The Sacramento Kings worked quickly to make Luke Walton their new head coach. At the end of a season filled with turmoil, the Lakers' front office left Walton hanging for several days, as management disagreed over whether he should return as the Lakers' coach.
Eventually, the Lakers and Walton parted ways, and the Kings snapped up the former Warriors assistant.
Jason Jones of The Athletic spoke with several members of Walton's new team who have previous ties to the 39-year-old, including Harrison Barnes, who played under Walton from 2014-16 with the Warriors. Barnes spoke very highly of his new head coach, in particular praising how he can relate to players in a unique way.
"One of the greatest attributes as a coach is the ability to relate and connect with his players,” Barnes said. “If you can’t reach a locker room, no matter who you’ve got out there, this league has shown you that will not work. So I think his ability to have guys’ respect, to be able to coach in a way, like I said, gives everyone the opportunity to thrive, but also promotes a winning style of basketball."
Barnes also appreciates Walton's strategic mind when it comes to basketball.
“It’s just not a free-for-all, a ‘Hey, let’s just go out there and gun for yourself,'" said Barnes. "I think that can really help us.”
Trevor Ariza was the other subject of the story. The veteran forward was a teammate of Walton with the Lakers between 2007-09, including winning the 2009 NBA Finals over the Orlando Magic.
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The swingman also is a big fan of Walton's ability to communicate, something that was a problem for the Kings with former head coach Dave Joerger.
“Straightforward, very honest,” the 16-year veteran explained. “It’s easy to get his word across because you know he’s not coming with ill intention. It’s all positive, for the betterment of the team.”
Walton gets a fresh start after a rocky four years as the head coach in Los Angeles, and with a roster that features former champions like Ariza and Barnes, along with three players who were named to the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend, the future is getting brighter and brighter in the state capital.