De'Aaron Fox

Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors

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Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO -- No team needed the All-Star break more than Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox. An early-season ankle injury was getting heavy. Bumps and bruises were adding up and the time away was an opportunity to both heal up and mentally reset.

That worked for all of one game. 

Fox woke up on Friday morning with a sore left shoulder. He’s had it taped up the last two games, but he’s playing through the issue.

In the team’s 112-94 win over the Warriors on Tuesday, Fox disappeared to the locker room due to tightness in his right groin. He returned to the game and looked no worse for wear.

Fox is fighting through the pain because his team needs him on the court if they have any hope of continuing what has become a hot streak. 

“It’s motivating,” veteran wing Kent Bazemore said of Fox playing through pain. “You can see him wincing out there, but he’s pushing through. It means a lot that he’s bought in. We have his back and he is still demanding a lot of attention, dominating the game.”

Against the Warriors, Fox stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 21 points, five assists, two rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes of play. He shot just 4-of-9 from the free-throw stripe, but that has nothing to do with the nagging issues he’s currently struggling with.

“I don’t know,” Fox said when asked about shooting freebies. “I think we just gotta get there and get better. I don’t really know what else to say about it.”

Is there concern that the injuries will take Fox off the court or decrease his effectiveness? Absolutely, but in the NBA, injuries always are part of the game.

“They tell me he’s good to go, I asked him at halftime and he said, ‘play me’,” Luke Walton said. “Between our medical staff and talking to him, I feel confident. He came out and made some big-time in that second half and seemed to be alright.”

The team will be cautious with the 22-year-old budding star, but they also are going to forge ahead. 

[RELATED: Bazemore is ingredient Kings missed during early struggles]

“We’ll go about it smartly and we’ll give him off days where he needs it and rehab and treatment and all that,” Walton added.

Fox is averaging 19.9 points and 6.9 assists for the Kings this season. He’s taking another leap forward in his production and growth, but Sacramento needs him at full strength if they are going to continue to stay in the hunt for the postseason. 

How Kent Bazemore proving to be Kings' missing ingredient during surge

How Kent Bazemore proving to be Kings' missing ingredient during surge

LOS ANGELES -- Every once in a while, a player comes along who seamlessly fits in and instantly improves a team. Veteran guard Kent Bazemore has been that player for the Kings.

Bazemore and experienced big man Anthony Tolliver officially joined Sacramento in a Jan. 21 trade from the Portland Trail Blazers, and Bazemore, 30, has been a catalyst for the Kings' recent surge. They are 8-5 since his arrival, clawing their way back into the playoff picture.

In the Kings' 112-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday afternoon, Bazemore scored 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He added six rebounds, four steals and played strong defense from the moment he stepped on the floor.

Bazemore also shoved coach Luke Walton after the Kings' win. Not only has he been a viable option off the bench, but his personality is helping to push the Kings’ culture in the right direction.

“You’ve got to relish these moments, you’ve got to bottle it up and really understand what it feels like and take it over to the next day,” Bazemore said Saturday. “It’s hard to win in this league. It’s hard to be a good team in this league and when you go on the road in big games like this, you’ve got to feel it.”

Walton has been a target in Sacramento after the Kings got off to a slow start. Like any coach, he wants to win and be part of the first Kings team to make the postseason since 2007.

Victories like the one over the Clippers shows that the team is still fighting for their coach despite the rocky start to the season.

“We here, we here -- we’re behind him 110 percent,” Bazemore said of Walton. “He’s just as fiery as any coach I’ve ever played with. Sometimes it looks like he wants to get out there, but he’s kinda chubby now, so those days are over.”

Walton feels the same way about Bazemore. The coach knows exactly how much Bazemore's addition has helped stabilize his club, both on and off the court.

“He’s been great -- the things he says in the locker room, his participation in film sessions, the energy and passion he plays the game with, his versatility,” Walton said when asked about Bazemore’s contributions.

