De’Aaron Fox badly outplayed Lonzo Ball in a memorable NCAA Tournament performance eight months ago and now matches up with the No. 2 overall pick as a pro for the first time when the Sacramento Kings host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. Fox scored a career-best 39 points on 13-of-20 shooting while leading Kentucky to an 86-75 victory over UCLA in the Sweet 16 when Ball had 10 points, eight assists and four turnovers.
The fact that Fox averaged 29.5 points in two college meetings against Ball helped him rise to the No. 5 overall selection but he maintains there’s no rivalry or competition. “What rivalry?” Fox said in response to a reporter’s question. “It’s not a rivalry there. When we get on the court, we compete. But as far as a rivalry, that’s a media- and fan-driven thing.” Ball is experiencing a mostly down start to his NBA career - he does have two triple-doubles in the past six games - and he struggled to eight points on 3-of-13 shooting but collected 13 rebounds in Tuesday’s 103-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Ball told reporters about facing Fox. “Definitely in college everybody was looking forward to those UCLA-Kentucky games. I think we play better when we play against each other, when we trash talk, get into it, go at each other.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Spectrum Sports Net (Los Angeles), NBCSN California (Sacramento)
ABOUT THE LAKERS (8-10): Second-year forward Brandon Ingram was the No. 2 overall selection of the 2016 draft and he contributed 17 points, five rebounds and five assists as Los Angeles overcame a 19-point second-half deficit to defeat the Bulls. The 20-year-old Ingram, who is averaging 18.3 points over the last four contests, is one of the building blocks of a young roster and he said it is time for his team to sidestep that label. “I think we can’t use being young as an excuse anymore,” Ingram said in a postgame television interview. “Every day we try to get better so just coming out here with the confidence that we can beat these teams is big for us.”
ABOUT THE KINGS (4-13): Sacramento has dropped five of its past six games but Fox has been one of the team’s bright spots with averages of 11 points and a team-best 4.7 assists. Veteran offseason acquisition George Hill remains the starting point guard but Fox is averaging a team-high 26.6 minutes and figures to get a lot of court time against Ball because of his speed and the past success. “I’m going to attack him like I attack everybody else,” Fox said. “I feel like I have quickness over everybody. ... I know I need to shoot it better, but (defenders) aren’t going to get that close to me. It would be stupid if they try to get close to me.”
1. The Kings have won nine of the past 11 meetings after the teams split four games last season.
2. Los Angeles rookie F Kyle Kuzma scored 22 points against Chicago and is averaging 23.3 points over the past four contests.
3. Sacramento C Willie Cauley-Stein had only two points on 1-of-7 shooting in Monday’s 114-98 loss to the Denver Nuggets after averaging 20 points and 9.5 rebounds over the previous two games.
PREDICTION: Kings 113, Lakers 109