Cory Joseph

For Kings' De'Aaron Fox, NBA All-Star break was just what doctor ordered

For Kings' De'Aaron Fox, NBA All-Star break was just what doctor ordered

SACRAMENTO -- The NBA All-Star break is the last major milestone in the regular season before the mad dash to the finish line. It’s also a time for both mental and physical recovery, which was much needed for the Kings.

Buddy Hield went to Chicago to win the NBA's 3-point title. Cory Joseph made a visit to Maui and coach Luke Walton spent the weekend in Cabo with his wife. De’Aaron Fox took some time to heal up.

Coming off the best month of his career in January, Fox limped into the break. Following the team’s getaway game in Dallas, he was seen icing his left ankle that he injured early in the season. The issue caught the eye of at least one national writer.

According to ESPN’s Marc Spears: “Keep an eye on point guard De'Aaron Fox, who is still trying to recover from an early season ankle injury. The All-Star break came at a much-needed time for Fox. The third-year point guard is having issues with tightness in his ankle when he sits for long stretches during games, a source told ESPN.”

A league source confirmed to NBC Sports California that Fox’s ankle is nothing more than “normal grind of a long season.” The week away was just what the doctor ordered.

Fox originally injured his left ankle during practice on Nov. 11. He missed 17 games with a Grade 3 sprain, but came back much faster than originally predicted.

Following practice on Wednesday, Walton said he noticed that the time off might have done Fox some good.

“He looked really good yesterday and today, looks like he’s moving better,” Walton said. “He has some of that bounce back. The break, I think was great for everyone, including De’Aaron.”

[RELATED: Parker expects to make Kings debut against Grizzlies]

Fox is having another breakout season for the Kings. He went into the break averaging a career-best 19.7 points to go with seven assists and 4.2 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per game.

If the Kings have any chance of making a late run, they need their starting point guard healthy and ready to play a major role.

De'Aaron Fox's career night in Kings' win caps off best month as a pro

De'Aaron Fox's career night in Kings' win caps off best month as a pro

LOS ANGELES -- There is a moment in every season when a struggling team cashes in. They look at the standings and realize that they are likely playing for a lottery spot and not a playoff berth.

For the Sacramento Kings, that moment might have already come and gone. After a disappointing start to the season, the team came out Wednesday night on their home floor and laid an egg against a solid Thunder team.

The loss dropped the Kings to 17-30 and just 8-14 on their home floor.

Following the game, head coach Luke Walton struggled to come up with answers. What he could muster sounded wasn’t all that flattering for his team. They needed to play with more effort. They were pushed around. The Thunder were the more physical team and he needed more from his group.

The Kings traveled to Los Angeles late after the game where they faced the Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back. Kawhi Leonard was a late scratch with a back issue and Paul George was on a minutes restriction, but Doc Rivers’ team is pacing for 58 wins. They are a beast, with two superstars and then a few superstar role players.

In what looked like a sure loss, the Kings came out swinging. De’Aaron Fox was in attack mode from the opening tip. His energy gave his team a fighter’s chance and then they started to hit their 3-point shot.

“I just wanted to come out aggressive,” Fox said following the Kings’ 124-103 victory. “I know earlier, most of the games, I don’t come out as well as I do finishing games. So it was just to come out and throw the first punch and not take the first punch.”

The Kings set a new franchise record, knocking down 21-for-41 from long range. With the ball falling from the perimeter, it opened up spacing for Fox to run right to the rim.

Fox took his game to a new level. He roasted the Clippers for a career-high 34 points on 14-of-24 from the field and plenty of those numbers came against star defender Patrick Beverley. He hit 3-of-4 from behind the arc and dished out eight assists to his teammates planted on the perimeter.

“I think that’s what you have to do if you want to be one of the better players and if I want to help my team win,” Fox said of going into attack mode. “Obviously, you still want to choose your spots, but at the end of the day, I feel like when I’m being aggressive, I’m able to get to my spots and either score the ball, get us a good shot or be able to playmake.”

It’s a maturation process for the 22-year-old, but he just capped off the best month of his three-year career. During the month of January, Fox posted 22.8 points, 7.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds in 33.3 minutes per game. He’s inching close to the 20 points per game mark on the season and he’s showing signs of making another leap forward in his progression.

“These are the things that we talk about throughout the season, what it takes, the challenges of being the leader, the head of the snake, the guy that sets the tone for us,” Walton said.

The head of the snake is something you hear plenty about when it comes to Fox. The franchise built the roster to support his incredible skill set. He is getting closer to what the team envisioned, but he still has plenty of room to expand his game.

“From the jump he came out and was assertive,” veteran guard Cory Joseph said. “He took that game over. He’s the head of the snake, and we are going to need him to do that some more. He looked good tonight. Getting people involved, going down-hill, he’s a problem when he gets to the paint and they have to respect him because of his finishing ability, and he was finding guys when [the Clippers] collapsed.”

[RELATED: Fox still growing into potential on, off court]

With the victory, the Kings picked up their 18th win of the season. They have now won three out of their previous four games.

This season hasn’t gone the way the franchise had hoped, but if Fox can continue to make strides like he did in January, it might not all be for not. The Kings have handed the keys to the car over to their speedy point guard. He needs to find a way to keep it on the road in the final 34 games of the season and build towards next year.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in dominant 124-103 win over Clippers

Kings takeaways: What we learned in dominant 124-103 win over Clippers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- Better effort, better result. 

After a dreary effort Wednesday on their homecourt, the Sacramento Kings walked into Staples Center and played to their potential Thursday against the Clippers.

De’Aaron Fox put up a career night and the Kings knocked down a franchise record 21 3-pointers as they pummeled the Clippers (33-15) on their home floor by a final of 124-103.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings improved to 18-30 on the season with a stunning win on the second night of a back-to-back.

Fox trot

Head coach Luke Walton called his team out after Wednesday’s loss to OKC for not playing with enough physicality. De’Aaron Fox heard the message.

From the opening tip, Fox the most aggressive player on the court. He went at the Clippers defense and set up his teammates on the perimeter. He even got in on the 3-point fun. 

Fox finished the night with a new career-high with 34 points on 14-for-24 shooting, including 3-of-4 from long range. He added eight assists, four steals and two blocks as the Kings pulled off the improbable win.


Make it rain

Every once in a while a team get so hot, there is nothing their opponent can do. It happened to the Kings on Monday in Minnesota when the T-Wolves hit a franchise record 23 3-pointers. On Thursday in LA, it was the Kings’ turn. 

Sacramento caught fire in the first half, launching and hitting 15-for-25 from distance. They slowed down after the intermission, but still managed to hit a new franchise record 21 3-pointers in the win.

Seven players knocked down a triple for the Kings and six of them hit two or more. Sometimes the rim looks twice it’s normal size.

[RELATED: Bagley aggravates foot sprain]

CoJo shines off bench

As soon as star sixth man Lou Williams stepped on the floor for the Clippers, Walton turned to Cory Joseph to slow him down. What Walton didn’t plan on was his veteran point guard catching fire.

Like the rest of his teammates, Joseph got it going from long range, hitting 4-of-9 from 3-point range on his way to a season-high 16 points. He chipped in seven assists and didn’t register a single turnover in his 32 minutes of play. 

Teams like the Clippers is why the Kings invested in Joseph in the offseason. He’s a strong veteran player that every once in a while will surprise you with his offense.