Kings

Luke Walton officially hired as Kings' new coach on four-year contract

Luke Walton officially hired as Kings' new coach on four-year contract

The last time Kings general manager Vlade Divac conducted a coaching search, it spanned weeks, with more than 10 candidates drawing interviews.

With a new contract extension in hand and complete control of the Kings’ franchise, Divac is taking a different approach this time.

Luke Walton officially became the Kings' new coach Monday, the team announced, just four days after Dave Joerger was fired. Walton will be introduced at a press conference later Monday.

“I have known Luke for many years, and I am so excited to welcome him and his family to the Sacramento Kings,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said in a team-issued statement. “I look forward to his leadership on the court as we work to build a winning culture for many years to come.” 

Walton and the Kings agreed to a four-year contract Saturday, only one day after he mutually parted ways with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sam Amick of The Athletic was the first to report the deal, and NBC Sports California confirmed the details with a league source.

The Kings would not reveal terms of Walton’s deal, citing team policy.

The former player-turned-coach posted a 98-148 (.398) record during his three seasons in Los Angeles, but he dealt with myriad issues behind the scenes.

Before joining LA, the 39-year-old son of NBA legend Bill Walton worked under Steve Kerr as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors. He spent two seasons in Oakland, including a 43-game stint as an interim head coach while Kerr dealt with back issues.

Walton posted an incredible 39-4 record as a fill-in for Kerr, and even took home NBA Coach of the Month honors during his time.

Following Walton’s departure from the Lakers, Kerr shared his thoughts on his former understudy.

“As this job, as a coach in the NBA, you are 100 percent dependent on your circumstances -- the strength of the organization, the momentum, the unity -- everything has to be in good order,” Kerr said Friday at Warriors practice. “Because if it’s not, as we’ve witnessed with the Lakers, then there’s going to be casualties, and usually the coach is the first one.

“They are losing one of the best human beings in the NBA, they’re losing a guy who knows the game as well as anybody I’ve ever met, they’re losing somebody players believe in and players want to play for,” Kerr added.

The Kings have a strong young core. They posted a 39-43 record under Joerger this season, but they chose to go in a different direction after missing the playoffs for a 13th consecutive season.

During his Thursday press conference announcing Joerger's firing, Divac was clear that he wanted a coach who would continue to run the up-tempo style Sacramento became known for this season. 

[RELATED: Divac fires Joerger, takes full ownership of Kings' future]

"Our new coach, which I'm looking for, has to bring, first of all, that style we had last year -- that's Kings style," Divac said. "We have to play that way. Uptempo and moving the ball and communication and defined roles and, obviously, believing in the team."

The Lakers finished fourth in the NBA in pace, just ahead of the Kings. They were second in pace last season before LeBron James joined the franchise via free agency.

Walton is the 18th coach for the Kings since the franchise relocated to Sacramento prior to the 1985-86 season. He is the 10th coach since Rick Adelman left the post after eight years at the helm following the 2005-06 season.

Kings already back at team's practice facility early in NBA offseason

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USATSI

Kings already back at team's practice facility early in NBA offseason

SACRAMENTO -- The bounce of a ball is a siren's call for true hoopers. With the offseason fewer than six weeks old, Kings players have already descended on the team’s practice facility floor.

A few players took a quick break before jumping right back into the action. But, with the NBA draft still a month away, it’s already time to get the band back together.

De’Aaron Fox has been hitting the weight room hard for the last three weeks. He’s ready to back up his sophomore jump with another step forward in year three.

Frank Mason and Willie Cauley-Stein were in the gym shooting jumpers following Thursday’s draft prospect workout. Mason is getting a fresh start with a new head coach. The team has a third-year option on the former second round pick that becomes guaranteed in October, so he’s not wasting any time auditioning for Luke Walton and the Kings brass.

Cauley-Stein is a King until he’s not. The 25-year-old big can become a restricted free agent on June 30. It is unknown at this time if general manager Vlade Divac will extend a $6 million qualifying offer to the team’s starting center and make him an RFA, or if they will allow him to walk away for nothing.

Harry Giles continues to rehab his quad, and he’s getting stronger. He’s trying to show that he is part of the young core moving forward and he needs to bulk up if he’s going to play primarily at the center position.

After a quick trip to India with the NBA, Harrison Barnes is also back in Sacramento. The veteran forward has a player option for next season at $25 million that he’s likely to pick up. He has openly talked about the Kings’ trip to play in Mumbai during the preseason and it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.

Nemanja Bjelica has spent time in the gym, too, as has two-way player Wenyen Gabriel. Gabriel finished the season in a walking boot after a foot injury, and he’s just now starting to get up shots. Like most of the young Kings, his focus this summer is on getting stronger -- whether it’s for a second season with the Stockton Kings of the G League or with the parent club.

Stockton head coach Ty Ellis is in town helping run prospect workouts, as is player development coach Bobby Jackson.

Luke Walton is working to fill out his coaching staff and has not been made available to the media. The team has yet to place a timetable on the investigation into sexual assault allegations made against the 39-year-old and they have no plans to comment publicly on the situation until a joint investigation with the NBA is completed.

While no additions to Walton’s staff have been announced, Jesse Mermuys -- who was an assistant with Walton in Los Angeles with the Lakers -- has been at the workouts as well, and is expected to join the staff in Sacramento.

[RELATED: Warriors, Kings games could start earlier in near future]

Assistant general managers Peja Stojakovic and Ken Catanella, and the team’s scouting staff, have been in attendance for the prospect workouts with Divac in Europe for the EuroLeague Final Four.  

More prospect workouts are expected this week as the Kings continue search for players worthy of the No. 40, 47 and 60 picks in the upcoming draft.  

Tacko Fall highlights six NBA draft prospects to roll through Sacramento

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AP

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.