How Luke Walton could be a good fit as Sacramento Kings' next coach


How Luke Walton could be a good fit as Sacramento Kings' next coach

The Kings haven’t even had time to give Dave Joerger’s office a fresh coat of paint, and they already have a new coach.

An NBA source confirmed Saturday that Luke Walton has agreed to take over in Sacramento after a whirlwind 48 hours for all parties involved.

Walton was one of the hottest names in the game three summers ago. Fresh off a 39-4 run as the Warriors' interim coach during Steve Kerr’s injury, Walton signed on to lead a young and inexperienced Lakers team on a five-year, $25 million deal. While he showed improvement in each of his three seasons in Los Angeles, the 39-year-old coach finished with a 98-148 record.

Strangely enough, Joerger finished with an identical 98-148 record over his three seasons in Sacramento. The win total wasn’t enough for Joerger to keep his job, but the Kings didn't hold it against Walton when hiring him.

Let's examine Walton's experience and how he's a fit for the Kings.

Why didn’t it work out for Walton in LA?

While Walton didn’t ultimately find success in LA, there's a lot of blame to go around.

Magic Johnson already has quit as team president after piecing together a ragtag group of players around superstar LeBron James. The Lakers' decision to chase Anthony Davis leading up to the NBA trade deadline killed chemistry and put all of the team’s young core on notice. It’s a total mess in La-La Land.

Walton didn’t rise above the chaos, but not many coaches would. James missed 27 games because of injury or being shut down. When James went down with a groin injury in December, the Lakers were 20-14. When he returned Feb. 5, the team was 27-27 and scuffling.

The Lakers shut James down late in the season and coasted to the finish line. Most of the decisions made that affected the outcome of the season came from higher-ups, not Walton.

Why might it work out for Walton in Sacramento?

There’s no guarantee it will work with the Kings, but Walton is a fresh voice, and he inherits a team on the rise.

While more experienced names are available, Walton’s play style fits the Kings' roster to a tee. He loves having his team push the tempo, although his 2018-19 Lakers squad was poorly assembled for that kind of play.

During his three seasons with the Lakers, Walton's teams finished sixth, second and fourth in pace. They finished just ahead of the Kings in pace this season, although they scored 111.8 points per game compared to Sacramento’s 114.2.

The biggest reason for the points disparity hinges on LA’s inability to shoot from the perimeter. Walton inherits a Sacramento team that shot 37.8 percent from behind the arc, which ranked fourth in the NBA. Despite shooting more 3-pointers than Sacramento, the Lakers hit just 33.3 percent (29th in the league).

The Kings shot 86 fewer 3-pointers than the Lakers and hit 80 more. So, Walton’s offense might look completely different with De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica shooting from the perimeter.

On the other side of the ball, Walton’s group ranked 12th in the NBA in defensive rating in each of the last two seasons. Joerger’s team ranked 20th this season, which was a huge improvement over the previous season.

If the Kings return with the same roster, they have the potential to improve on defense because of their age and gaining valuable experience. But Sacramento doesn’t have the size and length of the Lakers’ roster under Walton.

LA also was a much better rebounding and shot-blocking team than Sacramento. This issue might be addressed during the offseason, but then again, it might not.


Walton is known as a player's coach, although at times he appeared to lose the room in LA this season. Not many coaches could handle the personalities, trade rumors and distractions that Walton faced. When LaVar Ball is the last of your worries, there's an organizational issue.

There's no way that Kings general manager Vlade Divac will add the types of personalities that Magic did. There's also no guarantee Walton will find a way to bond with a young Kings team and have them fall in line.

[RELATED: Joerger says he "bled purple"]

Walton’s 39-4 record as the Warriors' interim coach shows he can connect, even with the best of the best. His 37-45 record this season with the Lakers shows he can struggle as well.

The truth is, Walton likely is somewhere in between these two experiences. He also has pre-existing relationships with Divac from their playing days in LA, as well as a history with Harrison Barnes from their time together with the Warriors.

The Kings have plenty of talent. They need to continue to improve, and Walton is both young enough to grow with the group and experienced enough to potentially get them over the hump.

Tacko Fall highlights six NBA draft prospects to roll through Sacramento


Tacko Fall highlights six NBA draft prospects to roll through Sacramento

SACRAMENTO -- Cat stuck in a tree? Smoke alarm battery running low? Need someone to wash the middle of the roof of your car? Tacko Fall has you covered.

