De'Aaron Fox did not really have a great game last night. He was only 4-of-13 from the field, and 3-of-7 from the free throw line.
He did finish with 11 points, seven assists and only one turnover, so it wasn't completely irredeemable. But at one point late in the third and through most of the fourth, he missed seven straight attempts.
It was rough, and it looked rough. He bricked everything in the fourth... right up until he airballed. With the Kings down by five and needing a basket just inside two minutes remaining, Fox launched one of the limpest pullup 17-footers you might ever see. It was a coup de grace, of sorts.
But there were still those two minutes left.
This is not exactly the stuff of advanced analytics, but one of the hallmarks to me of a special young player is being able to respond to stretches like that. Everyone has them, and they're all the more compounded with someone like Fox who has a lot of work to do on his shot.
It's encouraging to see a player remain confident and aggressive. You don't want to see them just shrink from failure.
Fox didn't shrink. With Sacramento down six he sprung a fast break off a Willie Cauley-Stein block and finished through contact on the other end with a foul (he did miss the free throw). Then he assisted on Garrett Temple's three to bring the Kings within one.
With 18 seconds to go, Fox dribbled in from the perimeter and pulled up, around the same spot he'd airballed from not more than two minutes earlier. It was audacious, perhaps reckless, but hell, he made it.
"That's a shot that I'm extremely comfortable with," Fox said afterward. "That's what (they) gave me, so I took it."
Like I said, this ain't the stuff of rigorous analytical study. Fox's analytics are still really bad - he's shooting under 20 percent from three, his VORP, box plus-minus and win shares on BasketballReference are all in the, uh, negatives. Not a good place to be!
(His PER is 12.9 though which could be worse.)
In any case the point here is Fox is showing something. Even his skills aside - the agility he uses to get to the basket, his comfort bobbing and weaving for close looks, his noted speed - the bit of intangible moxie he showed on Thursday night indicates something exceptional.
There's instinct in there.
And, more to his case, he is getting to the rim and hitting his shots there at a slightly above-average rate relative to the league (65.8 percent). He's playing well off the ball, registering 2.00 points per possession on cuts.
The Kings are about two points per 100 possessions better when he's on the court than when he's off.
Look, these are not superstar things, or star things, or even necessarily just good player things. But they're things, and the biggest thing with Fox is something you kinda just have to see. He's electric, he really is.
I was at the game in Sacramento, there was a buzz in the building I never anticipated and an investment from the fans that is palpable.
Hard as it is to believe, they're really finally starting to build something real with that franchise. That might be a leap to say about a team that needed a two-game winning streak just to get to 3-8 and a rookie point guard with negative win shares, but after seeing what's going on in downtown Sacramento it's a leap I'm willing to make.
Sometimes you gotta throw the analytics out and make something of a gut call.
The Kings - yes, the Kings - have something special brewing. And De'Aaron Fox is like the hops.