Growing up can be a pain, and the Kings are reminded of that many nights.
The pain, however, is necessary and there’s no way for De’Aaron Fox to get around it. On Tuesday night, Milwaukee point guard Eric Bledsoe provided Fox another dose of on-the-job training.
Fox scored in single figures for the third consecutive game while Bledsoe plowed his way to 21 points and five assists with no turnovers as the Bucks trounced the Kings 112-87 at Golden 1 Center.
Fox has started the last seven games, and nine overall. His scoring and assists are all down compared to the 12 games he came off the bench. On Tuesday, Fox scored four points on 2-of-10 shooting, with two assists and two turnovers.
“I’m still learning but that’s not an excuse for struggling,” Fox said.
Fox is averaging 8.3 points, 3.6 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 turnovers as a starter while shooting 38.3 percent. He averaged 11.6 points, 5.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 turnovers as a reserve.
One explanation for the dip in production could be that, as a starter, he’s facing the other team’s best players, rather than coming in once a starter might be fatigued, or going against a second-unit player.
And these are the lessons the Kings knew Fox would learn as a starter. His strength and conditioning also need improvement, which was driven home in his second start at Detroit when elite defender Avery Bradley harassed him most of the night.
The Kings would love for Fox to always be in attack mode, and he’d like to do the same thing as a starter.
“It’s a bit different,” Fox said of starting. “But at the end of the day I feel like I’m getting the shots that I want. At the end of the day I’ve just got to knock them down.”
That’s not so easy when dealing with a player like Bledsoe, whose speed and strength gave Fox and fellow rookie Frank Mason III problems.
“There’s a level of experience; there’s also just a level of talent,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “(Eric) Bledsoe is a top-15 point guard in the league. He can go end-to-end and we knew all the things that he can do. For our young guys, and trying to reach up and go, ‘OK maybe I can be that in X amount of time, this is what I’ve got to work on,’ it’s a good experience for them.”
Fox wouldn’t dispute the assessment of how difficult it is to deal with Bledsoe.
“It’s extremely tough,” Fox said. “He’s athletic, strong can get to his spots and when he’s in the lane it’s just hard to stop him.”
It’s also hard when shots aren’t falling, as was the case for Fox on Tuesday.
“You’ve just got to play through it,” Fox said. “Everybody has those tough nights but at the end of the day you’ve still got to defend.”
The Kings are confident Fox will be fine in the long run. The belief is nights like Tuesday will only make Fox better.
Bledsoe, who like Fox played at Kentucky, agrees.
“He’s going to be a terrific player,” Bledsoe said. “He’s just trying to feel it out right now. It’s his rookie season so you can’t really take much from that. I think he’s been playing great as far as that. He has great vets over there as far as mentoring him, so he’s doing a great job.”
It’s all a part of growing up in the NBA.