De’Aaron Fox has a confidence about him that makes you forget he’s only 19 years old, and has only played in 11 NBA games.
He says the moment is never too big for him, and he believes that. But it’s another thing to stay calm in a clutch situation, especially when he had been struggling with his shot.
Thursday night, Fox came through in the critical moment, providing a glimpse that he can be kind of transcendent player the Kings are banking on him becoming.
The former University of Kentucky star elevated for a 19-foot jumper with 14.1 seconds to play, sinking it for a 109-108 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at Golden 1 Center, Fox’s first game-winner in the NBA, and the Kings’ second consecutive win.
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Philadelphia had its best perimeter defender, Robert Covington, guarding Fox on that play. He backed off Fox, who to that point had shot 3-for-12, daring him to beat the Sixers with his jump shot.
“That’s a shot I’ve been taking all the time,” Fox said. “That’s a shot that I’m extremely comfortable with. That’s what he gave me, so I took it.”
That Covington would give Fox room was understandable, given the rookie point guard’s speed and the fact that he was shooting poorly, including just missing his fourth free throw in seven attempts.
But he made his last shot, and that’s the one he’ll remember.
“It was great to make that shot,” Fox said. “I missed a lot of free throws today and our vets just stayed on me, ‘Move on to the next play and stop worrying about that.’”
That’s what franchise players do. No matter how bad they are playing, they figure out a way to put their team over the top.
Fox has a long way to go before he’s considered a franchise player, but he showed Thursday why the Kings have faith in him to develop into a star they can build around.
“For that guy, at that age, to be able to take that shot after the shooting night that he had, even when the play may have not been drawn up that way, that just shows guts,” said Kings guard Garrett Temple. “A lot of guts, a lot of gall to be able to take that shot and make it. Pure.”
Zach Randolph led the Kings with 20 points. Fox had 11 points and his seven assists matched George Hill for the game high.
The Kings could have opted to play Hill when Fox was struggling to score, but coach Dave Joerger stuck with his rookie.
Joerger said last Saturday he wanted to see Fox play aggressively from the start of games. Fox’s teammates had been urging him to do the same thing.
Fox persisted to the end Thursday.
“It’s a great feeling,” Fox said. “Not only my coach, but my teammates. Those shots that they want me to take, staying aggressive, that’s what they want me to do.”
The Kings (3-8) also received big contributions from Justin Jackson (19 points) and Willie Cauley-Stein (15 points, two blocks of Joel Embiid in the final 1:13).
But Fox closed the deal. And being around him, you get the feeling he never doubted he could do it.