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Luke Walton reportedly reaches deal to become Sacramento head coach

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Luke Walton was not out of a job for long.

Officially fired After coming to a “mutual agreement” to leave the Lakers on Friday (it was more of the crossed out part than the official line) Walton met on Saturday with Kings’ GM Vlade Divac and quickly came to terms to take over as the Kings’ head coach.

As noted by Cunningham, Divac had interest three years ago but Walton wanted to return to the Lakers organization. Three years later, rumors of Sacramento’s interest in Walton were floating around NBA circles several weeks ago, before Divac fired coach Dave Joerger (as part of Divac consolidating power) or before Walton was out with the Lakers. This time things were lined up for this to come together quickly.

In basketball terms, this seems a good fit. Walton worked well with the young Lakers a season ago, and he wants to play an uptempo, ball-sharing style that would fit well with De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, and the rest of the young Kings roster. Walton got the Lakers to play defense, the end of the court the Kings need to work on the most.

The question is can Divac and Walton form a bond and a stable environment for an organization that has been the poster child for disruption and dysfunction for years. The Kings have missed the playoffs for 13 seasons for a reason.

For the first time in a decade, the Kings seem headed in the right direction and Walton can fit with that. If owner Vivek Ranadive and his team can just stay out of the way and Vlade Divac has learned from past mistakes, this team is well positioned for the future.

Kings sign GM Vlade Divac to four-year deal

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Update: Kings release:

Today, the Sacramento Kings announced that the team has extended the contract of General Manager Vlade Divac through the 2022-23 season.

“It is an exciting time to be in Sacramento and I am honored to continue my work of building towards sustained success for this franchise,” said Kings General Manager Vlade Divac. “I believe our team has what it takes to win and make the playoffs. I want to thank Vivek, the entire Kings organization and the fans for all their support.”

“Vlade has been vital to what we are building here and I am so pleased to announce his extension,” said Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé. “Throughout his entire career, Vlade is someone who has always made those around him better, both on and off the court. I look forward to our bright future ahead as we work to make Sacramento Proud.”

 

The Kings were the NBA’s most pleasant surprise. Widely expected to be among the league’s worst teams, Sacramento went 39-43 – its best season in years. The Kings played fast and fun. De'Aaron Fox improved like crazy. Buddy Hield broke out. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein and Marvin Bagley III bolstered a young supporting cast.

Rightfully, the person in charge of the roster will get rewarded.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

According to two​ sources with​ knowledge of​ the​ situation,​​ Kings general manager Vlade Divac has agreed to terms on a four-year deal that runs through the 2022-23 season.

According to the sources, the fate of the Kings’ third-year coach rests solely in Divac’s hands. As part of Divac’s agreement, owner Vivek Ranadive made it clear that the team’s top basketball executive will make the final call on the coach who has one season and approximately $5 million remaining on his current contract.

Divac got off to a rough start as an executive. He has seemingly grown into his role and has absolutely put the Kings on the right track. They’re wise to lock him up.

But dysfunction clearly remains within the organization. There’s no other way to explain Dave Joerger, who deserves serious Coach of the Year consideration, not being certain to return. Joerger is caught in a larger divide, though it’s not as if he lacks his own internal squabbles.

Plenty of challenges remain for Divac. The Kings must continue to build without this year’s first-round pick, which he traded in an awful deal earlier in his tenure. Sacramento must handle Harrison Barnes, an in-season addition who didn’t lead to the desired immediate success and holds a $25,102,512 player option for next season. And the Kings must determine who’ll coach them.

But Sacramento finally has a promising collection of young talent. Divac has given himself a strong foundation to build on as he confronts other challenges.

Kemba Walker, Al Horford among six finalists for NBA’s Sportsmanship Award

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Kemba Walker has never had an All-Star teammate. He’s leading a Hornets team that has long struggled to build a supporting cast around him. He’s rumored to be likely to leave Charlotte in free agency this summer.

But he keeps playing well, carrying himself with dignity and giving full effort.

That’s why Walker – who won the NBA Sportsmanship Award the last two years – is again a finalist for the Joe Dumars Trophy.

Each NBA team nominated one of its players, and a panel of five former players selected six division finalists. The finalists:

Middleton, Conley and Adams were also nominated for Teammate of the Year. Unsurprising there’s plenty of overlap in players up for these awards.

