James Ham

De'Aaron Fox getting stronger, adding weight ahead of Kings season

De'Aaron Fox getting stronger, adding weight ahead of Kings season

When the Sacramento Kings selected De’Aaron Fox with the fifth pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, they did so with the understanding that he would need time to develop. His game has taken leaps and bounds in his first two NBA seasons and a lot of that has to do with his body maturing.

Listed at 6-foot-2 (without shoes) and 169.6 pounds at the NBA combine in May of 2017, Fox has worked hard to get stronger and add weight. Part of that process is eating and eating more and then eating again.

Fox looked fit and noticeably bigger at Team USA camp and according to The Athletic’s Jason Jones, he is up to 183 pounds, which is no small feat for a young player with a wiry frame.

“I try to get 4,000-5,000 calories because I burn through it so fast,” Fox told Jones. “It’s hard man, it’s hard."

At 21-years old, it’s going to take time for Fox to add weight. It’s going to be even tougher to maintain the added bulk through an 82-game schedule.

“For me, the goal for me this year is to play at 180, and continue to grow, continue to grow, continue to grow,” Fox said. “You don’t want to come in at 195, so for us it’s just a process because I don’t want to put on so much weight that I take away my athleticism and my speed.”

Fox is a workout warrior that doesn’t mind mixing in weight training into his basketball regiment. It’s a delicate balance of maintaining his speed and agility while adding enough strength to fight through contact and take a hit at the NBA level.

According to Jones, Chris Gaston, Fox's longtime trainer turned agent, is watching him grow from a “string bean to a grown man.” That is music to the ears of the Kings who are relying on Fox as one of the franchise's cornerstones.

If the glimpses we saw at Team USA are any indication, Fox can take another statistical leap this season just by getting to the free-throw stripe an additional three or four times per game.

[RELATED: Why Fox likely walked away from Team USA chance]

The mandate from Gregg Popovich during the national team workouts was for Fox to attack the rim at every opportunity. The first option is for Fox to score, but as the defense collapses, it creates spacing and openings for his teammates.

This is likely the mentality he will carry into the season in Sacramento, but this type of physical play style takes its toll on a player. He'll need the added strength if he is going to spend a lot of time amongst the trees in the painted area.

As Fox grows into his frame, he’ll have to find the balance between adding bulk that he can sustain throughout the year while maintaining his speed and athleticism. This isn't a one or two year process. Expect Fox to continue to redefine his body and game over the next few seasons as he solidifies who he is and what he can be as an NBA player.

How different factors on schedule will affect Kings in 2019-20 season

How different factors on schedule will affect Kings in 2019-20 season

82 games. 30 teams. It should be simple to make an NBA schedule that is moderately close to balanced.

But balance isn’t usually the case when it comes to the schedule and the Sacramento Kings, and there are plenty of reasons for the discrepancy.

For a team like the Kings, the release of the new schedule is an annual reminder that A) they play in a small market, B) they’ve missed the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons and C) they play on the west coast.

When the 2019-20 regular-season schedule dropped a little over a week ago, there was a collective grown from Kings fans on social media that could be heard across the globe. A budding young team, fresh off their best season since the 2005-06 season, earned one nationally televised game (TNT or ESPN), and it wasn’t even on TNT.

A ninth-place finish in the Western Conference wasn’t worth more than one real nationally televised game. The Phoenix Suns, who finished at 19-63 last season, “earned” one TNT game.

Nationally televised games aren’t a barometer for how good a team is. Heck, the Charlotte Hornets got a single national game and they finished with an identical 39-43 record as the Kings last season, but lost their lone All-Star when guard Kemba Walker joined the Boston Celtics.

Making it to a national audience is nice, but it has no value in the win/loss column. A deep dive into the Kings’ schedule shows a few issues that might actually affect the team’s ability to compete for a playoff spot.

Sacramento is tied for the third-most miles traveled on the season, hitting the 50,000-mile mark, not including the 17,000-plus round-trip miles the team will venture on their trip to India during the preseason.

A further breakdown shows that travel is an issue for a lot of teams out west. Here is a breakdown of miles traveled by conference, with the west shown in red and the eastern conference shown in black.

Ten of the top twelve teams in miles traveled are Western Conference clubs. You could write it off as a geographical issues. Nine of the bottom ten teams in miles traveled are from the Eastern Conference, including the seven teams with the fewest amount of miles traveled.

Stangely, both Los Angeles teams travel the fewest miles on the season out of any Western Conference team. The Lakers also rank first in total nationally televised games, including TNT, ABC, ESPN and NBA TV with 43 contests. The Clippers are tied for third with 38 games on the national schedule.

Teams like the Pelicans, Thunder and Mavericks, who are geographical centered on the map of the United States, ranked third, fourth and fifth in miles traveled by Western Conference teams.

Some of the glaring issues with the Kings’ schedule centered around at least one anomaly. The Kings typically make a single trip to Florida, playing both the Magic and Heat during the same swing. This season they make two trips to Florida, which helps rack up the miles.

