Why Kings' Vlade Divac believes in Luke Walton despite slow start

Why Kings' Vlade Divac believes in Luke Walton despite slow start

The Kings fell to 2-6 on the season with Wednesday's 124-120 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena, continuing Sacramento's slow start under first-year coach Luke Walton. 

But Walton's boss still believes in him, The Athletic's David Aldridge revealed in a Wednesday column. 

“Very happy with him,” Kings general manager Divac texted Aldridge on Sunday. “His approach, communication and relationship with the players needs more time and he needs to learn about personalities but I really like what I see. It’s a process; can’t do stuff over night.”

Wednesday's loss snapped the Kings' two-game winning streak, and Sacramento trailed by as many as 14 points in the third quarter. The Kings clawed back in the fourth quarter, but never got closer than three points behind the defending NBA champions. 

Still, Walton was happy with Sacramento's effort Wednesday night and viewed the foiled comeback as a sign of progress following an 0-5 start to his first season in California's capital. 

"We showed growth again," Walton told reporters in Toronto. "I'm happy for the direction we're moving [in]. It's a tough place to play, [they're] the NBA champs and they were making a lot of shots tonight. Our guys hung in there, stayed close. A week ago, this was a game that was turning into a 25-point game. To give ourselves a chance at the end is all you can ask for, and at the end, they made shots. We missed them." 

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The Kings can still end their three-game road trip with a winning record if they beat the Atlanta Hawks on Friday before returning to Golden 1 Center for three of their next four games. 

Whether Sacramento can climb out of its early-season hole and earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2006 remains to be seen, but Walton can afford to be patient with his new team as long as Divac is patient with him. 

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.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

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.

[RELATED: Kings' Luke Walton forced to get creative at center spot in Orlando]

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.

Kings' De'Aaron Fox sprains ankle, out at least a week in NBA restart

Kings' De'Aaron Fox sprains ankle, out at least a week in NBA restart

The hits keep coming for the Kings.

Just as Buddy Hield and Jabari Parker returned to the floor, the Kings announced Wednesday that point guard De'Aaron Fox sprained his left ankle in practice and will be re-evaluated in seven-to-10 days.

Fox, the Kings' leader in both scoring and assists on the season, missed 17 games this season after sustaining a Grade 3 sprain on the same ankle in November. It took him time to regain his strength in the ankle once he returned, but the 22-year-old was rolling by the time the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[RELATED: How Kings' rough start to season could be an advantage in Orlando]

The Kings didn't specify what grade sprain Fox sustained on Wednesday, but the injury was severe enough to warrant an MRI. His status will be updated sometime next week.

Fox, 22, is averaging a career-high 20.7 points per and 4.0 rebounds per game this season, as well as 6.8 assists.