De’Aaron Fox says at some times during a game he looks at Dave Joerger for a play. His coach gives him nothing, which is everything.
It’s for Fox’s own good.
The rookie point guard is figuring out how to run an NBA team and eventually has to be trusted to figure things out on his own. Joerger is doing that at various points of games. It’s a must for the Kings that Fox does that now.
With George Hill traded last week and Frank Mason III still recovering from a heel injury, Fox is the Kings’ only healthy point guard and he’s “extremely comfortable” on the court lately.
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Fox scored a team-high 23 points in the Kings’ 111-106 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday at Target Center.
Fox said he’s adjusted to the physicality and style of the NBA. Now the goal is being the best floor general he can be the rest of the season.
“A lot of times coach just gives me the freedom,” Fox said. “Sometimes I’ll look over at the bench and he’ll look at me or he won’t say anything, he just lets me run the team every once in a while. It’s great for me, it’s allowed me to grow as a player, grow as a point guard and my teammates are starting to trust me.”
Fox said there’s no schedule as to when Joerger will allow him to run the team.
“It’s not the same way every game,” Fox said. “A lot of times it’s midway through the first quarter and in the fourth quarter it actually happens a lot.”
What that does is give Fox ownership of what happens on the floor. He tries not to turn those moments into opportunities to showcase his own offense, even though it’s understandable he’s going to be aggressive when he’s hot from the perimeter.
Fox still seeks to have a balance to his approach when Joerger allows him to make decisions.
“I just try to get my teammates involved when that happens but if I have it going I’ll run some things for myself,” Fox said. “A lot a lot of times, I’ll ask a player (and say) let’s get you the ball, what do you want to run? They’ll let me know and i just try to get my teammates the ball.”
It’s easier for Fox to run the team when he’s a threat to score from the perimeter.
He scored 14 points in the first quarter. His second made basket was a deep two, followed by a 3-pointer.
Opponents begin every game daring Fox to make jump shots rather than allow him to use his speed to get to the rim or to find teammates.
“I think he felt good, I think he made four of his first five,” Joerger said. “So, he felt I think confident, put the threat in the defender’s mind that you can’t just keep going under and under and under (screens). So he made a couple and got some seams and I thought he attacked in transition really well.”
Fox shot 8 of 16 in posting his second-highest scoring total, breaking the 20-point mark for just the second time this season. He said making his outside shots opens up the offense.
“It forces their guards to have to go over the screens,” Fox said. “A lot of the times they tried to go over on me, but if I start to make shots, it’s kind of streaky and they start to go over. It opens up everything, it opens up the bigs, it opens up the cross-court pass, the decision making just has to be there.”
Fox’s decision making admittedly could have been better Sunday. He had a game-high five turnovers, including two in the fourth quarter when the Timberwolves outscored the Kings 36-26 to pull away for their 13th consecutive home victory.
Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota (35-24) with 29 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
The Kings (17-38) had 19 turnovers, leading to 22 points for the Timberwolves. Fox doesn’t have to look to Joerger to know what he thinks about those.
“I turned the ball over a lot in the second half (four times),” Fox said, adding that he needs to cut down on unforced errors.