Domantas Sabonis backs De’Aaron Fox amid struggles: ‘We won because of him.’

Jan 23, 2024, 10:18 AM

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JANUARY 16: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings high fives De'Aaron Fox...

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Throughout an 82-game NBA season, there are bound to be ups and downs.

For De’Aaron Fox and the Sacramento Kings, a recent rough stretch has piqued the interest of fans and media following a four-game losing streak–the Beam Team’s longest skid since the first four games of last season when they started 0-4.

On Monday night, the Kings snapped the losing streak with a win over the Atlanta Hawks in Sacramento’s final game at Golden 1 Center for over two weeks.

Fox, who has played like an All-Star for most of this season, hasn’t looked like himself over the past ten games.

Entering play on January 3rd, Fox was one of four players in the NBA averaging 30 points per game as the All-Star averaged 30.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from deep over 26 games.

In the ten games since, Fox has looked a step or two slower–almost as if he has been battling an injury. Since January 3rd (ten games), the 26-year-old is averaging 20.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game on 41/36/71 shooting splits.

While many have questioned whether or not Fox is playing through an injury, league sources have indicated that Fox is healthy and not battling any serious physical ailments outside of the bumps and bruises of the NBA season.

Monday’s game was Fox’s latest worrisome performance as the guard scored 12 points–the least points scored in a game that Fox logged 30 or more minutes since January 10, 2022–on five-of-16 shooting from the field while missing all five of his attempts from three-point range.

While Fox navigates one of his roughest stretches in recent memory, one teammate spoke up on behalf of the All-NBA guard following Monday’s win:

Fellow All-Star and All-NBA talent Domantas Sabonis.

“I don’t think he’s in a funk,” Sabonis said when asked about Fox’s struggles. “He’s playing the right way. He’s making the right reads and getting guys involved. He’s leading. Teams are throwing everything at him. He’s averaging 30 points, so teams are throwing different defenses at him.”

Sabonis has a point. Fox, who has been one of the league’s top scorers–and still remains in the top-ten in points per game–is attracting opposing teams’ top defenders on a nightly basis.

YouTube video

With opponents making adjustments to Sacramento’s game plan, the Kings switched things up on Monday by calling on Harrison Barnes, who finished with 32 points on 20 field goal attempts–the forward’s most in a single game since October 22, 2021.

“Coach calls a lot of plays, like tonight was for [Barnes],” Sabonis said. “We’re a great team, so there’s many different players that can show up every other night, and [Fox] is the one leading. He’s the head of the snake with the ball, so this doesn’t happen without him. So, whatever he ended up with tonight, I don’t even know, but we won because of him.”

Slumps happen in sports. Not just basketball, but all sports. This isn’t the first time that Fox or a player of Fox’s caliber has struggled for an extended stretch.

This is one of the roughest stretches that we have seen Sacramento go through during the Mike Brown era, yet the Kings have an identical record through 42 games (24-18) that they did at this point in the season one year ago.

Following a 2022-23 season that saw Sacramento break an NBA record for highest offensive rating during a single season en route to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2006, it was a given that teams were going to approach the Kings differently in 2023-24.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JANUARY 16: Head coach Mike Brown of the Sacramento Kings reacts alongside De'Aaron Fox #5 during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on January 16, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Kings 119-117. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As Brown, Fox, and Sabonis have all said on separate occasions this season, the Kings aren’t surprising anybody this year. The feel-good story of last season’s inaugural Beam Team is a thing of the past. This year, it’s about taking steps forward–or as Brown puts it, going from a good team to a great team.

In order to become a great team, you have to emerge from tough stretches like these–both individually in Fox’s case and as a group following a four-game skid–to become a better unit in the long run.

With 40 games remaining and the February 8th trade deadline approaching, there is little doubt that there will be more tests on the horizon for Sacramento. For Fox and the Kings, the past ten games will either be a bump in the road or sign of more to come.

Which one will it be? We could find out over the course of Sacramento’s upcoming seven-game road trip.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will come face-to-face with its Northern California rival in the Golden State Warriors for the fourth and final time this season when the two teams face off on Thursday night at Chase Center.

The Kings are still seeking their first regular season win on Golden State’s home floor since February 25, 2020, as they have lost their last seven matchups in San Francisco.

Sacramento secured a nail-biting win over the Warriors during their most recent matchup on November 28th thanks to Malik Monk’s game-winner.

YouTube video

Thursday’s game will act as the start of a season-long, seven-game road trip for the Kings, who won’t return home until February 7th.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Warriors coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from San Francisco.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Thursday, January 25th – Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 7:00 PM PST
  • Saturday, January 27th – Sacramento Kings @ Dallas Mavericks – 6:00 PM PST
  • Monday, January 29th – Sacramento Kings @ Memphis Grizzlies – 5:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, January 31st – Sacramento Kings @ Miami Heat – 4:30 PM PST
  • Friday, February 2nd – Sacramento Kings @ Indiana Pacers – 4:30 PM PST

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