The Kings will continue to hitch their wagon to Luke Walton for at least one more season.
Per reporting from James Ham of NBC Sports, Sacramento has decided to retain Walton. Walton’s contract wasn’t up, but there was plenty of speculation as to whether the head coach would remain with the Kings after missing the playoffs in each of his first two years and failing to improve their record in the process.
According to a league source, Luke Walton will continue as head coach of the Sacramento Kings next season.— James Ham (@James_HamNBCS) May 17, 2021
Nevertheless, players have continued to express enthusiastic support for Walton, in particular De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, the latter of whom went to bat for Walton in his exit interview earlier today.
As The Athletic reported earlier this month, the Kings owe $11.5 million to Walton for the remainder of his contract and cannot defer any of those payments, so it’s possible that this decision was financially motivated instead of based on Walton’s performance. To Walton’s credit, Haliburton did have a fine rookie season under his tutelage and Fox has improved steadily over the past two years. Walton also brought in highly-respected assistant coaches to round out the staff, showing a willingness to adapt after his first year in Sacramento.
The front office hasn’t made Walton’s job much easier. The team didn’t make any meaningful improvements to the roster other than drafting Haliburton, and the depth was clearly an issue during the first part of the season. By the time the Kings brought in reinforcements at the trade deadline, the starters were so banged up that it was too late to make a run at the postseason.
There is plenty of blame to be spread around for how the Kings ended this season. All we know for now is that the team has decided that Walton will not bear the brunt of it.