Earlier in the season, Sacramento Kings Coach Dave Joerger discouraged his players from shooting floaters off of drives to the basket.
He wanted to see them attack the rim, draw contact and get to the free-throw line rather than settle.
Kings rookie De’Aaron Fox might have chipped away at that argument on Thursday, when his floater forced overtime against the Brooklyn Nets and helped the Kings end their five-game losing streak, 116-111.
Joerger has eased off his hardline approach on floaters lately, the former University of Kentucky star said. It was one of his go-to shots in college and he’s mixing it more into his game, especially with defenders playing back because they are wary of his speed, he said.
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Fox is proving to be a quick study and unfazed by bad moments in games. He knew to go back to that shot when it mattered, and did so again in overtime.
“This year I’m trying to pull up more or just get to the basket, that’s the way the NBA is,” Fox said. “Tonight they just played back. I’m a rookie so I’m not worried about getting calls, instead of just throwing my body in there, stop and shoot the floater. I’ve always been able to do it right hand, left hand.”
Joerger has praised Fox’s high basketball IQ since early this season, and that intelligence showed late in the game.
“He’s a player that understands basketball,” said guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. “Like I said from the first day I came here, he’s not like other guys in the league who I see make rookie mistakes or college mistakes; he’s such a smart player.”
Fox, who finished with 21 points, had a shot blocked by Jarrett Allen with 9.1 seconds to play and the score tied 98-98.
“I wanted to get all the way to the basket,” Fox said. “I felt like I was grabbed and wasn’t able to get it up. Good defensive play. Jarrett came over and did what he does.”
Spencer Dinwiddie made two free throws with 6.1 seconds left in regulation to give Brooklyn a 100-98 lead.
Fox put that blocked shot behind him, got the chance to redeem himself and came up big. This time he didn’t give the defense a chance to converge, because he went to the floater on the baseline.
“I just came in and set a screen for Bogi (Bogdanovic) and his man didn’t leave,” said Fox, who narrowly avoided a five-second violation on the inbound play. “I caught it and at first I was going to shoot it, but the closeout was really hard so I just took one dribble, and I’ve been making floaters today so I took that shot.”
Bogdanovic said Fox created the opportunity.
“First of all he set a great screen, which makes him open,” Bogdanovic said. “His guy kind of sagged off a little bit. He just read the play; that’s what makes him great. He’ll just improve from this point, for sure.”
The Kings had dropped nine of 11 before Thursday, and Fox knew he had to finish strong after admittedly not being on his game in the third quarter when Brooklyn took a 79-73 lead.
“This is probably the most competitive I’ve seen De’Aaron,” Joerger said. “He’s tired of losing already. He really got us going in the second quarter, demanding of his teammates that we do a better job defensively, and I think that’s a real step in leadership and growth.”
Then late in the game, Fox was happy to lead by example with his play.
Fox enjoys pressure situations.
“Game on the line, period,” Fox said. “The ball doesn’t have to be in my hand, we can be on defense, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like everybody likes playing in those clutch moments.”
Bogdanovic led the Kings (19-43) with 23 points. DeMarre Carroll had 22 points for Brooklyn (20-43) and Allen Crabbe added 20 points.