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All-Star point guard 101: What De’Aaron Fox is learning from Damian Lillard

Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox, center, shoots over Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, guard CJ McCollum, second from left, and forward Al-Farouq Aminu, left, in Portland, Ore., Tuesday.
Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox, center, shoots over Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, guard CJ McCollum, second from left, and forward Al-Farouq Aminu, left, in Portland, Ore., Tuesday. AP

One of De’Aaron Fox’s best traits as a player is his confidence. Nothing seems to shake him – not even facing an All-Star who recently scored 50 points against the Kings.

Fox played aggressively Tuesday in his second meeting this month with Damian Lillard, the Portland point guard who lit up the Kings on Feb. 11. Lillard again was stellar with game highs of 26 points and 12 assists in leading the Trail Blazers to a 116-99 victory at Moda Center.

Fox had 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting, a team-high eight assists and a full mental notebook. The rookie from Kentucky is trying to pick up his opponents’ nuances, and Lillard is one of the best point guards in the league.

“For him, it’s just the little sliver of space that he creates,” Fox said. “Sometimes he’ll put his shoulder into you with the moves that he’s able to do.”

While Fox works to develop tricks of his own, he’s also still figuring out how to run an NBA team.

“De’Aaron is going though a process,” said Kings forward Vince Carter. “Every time he steps on the court, he’s going to a see different scenario that he probably hasn’t seen. For him, he got an up-close and personal experience the (last) time, and he played better.”

The Kings want Fox to attack as much as possible. His speed allows him to get to spots on the floor in a hurry and put pressure on defenses.

“I’m trying to be aggressive all the time,” Fox said. “It doesn’t matter what time of the game it is, it’s just trying to come at the game. Sometimes I get aggressive too late, so just trying to pick it up from the start.”

Fox had five points and three assists in the first quarter while Lillard had 15 points and five assists, helping the Blazers (35-26) to an 8-0 start and a wire-to-wire lead.

Fox said his desire to attack is not based on who he is playing.

“It doesn’t make it easier or anything like that,” Fox said.

He’s trying to pick his spots on defense and learn when to turn up the intensity to make it tough on opponents in man-to-man situations.

“That’s something I know I have to do, especially as a young guard,” Fox said. “As quick as I am, I just have to be a guard who makes it tough for the opposing guard. Sometimes that’s picking him up at halfcourt, sometimes that’s picking him up at full court, trying to give him different looks.”

Carter played for Portland coach Terry Stotts when Stotts was an assistant in Dallas. He said Stotts excels at creating ways for Lillard and guard CJ McCollum to pick apart defenses, so he knows Fox’s task was not easy.

Carter, however, liked how Fox approached this matchup with Lillard.

“I’m glad he was aggressive,” Carter said. “That’s what he’s going to see each and every night, to be a starter in this league.”

The Kings (18-43) have lost their last five games and 9 of 11. It was Portland’s fourth consecutive win and 10th straight against the Kings at Moda Center.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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