When Kent Bazemore joined the Kings in February of 2020, he made an immediate impact. Following his first game with the Kings, he and veteran Anthony Tolliver called for a team meeting to discuss what was missing from the group and how they could begin to achieve their goals.
The results of that conversation were stunning. With Bazemore playing solid minutes off the bench for Sacramento, they finished the pre-bubble 2019-20 season on a 13-7 run and earned a trip to Orlando to compete for a playoff spot.
It wasn’t all about Bazemore. He’s only one player in a rotation of nine or 10. But as a personality, Bazemore helped empower a team that needed a boost, including point guard De’Aaron Fox.
In a lengthy interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Kerith Burke, Bazemore discussed his time with Fox and the development he’s seen from the Kings’ young star.
“Great kid, super down to Earth, hard worker, loved to learn and it was gratifying to see that from a young superstar that thought less of himself and was really all about the team,” Bazemore said.
According to Bazemore, in addition to the team meeting he had with Tolliver shortly after his arrival, there was a second conversation that he had, that was more focused.
He and veteran Corey Brewer pulled Fox aside before the team left for the Orlando bubble and had a conversation with the then 22-year-old about taking his game and the team to another level.
“We had him up to my room one night and we kind of talked to him, like, 'this is your team and we’re going to go as you go and we need you to be aggressive,' " Bazemore said. “He’s turned on the switch.”
The words of the two vets struck a chord with Fox. He already was well on his path to taking ownership of the Kings, but the support added fuel to the fire.
“We sat there for about an hour and they talked to me about their experiences,” Fox told NBC Sports California. “They told me what they thought of me and what they think I can really do in this league. I think after that, I played extremely well in the bubble and that was one of the components in it.”
The results in the bubble were exactly what Bazemore, Brewer and the Kings were hoping for. In six games, Fox averaged 26.2 points and 7.3 assists per game. He looked like a star, even with his team struggling to pick up wins.
“I think I was ultra aggressive in the bubble, coming into games knowing that would help my team win,” Fox said of the experience. “I think I learned a lot in those eight games.”
Bazemore says that he continues to watch Fox from afar, just to keep tabs on his progress. He believes the bubble experience is a catalyst for Fox’s strong early-season play.
“The way he’s playing, the way he has the guys playing -- they learned a ton from being in that environment, that best teams in the NBA, getting a chance to go out where every game matters and execute to a high level, play both ends to a high level and the fruits of his labor are starting to show,” Bazemore added.
Fox will lead his 3-3 Kings against Bazemore and the 3-3 Warriors on Monday evening at the Chase Center. There could even be a moment when the two line up against each other.
Monday’s matchup also is a chance for the two to catch up after spending a lot of time together last season between the regular season and four weeks the Kings were sequestered in the bubble.
The NBA is a very small world, and Bazemore’s time in Sacramento was short by any measure. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t leave a mark, especially on the face of the Kings’ franchise in Fox.