The Sacramento Kings hope a coaching change can turn around a disappointing start beginning with a matchup with the visiting Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.
The Kings fired Luke Walton on Sunday, less than 24 hours after suffering consecutive one-sided home losses to the Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz over a two-day stretch.
Longtime NBA coach Alvin Gentry has been tasked on an interim basis with getting things rolling in a positive direction after the Kings have lost seven of eight to fall near the bottom of the Western Conference standings about one-fifth of the way through the season.
“We addressed the team,” Kings general manager Monte McNair said at the formal announcement of Walton’s firing. “The guys remain confident. We all know that we need to get out of this 1-7 stint.”
The Kings were beaten at home 108-89 by the Raptors on Friday night, then 123-105 by the Jazz on Saturday. They still have two games remaining on a four-game homestand and a favorable schedule ahead with 14 of their next 21 at home.
Sacramento’s biggest problems have come at the defensive end, where they rank in the bottom five of the league in points allowed (111.1) after giving up 100 or more in seven straight games and 15 of 17 overall this season.
The 76ers also have struggled defensively of late, but that can be attributed to the absence of Joel Embiid for the last seven games for COVID-related reasons. Philadelphia also has gone the whole season without defensive standout Ben Simmons.
Embiid is expected to miss the remainder of the 76ers’ six-game trip that concludes Wednesday at Golden State. The team has gone 1-6 in his absence, with three losses in four games to begin the trip.
Philadelphia is coming off a competitive, 118-111 loss at Portland on Saturday night, a game in which Tyrese Maxey continued a brilliant run with 28 points and nine assists. He’s averaged 22.5 points on the trip after having scored 31 and 33 in the club’s last two home games.
“The kid is unreal,” teammate Georges Niang said. “When I think about what I was doing at 21 years old, it would not be scoring 31 points in an NBA game. For him to come in and do what he does every day and take ownership of it. … He continues to grow and get better, and it shows.”
Maxey, who started only eight games as a rookie last season, has stepped into the void left by Simmons’ dispute with the team.
Interestingly, as Simmons trade talk has quieted a bit, Sacramento continues to be the team mentioned as much as any as a possible destination.
The 76ers will get a first-hand look at what the Kings have to offer on Monday. Their most intriguing pieces are young guards De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, both seen as potentially attractive to the foundering Eastern club should it decide to move its best backcourt player.
The 76ers have beaten the Kings in five straight, including two in a row at Sacramento. Coincidentally, neither Embiid nor Simmons played when Philadelphia recorded a 129-105 home win in the last head-to-head in March.
–Field Level Media