Embiid has 21 points, 17 rebounds, leads 76ers past Kings

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A little rest and a taste of spring did a lot for Jimmy Butler.

Butler had 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists while playing with the type of assertiveness coach Brett Brown says the 76ers need from him in Philadelphia’s 123-114 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

Joel Embiid added 21 points and 17 rebounds and made some big plays on both ends of the court late in the fourth quarter for the 76ers, who won their third in a row to pull even with idle Indiana for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia holds the tiebreaker with the Pacers and is trying to maintain hold of home court in a first-round playoff series, something Brown said he coveted before the contest. Fifth-seeded Boston is two games behind the 76ers and Pacers.

In order to secure home court and go deep in the playoffs, Brown knows he’ll need Butler to play the way he did against the Kings.

“He was our bell ringer,” Brown said. “We will not be as good as we can be without him playing the way he played tonight.”

Butler rested in Philadelphia’s last game, a 106-99 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday. And he felt even more refreshed by Friday’s weather in Philly, which reached 75 degrees.

“That’s all it takes,” Butler said. “Rest and good weather. It makes my knees not ache.”

And it’s only going to warm up as the postseason draws near, a great sign for 76ers fans.

“The snow is gone,” Butler said. “We’re good. We’re ready to rock.”

Tobias Harris and JJ Redick each added 19 points and Ben Simmons contributed 18 for the 76ers.

Harrison Barnes and De'Aaron Fox had 16 points apiece for Sacramento, which lost its third in a row and seventh in the last nine to further hurt its playoff push. The Kings, who last made the postseason in 2006, entered ninth in the West, five games behind the Clippers.

“We’re playing hard, we’re playing the right way, we’re playing together,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “The wins are going to come.”

And how?

“Don’t play Golden State, Oklahoma City, Denver, Philly, Boston . I can go on,” Joerger joked.

With Philadelphia clinging to a four-point lead with 3 minutes remaining, Embiid blocked Willie Cauley-Stein‘s layup attempt. Two possessions later, Embiid rejected Barnes’ close-range try before hitting a short jumper of his own to make it 121-114 with 1:45 remaining.

“At the end of the day, I think Joel Embiid made two defensive plays that were terrific,” Joerger said.

The Kings were playing one night after a 126-120 loss at Boston, a game in which they had a 17-point first-half lead.

Against Philadelphia, Sacramento played from behind from the outset. Philadelphia increased its 62-58 halftime advantage to as many as 13 in the third quarter on Redick’s 3 that made it 93-80 with 2:13 left in the period.

The 76ers had a 10-point advantage to start the fourth, but Yogi Ferrell‘s 3 capped a 9-2 Kings run to start the period that pulled Sacramento within 101-98 with 9:25 to play. But Simmons scored consecutive buckets from close range to increase the lead to seven and Sacramento never would get closer than three the rest of the way.

 

Clippers solidify playoff chances with 116-109 win over Kings

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Landry Shamet scored eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, Lou Williams made two free throws with 7.9 seconds left and the Los Angeles Clippers held off the Sacramento Kings 116-109 on Friday night.

Danilo Gallinari had 19 points and nine rebounds, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 15 and Ivica Zubac added 10 points and 10 rebounds to help the Clippers complete a season sweep of the Kings in a game that was critical for both teams’ postseason hopes.

The Clippers end the night the seven seed in the West, three full games (two in the loss column) ahead of the 10-seed Kings (and four full games up on the Lakers who lost to the Bucks Friday). The Kings are 2.5 games behind the Spurs, who are the eight seed and the team holding the final playoff slot in the West.

Buddy Hield had 23 points for Sacramento. De'Aaron Fox added 12 points and 12 assists, and Willie Cauley-Stein had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

It wasn’t easy.

The Kings trimmed a 13-point deficit to 110-107 with 1:16 remaining following back-to-back dunks from Harrison Barnes and Cauley-Stein.

Williams made a short jumper then added two free throws after Fox scored on a layup. Montrezl Harrell added a pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds left.

The Clippers have won nine straight against the Kings.

Neither team gained much of an advantage during a back-and-forth first half. The Clippers led by 10 midway through the first quarter but Harry Giles made back-to-back shots and Hield added three free throws to put the Kings ahead 56-52 at halftime.