In the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans, De'Aaron Fox is carving up the defense and taking over the game. During a timeout with a win in sight Fox tells his team that they have held the Pelicans to under 20 points so far in the quarter and that they need to keep it that way for the rest of the game. He also reminds them to keep that in mind for how they need to play moving forward.
The Pelicans finished with 15 points in the quarter and the Kings won 118-109 in that Feb. 1 game.
Fox has been an absolute beast since he scored 43 points on the same Pelicans team on Jan. 17. In that stretch of 8 games, he is averaging 28 points, 8.7 assists and 4 rebounds. He has been taking over in the fourth quarter when the team needs him to and being more assertive. On top of the numbers and when/how he is scoring, Fox is turning into the vocal leader this team has needed him to be since he first put on a Kings jersey.
He is naturally more of the lead by example type with a quiet nature about him, but examples like the one in the timeout against the Pelicans show that he is taking that new contract seriously and is challenging himself to be the one all the responsibility falls on.
"The steps he's taken this year, not only what he does on the court, but being vocal off the court things of that sort, you can tell this is what he wants to be, he wants to be that star and you can see him turning into that before our very eyes so it's been very exciting," Richaun Holmes said.
In the summer of 2019, Fox appeared on a podcast in which he talked about holding his teammates accountable and that sometimes it is good for players to be able to call each other out for poor play because "the best teams always had confrontation." He recently addressed how there has been more accountability with the team as of late.
"As the season has gone on guys are getting on each other more. You're realizing that it's not personal. If you mess up something, I might tell you something, but I'm telling it to the whole team as well because we don't want to be that team that constantly makes the same mistakes. You're not going to be good that way, you're not going to win games if you're constantly making the same mistakes," Fox said.
Head coach Luke Walton has recently been pointing out Fox leading more in timeouts.
"He was leading in huddles, he was talking about defense, he was talking about stops, rebounding the basketball," Walton said after the game against the Boston Celtics.
And this is helping a guy like Tyrese Haliburton as well who is obviously beyond his years in terms of his play, but is learning the nuances of the game and being around NBA teammates.
"He's just got to keep doing what he's doing and I've got to followed that lead. It's been big for me being a young guy in my first year kind of learning from him and talking to him," Haliburton said.
Fox's amazing play speaks for itself the aggressiveness in the fourth quarter, being able to manage games, playing downhill, knocking down his shots with more frequency, playing with confidence, the dazzling moves. And that gives his teammates confidence alongside him.
"I think the work that he has put in, if he misses a few shots he's not hanging his head he's still foot on the gas. His reads have gotten better. I think just his overall game has been elevated so I think that confidence in himself, especially in the way he's been playing becomes infectious," Harrison Barnes said.
Fox seems to be on a mission to be a star in the NBA and he is getting there, and with these signs of leadership the future certainly looks bright.
"I want to continue to grow as a player, be the player that I want to be, be the player that I know I can be, and be the player that people want me to be," he said. "So, that's being able to facilitate when necessary especially being a point guard and being able to put the ball in the basket. ... Trying to keep turnovers down as well while you are doing that, obviously, you have a high usage, which is what the best players in the league have to do. You're asked to do a lot and you're expected to do a lot so I know that's what I need to do."