De’Aaron Fox carries himself with an unmistakeable swagger that makes it hard to imagine him uncomfortable in any social setting.
But as a rookie in the NBA, it has been a process for him to get comfortable on the court. For the first half of the season, he didn’t know when, or how, to be aggressive on a regular basis.
That’s changed in January, most notably on the Kings’ recent six-game trip. Fox’s growth has been dramatic. He has made an impact in multiple ways – and with flair. In his words, he got “extremely comfortable.”
“I know what my job is; I’m just going out there to do it,” Fox said after the Kings (16-34) secured their third win in four games with Tuesday’s 114-103 victory at New Orleans. “The last few games I feel like I’ve really executed that well, we’ve got some wins out of it and I’m pretty happy about the way I’ve been performing, but you can always get better.”
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January was Fox’s most productive month, as he averaged 14.1 points, 5.2 assists and 1.1 steals. He shot 42.4 percent overall and 42.5 percent from 3-point range.
“You can tell he’s getting his confidence and he’s starting to feel comfortable in playing,” Zach Randolph said. “And that’s what it’s all about.”
Garrett Temple has noticed a difference “even from three or four games ago.”
His progress is also a credit to a team effort to tilt the style of play toward his strengths, constant mentoring and his continually expanding role.
“When he’s able to have confidence in his jump shot, his speed, he’s so fast and able to put pressure on the defense,” Temple said. “And when we play with a better pace as a group, and he’s not the only one running, that helps him out a lot as well.”
Temple said Fox is better at knowing how to use his speed to manipulate the pace of the game.
“I’m always trying to let the game come to me, but I’m attacking the game,” Fox said. “We’re going to meet halfway.”
Earlier in the season, coaches implored him to show urgency from the beginning of games. Adjusting to the more physical NBA hasn’t been the issue, Fox said.
“It hasn’t been physical for me this year at all,” Fox said. “Coach is always asking me how I feel. My body’s fine, it’s the mental part for me as far as being aggressive. I have all the physical tools to do it, it’s just the mentality to do it.”
Fox credits veteran point guard George Hill with playing a key role in his development. They go over game film together and Hill often gives him advice on the sidelines or during timeouts.
“We’ve been talking since Day One,” Hill said. “His thing was just getting the opportunity to learn it. I can only tell him so much, but I’m a big believer once you’re thrown into the fire you’re going to make your mistake but you’ll learn from those mistakes.”
Fox said becoming the full-time starting point guard has helped his confidence. He said he appreciates that Hill is still willing to teach while coming off the bench.
“He’s still mentoring me,” Fox said. “... He doesn’t have to do that. It’s just great for myself and I’m very thankful he’s been able to do this. He’s been on playoff teams, he’s been in conference finals, he’s been in tough games. So anytime he tells me anything, I’m always open.”