Imagine walking through life never needing a step stool and having to watch out for ceiling fans in every room you visit. At 7-foot-7 with an 8-foot-2.25 wingspan, Fall grasps the rim standing flat footed.

One of the largest prospects to ever measure at the NBA combine, the 23-year-old center out of the University of Central Florida dropped by Sacramento as part of the Kings’ fourth six -man work out of the week.

“I feel like teams already have an identity of what I can do, they have seen me a lot,” Fall said. “It’s just me being more consistent with what I do, running up and down the floor, being great defensively and that’s what I can bring to any team.”

Fall put up solid numbers in his four years with the Knights. He finished his senior season averaging 11.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 24.9 minutes per game under head coach Johnny Dawkins.

The giant out of Dekar, Senegal shot an incredible 74.8 percent from the field in his final, collegiate season, although he struggled from the free throw line, knocking down just 36.2 percent from the stripe.

“Big dude, big physical presence,” Duke big man Marques Bolden said. “I kind of knew what to expect coming in today.”

Fall and Bolden faced off in the NCAA tournament, with Duke coming away with a narrow 77-76 victory to advance to the Sweet 16. Fall out performed Bolden in the contest, posting 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks.

Bolden is still deciding whether he will stay in school for another year. He played with both Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley during his time at Duke and there’s a chance he’ll return for his senior year with Coach K.

For the rest of the players at the workout, playing with Fall was a new experience.

“Fun, Fun, I’ve never played with someone 7-7 or 7-6,” Amir Hinton out of Shaw University said. “He’s huge. All you have to do is throw the ball to the rim and he’s going to catch it. I had fun, I enjoyed that.”

Playing at a Division II college, Hinton is a rarity in the workout process. He skipped the AAU experience, instead choosing to earn his stripes as a street baller in Philadelphia. He posted huge numbers at Shaw, earning DII All-American honors while averaging 29.4 points per game for the Bears.

Iowa State’s Nick Weiler-Babb is an experienced player after four seasons at the NCAA level. He’s a big guard that held his own in the Big 12 and he had a unique take on playing against Fall.

“In the league, everybody is tall, everybody is athletic,” guard Iowa State Nick Weiler-Babb said of playing against Fall. “It just gives you a little preview of what you’re going up against. Tacko’s a good player. He’s not clumsy, nothing like that. He knows what he’s doing. He’s good with his feet. It’s good to go against a guy like that.”

Myles Powell from Seton Hall had the honor of following Fall in the media sessions. While the camera guys adjusted their tripods back to normal level, the junior point guard showed a maturity and confidence that you don’t often see during the interview process.

“You’ve never really been around someone that big, let alone on the basketball court with them,” Powell said. “Going through this process, about ready to be in the NBA, it’s always good to get a good body like that on the floor with you.”

After posting 23.1 points per game last season in the Big East, Powell has a huge decision in front of him. With just days to choose whether to return for his senior season or stay in the draft, workouts like the one in Sacramento are extremely important to gain valuable feedback.

Senior Jalen Hudson doesn’t have the option of going back to school before the May 29 deadline. Coming off a rough shooting season at Florida, he was looking to impress NBA scouts with the hopes of continuing his basketball career.

“I’m just trying to show people that I can shoot it really well, that I have confidence that I can really play at this level,” Hudson said. “Obviously numbers are kind of a big thing, but really when you can come in here and show off, that says a lot too.”

[RELATED: How NCAA rules change Kings' evaluation process]

Of all the players that came through Sacramento on Thursday, Fall is the lone player that is listed on some draft boards and even he is expected to go in then late second round.

The Kings have picks No. 40, 47 and 60 to work with and are looking for a few diamonds in the rough. They’ve hosted 24 prospects this week, many of which will return to the college level next season.

Kings' Harrison Barnes looks back on India trip, shares funny cricket story

Josh Pierce / Sacramento Kings

Kings' Harrison Barnes looks back on India trip, shares funny cricket story

SACRAMENTO -- Harrison Barnes went to India and got confused for a cricket evaluator.

No, we're not kidding.

Earlier this month, the Sacramento Kings small forward traveled to the country that will host his team and the Indiana Pacers for two preseason games in October and stopped in the Mumbai suburb of Dharavi to play the game of cricket with a few kids. Before Barnes knew it, the group grew from five kids to 20 to 45.

