As of this writing, Luke Walton may still have his job intact as the Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach. But with the Sacramento Kings having just fired Dave Joerger despite a surprisingly solid 2018-19 campaign, reports suggest that the Lakers’ inter-division rivals are interested in hiring Walton as his replacement.
In a tweet posted on Thursday morning, Marc Stein of The New York Times cited league sources, who claimed that the Kings “would have interest” in Walton in the event that they would push forward with a coaching change. This tweet was shared just hours before the Kings ultimately decided to fire Joerger, who, per Basketball-Reference, went 98-148 in three seasons in Sacramento, but helped the team improve from 27 to 39 wins in their recently concluded 2018-19 campaign.
Separately, The Athletic’s Sam Amick tweeted that Walton is the “clear frontrunner” to take over from Joerger, though he added that there could be a few other “strong” candidates for the job, including former New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have yet to make a decision on Luke Walton, whose job security as head coach has been rumored to be in jeopardy since the early goings of the 2018-19 NBA season. In a report published Tuesday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne wrote that former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and Walton allegedly did not have a “meaningful conversation” in the weeks leading up to Johnson’s announcement on Tuesday that he would be stepping down from his post.
— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) April 11, 2019
With the above rumor in mind, as well as Lakers owner Jeanie Buss’ previous comments about deferring to Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka with regard to Walton’s future, Shelburne added that these are “foreboding” signs that could point to Walton’s imminent firing after a three-year stint that yielded no playoff appearances. The Lakers finished with a 37-45 record this season, marking a two-game improvement over their 2017-18 record, but were largely seen as a major disappointment in the light of the team’s acquisition of four-time NBA MVP LeBron James in July of last year.
Regardless of whether Luke Walton ends up replacing Dave Joerger or not, the Sacramento Kings will be entering the 2019-20 NBA season with a promising young roster. Starting guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield had career-best seasons in 2018-19, while last year’s No. 2 overall draft pick, Marvin Bagley III, also made a good showing as a reserve big man, averaging 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds and shooting 50.4 percent from the field, as shown on his Basketball-Reference player page. Per Silver Screen and Roll, the Kings also have a lot to spend on prospective free agents, with $36 million in cap space — this is a figure that could increase to about $60 million if forward Harrison Barnes declines his player option and enters free agency this summer.