Luke Walton

Kings Notes: Gentry, Haliburton, Walton, Metu, Barnes

New Kings head coach Alvin Gentry called out his players and apologized to fans after a disappointing collapse against the Lakers on Tuesday night, and was pleased with how the players responded against the Clippers on Wednesday, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. The Kings jumped out to a double-digit first-half lead for a second straight night — this time they held on for a victory.

“They’re a good bunch of players. They’re a good bunch of kids and I think they want to do the right thing,” Gentry said. “I just wanted to remind them that we have to do it on a consistent basis, but I thought the response was great.”

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • Second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton said on Wednesday that the Kings’ players bear the responsibility for producing consistently and that former head coach Luke Walton shouldn’t have been blamed for their inability to do so. “We as players know we have to be better,” Haliburton said, per Anderson. “It seemed like Luke was a scapegoat at times when we weren’t playing well. People were blaming him, but at the end of the day it’s on us as basketball players and we have to be better. It’s not on any staffs. It’s not on any front office. It’s not on anybody except the guys on the court.”
  • Chimezie Metu‘s $1,762,796 salary for 2021/22, which had been partially guaranteed for $881,398, was set to become fully guaranteed if he remained under contract through Wednesday, as Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Teams and players sometimes agree to push those guarantee dates back, but there has been no indication that Metu and the Kings took that route, so we’re assuming for now that the big man’s salary for this season is fully guaranteed. His $1,910,860 salary for 2022/23 remains non-guaranteed.
  • Harrison Barnes, who has missed the Kings’ past four games due to a right foot sprain, was sent to the Stockton Kings on Thursday to practice with the G League club, Anderson writes for The Sacramento Bee. Barnes’ NBAGL assignment will be brief, as he’ll be recalled in order to practice on Friday with the NBA squad, tweets Sean Cunningham of ABC 10 Sacramento.

Pacific Notes: Green, Thompson, Fox, Walton, James

Draymond Green is playing with renewed vigor and the Warriors forward is aiming for another Defensive Player of the Year award, ESPN’s Nick Friedell writes. “Most importantly, I want to win, I want to be a Defensive Player of the Year again, and I want to be an All-Star again,” Green said. “And that is motivating me because a lot of people had counted me out. Same mistake people made before when I first came into the league — but a lot of people doubted me, and doubted me again. And that’s fuel to the fire.” Green won the DPOY award in 2017.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr reacted with feigned surprise regarding a report that Klay Thompson had received full medical clearance to practice. “I don’t know where that came from,” Kerr said, according to a tweet from Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. However, Kerr didn’t deny the report, Poole added in another tweet. The Athletic’s Anthony Slater said Kerr was trying to protect Thompson from media attention. If Thompson doesn’t participate in all team portions of practice, he could theoretically skip any required media requirements, which is Klay’s preference.
  • De’Aaron Fox said it was a bit of a shock that Luke Walton was fired at this stage of the season, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. However, he added that the Kings have to put that behind them quickly. “You’ve just got to keep on pushing,” Fox said. “Obviously, you have some guys who have been through it in the middle of a season before, but you can’t go into the game worried about what happened. We’ve still got games to play.”
  • LeBron James‘ one-game suspension will result in some cost savings for the Lakers, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. While James will lose a game check of $284K, the Lakers will receive a $142K credit toward the luxury tax that projects to save them $532.5K.

Kings Notes: Walton, Gentry, Hines, Fox

Addressing reporters on Sunday, Kings general manager Monte McNair explained why the team fired head coach Luke Walton just 17 games into the season after initially deciding to bring him back for the 2021/22 season.

“The start of the year was a lot of what we were hoping for, and we really thought it could have been even better,” McNair said, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “I think we saw a lot of the things that we thought this team could do, but these last eight games were a change, and, for me, the question became what’s the best way to move forward, and that’s my job at every point in the season.”

The Kings began the season with a 5-4 record, but have since dropped seven of eight games. That stretch included losses vs. San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Minnesota, and Toronto, all of whom are multiple games below .500.

“It wasn’t any one thing,” McNair said. “It was a combination of things, but sitting here with where we’ve been the last two weeks, we felt we weren’t getting the consistency and certainly the results we wanted. We all need to be better. This is not on any one person, but we did feel this was the change that was best to get us back to where we need to go.”

