Moving forward, Liberty Ballers will conduct a question-and-answer session with someone possessing in-depth knowledge of the Philadelphia 76ers’ imminent opponent. Up next is Jillian Adge, who covers the Sacramento Kings for Be Heard.
What’s one key matchup you’re keeping tabs on for this game?
De’Aaron Fox vs Tyrese Maxey.
Fox is the head of the snake and, as most know, is having a down year. The coach he liked and publicly said he was behind, Luke Walton, was just fired, so I am watching to see how he responds. This is a player who has said many times he wants to be the one that finally takes the Kings back to the playoffs and glory days. The Kings have lost seven of their last eight games and we need the energy of Star Fox back to start righting the ship.
What’s your assessment on Sacramento’s season thus far and its outlook moving forward?
During the first 10 games, we saw a team that might be finally making a turn, only to be followed by the same team we saw last season, who had two nine- game losing streaks and missed the playoffs for the 15th season. The team looks lost and their leader looks apathetic in post-game sessions. The coaching change finally happened, but it happened 17 games too late. This is the third interim coach in the new ownership’s eight-year tenure and they have yet to have a legitimate coaching search that resulted in the GM choosing his own coach. Just crazy to say or even write.
I wish new head coach Alvin Gentry the best but he has a big task ahead of him in what is said to be a playoffs or bust year by the front office. I am as skeptical as anyone on if we will see a difference in style of play. The only thing I can hope will right itself are the rotations and players having a legitimate role instead of playing five games and then sitting the next five.
The outlook moving forward, I think, will depend a lot on Fox and how this team does the next two weeks leading up to the start of trade season. If they continue this spiral, we might see our first fire sale and first true tank job in 15 seasons, regardless of the aforementioned playoff goal. I would rather have a GM admit for once a plan did not work and actually do something about it than continue down the middle lane that nets us a late lottery pick. If they are able to figure out how to turn the ship around, then I would like to see an aggressive trade season that works to right the roster imbalance. We are a team of guards, centers, and two wings.
Biggest pleasant surprise of the season?
I would say Rico Hines being promoted to the front of the bench following the Walton firing today. The answer might seem unconventional since it is not about a player, but I like seeing good things happen to good people and that is Hines. Most probably do not know this, but he predated Luke Walton’s time with the Kings. He started with the Stockton Kings G League team as an assistant coach in 2016. When Luke was hired, he brought Hines onto he coaching staff in a player development role his first season and then, promoted him to Head of Player Development and Assistant Coach the following year. Players around the league love and respect Hines, and having a guy like that on the bench is a huge win for Sacramento.
Biggest disappointment of the season?
It feels like the start of another lost season. I really hope I am wrong. Fox’s regression has been hard to watch because we have never seen a slump like this from him before. He looks uncomfortable and apathetic post-game, and it has just been really disappointing. I still believe in him and that he can turn it around. Hopefully, we can start that spark on Monday against the Sixers.
What’s one thing Sixers fans should watch for in this game?
Keep an eye on the courtside seats — you just might witness a storyline from “The Sandlot” haha. All kidding aside, we know these teams have had the initial “hey, what is the Ben Simmons asking price” conversation and that each team’s lead decision-maker, Monte McNair and Daryl Morey, worked together in Houston. McNair was discovered by Morey before taking the job here. If the Kings end up needing to make that trade splash, there are plenty of possible options here. During the game, keep an eye on the usual names mentioned in those trade reports.
What’s your reaction to the Luke Walton firing? Why, if you believe so, was he wrong the fit for this team and what should the Kings be searching for in their new head coach?
I will start off by reiterating what I said in the first question: the coaching change finally happened, but it happened 17 games too late. The Kings fired Dave Joerger, who coached the Kings’ most successful season since Rick Adelman, with the promise that Luke Walton was going to be the one that took this team to the next level. The team failed to do that Walton’s first season, but were invited to the Orlando Bubble and laid an egg.
Vlade Divac was subsequently fired and Walton was kept on by ownership to be paired with McNair. One can blame ownership for not firing Walton when Divac was let go, which prevented McNair from hiring his own coach. At the end of the day, the product was inconsistent, uninspired and, ultimately, the players looked lost. McNair says he wants them to be playing faster and will give Gentry every opportunity this season to hit benchmarks to continue as the coach next season. Time will tell.
It is hard for me to say exactly what they should be searching for, based on the unknown of who will be on the roster next season. But I just hope we finally get to see a real coaching search because there is a lot of talent out there waiting for their first opportunity or their next opportunity to prove the previous organization wrong. (Sam Cassell, Becky Hammon, Kenny Atkinson, Terry Stotts and Mike Di’Antoni, for example)