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Report: Kings to keep coach Luke Walton despite playoff drought extending to 15 seasons

Yahoo! Sports logo Yahoo! Sports 5/18/2021 Ryan Young

Despite missing the playoffs for a 15th straight season, the Sacramento Kings are sticking with coach Luke Walton.

The Kings, according to NBC Sports’ James Ham, plan to keep Walton as their head coach next season.

The Kings finished this season 31-41 and missed the playoffs for a 15th straight time, the longest current postseason drought in the NBA — which also matches the longest streak in league history (Los Angeles Clippers, 1977-91). Sacramento was on the cusp of the new play-in tournament until a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies bumped the Kings from contention and sealed the playoff drought.

Walton has been on the hot seat since August, when the Kings fired general manager Vlade Divac, who hired Walton in 2019 after Walton was fired from the Los Angeles Lakers. Assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic also left when Divac did.

The Kings hired general manager Monte McNair in September. McNair was previously an assistant general manager with the Houston Rockets and led the way in their analytics revolution.

Walton has gone 62-82 with the Kings in his two seasons in Sacramento, and finished both years with a 31-41 record.

Luke Walton talking on a cell phone: The Sacramento Kings will keep head coach Luke Walton next season. (AP/Steve Dykes) © Provided by Yahoo! Sports The Sacramento Kings will keep head coach Luke Walton next season. (AP/Steve Dykes)

De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton's absences hurt Kings

Though the Kings came close to ending the playoff drought, injuries and COVID-19 significantly hurt that bid.

Point guard De'Aaron Fox was sidelined with severe case of the coronavirus since April 22, and rookie Tyrese Haliburton suffered a season-ending knee injury May 2. 

Forward Marvin Bagley III (groin) and center Richaun Holmes (knee) also were shut down for the season.

Fox recently told Sports Illustrated that he wanted Walton to continue coaching.

“If you're not winning as a team, guys get traded, guys who were barely hanging on … get cut and are out the league and coaches get fired,” said Fox, who has seen all of that in his brief career. Perhaps with that in mind, Fox made a broad case for continuity, noting that the best teams are the ones where “players play together longer and develop chemistry, and coaches continue to grow and trust all their players.”

“Everybody wants to continue to grow together and keep this group together, and continue to play for a coach that you trust in,” he said.

Fox, it seems, has gotten his wish. Whether Walton can finally get the team over the hump and into the postseason, however, remains to be seen.

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