What the Kings are seeing from Bazemore is what they were hoping to get when they signed Trevor Ariza during the offseason. While Ariza brought value to Sacramento, he didn’t have the same type of impact and he’s not nearly as versatile.

On any given night, Bazemore is asked to come off the bench and defend the best the opposition has to offer. Against the Clippers, he guarded Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams. Bazemore held his own against both, which was a big reason the Kings came away with a victory.

“He’s been huge, the way he’s been playing,” De'Aaron Fox said. “He’s been scoring the ball for us as well in situations, but defensively, he’s out there guarding Kawhi, he’s guarding Lou, he’s doing a lot of things.”

There was something missing from this team, and Bazemore might have been the missing ingredient. His intensity and professionalism are contagious. He also has a light-hearted side that his teammates seem to enjoy.

“It wasn’t much that needed to be changed,” Bazemore said. “But sometimes fresh blood does help and I hadn’t been having the best year, so I think it was a match made in heaven.”

With 26 games remaining, the Kings are getting to test drive Bazemore as a player and he is doing the same. A free agent at the end of the season, NBC Sports California has confirmed that the Kings have already had internal discussions about re-signing him, although there is plenty of time between now and July 1 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

[RELATED: Kings' Harry Giles earns first double-double in road win vs. Clippers]

For now, the focus is on winning. The Kings entered Sunday five games out of the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot, and they are playing very well coming out of the All-Star break. 

“We’ve got 20 some odd games left and it’s a crapshoot right now,” Bazemore said. “Some teams are injured. It’s a sink or swim moment. You see it every year, some team gets hot and makes it interesting at the end. We have some lofty goals and we have the group to get it done.”

If Bazemore continues to play well and the Kings get a player or two back from injury, there is a chance they can make this season interesting down the stretch. It starts with wins like Sacramento's last two, and Bazemore was vital to both.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 112-103 upset win over Clippers

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 112-103 upset win over Clippers

BOX SCORE 

LOS ANGELES -- After leading the Los Angeles Clippers for most of the game, the Kings took a right hook to the chin in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. 

The Kings looked stunned, but they didn’t fall. 

The Clippers' trio of Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell put on a show, but in another shocker in LA, the Kings took down the 37-19 Clippers by a final of 112-103.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings picked up their second win over the Clippers at Staples Center this season, and improved to 23-33 on the season.

More Baze

Kent Bazemore has gone from a pleasant surprise to something more for the Kings. The veteran forward is active defensively, and much better than expected as an offensive weapon.

After posting 15 points, followed by 18 in the team’s previous two games, Bazemore came out aggressive again on Saturday. He scored 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first half and continued to put pressure after the intermission. 

The 30-year-old wing is the shot in the arm the Kings needed. He finished the game with 23 points, six rebounds and four steals in 29 minutes. 

Bazemore is an unrestricted free agent after the season, and quickly is turning into a priority for the Kings. 

Backcourt

De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic came to play. 

Fox struggled with his shot coming out of the gate, but he was aggressive attacking the rim and eventually found a rhythm. He finished with 20 points, eight assists and a steal.

Like Fox, Bogdanovic got off to a slow start, but he hit the Clippers hard in the third quarter to finish with 20 points on 4-of-10 from distance. 

Sacramento’s backcourt outscored the Clippers 40-12.

Another game, another new face

Jabari Parker wasn’t the only player the Kings picked up from the Atlanta Hawks in the Dewayne Dedmon trade. 7-footer Alex Len made his Kings debut against the Clippers and instantly made an impact.

The No. 5 overall pick from the 2013 NBA Draft has struggled to find his place in the league, but against LA, he was active on both ends of the floor and battled star sixth man, Montrezl Harrell.

[RELATED: Bagley sees foot specialist, out at least three more weeks]

Len finished with three points on 1-for-3 shooting, but he grabbed eight rebounds in 16 minutes.

With Richaun Holmes out of action, the Kings need minutes from Len. He earned a longer look next time out, but he’ll have to compete for time with Harry Giles, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds for his first career double-double.