We’re officially 10 days into the Alvin Gentry era of Sacramento Kings basketball after Luke Walton was fired by general manager Monte McNair on Nov. 21. Since then, the Kings have played in five contests, and both flashes of promise and peril have come to light in this hybrid brand of basketball Sactown is trying to reclaim.
In the last week, the Kings have lost to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Memphis Grizzlies, picked up a win over the Portland Trail Blazers and split two with the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s a very confusing data size as the games they should have lost, they won and vice versa, but it just wouldn’t be Kings basketball if it all made sense.
So through this very small sampling, it’s hard to completely assess Gentry’s impact on this team, if any, but here are a few noticeable changes I’ve been able to pick out in this five-game run under a new head coach.
More players are seeing minutes and Gentry isn’t afraid to flip the script.
We may never know the whole story, but the reintegration of Marvin Bagley III into this roster and more importantly, reintegrating well has been a bright spot in Gentry’s short tenure. Although a polarizing player in a Kings uniform, it’s undeniable that he was essential in both victories over Portland and Los Angeles.
Clearly whatever bad blood between Walton and Bagley has dissipated and the organization has an opportunity to capitalize on Bagley’s development before the trade window opens in coming weeks.
Terence Davis has also been re-introduced to the lineup, and despite the Kings’ bout of injuries, Davis has produced in both of the team’s victories under Gentry. Gentry still has kinks to work out with this roster, but the willingness to experiment in real time rather than committing to eight of the same, stale players is a much-needed improvement from Walton.
Louis King and Neemias Queta joined the team following strong showcases in the G League, which is exciting for Sacramento fans who follow their game in Stockton — hopefully they’re next in line for their opportunity.
The “quick pace of play” narrative surrounding Gentry’s brand of basketball hasn’t really differed from Walton’s.
Gentry’s first correction in his first game as head coach was taking Chimezie Metu out of the starting lineup and replacing him with Moe Harkless prior to Harkless’ injury. Before he left, Walton said Metu would “start five games as a sampling for future starting five combinations,” which clearly wasn’t working after the fourth loss in a row. I appreciated Gentry immediately correcting that. Although Harkless isn’t necessarily the ideal starting 3, he’s been a better option than Metu in our losing skid.
Pace is what Gentry is supposed to offer to this team, knowing that De’Aaron Fox’s best basketball was played when he is able to feast on the run. But despite Walton and Gentry having almost identical paces of play, the team seems to be getting out and exploding on a different level than before.
Execution on the entire roster’s end? Still needs serious work.
In-game adjustments are clearly being made, but not executed by the players.
Gentry seems to be working on correcting one of Walton’s most blaring coaching issues: second half adjustments. Early in the season the Kings were infamous for their inability to finish fourth quarters. That has followed them throughout Walton’s tenure despite De’Aaron Fox’s notorious final frame offensive eruptions.
Gentry is changing lineups to open up the third quarter and is quick to pull the trigger when things go stagnant. When Damian Jones was making an impact on the victory over Portland last month, Alex Len told Gentry to keep him in the game and he abided. The outcome? A thrilling victory without Fox, Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes.
Finding a middle ground with players was a refreshing action to witness as a fan, and knowing that he at least has the locker room is promising in what has been a hurricane of a week for Sacramento.
Overall, it’s going to be hard to gauge Gentry’s improvements if the Kings continue playing with such an up and down outcome. A lot of it feels stale, and the entrance of a new coach has not meant the exit of a bad team. The next quarter of the season should highlight what Walton left behind as well as what Gentry is really bringing to the table as Sacramento looks for a more concrete means of winning.