Here’s more on the Kings and their head coaching change:

  • McNair said on Sunday that he still believes the Kings have enough talent to make the playoffs and thinks Alvin Gentry is capable of leading them there. The team chose Gentry over other assistants – like Doug Christie – as its interim replacement due to his previous head coaching experience, McNair added (Twitter links via Sean Cunningham of ABC10 Sacramento).
  • Kings player development coach Rico Hines will move to the front of the bench as one of Gentry’s assistants, McNair said (Twitter link via Anderson).
  • Michael Pina of and Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer take a look at what’s next in Sacramento following Walton’s exit, with Tjarks suggesting that the Kings will soon need to determine whether De’Aaron Fox is still the player they want to build around.
  • The timing of Walton’s dismissal is another “Kangz” moment for Sacramento, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who notes that a coaching change made in the first third of a season probably should’ve just been made during the offseason.

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.

Pacific Notes: Walton, Poole, Iguodala, Ayton

“Fire Luke Walton” chants have become a regular occurrence at Kings‘ home games as fans continue to turn on the embattled head coach, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Sacramento has suffered three straight double-digit losses since a report surfaced earlier this week that Walton’s job could be “in peril” if the team doesn’t become more competitive.

General manager Monte McNair has been very open about his desire to reach the playoffs this season, but with a 6-11 start the Kings don’t look like much of a postseason threat. However, Walton’s players are remaining loyal to him as speculation grows about a potential coaching change.

“I got his back,” Tyrese Haliburton said. “I’m pretty sure we all do. I don’t have to say I’m pretty sure. I know we all do. He’s put a lot of time and a lot of trust into us as players, and when you get that from a coach who invests in his guys, it’s hard not to like him.”

Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee contends that getting rid of Walton won’t solve the Kings’ larger problem, which is a poorly constructed roster. He also questions why McNair didn’t make a coaching move when he became GM last year or before the start of the season if he doesn’t have faith in Walton.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Jordan Poole has become a dangerous scorer for the Warriors, especially on the nights that Stephen Curry doesn’t play, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Poole has expanded his offensive capabilities in his third NBA season, and coach Steve Kerr recognizes the difference in his game. “He’s physically stronger,” Kerr said. “He’s able to absorb contact. He’s just got more confidence. You think about his first year, if he had a clear lane to the rim, he could dunk the ball, but it now looks like he’s getting up 6 inches higher. Athletically, he’s much improved from two years ago. That extra power and bounce is really paying off.”
  • Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala will miss his third straight game today because of a swollen right knee and the team isn’t sure how long he might be sidelined, Slater adds. “He said (the swelling) is better today,” Kerr said Friday. “But just given where he is in his career, age-wise, it’ll be a day-to-day thing.”
  • The Suns played well with JaVale McGee and Frank Kaminsky at center while Deandre Ayton was sidelined with a knee injury, and Zach Lowe of ESPN wonders how that will affect Ayton’s leverage in contract talks next summer.

Tristan Thompson Expresses Frustration After Kings’ Latest Loss

The Kings lost for the fifth time in six games on Wednesday night, dropping to 6-9 on the season and 1-3 on a road trip that included games in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Detroit, and Minnesota. After the game, veteran center Tristan Thompson expressed frustration with the results of Wednesday’s contest and the road trip as a whole, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee relays.

“The reality is this road trip should have been a 4-0,” Thompson said. “I was going on this road trip planning on going 4-0. The teams that we played against — OKC, they don’t want to win games. They want to rebuild. Everyone f—ing knows that. The Spurs, they have all young guys. They’re trying to figure it out. They have damn near eight guys that all play the same position. They’re trying to figure it out.

“… The Timberwolves, they’ve got names, but are they trying to win? Roll the dice, see what happens, figure out their roster. Detroit, they do not want to win. They want another top-three or top-five pick, and that’s no disrespect to the players on their team. They’re going to play hard and give it everything they’ve got, but at the end of the day, I know how this league works and I know how the front office works. … These are the games you have to win if you’re trying to be in the playoffs, or be in the play-in game, these are the wins you have to capitalize on.”

A report earlier this week indicated that head coach Luke Walton is facing increasing pressure and that his job will likely be in jeopardy if the Kings’ slump continues. However, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Thompson dismissed the idea that it should be Walton’s responsibility to motivate Sacramento’s players.

