Updated 1:02 am, Thursday, February 15, 2018
De’Aaron Fox darted past mid-court on a fast break and sent a soft lob up court to Justin Jackson, who promptly tossed an alley towards the hoop, connecting with Willie Cauley-Stein for the jam.
Fox and Jackson, the Sacramento Kings’ 2017 first round draft picks, fell to the Rockets in what was the duo’s first game back in their hometown on Wednesday. Although the former Houston Hoops AAU teammates had experienced Rockets games from the stands, neither had ever taken the floor at the Toyota Center.
“I didn’t go to many Rockets games growing up but obviously being out there…it was a little weird at first, but it’s definitely a dream come true,” Jackson said.
The 6-8 forward played his high school ball for the Homeschool Christian Youth Association. He finished the Rockets game with 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Fox, a Cypress Lakes High School alumnus, recorded 9 points and 3 assists before leaving the game after hitting his head against the floor with half a minute remaining in the game (he received stitches on his eye and chin).
Wednesday wasn’t Fox’s best game although his 70-plus guests in attendance might not be overly concerned about his performance. The point guard averages 11.3 points per contest, enough to earn him a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge—replacing injured Lakers guard Lonzo Ball—this weekend.
“It’s cool, it’s a blessing (although) it changed my vacation,” Fox said. “I’m going to go to L.A. and just have fun with it.”
Fox initially hoped to spend some time back in Houston and maybe go up to Kentucky—his Wildcats lost to Jackson’s North Carolina Tar Heels in last year’s Elite Eight. Instead he’ll be back on the west coast, six hours south of his new home, playing against teammates Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Jackson plans to have a quieter break. Although his family now resides in Kansas City, Missouri, he stayed in Houston on Wednesday night to see friends.
“It was awesome to be back home,” he said, “a lot of fun.”
The Kings don’t play another game until after the All-Star break when they host Oklahoma City on Feb. 22. While neither Fox nor Jackson will be in Houston beyond Thursday, they cherished the opportunity to return home in the midst of a grueling NBA slate.
“It’s a rigorous schedule. It’s tiring. That’s probably the biggest adjustment I’ve had in the NBA but it’s been fun,” Fox said. “If we had a day in between (Wednesday and their Feb. 13 win over Dallas), I would’ve done a lot more.”
Their Kings are 0-2 against the Rockets this season but they host them once more in Sacramento to close out the regular season on April 11.
“Man, I’m going to enjoy this. It’s been a long, what, 57 games,” Jackson said. “I’m definitely going to enjoy this time away with my wife and my family, and come on back and try to finish out the season right.”