Sunday Musings: De'Aaron Fox rumors another blow to Sacramento

Kings ready to take another step backwards?

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We’ve gone from a churning rumor mill to something nastier. Something unpleasant. Something desperate.

Over the last few days, De’Aaron Fox’s name has been thrust back into trade conversation. Just weeks ago, the team planned to build around the backcourt partnership of Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, but according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, as well as plenty of murmurs around Golden 1 Center, that might not be the case.

Windhorst first mentioned Fox on Thursday in a possible swap to the Pelicans. On Friday, he dropped Fox’s name in a potential trade to the Knicks, with Julius Randle being the name mentioned as a feasible return.

Maybe this has something to do with Fox’s current stance on sitting out games with a sore ankle. For transparency’s sake, Fox had an MRI and it was clean. There is no scheduled meeting with a specialist, Fox himself confirmed this. He’s missed eight straight games and hasn’t played since Jan. 19, a span of 18 days. 

Somewhere there is a fan that is having a No. 5 “Gametime Decision” jersey made.

It’s possible that Fox has made it clear to the organization that he would like to find a new home, just a few months into a new five-year, $163 million extension, although no one with either the Kings or Fox’s camp has confirmed this.

It is also possible that the franchise has soured on the fifth-year pro who is having a major regression season after breaking out in 2020-21. This is a management group that feels like they have to do something, after doing almost nothing for the last 18 months. Fox might be their easiest path to major change. 

Whatever the motivation, it’s instability like this that has led the Kings to miss the playoffs for the last 15 years and are careening toward a 16th straight losing season. The player that has been called the “head of the snake” and the “franchise player” may have already played his last game in a Kings uniform and no one got the memo at the time. 

Instead of building around the speedy point guard, the team has been stuck in neutral for way too long. They haven’t surrounded him with the shooters he needs. They haven’t landed a legitimate 3-and-D wing or a stretch four to optimize his skillset. 

If Fox is indeed frustrated, it’s completely understandable. The biggest move the team made in the last two years was to not match an offer sheet for starting shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. 

The team’s last two first round selections play the same position as Fox and the roster is so imbalanced that they have five centers in a league that continues to go away from big men.

There should be a legitimate concern that the relationship with Fox is tattered. Maybe there is potential for reconciliation, but this is a player who has waited for changes to happen for five years. 

Instead of seeing the franchise build around him and make trades to improve the talent and change the culture behind the scenes, general manager Monte McNaire and his group brought back two players in Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley, who demanded trades over the summer with the hopes of moving them in a package for a star.

The dream of some blockbuster move has wasted another season of these players' careers. Another season of Fox’s career. A magical franchise-altering deal has yet to materialize and it’s taken a toll on this team.

Now we are down to the wire with the trade deadline just days away and there is so much smoke around Fox, that there has to at least be a small fire searching for air in a corner of the Kings’ front office. 

The flashy point guard that the franchise has pushed to their fanbase as the team’s savior for the last five years, is now sitting out games and in trade rumors all over the league. We are talking about a 24-year-old player who posted 25 points and seven assists per game last season and is under contract for another four seasons after this year.

Even interim head coach Alvin Gentry chimed in on what Fox means to this team following the Kings’ win over the Thunder on Saturday night.

“We’d be ridiculous to think that we’re a better team without Foxy,” Gentry said. “He is who we are and the pace that he pushes and things like that.”

This is the Kings’ culture. Every player has been mentioned in a trade rumor. Every player is available in the right deal. One coach is already out of work and another is hanging on by a thread. If someone believes this is a productive work environment, they are wrong.

The pressure has been on McNair to change this roster for over a year. He hasn’t done it. Any additional pressure he feels at this point is of his own creation, even if owner Vivek Ranadivé is looming over him like a Charlie Brown rain cloud that he can’t escape.

This is how the cycle of ineptitude continues in Sacramento. A franchise that loves to ask for patience is woefully impatient. They churn through players, coaches and front office personnel at an alarming rate. They believe in quick fixes and they have yet to find enough duct tape to hold a team together for an entire 82 game season.

At 15 games under .500, the Sacramento Kings are a bad team. There is no saving this season, but with just four days before the deadline, it feels like that might not be the route the Kings take. It feels like they might make a deal, just to make a deal and the repercussions could last for years. 

There should be no pressure to win now. That ended sometime in December or January when the team went into another one of its tailspins. But that isn’t the message coming from the players or from the walls of Golden 1 Center. 

They are still looking at the tenth seed and the play-in tournament as some sort of prize to be had. When you can’t enjoy the game because of the loud beeping sounds of a team backing into a fake playoff spot, there is an issue. When all the teams around you are selling off talent in order to secure a better draft pick and you aren’t, there is a problem.

We can’t talk about this being bad for the culture of the team. There isn’t a franchise in the league with a worse culture right now. You can’t damage something that doesn’t exist. No amount of players-only meetings can fix what ails this group.

What is the path forward? Who is the path forward? What is the style of play? Who is the core of the team? 

These aren’t questions you ask about a team that needs some tweaking or fine tuning to turn it around. These are foundational questions and half of these answers started with the name De’Aaron Fox just a few months ago. 

No one should be untouchable when the team is mired in another disaster of a season. But Fox can still be a franchise cornerstone. If you aren’t receiving similar talent in return, then this is just another step backward for a franchise that can’t seem to get out of its own way. 

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