Fox, Sabonis look strong as Kings drop exhibition to Lakers

Oct 11, 2023, 9:32 PM | Updated: 9:44 pm

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 11: Taurean Prince #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball ag...

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

If you were concerned at all about De’Aaron Fox’s slow start to preseason play, Wednesday night’s game in Anaheim likely calmed those nerves.

During the Sacramento Kings’ exhibition against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Honda Center, Fox looked like his All-Star self, scoring 18 points and dishing out five assists over 24 minutes of playing time.

The bounce-back performance from Fox was one of several storylines that took center stage during Sacramento’s 109-101 loss to Los Angeles.

Of course, when it comes to preseason NBA basketball, the most significant takeaways have nothing to do with who walked away with a win or loss (and no, I’m not just writing that to be petty about a Kings loss to the Lakers).

That being said, let’s dive into some of Wednesday night’s biggest storylines surrounding Sacramento as we move within two weeks of Opening Night.

Sasha The Starter

Following Tuesday’s practice at Golden 1 Center, it looked as if Sasha Vezenkov could open up the season outside of Mike Brown’s rotation when the Kings open up their season on October 25th.

“I don’t know if he will be or not,” Brown answered when asked if Vezenkov will be in the rotation when Sacramento opens up its regular season. “He’s just got to keep fighting his behind off and getting better every opportunity that he gets, whether it’s in practice and shoot-around or in a game.”

With Keegan Murray (thumb) sidelined on Wednesday, Vezenkov got the nod to start at the power forward spot in Anaheim.

As was the case during Sunday’s action in Vancouver, Vezenkov quickly got on the board almost immediately in this one as the 6’9 forward cashed a triple off of Domantas Sabonis’ patented dribble-hand-off during the game’s opening minute.

Vezenkov finished his second NBA preseason appearance with seven points on three-of-11 shooting from the field and one-of-four from three-point range over 22 minutes of action.

While Vezenkov’s offense took center stage, his contributions on defense–or lack thereof in Sunday’s case–continued to fall under the magnifying glass on Wednesday. The 28-year-old still looks like he could struggle to keep up with the speed and athleticism of fellow NBA forwards, but the rookie at least looked more comfortable in his second exhibition.

Brown said it best following practice on Tuesday–Vezenkov will have to put the work in and adjust to the NBA’s game speed and playstyle to become a better defender.

“He’s got to watch as much film as he can on guys that he matches up against so that he can try to pick up on their tendencies sooner than later.”

Vezenkov might not have looked like Gary Payton against the Lakers, but getting the EuroLeague MVP acclimated is essential in his NBA development.

Fox & The Ox in Regular Season Form

De’Aaron Fox missed all six of his field goal attempts during Sunday’s preseason opener, but ‘Swipa’ looked like his usual self in Anaheim.

Fox asserted himself on the offensive end early by attacking the basket and letting the long ball fly during a seven-point first quarter. The reigning Clutch Player of the Year went on to finish his 24 minutes of action with 18 points, three rebounds, and five assists on six-of-12 shooting from the floor (two-of-five from deep).

The speedy guard scored in his usual ball-dominant ways, but also found the bottom of the net on some off-ball possessions.

Last year’s rebounding champion appears to be picking up right where he left off last season, as Sabonis tallied his 10th rebound well before the halftime break.

Sabonis finished his night with 10 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, and five turnovers over 24 minutes of work while battling foul trouble (four personal fouls).

Duarte Bounces Back

One of Sacramento general manager Monte McNair’s under-the-radar offseason moves was a trade that brought Chris Duarte over from Indiana.

Duarte, a 6’6 wing who can play the two or three, struggled in his unofficial Kings debut on Sunday in Vancouver, scoring four points on two-of-nine shooting from the field and 0-of-six from beyond the arc. The newest member of ‘The Beam Team’ also struggled to stay in front of his defensive assignments, a trend that fans of Sacramento are too familiar with.

Wednesday’s game was a different story for Duarte.

Over 16 minutes of action against Los Angeles, Duarte was a perfect four-of-four from the field and two-of-two from three-point land en route to a 10-point performance.

Duarte also picked things up on the defensive end, as the wing looked much more engaged during his second appearance in a Kings uniform.

If Duarte can bring a similar energy to Sacramento’s second unit this season–especially in the backup small forward spot–it will provide fellow reserves like Davion Mitchell and Malik Monk with another contributor to what many hope is one of the deeper benches in the league.


No Offense

Sacramento’s defense continued to be a rollercoaster of a viewing experience, but it was the offense that bit them on Wednesday night–especially from beyond the three-point line.

The Kings finished the night 15-of-50 (30%) from deep while shooting 38 percent from the floor on 95 field goal attempts.

Sure, the Lakers shot 50 percent from the field and 33 percent from three, but a better offensive output by Sacramento would have likely closed the eight-point gap that acted as the difference.

McGee & Monk

JaVale McGee and Malik Monk continued to show they can run a lethal two-man game this season.

As was the case during Sunday’s game in Vancouver, the two hooked up on pick-and-roll sets during Wednesday’s action in Anaheim, with McGee finishing a bounce pass from Monk with a floater in the key.

 Black Falcon

While Fox and Sabonis appeared to be in mid-season form, Harrison Barnes also posted a stat line that looked as if it was plucked from one of last season’s box scores.

Barnes knocked down three of his six attempts from three-point land while scoring 15 points over 21 minutes of playing time.

Colby Makes An Impact

Rookie guard Colby Jones has a reputation for being a solid rebounder, and he put that on display during his brief stint in Wednesday’s game.

Jones corralled three rebounds–all during his first two minutes of action–while providing Sacramento with energy on the defensive end. The Xavier product swiped one steal to go along with a made triple and assist during 12 minutes of action.

The three-and-D potential is there for Jones, and it will be intriguing to see if the versatile guard can crack Mike Brown’s rotation by the end of the season–especially if the Kings need a boost on the defensive end.

Injury Update

Shortly before tip-off, Keegan Murray was ruled out due to right thumb soreness.

According to The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson, Murray participated in pregame shoot-around and went through an individual workout before Wednesday’s game, but Sacramento held the second-year forward out of action.

Murray bumped his thumb during practice this week and is experiencing soreness, although the fact that the All-Rookie First Team forward went through shoot-around bodes well for the injury not being a long-term issue.

More clarity on Murray’s status for Sunday’s preseason home opener at Golden 1 Center against Golden State will be provided upon Sacramento’s return from Anaheim.

Next Game

For the first time since April 30th, basketball will be played at Golden 1 Center on Sunday evening when the Kings face their Northern California rival Golden State Warriors.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Warriors coverage, beginning at 5:00 PM PST on Game Night before a 6:30 PM PST tip-off from downtown Sacramento.

Sacramento Kings 2023-24 Preseason Schedule

  • Sunday, October 15th – Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – 6:30 PM PST
  • Wednesday, October 18th – Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST
  • Thursday, October 19th – Sacramento Kings vs. Utah Jazz – 7 PM PST

Sacramento Kings 2023-24 Regular Season Schedule

  • Tuesday, October 24th – NBA regular season begins
  • Wednesday, October 25th – Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz – 6 PM PST (Season Opener)
  • Friday, October 27th – Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST (Home Opener)
  • Sunday, October 29th – Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 6 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 1st – Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 7 PM PST

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