Iman Shumpert reveals what makes De'Aaron Fox ‘really, really special'


De'Aaron Fox is the point guard and floor general for the Kings. Iman Shumpert is the wise, sage veteran. Together, they form two-fifths of Sacramento's starting five.

Fox and Shumpert have been teammates ever since the Kings swung a three-team trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Utah Jazz at the deadline last year that netted them the veteran swingman and other future assets.

Shumpert went from a veteran-laden Cavaliers team to a Kings squad full of players still on their rookie contracts. It was quite the adjustment for the 2016 NBA champion.

NBC Sports California's Kayte Hunter recently sat down with Shumpert for a lengthy discussion, and Fox came up during the interview.

Kayte Hunter: You have a group of a lot of young guys, lot of young guys, so obviously, there's a lot you can offer. I'm curious, now, looking at the team, who surprised you the most of the young guys and why?

Iman Shumpert: De'Aaron.

KH: Why?

IS: His love for the game. There's nothing you can do about it. His pure joy for life, there's just nothing you can do about it. I don't think there's a coach that could break him. I've ran sprints with him in practice. You can beat him in practice, but once the ball goes up and the lights turn on, it's a different energy because he just loves it and he can block everything out. You can tell him to do something, and what's in his heart comes out.

KH: I've talked to [Bogdan Bogdanovic], and you obviously came at the trade deadline last year, but Bogi said specifically, 'I saw a change in [De'Aaron] after the All-Star game last year after he wasn't chosen for the USA Team for the [Rising Stars Challenge]. He said, 'I noticed a change in him after he wasn't selected, and from that moment on, through the season, he's been a different player.' Did you notice that when you got here? A change?

IS: I didn't notice the change last year. I feel like last year, he still had ups and downs. I tell him all the time, 'Don't lie to yourself,' because there were times last year where he'd lie to himself. He knew he messed up, but it had to be somebody else or some other reason or something he was thinking. And I'm like, 'Bro, sometimes, you just messed up.' But the second he realized to just let that go, because he's so, like, the way he loves the game, it's contagious. Everybody has seen De'Aaron get a steal, the smile, the run back after he goes super fast, and then he's running back and it's like, 'How's he that fast?' and he jogs back to the huddle like that. He just jogs back, sorta barely picking his legs up. It's like, 'How do you move so fast if that's your job? Like, how does the speed change like that?'

But the smile, the energy that's behind everything he does, the willingness to, instead of taking three dribbles, which he could, he'll take one little half a dribble and just pass it 40 feet because he just sees a guy open, even if he's not sure, he's just like, 'Because he ran, I'm going to reward him.' And it's natural for him. It's not something someone has to say, 'Hey man, make sure you hit him.' He don't care if he has zero points, he really doesn't care. There's some games where he's shooting it awful, and if you saw him on the bench, you wouldn't know. And to me, that's what makes him really, really special. Because someone that's that talented, usually they can feel it when they're like, 'Oh, I gotta get it going.' You know what I mean? 'Ah, this might mess up my average.' For him, it's like, 'I just shot it man.' You ask him, and he's like, 'I don't know, I just couldn't make a shot tonight.' But he still loves it.

Programming note: Kings Central featuring Iman Shumpert debuts Monday at 11:30 a.m. PT on NBC Sports California.

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