It took just a couple of words of encouragement from one of the NBA's most recognized names to push Sacramento Kings rookie De'Aaron Fox to implement an important aspect of the game.
During the preseason, Vince Carter noticed Fox wasn’t saying much to his teammates. The 19-year-veteran told the 19-year-old point guard to “go talk to your team, say something." He recalls Fox looking a little nervous after he was prodded to do so, but he followed the advice and got in there and told the team what he was seeing in the game. And Carter said the youngster made some good observations.
"Don't be afraid, all the veterans got your back," Carter said. "Creating those habits - be great on the court, but we also need you in the huddles, go talk to your team."
Fox is a quick study.
While he may have dazzled Wednesday night with his speed and athleticism, on his way to 14 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in 24 minutes in his first regular season NBA game against the Houston Rockets, Fox could also be seen on the floor keeping an open dialogue with his teammates and directing traffic. Kings head coach Dave Joerger mentioned Fox's charismatic personality after the game and said he's a vocal guy in trying to get guys where they are supposed to be.
On-court communication is a key piece to any successful basketball team. By instilling this quality in him now, the player the Kings hope becomes the franchise piece is learning some valuable lessons from the veterans that have been brought in by Kings general manager Vlade Divac.
"I see it from the vets, VC [Vince Carter] is basically another coach," Fox said. "Even when he's on the court, he's acting like another coach. He knows what he's talking about, and it's just something that I'm learning from those guys."
George Hill and Garrett Temple also have been in Fox's ear (and all the rookies on the team) to be a vocal leader.
Hill said he thought Fox did a "phenomenal" job picking his spots in Wednesday's game, and also praised his communication.
"We've been talking about it all preseason long, how he's a leader, as a point guard he has to be a leader on the floor and I hold him to that responsibility," Hill said. "I tell him every day in practice that sometimes when things go wrong, it's his voice that has to get echoed around."
Temple raved about Fox's speed like the thousands of fans who watched it firsthand inside Golden 1 Center during the team's spirited home opener. Temple said he hasn't seen speed and the ability to push the pace like that since he played with John Wall in Washington, and also said he overheard some of the Rockets players saying, "this dude is just so fast."
Speed is his natural gift, but being a leader, like with any young player with star potential, is one of the things Fox will need to develop as his career progresses.
"De'Aaron is a guy that's going to have the ball in his hands a lot, especially further in his career, and he is going to be counted on, so he's going to have to be vocal," Temple said.
The narrative surrounding having mentors on this young Kings team has been discussed a lot, but the fact that Fox has been able to implement one of the lessons from the veterans on day one should give fans another good reason to approve of the roster decisions made over the summer.