"As soon as I started making contact, it's like 45 kids now," Barnes told NBC Sports California at Golden 1 Center on Wednesday. "And they are lined up in a perfect line, and I'm like 'This is an end-of-the-game free throw, this is a lot of pressure right now.' And so we play and the kids are having fun and having a great time, and I was like 'That was really dope, all those kids kind of came and just wanted to hang out.' And one of the guys was like 'Well, they actually thought you were a cricket evaluator, so they were trying to get picked up for the Mumbai Indians, they were trying to further their career.'"

In case you're wondering, the Mumbai Indians are the recently crowned champions of the Indian Premiere League.

Barnes, as you know, is not a cricket talent evaluator. He's an NBA champion who is now, at the age of 26, one of the elder statesmen on the up-and-coming Kings squad.

Before the Kings head to Mumbai for a few days in October, Barnes got a sneak peek of India, taking in the sights, sounds, culture and food during a seven-day trip.

While Barnes flew into the Indian capital of Delhi and spent time at the Jr. NBA Academy in Noida, he also traveled to Mumbai and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.

"I had a chance to do sightseeing, did the Jr. NBA camp in Delhi," Barnes said, "had a chance to go to Mumbai, experience some of the culture there and then got a chance to see the Taj Mahal, so it was a lot packed into a week, but it was good."

Barnes has traveled all over the world, but he had never been to India. While experiencing a new culture was important to him, lending a hand at the Jr. NBA camp in Noida was a big draw for Barnes. He's worked with the Jr. NBA camp in Iowa, where he's from, so doing this work fell in line with what he was already doing.

But for any American, spending time in India can be a culture shock.

"I kind of just went with an open mind," Barnes said. "I didn't have any expectations. I knew it was going to be different from anything I'd experienced before, so you know, just going there and riding in a rickshaw, doing things like that, it was pretty fun to try things differently and we actually had a lot of fun."

Barnes admitted that the biggest culture shock for him was when his group went to India Gate in Delhi on a Sunday night. They weren't expecting much of a crowd since it was a working night.

Boy, were they wrong. The crowd was overwhelming and Barnes' guides wanted to turn back. But he persisted and said he wanted to experience it.

"You hear about a billion people and you’re like, ‘What does that look like?’" Barnes said. "And it was just so many people that it was like a sea. We got through there and we get to India Gate, we take the pictures, we chill out a little bit and just seeing stuff like that, you’re like, ‘Wow, it’s crazy seeing this many people here on a Sunday night.’ It’s a work night, people are going to work tomorrow, it’s not a holiday, there’s just so many people there, I was like ‘Wow, this is pretty crazy.’"

Barnes said that he has been in communication with his Kings teammates about what they can expect in October and offered some advice to help them adjust once they step foot in India.

"For me, what made the trip very easy, I love Indian food, I’ve had it many times here in the States," Barnes said. "So for me, it was very easy, I was able to go over there and order, I didn’t even need a menu, I could just order different things. I’m kind of comparing the taste of what I’ve had here, what I’ve had there. For the guys that haven’t had Indian food, I’m like ‘You should probably try it here so you get an idea, you get familiar with things. You can go there and compare.’"

The two October preseason games are the brainchild of Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, who is from Mumbai. So before Barnes embarked on his trip, he touched base with his boss for tips on how to best experience the country.

"He was like ‘It’s going to be a great experience, you like to travel, so that’s a good thing. It’ll give you a perspective on everything that’s going on,’" Barnes said. "But he was like ‘But, it might be different for you. It’s going to be an assault on the senses, so just be aware of that, be ready to embrace that. As long as you welcome India with open arms, they’ll welcome you back.’ Everything he said was right on point."

[RELATED: Kings-Pacers critical for India]

For someone that grew up in Ames, Iowa and went to college in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, traveling to India expand the game of basketball is pretty surreal.

"This is probably the biggest surprise and one of the biggest things I’ve really enjoyed about being in the NBA," Barnes said. "Basketball has taken me all over the world, places I never thought I’d go. My first time getting on a plane was for basketball purposes, my first time traveling out of the country was for basketball purposes. So, now to be able to go see all these different places because of the game of basketball, because the game is growing, because there are NBA fans all around the world who want to hope to someday play in the NBA or just enjoy watching the sport, it’s bucket list after bucket list experience."

Now that Barnes has a leg up on his teammates, don't be surprised if he gets confused for a tour guide in October.