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Kings GM Monte McNair says keeping Luke Walton is a basketball decision

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McNair said he likes the direction the team is headed under Walton and thinks he is the right coach to get Sacramento back into the playoffs.

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

In his first season as the general manager of the Sacramento Kings, Monte McNair showed that he isn’t afraid to make changes. McNair made three deals at the trade deadline and elected not to match the Atlanta Hawks’ offer for talented guard Bogdan Bogdanovic last offseason.

The Kings went 31-41 and missed the playoffs for the 15th consecutive year. Despite the disappointing record, McNair is giving head coach Luke Walton his full support.

“Luke [Walton] will continue to be our head coach. The team finished strong down the stretch, obviously did not ultimately reach our goal, but he has the support of our players,” McNair said. “We have a great working relationship, and we both acknowledge that we have to become better in many areas.”

Walton still has two years remaining on his contract and is due $11.5 million over the next two seasons. McNair says the financial commitment has nothing to do with his decision to retain Walton.

“I understand that’s kind of out there, but I’ve been given every resource I need to get this team back to the playoffs, and this was a basketball decision,” McNair said.

One of the areas McNair wants to see improvement on is the defense. Sacramento finished in the bottom three in the NBA in points allowed per game, opponents’ field goal percentage, and defensive rating. Although the Kings can score against any team in the league, they failed to improve on their own end for a second straight year under Walton. McNair acknowledged that the pair would try and address the defensive issues this offseason.

“Defensively, goes without saying has to be much improved,” McNair said. “Luke and I recognize that we’re going to work together to improve that.”

McNair tried to upgrade the team’s defense by adding Terence Davis, Moe Harkless and Delon Wright at the trade deadline. Following the deals, Sacramento gave up three fewer points per game than its season average.

“Going into the deadline we targeted defense, players who can help us guard the ball on the perimeter, give us length, some real tenacity on that end,” McNair said. “I think we did see improvement in the second half, especially towards the end, the last two or three weeks of the year we were a significantly improved defense, I think those three guys were certainly a big part of that.”

Although the Kings looked like a better team down the stretch, they still battled inconsistency all season. They had a pair of nine-game losing streaks, which torpedoed any chance they had to get a play-in position. McNair understands the disappointment of the fans for yet again missing the postseason.

“We’re disappointed, the fanbase deserves better, they deserve the playoffs,” McNair said. “We feel the frustration. We saw some good stretches but ultimately we were too inconsistent, and we need to find more consistency.”

But McNair remains optimistic that the franchise is trending in the right direction. He wants to be patient while rebuilding the roster and feels like Sacramento has the right people in place to turn the ship around.

“We’ve built that trust, and we need this stability in this organization to ultimately take that next step on the season ... McNair said.

“We’re gonna do everything in our power to be aggressive and improve the team and ultimately get back to the playoffs.”

How do you feel about the job McNair has done so far?