will be an adjustment period, but the added pieces are exactly what the team needs.

The key is to continue to play hard, regardless of who steps on the floor, with the hopes of keeping within striking distance. It’s not the script the Kings hoped for this season, but this is the reality of their situation.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 127-116 loss to Trail Blazers

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USATSI

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 127-116 loss to Trail Blazers

BOX SCORE

PORTLAND -- Short-handed and overmatched, the Sacramento Kings competed well, but came up empty Wednesday evening against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bogdan Bogdanovic missed the game with a right knee contusion, leaving the Kings without three of their top six rotational players. The reserves fought the good fight, but in the end, they ran out of gas, falling by a final of 127-116 for the 12th straight loss at the Moda Center.  

Here are three takeaways as the Kings made it a game in Portland, but fell to 8-12 on the season.  

Battle at the five

Richaun Holmes and Hassan Whiteside went to war in the post. 

Holmes finished with a career-high 28 points on 11-for-14 shooting. He added 10 rebounds to pick up his seven double-double of the season. 

Whiteside pounded his former team with 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting and chipped in 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. 

While neither was able to slow the other, it was an entertaining matchup between two highly efficient bigs. 

Advantage: Holmes

Battle at the two

While Holmes and Whiteside were duking it out in the post, a couple of guards caught fire from long range.

Buddy Hield struggled early, going 1-of-7 to open the night. He shot his way out of the slump in the first quarter, finishing the first 12 minutes with 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting. 

Hield kept scoring throughout the night, dropping in 23 points to go with seven assists, six rebounds and a pair of steals.

On the Portland side, CJ McCollum had a huge game. The Blazers starting shooting guard dropped in 33 points on 14-for-22 shooting and all of his career-high four blocks came against Hield in the first half.

Advantage: McCollum

Team effort

The Kings are beat up. De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley continue to miss games, but against Portland, they were without Bogdan Bogdanovic as well. 

While it came in a losing effort, Yogi Ferrell, Nemanja Bjelica and Trevor Ariza were all impactful when they stepped on the floor. 

Ferrell was an offensive spark plug, scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting off the bench. 

In his second game back with the team after an extended absence, Ariza added 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks. 

Bjelica stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal.