Doug Christie

Pacific Notes: Ibaka, Lakers Trades, Christie, Kuminga

Serge Ibaka hasn’t received regular playing time as of late for the Clippers, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein have received the bulk of the minutes in the post since Ibaka returned to action after recovering from back surgery.

“Especially with that second unit, not having guys who can create shots from that second unit, Isaiah pretty much becomes our point guard and so we kind of run our offense through him,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “He makes great passes, and just I think we need him with that second unit – so he’s been great.”

Ibaka has extra incentive to get a boost in playing time — he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Athletic’s John Hollinger and Bill Oram are skeptical the Lakers can make a significant move before the trade deadline due to the configuration of their roster, plus luxury tax issues. Even combining the salaries of Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn along with a first-round pick isn’t all that enticing for potential trade partners, Hollinger opines. Nunn hasn’t played this season due to a mysterious injury and Horton-Tucker has an opt-out after the 2022/23 season. The Lakers can’t offer a first-round pick earlier than 2027 due to the picks owed to New Orleans in the Anthony Davis trade.
  • Doug Christie has been mentioned as a head coaching candidate for the Kings even though Alvin Gentry was named interim head coach. Christie, an assistant with the club, is non-committal regarding his interest in the job, according to Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee. “If you know me, you know I’m more of an in-the-moment person, like this is where I’m at,” Christie said. “I don’t think like that. AG (Alvin Gentry) has done a hell of a job and he’s been so productive with helping me try to be better, and that’s really all I’m going to try to be. If they see more and they want more and that opportunity presents itself, that’s what you have to face when the opportunity comes and you deal with it, but I like to stay in the moment and I don’t say that tongue in cheek. That’s just kind of how I try to live.”
  • Steve Kerr’s tendency to lean on his veterans has made it tougher for Jonathan Kuminga to gain a rotation spot. However, the Warriors could use more of what the lottery pick brings, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic opines. Kuminga can be a force defensively and on the offensive glass. Offensively, he can muscle his way to the basket and has a nice finishing touch.

Kings’ Alvin Gentry Tests Positive For COVID-19

2:30pm: Christie will take over as the Kings’ acting coach while Gentry is unavailable, a source tells Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link).


11:01am: Kings head coach Alvin Gentry, who took over last month when the team dismissed Luke Walton, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (all Twitter links). Gentry figures to miss a few games, with one of his assistants taking over as an interim coach to the interim coach.

According to Wojnarowski, the Kings canceled their morning shootaround on Wednesday and are conducting COVID-19 tests to see if any other players or coaches have contracted the virus.

Gentry tells Wojnarowski that he has been essentially asymptomatic, outside of having a scratchy throat. Assistants Mike Longabardi and Doug Christie are the most likely candidates to replace him on the sidelines for the short term, Woj adds.

Gentry has led the Kings to a 5-6 record since taking the reins from Walton in November. Sacramento lost all three games on its recent road trip, prompting Gentry to state after Monday’s loss in Toronto that the team needs to find a way to “right the ship.” The Kings begin a three-game home stand on Wednesday against the struggling Wizards, the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies, and the 10-16 Spurs, so there’s some bounce-back potential there.

Gentry is the second head coach to enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols in the last week, joining Rick Carlisle of the Pacers.

Kings Notes: Gentry, Christie, Fox, Ranadive, Thompson

Alvin Gentry wanted to avoid the “interim” tag after taking over head coaching duties when the Kings fired Luke Walton on Sunday, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Sources tell Amick that Gentry was unsuccessful because the front office believed it had another viable candidate in first-year assistant coach Doug Christie. Even though general manager Monte McNair, assistant GM Wes Wilcox and chief strategy officer Joe Dumars all supported Gentry, having Christie as an option gave the organization leverage in its negotiations with Gentry.

Gentry received a raise as part of his new duties, Amick adds, and he has a contract that runs through the end of next season. However, his future as the head coach in Sacramento will depend on how successful he is at turning the team around. Amick notes this is the fourth time in his career that Gentry has received this type of promotion, and he was able to earn long-term coaching stints with both the Pistons and Suns.

As the lead assistant, Gentry already had a huge influence on Sacramento’s offensive strategy, so other than possibly increasing its pace, the team won’t look much different with him in charge.

“This is not about making mass changes or changing philosophies or anything like this,” Gentry said. “I think we’ve got a good system in place. So I think what we have to do is we have to have our players perform better. I’ve got to be better. All the other coaches have to be better, and our players have to be better. I think it’s a group thing.”

There’s more from Sacramento:

  • The Kings’ next major decision should be determining whether they can build a contender around De’Aaron Fox, Amick adds. Fox has gotten off to a terrible start in the first season of his five-year, $163MM extension, shooting just 42.1% from the field and 24.% from three-point range. Three-guard lineups with Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell haven’t been effective, observes Amick, who wonders if a roster upheaval may happen before the February 10 trade deadline.
  • Gentry is the sixth coach in eight years for owner Vivek Ranadive, writes Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. Ranadive has a history of being impatient, Biderman adds, and his desire for change caused the organization to part with Michael Malone, who has become a perennial playoff coach in Denver.
  • Tristan Thompson, who was acquired over the summer to provide veteran leadership, said after Monday’s loss to the short-handed 76ers that it will take an organization-wide effort to recover from the poor start (video link). “I think everyone has to look in the mirror,” said Thompson, who also publicly expressed frustration with the team’s situation last week. “It’s not only just players. Yes, it’s a player’s league … but in terms of building a team, it takes a collective group. It takes everyone from the top to the bottom. From ownership to the trainers, to the equipment managers, to the players, to (the physical therapist), to the GM to the assistant GM. It’s all of us.”

Kings Fire Luke Walton; Alvin Gentry Named Interim Coach

1:56pm: Alvin Gentry will become the interim coach of the Kings, per Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link). He was previously serving as associate head coach under Walton.

Gentry’s last stint as a head coach was with the Pelicans from 2015-20, compiling a 175-225 record in five seasons before being fired. He has a total win-loss record of 510-595 across 17 partial seasons with the Heat, Pistons, Clippers, Suns and Pelicans. His most successful team was the 2009/10 Suns, who reached the Western Conference Finals and lost to the eventual champion Lakers in six games.


12:06pm: The Kings have fired head coach Luke Walton, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Kings have struggled in the early portion of the season, losing seven of their past eight games and currently sit with a 6-11 record. They lost some seemingly winnable games during the slide, including games to the Pacers, Spurs, Thunder, and Raptors.

The team went 31-41 in each of the past two seasons under Walton, so he compiled a 68-93 overall record with the Kings. He’s under contract for one more year beyond this season and the team will be on the hook for the remainder of his salary.

Woj also relays that Alvin Gentry, the team’s associate head coach, is a strong candidate to serve as the interim coach. However, he hedged that statement by noting that a decision has yet to be made (Twitter link).

Another possible candidate to serve as interim coach is former Kings player and first-year assistant Doug Christie, Woj tweets.

We noted earlier today that Kings fans have been regularly chanting “fire Luke Walton” at home games and there was a report last week that indicated the head coach was firmly on the hot seat. There has been increasing urgency for the Kings to snap their 15-year playoff drought. The front office views the current roster as one capable of making the postseason, hence why Walton was fired after a 6-11 start.

It’s tough to see the team making the playoffs outright as a top-six seed, especially having started five games under .500. There are definitely talented players among the group, but the fit is questionable. It will be interesting to see if this decision has any impact on trade talks, or if the Kings will stick with the roster they have.

Sacramento was consistently a bottom-tier defensive team under Walton; the club ranked 20th in defensive rating in 2019/20, 30th last season, and 23rd through 17 games this season. It ranked 27th, 30th, and 24th in total rebounds across the same time period. Obviously not all of that is on the coach, but it’s partly why the Kings have struggled to compete at the level they were hoping for.

Western Notes: J. Jackson, Gasol, Blazers, Kings, Christie

A total of 56 free agents reached contract agreements with teams around the NBA on Monday, but not a single one of those players is signing with the Grizzlies. That’s by design though, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, who writes that Memphis’ plan was always to have a quiet free agent period and focus on negotiating a potential contract extension with Jaren Jackson Jr.

One of 24 players eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, Jackson won’t get a maximum-salary deal like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But Grizzlies head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman has suggested that the former fourth overall pick remains very much in the franchise’s long-term plans.

“I think we’re going to be our best selves over time with Jaren,” Kleiman said after the draft, per Barnes. “Spacing the floor, attacking, creating, defensively taking advantage of the versatility he brings to the table.”

Here’s more from around the West as we wait for day two of free agency to start heating up:

  • When Marc Gasol signed a two-year, minimum-salary contract with the Lakers last summer, there was some speculation that he might decide to retire after the 2020/21 season. That’s not his plan though. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN tweets, Gasol told reporters following Spain’s elimination from the Olympics on Tuesday that he intends to continue his NBA career and finish his contract with L.A.
  • The Trail Blazers formally announced Chauncey Billups‘ coaching staff in a press release on Monday, confirming that previously-reported assistant coaching hires such as Scott Brooks, Roy Rogers, Steve Hetzel, and Edniesha Curry are now official. Former Long Island Nets assistant Milt Palacio will also be part of Billups’ staff, according to the team.
  • Doug Christie is moving from the broadcast booth to the sidelines, as the Kings officially announced the former NBA player and veteran TV analyst will be joining Luke Walton‘s staff as an assistant coach. Christie, who played for Sacramento from 2000-05, said in a statement that coaching for the Kings has been a “dream of mine.”