Kings

What De'Aaron Fox's injury means for Kings' chances in NBA restart

What De'Aaron Fox's injury means for Kings' chances in NBA restart

Maybe the NBA restart wasn’t such a good idea for the Kings.

Four Kings players have already tested positive for the coronavirus. The team was forced to shut down their practice facility. Their starting center was sent to his room for 10 days for violating contact rules and now De’Aaron Fox is on the shelf with an ankle injury.

This isn’t the start the team was hoping for. But now it is the reality they are living with.

Fox underwent an MRI on Wednesday following the team’s practice. According to the official press release, the 22-year-old point guard will be re-evaluated in seven-to-10 days after sustaining a second left ankle sprain this season.

There is no word on the severity of the injury, but any injury to the Kings’ leading scorer could have a major impact on their ability to win games.

“[He’s] someone I’ve called the head of our snake multiple times this season,” coach Luke Walton said earlier this week. “We put a lot on his plate, but he’s got that ability to be one of those players.”

With Fox on the shelf, Walton will turn to veteran Cory Joseph in the short term. The veteran is a methodical game manager and a strong defensive player, but the team plays at a completely different pace when he is on the court and he doesn’t have Fox’s dynamic offensive game.

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According to Kent Bazemore, Joseph has already assumed a leadership role with the team. He’s an experienced player that has made the playoffs in all eight of his seasons in the league, and he won an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs during the 2013-14 season.

“Cory Joseph is really running the team, he’s taken on a leadership role on the floor, getting guys in the right spot and being very vocal,” Bazemore said.

On the season, Joseph is averaging a modest 6.3 points and 3.4 assists in 24 minutes a night. He’s one of the more durable players in the league and hasn’t missed a game in the last three seasons.

With every contest being incredibly important during the restart, the Kings’ fate may lie completely in Fox’s ability to heal. That’s not an indictment on Joseph, but a statement on what Fox means to the team on both ends of the floor.

The early word is that Fox’s current injury is not as severe as the one that occurred early in the season, but it usually takes a few days to fully know the extent of the damage.

His recovery from his original injury was almost miraculous. The normal time frame for a Grade Three sprain, which is a complete detachment of the ligament, is usually around 12 weeks and sometimes a lot more than that.

After spraining his ankle on Nov. 11 at practice, he was able to return to the court five weeks later on Dec. 17.

If the Kings have any chance of snapping their 13-year playoff drought, they are going to need a less severe diagnosis and another expedited recovery.

The good news is that Fox knows the rehab and recovery program and the Kings’ training staff also has a solid understanding of what worked with the injury last time.

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Sacramento has additional options at the point as well. Yogi Ferrell keeps himself in excellent shape and is ready when called upon. Starting shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic has the ability to slide over and eat time at the point as well.

The Kings have 16 days until their first game against the Spurs. If Fox is ready to play, the team has a chance to make some noise in the final eight games of the season. If he’s out long term, the road gets a lot more difficult.

Harrison Barnes places Kings' flameout in Orlando on himself, veterans

Harrison Barnes places Kings' flameout in Orlando on himself, veterans

The team that began the Orlando bubble saying “we want all of that smoke” just learned that smoke usually is accompanied by fire.

At 1-4 in the NBA restart, the Kings have shown they aren’t ready for the fire and they might not be ready for prime time.

“I think it starts with individual accountability, just in terms of the effort we are putting out there on a consistent basis,” veteran Harrison Barnes said following the Kings’ 119-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. “It’s hard to win in this league and to be consistent, you have to do that every single night.”

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The Kings have talent. But rarely is that enough at the NBA level.

You have to play together. You have to play for one another. In the end, you have to bring energy and effort every night or a team of no-names, like the squad the Nets threw on the court Friday, will embarrass you.

It’s a common theme with the Kings. They played a tremendous game in a 140-125 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, scoring 49 points in the first quarter

Just over 24 hours later, they looked like a collection of players that had never played together. There was no chemistry. No passing. No rotations on defense.

Just forced and ineffective basketball.

“Frustration is high,” Barnes admitted. “I don’t know if it’s disappointing, but it’s frustrating. Coming into this game, we knew it was more mental than physical. It was meeting force with force. It was being disciplined. It didn’t matter what scheme we had or what game plan we had if we didn’t have any effort.”

Who's to blame for the Kings’ flame out in Orlando? Coach Luke Walton has already drawn plenty of criticism, but at some point the players themselves have to take ownership for the things they can control on the court.

Following the loss to the Nets, Barnes fell on his sword as one of the leaders of the team. He placed the blame on himself and the rest of the veterans.

“I’ll be the first to say it’s definitely on us as veteran players -- guys like myself," Barnes said. "I’ll take responsibility for that because I’ve been to the playoffs, I’ve been to the Finals. I know the energy and effort it takes to win games and if you don’t bring that, you lose.”

“As a group, we have to learn that you can’t just turn it on,” he added.

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The Kings have a choice. They can pout and get their lunch handed to them for the next three games. They can also play spoiler and leave the bubble on as high of a note as possible.

Either way, this isn’t the outcome the Kings were hoping for. They have had a few bright spots, like the play of De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic, so the experience isn’t a total wash. But after five games, any talk of playoffs is over and changes likely are coming during the abbreviated offseason.

Kings takeaways: What you might've missed in 119-106 loss vs. Nets

Kings takeaways: What you might've missed in 119-106 loss vs. Nets

BOX SCORE

Consistently inconsistent.

After coming away with a huge win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, the Kings failed to show up Friday on the second night of a back-to-back against the completely depleted Brooklyn Nets.

Sacramento looked stagnant on offense and a step slow in its rotations on the defensive end. The result was an embarrassing 119-106 loss that all but extinguished the Kings' remaining playoff hopes.

Here are three takeaways from the Kings getting out-hustled and fell to 1-4 in the Orlando bubble.

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Loud Thud

The Kings came into the restarted NBA season talking a big game. They played well enough to win against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, but couldn’t close out games. Their win over the Pelicans gave folks a glimmer of hope, but blowout losses to the Orlando Magic and Nets were completely unacceptable.

With Friday's loss, Sacramento has completely fallen out of the race for the No. 8 seed and would need a miracle to finish ninth and force a play-in series.

The Kings still have three games remaining in the restart, but general manager Vlade Divac has to take a long look at his roster this summer and make some difficult decisions. Everything outside of trading De’Aaron Fox should be on the table.

Bogi puts up a fight

Bogdan Bogdanovic posted a career-high 35 points in the Kings’ win over the Pelicans, and he was back at it again against the Nets.

One of the few Kings players to stand out, Bogdanovic finished with a team-high 27 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including 4-of-8 on 3-pointers.

A restricted free agent at the end of the season, Bogdanovic has been really solid in four of the Kings’ five games. Unfortunately for Sacramento, it just wasn't enough Friday.

[RELATED: NBA puts money where its mouth is for racial, social justice]

Star still shining

Since the beginning of the restart, De'Aaron Fox has come out aggressive and put on a show. He didn’t match his 27.5 points per game average from the first four games on Friday, but he was effective in his time on the court.

The Kings' starting point guard finished with 21 points and seven assists. There is the outline of a star, but he needs another really strong offseason to take that next step.