The NBA’s most clutch player is Kings guard De’Aaron Fox.
Averaging five points on 52.9 percent shooting last season in the “clutch,” which is defined as the final five minutes of a game with the score within five points or less, Fox consistently put fear into opposing defenses when the lights were brightest.
In an interview with NBC Sports California’s Morgan Ragan at Kings Media Day on Oct. 2, The reigning NBA Clutch Player of the Year detailed what helped him have such serenity under pressure.
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“Development, of course,” Fox told Ragan. “Guys who have helped me evolve my game, skill-wise. But also, you have to be wired a little differently. I’m okay with missing. People are going to be like, ‘Ah, he’s okay with failure.’ That’s not what it means. It doesn’t mean you like failing or anything like that. It’s accepting the fact that you’re human. You play a game that’s a make-or-miss game. I feel like that’s what sets it apart. I have the confidence to take any of those shots. You have to be willing to fail to be good at this game.”
Fox’s comfortability is rare, as it’s common for players to avoid taking the last shot in knowing the consequences that come if they miss.
The 25-year-old’s ability to play free during crunch time propelled Sacramento to win games last season that could have derailed the King’s first playoff appearance since 2006 had they lost.
However, Fox isn’t worried about the “what-if” aspect of shooting game-winners and explained how it helps to know Sacramento’s coaching staff always plants confidence in the team.
“I think everybody on the coaching staff, what they instilled in us, basically giving everybody the green light,” Fox added. "If you pass up a shot, Jay Triano’s going to pull whatever’s left of his hair out. Because at times, especially in this league, if you have a good shot and don’t take it, that’s probably the best shot we were going to get for the possession. So, the confidence that they’re instilling in everybody – if they have a good shot, you need to take it – I think it just makes everybody have confidence.”
Fox knows confidence is key, as he’s coming off a 2022-23 NBA season where he averaged 25 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists. Considering he’s dominant any time he’s on the floor, it’s no surprise he takes over when it matters most.
The Kings are striving to build on a season that ended in a first-round exit at the hand of the Golden State Warriors.
In order to make it to June, Sacramento has to take a page out of its starting point guard’s book and understand that failure is a part of success.
So far, Sacramento is 0-2 in the preseason with losses to the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Kings can return to the win column in a preseason matchup with the Golden State Warriors on Sunday at Golden 1 Center at 6:30 p.m. PST.