Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton's job will be in jeopardy if the team's struggles continue, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania and Sam Amick. While Sacramento got off to a promising 5-4 start to the season, the Kings have now lost their past four games in a row to fall to 5-8. Team owner Vivek Ranadive has fired coaches early in the season before. Mike Malone was axed only 24 games into the 2014-15 campaign despite a strong start because they struggled after star center DeMarcus Cousins caught viral meningitis. If the Kings continue to struggle, Walton might not even last that long.
Of their four recent losses, only one, a 109-104 defeat at the hands of the Phoenix Suns, came against a team currently above .500. The Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs have also defeated the Kings in this stretch. Their next two games are on the road against the 3-9 Detroit Pistons and the 4-8 Minnesota Timberwolves. Losses against them certainly wouldn't help Walton's cause.
The Kings have missed the playoffs 15 seasons in a row, but the franchise has made it clear that they expect that to change. "One thing that's really helped us is (that) we have a very, very clear goal," general manager Monte McNair told The Athletic when the Kings were 5-5. "We want to get this organization back to the playoffs. We want to get back there, (and) that helps (that) we have a singular focus." Strong starts from Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield helped the Kings to their strong initial start, but as their struggles have worsened, De'Aaron Fox's shooting woes have become significantly more problematic.
After shooting over 47 percent from the field and 32 percent from behind the arc last season, Fox is down to 41 percent and 23 percent, respectively. He's drawing 1.6 fewer free throw attempts per game, averaging 1.1 fewer assists and turning the ball over a career-high 3.4 times per game. Whether it's the Wilson ball, the league's more stringent officiating or struggles in adjusting to Tyrese Haliburton as his new backcourt-mate in place of Hield, who is now coming off of the bench, is unclear. But at the moment, Fox isn't earning the max salary Sacramento gave him in the 2020 offseason.
Walton reportedly still has strong relationships with many players in the Kings locker room, and that is what helped him keep his job last season. But Walton is the 11th coach the Kings have had during this 15-year run without a postseason appearance. This is not an especially patient organization. If he doesn't right the ship quickly, they're going to start looking for coach No. 12.