“I think no man in this world should rely on another man to inspire them, point blank, period,” Thompson said, per Anderson.” You can put that in all capitals. Me personally, no one should ever need a coach to inspire you. If you don’t get inspired in a game, then you shouldn’t be on the court.

“Losing teams, losing players, you need to get inspiration from your coach, and I’m not with that s–t. My teammates aren’t with it because I know guys want to win and they want to win badly, so it’s not about Coach Walton inspiring you. This is not no freaking ‘Glory Road’ s—. … I don’t need no f—ing coach to inspire me. Never that. Never have. Never will. The day I need a coach to inspire me is the day I’m f—ing retiring. I’m going to go play with my kids in the park.”

Thompson ranks just 10th on the Kings in minutes per game and he has been a DNP-CD in a handful of games this season. However, the 30-year-old has a championship ring and is one of the veteran leaders on a team whose key players – including De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Davion Mitchell – are relatively young.

Thompson made it clear on Wednesday that he believes in his teammates and that his frustration stems from a belief that the Kings have enough talent to be better than they’ve been so far. The big man said that everyone’s “heart is in the right place” and that they badly want to win, but they need to cut down on mistakes to make it happen.

“We’ve just got to come together and we’ve just got to really learn from those mistakes and really make sure we make it a priority,” Thompson said. “And it’s all of us. Me, too. … We’re all at fault here. From the top to the bottom, we’re all at fault. We’re in this together.

“… I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that we keep pushing. No one’s going to feel sorry for you. This is the NBA. No one’s going to feel sorry for you. C-Webb (Chris Webber) and (Mike) Bibby ain’t coming through that door, so you’ve got to keep pushing each and every day, keep getting better in practice, keep watching the film, learn from the mistakes. If we all can just get 1% better each and every day, then we’ll get our fair share of wins.”

Pressure Mounting On Kings’ Luke Walton

Kings head coach Luke Walton finds himself on the hot seat once again, according to Sam Amick and Shams Charania of The Athletic, who say the pressure is mounting on Walton amidst Sacramento’s current four-game losing streak.

Sources tell Amick and Charania that Walton’s job will likely be “in peril” soon if the Kings’ slump continues.

Walton faced some pressure last season as well, but ultimately held onto his job for a variety of reasons, including his approval rating in the locker room, his strong relationship with general manager Monte McNair, and the fact that he still had multiple guaranteed years left on his contract, per Amick and Charania.

According to The Athletic’s duo, Walton isn’t expected to given as much leeway this time around, since there’s increasing urgency for the Kings to snap their 15-year playoff drought. Amick and Charania add that the current roster is viewed internally as one capable of making the postseason.

The Kings’ current losing streak includes a home game vs. Indiana and road games in San Antonio and Oklahoma City, which are the types of contests that management and ownership would expect the team to win. Sacramento will play in Detroit on Monday night, and Amick and Charania note that a loss to the 3-9 Pistons certainly “would not aid Walton’s cause.”

Walton, who was hired by former Kings general manager Vlade Divac in 2019, led the team to consecutive 31-41 (.431) finishes in his first two seasons, and is off to a 5-8 start in 2021/22. He’s under contract for one more year beyond this season.

Kings Notes: Mitchell, Fox, Ranadivé, Sarin, Coleman III

Many around the NBA world were surprised when the Kings selected guard Davion Mitchell with the 9th pick of the 2021 draft, not because they thought Mitchell was undeserving, but because two of the Kings’ best players last season were De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, both slender guards.

However, Mitchell quickly showed his value in Summer League, spearheading a dominant defensive effort en route to the championship, winning co-MVP in the process. Fox believes Mitchell’s defense-first mentality will be “great for the team,” and “he’s definitely going to come in and help us change a lot of that,” in regard to turning around the team’s 30th ranked defense, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee (via Twitter).