On the plus side, the Kings do not have a single six-game road trip this season and even their five-game trip is spaced out over 10 days.

Another way to break down the Kings’ chances this season is to look at strength of schedule. Using Las Vegas projected win totals and over/under lines, Sacramento plays the sixth-most difficult schedule in the NBA with a projected win total against of .513.

A lot of that has to do with the Kings’ division, where they’ll face the Clippers (projected 54.5 wins), Lakers (projected 50.5 wins) and Warriors (projected 49.5 wins) four times each. The only break is that they also play the Suns four times, although even Phoenix is projected to win 29.5 games, an increase of more than ten wins from last year.

Normally there is an early moment in the schedule you can point to that the Kings have to survive. There are a few of those this season, including the early Oct/Nov schedule, as well as an extremely difficult month of April.

Sacramento has the 10th-most difficult opening month of the campaign with a projected winning percentage against of .523. The schedules for December, January and March are all manageable, including a stretch with 10 out of 12 games at home during mid-Dec. and early Jan.

Their pre All-Star break versus post All-Star break schedule is close to even, but their finish in April is brutal. In the final month of the season, the Kings face a barrage of quality Western Conference opponents with a combined projected with total of .555.

The Kings’ April is the third-most difficult final month for any NBA team. Sacramento finishes the season with a back-to-back against the Lakers at Staples, followed by the season finale at home against the Warriors.

There is one last crazy chart to look at. If you break down the rest advantage for every NBA team, the Kings actually have a fairly balanced schedule. They play 20-22 games with a rest advantage and 20-22 with a rest disadvantage. The remaining 38-42 games are even.

Overall, the Kings travel too much, their final month of the season is brutal and they aren’t going to be highlighted on any national networks this season. They need to get off to a fast start and have a buffer down the stretch if they are going to survive the final month of the season and snap their long playoff drought.

[RELATED: Why Kings' Fox likely walked away from Team USA chance]

None of this is unexpected. Despite a breakout season, the Kings are still the Kings when it comes to a national audience, distance traveled and strength of schedule. The only way to break the cycle is by winning games and forcing the league to take notice.

H/T to both Jared Dubin and Ed Kupfer for graphic breakdowns via Twitter.

Why Kings' De'Aaron Fox likely walked away from Team USA opportunity

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USATSI

Why Kings' De'Aaron Fox likely walked away from Team USA opportunity

After two weeks of build-up, Saturday’s news that De’Aaron Fox had removed himself from the Team USA World Cup roster came as a shock.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, the Kings point guard made the decision so he could “focus on [the] upcoming season with [the] goal of making [the] playoffs," which is great for Sacramento but also slightly confusing.

Fox had been nothing but all in on the experience throughout Team USA camp in Las Vegas two weeks ago and again this week in Los Angeles. Both on and off the record, Fox expressed excitement about the process and the potential of playing for Team USA.

Fox turned heads with his speed and shooting ability, and up until halftime of Friday night’s game against Spain, he looked like Team USA’s backup point guard behind Kemba Walker.

Following the 90-81 win over Spain at Honda Center, NBC Sports California spoke to Fox, and he said was honored to wear the Team USA uniform.

“It was definitely great to play against a different country. This was my first time doing it,” Fox said. “I definitely had a blast doing it.”

When asked if he was boarding a plane for Australia the next day, Fox, like the rest of the team, had yet to be notified of they were making the squad, and said, “We’ll find out.”

Team USA Gregg Popovich announced after the game that all 14 finalists vying for 12 roster spots would make the trip to Australia, to prepare for the tournament, which starts Aug. 31 in China.

After playing just six minutes against Spain, Fox had to have some apprehension over his situation with Team USA. Dropping everything and boarding the team plane means spending a minimum of 12 days in Australia, with the potential for another 17 days in China after that.

You need to be sure about what the commitment means before jumping in with both feet. Venturing on the road with no assurances of making the squad is a tall ask, but that’s exactly what Popovich and Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo asked of Fox and others Friday night. 

While the experience could help with Fox’s development — and likely already has — it also would put a tremendous amount of wear and tear on the 21-year-old. Just in airline flights alone, he’d be looking at close to 20,000 miles with Team USA.

With the Kings already booked on an October preseason trip to India, Fox would be committing himself to nearly 40,000 miles in the air over an eight-week period leading up to an 82-game regular-season schedule. Adding to the equation, the Kings will travel the third-most miles in the NBA this upcoming season, including two trips to both New York and Florida.

Kings swingman Harrison Barnes decided to stay with Team USA, but he also started the game against Spain, and has all but secured a roster spot as one of the longest-tenured players. Barnes also is a seasoned veteran who has been through this process before and knows what lies ahead.

[RELATED: Why Fox isn't upset at one national TV game]

In the end, it’s disappointing that Fox won’t be fighting for a gold medal with the national team, but he likely made the best decision for himself and the Kings.

The NBA schedule is a brutal, and Fox is expected to carry a huge load for his team this season as it attempts to end a 13-year playoff drought. Having fresh legs and a fresh mind when training camp opens in late September is a must.