Kings

Kings GM Vlade Divac reportedly didn't know of Luke Walton assault accusations

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USATSI

Kings GM Vlade Divac reportedly didn't know of Luke Walton assault accusations

The Sacramento Kings apparently were as surprised as anyone by Monday's reports that coach Luke Walton has been accused of sexual assault. And the team won't make any quick decisions because of it.

The Athletic's Sam Amick cited a source in reporting that Kings general manager Vlade Divac, who hired Walton last week on a four-year contract, didn't know about the accusations before they became public. Amick also reported that "it was too early in this fact-finding process to explore the possibility of terminating Walton’s contract." So, Walton will stay in Sacramento while the facts come out.

The Kings issued this statement after the news broke: "We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time."

Sports broadcaster Kelli Tennant, formerly of Spectrum SportsNet, filed a lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accusing Walton of sexually assaulting her in his Santa Monica hotel room when he was an assistant coach for the Warriors. Tennant also cited further incidents, which the suit called a “pattern of mistreatment,” including when Walton was the Los Angeles Lakers' coach, starting in 2016.

Walton has retained attorney Mark Baute, who represented Minnesota Timberwolves star Derrick Rose in a rape lawsuit in which he was cleared, to defend him in the case.

Walton and the Lakers parted ways on April 12, but the team reportedly was open to keeping the coach. Walton was offered the chance to stay in LA after president Magic Johnson abruptly resigned on April 9, but he was ready to leave for various reasons, Amick reported. Just days later, he had a new job in Sacramento.

Harrison Barnes praises Luke Walton's ability to connect with players

Harrison Barnes praises Luke Walton's ability to connect with players

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.

NBA rumors: Chris Paul to start season with Thunder as trade talks stall

NBA rumors: Chris Paul to start season with Thunder as trade talks stall

Chris Paul and the Thunder might not want to be married, but a divorce is seeming less and less likely.

The Thunder acquired the nine-time All-Star along with two first-round draft picks and two pick swaps from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook.

The expectation was that the Thunder would try to move Paul to another team, but those discussions reportedly have petered out and the Thunder expect Paul to begin the season with the team, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday, citing sources.

Should Paul stick with the Thunder, OKC could still be a threat to make the NBA playoffs in the revamped Western Conference, which is bad news for a Kings team looking to make another leap and snap their 13-year playoff drought.

A starting five of Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Roberson and Steven Adams has the potential to be a frisky team. A motivated Paul could bring the best out of Gilgeous-Alexander and create a solid pick-and-roll combo with Adams. A Paul-led Thunder team would make 12 Western Conference teams with a legitimate shot to make the playoffs -- apologies to the Suns, Grizzles and T'Wolves -- making the West all the more challenging. 

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Of course, Paul could begin the season in OKC only to be dealt later on. But that would require a team wanting to take on the second-worst contract in the NBA.