There’s more on the Kings:

  • Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé announced today that he bought out the shares of several minority owners who were essential in keeping the team in Sacramento, per James Patrick of The Sacramento Bee. It’s worth noting that the move was made in part because the former owners believe the team is stable now, with no plans to relocate.
  • The Kings are hiring Saagar Sarin as a scout, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Sarin served as the Timberwolves’ scouting coordinator the past two seasons and previously worked with Kings general manager Monte McNair in Houston. Anderson adds that the move was unrelated to the recent firing of Gersson Rosas.
  • McNair believes players want to play for coach Luke Walton and credits him with the the team’s ability to re-sign free agents as well as the return of Alex Len, per Jason Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • The Kings have officially signed Matt Coleman III to a non-guaranteed training camp contract, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Coleman played four seasons for Texas and was a two-time All-Big 12 member for the Longhorns. James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area confirms the contract will be a standard Exhibit 10 (via Twitter). The move was first reported in July by Jeremy Woo of

Free Agent Stock Watch: Pacific Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Pacific Division:

Kawhi Leonard, Clippers, 29, SF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $103MM deal in 2019

Until Giannis Antetokounmpo and other All-Stars decided to sign extensions, the summer of 2021 was considered a free agent bonanza. Leonard’s free agent foray two seasons ago, after leading the Raptors to the NBA championship, was one of the big stories of that summer. He chose to go to Los Angeles and the Clippers mortgaged their future by trading for Paul George to give him a superstar sidekick. It could all unravel for the franchise this year if the Clippers lose to the Mavericks in the opening round. Leonard was expected to opt out this summer so that he could maximize his salary with his current team. Now, other contenders might kick the tires to see if Leonard would be willing to jump ship again. If nothing else, the Clippers’ front office will be sweating it out until Leonard signs the bottom line.

Cameron Payne, Suns, 26, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $2.2MM deal in 2019

It’s become an annual and unfortunate occurrence in the NBA postseason – Chris Paul suffers an injury at the worst time. Paul’s shoulder issue has limited his minutes against the Lakers the last two games and those minutes have gone to Payne. Not surprisingly, Phoenix has lost both contests but Payne has posted respectable numbers, averaging 17 PPG, 6.5 APG and 2.5 SPG in 30 MPG. The 2015 lottery pick struggled to find an NBA home until he signed with the Suns for their games in the Orlando bubble. Payne has found his niche as a second-unit point guard and if the Suns don’t re-sign him, some other team will take him for that same role.

Alex Caruso, Lakers, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $5MM deal in 2019

Caruso doesn’t make a big dent in the stat sheet but he’s a pesky defender and energetic spark plug off the bench. He averaged 6.5 PPG, 2.8 APG, 2.3 RPG and 1.1 SPG in 24.3 MPG during the Lakers’ run to the championship last season. He’s averaging 21 MPG through their first three playoff games this season against the Suns. Caruso seems like a nice fit on the Lakers, dutifully playing his role while knocking down the occasional 3-pointer and looking to advantage of opportunities when his defender cheats off him. The unrestricted free agent will likely get a nice bump in salary.

Hassan Whiteside, Kings, 31, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.3MM deal in 2020

Whiteside was valued so much by the Heat in 2016 he was signed to a four-year, $98.4MM deal. Few teams will covet Whiteside’s services when he reaches free agency again this summer. He had to settle for the veteran’s minimum last offseason and his one season with the Kings was rather forgettable. He was relegated to backup duty, averaging 15.2 MPG in the 36 games that coach Luke Walton used him. Whiteside didn’t play after April 21, supposedly due to lower back tightness. He can still be useful as a rebounder and shot blocker in a reserve role but he’ll have to settle for the veteran’s minimum once again.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kings Notes: Walton, McNair, Finch, Fox

The news broke on Monday that Luke Walton would be retained as the Kings’ head coach. There has been speculation that the decision was, at least in part, financially motivated. He’s reportedly owed $11.5MM over the next two seasons.

However, GM Monte McNair downplayed that notion in his season-ending press conference, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. “I’ve been given every resource I need to get the team back to the playoffs and this was a basketball decision,” McNair said.

We have more on the Kings:

  • Walton’s job became much safer when the Timberwolves hired Raptors assistant Chris Finch as their head coach midway through the season, Sean Cunningham of KXTV Sacramento tweets. Numerous sources told Cunningham that Sacramento’s front office was interested in Finch, who previously worked with  McNair in the Rockets’ organization. Walton maintained a strong relationship with the Kings’ front office and earned respect of the locker room, which also helped his cause, Cunningham adds.
  • De’Aaron Fox‘s bout with COVID-19 was a rough one, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets. Fox had a headache after the April 21st game against Minnesota and then body aches and chills the next night. He apparently wasn’t close to returning at the end of the season, but he says he’s feeling much better, Anderson adds.
  • Richaun Holmes is expected to be a hot commodity on the free agent market. Get the details here.