There may not be a more point guard-starved NBA team than the Sacramento Kings. It seems like its been forever since the glory days of Mike Bibby running the point, and for Kings fans, it might as well be a different lifetime. Since Bibby’s departure in 2008, the position has had a revolving door as Sacramento has searched for their long-term answer. Guys have tried — Beno Udrih, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas (oops), Aaron Brooks, Jimmer Fredette (different kind of oops), Greivis Vasquez, Darren Collison, Andre Miller, Rajon Rondo, and Ty Lawson, to name a handful.
The thirst for a star to play point guard is the reason for the heaps of hype surrounding 19-year-old De’Aaron Fox. The rookie made his NBA debut on Wednesday evening, four months after the Kings drafted him fifth overall, and he did not disappoint.
Introduced to a rising ovation, Fox wasted no time making his presence felt. A deflection on his second defensive possession led to a broken play for Houston, which he followed by taking an outlet pass coast to coast, blasting by Trevor Ariza for a layup and his first NBA points. Fox’s first assist came a couple of minutes later, to a man 21 years older than him, as Vince Carter drained a three.
Kings coach Dave Joerger opted to leave Fox in the game for the entirety of the second quarter, to go along with the four minutes he played in the first. His first 16 minutes were very promising, dazzling the crowd with some nifty ball handling and an off-balance fallaway layup. He showed off his athleticism and his speed, creating fast breaks out of seemingly nothing. He even ran the point when he and veteran George Hill shared a backcourt. Fox capped off the second quarter by running the clock down and blowing by Ariza with a spin move and a layup to bring the Kings within four points of the Rockets at halftime.
The second half was a different story for De’Aaron Fox’s minutes. He didn’t see any action until there was a minute left in the third quarter, as Joerger experimented with the George Hill/Buddy Hield backcourt combo for most of the period. Hield made it difficult for the coach to remove him from the game as he had the hot hand during the middle part of the third, with four straight field goals to tie the game at 68. When Fox finally entered the game, he picked up right where he left off in the first half. Early in the fourth, he darted by his defender and took a Garrett Temple pass and stuffed it home with authority, which prompted the home crowd to be as boisterous as they were at any point all night. “Nobody can guard that man!” exclaimed Kings announcer Grant Napier after the play.
While Fox’s second shift may not have been as long as the first, it was just as impressive. He would finish the game with 14 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds, which is about as good a stat line as one could have hoped despite a surprising 24 minutes. Fox would take a seat during crunch time, allowing the veteran Hill to run the point in crunch time of a close game. The Kings would lose, 105-100.
De’Aaron Fox’s debut, while impressive, did not come without the typical rookie mistakes. A few of defensive miscues paired with three turnovers will give Fox something to work on, though his overall performance should give him a boost of confidence for the rest of his first week in the NBA. Sacramento begins a three-game road trip on Friday, with the first game being in Dallas against the Mavericks. Fox will face off against fellow rookie Dennis Smith Jr, who dropped 16 and 10 in the Mavs first game on Wednesday.
The road trip ends on Monday, and DeMarcus Cousins and the Pelicans come to town next Thursday.