20Q | Articles | Commentary

20Q: Can Luke Walton salvage his future in Sacramento?

Is the Kings Head Coach doomed from the start?

Luke Walton.

What should the Sacramento Kings do about Luke Walton?

That question has been asked ad nasueum since last season's lackluster results and horrific bubble performance. The financial restraints of the COVID-19 pandemic have kept Walton around due to the three remaining years on his contract, at least in the short-term. It's assumed that his future dismissal is all but set in stone, as existing head coaches rarely last long with a new General Manager, but with Luke sticking around for a bit, perhaps it's time to reverse the question. What should Luke Walton do about the Sacramento Kings?

In order to try and prove his place as the man at the helm for Sacramento, Walton will need to accomplish several things, and accomplish them very quickly. The clock is ticking. First, he must adjust his approach to the team's offensive game plan. While Luke's plan to slow things down to actually install a half-court offense, rather than just roll the ball down the floor like Dave Joerger in 2018-2019, was probably well intentioned, his refusal to push the ball at all ultimately cost the Kings numerous wins. Sacramento placed just 19th in pace during the regular season and 23rd in fast break points, a clear failure to take advantage of the roster's incredible speed. One bit of good news was the transition that took place in the bubble, as the Kings jumped to 5th in pace and 1st in fast break points per game. Similarly, in the team's first preseason game Friday night, the Kings played at an insane pace of 108.5. Walton must strike a proper balance of teaching fundamentals and enabling his team to get some easy buckets.

In addition to changing the general game plan, Luke must also improve his utilization of his best players, namely De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. It's obvious that both players are at their most effective when sprinting down the floor and taking advantage of teams in the half-court, but that's not the only troubling area for Walton. Buddy Hield's misuse as a primary initiator and one-on-one defender has been highly criticized and highly classified, and Luke needs to find a way to compromise between what he wants players to be and who they actually are in reality.

Looking at the other side of the floor, although the Kings aren't exactly built to compete for a deep playoff run, or a playoff run at all, there is a pressing need to establish some sort of defensive identity. Sacramento was 19th in team defensive rating in 2019, making essentially no progress from Dave Joerger's tenure, in which they placed 21st in the league. Walton sacrificed offensive production partly in the name of defense, but the defense never took hold. Even if the Kings win only a third of their games due to a lack of top-end talent, installing a defensive game plan is a must for Walton's future.

Thus far in his time in Sacramento, Luke Walton has yet to impress, and frankly, the chances of him impressing this season are very slim. Last year, multiple players regressed under his tutelage, and the history of young players exploding after he leaves or they leave him has become a highly concerning trend. If Walton has any hope of coaching out the rest of his contract in Sacramento, he'll need to make some major philosophical changes in a very short period of time. If not, the Sacramento Kings will certainly need to do something about Luke Walton.

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Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
December 12, 2020 8:47 am

It’s ok, he has Whiteside.

SMF-PDXConnection
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December 12, 2020 8:47 am

I don’t know. 2020 seems to be a good year for firing incompetent men from positions of power they didn’t deserve. Ownership should just suck up that they might have to sell a few Ferraris or one of their Swiss ski chalets to pay off Alton’s contract.

Otis
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December 12, 2020 8:52 am

I think this is the one thing keeping me from truly embracing this team – I’d love to see them allow Monte to add his own HC, sooner rather than later.

We can talk about this being a wasted year regardless, but why waste a year? It could be a development year instead, under a different coaching vision.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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December 12, 2020 9:02 am
Reply to  Otis

What gives me a sinking feeling in my stomach is the hiring of Gentry. I doubt he came cheap and I’d imagine he is on a multi-year deal. Why hire him if you do intend remove Walton in the near future? Gentry is a Walton hire and before folks say, he’d make a fine replacement, I suggest those same folks go and look at his coaching history.

RikSmits
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December 12, 2020 9:12 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Yeah, I like Gentry the person, I am not so thrilled with Gentry the head coach.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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December 12, 2020 9:18 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I think Gentry is a fine assistant coach in charge of offensive sets, which again makes me wonder why he was hired if the Kings a really attempting a rebuild.

Maybe at some point Walton goes, another head coach is hired, and Gentry stays? Seems doubtful.

SMF-PDXConnection
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December 12, 2020 9:20 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Geez. The thought of hiring a new head coach and making them keep all the assistants is worse than hiring a new GM and making them keep the previous coach.

So, this Kings organization is totally doing that at some point, aren’t they?

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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December 12, 2020 9:24 am

My hope would be to fire Walton, Gentry becomes interim coach for the remainder of the season, and then he leaves for another coaching job elsewhere, thus walking away from his contract. McNair then has a clean slate to hire who he wants next summer.

Marty
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December 12, 2020 10:11 am
Reply to  Adamsite

I strongly believe that’s the plan.

rockbottom
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December 12, 2020 10:34 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Gentry has been a head coach for five franchises and a very much losing record ! Do not believe any franchise is interested in being number six with his track record ! Assistant – yes !

rc50cal
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December 12, 2020 9:15 am
Reply to  Adamsite

The timing of the Gentry hiring is curious. It only makes sense if management thinks he’s the Walton replacement, or if they truly don’t yet know what they’re doing with Walton.

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 11:18 am
Reply to  rc50cal

Luke hired Gentry to replace Igor

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 11:17 am
Reply to  Otis

I think they’re basically pot committed at this point. You don’t allow a coach to hire two assistants then fire the head coach before they’ve had a chance to implement their plan. I mean you can do that, but I think it does more harm than good. The coaching community is like a fraternity. They tend to be protective of their own. Giving this coaching staff a fair shot is the best way to ensure the team will be able to choose from a pool of competent candidates down the line.

Otis
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December 12, 2020 4:07 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

I could be mistaken, but aren’t you a proponent of allowing a GM to hire their own HC?

I think it does more harm than good.

I expect that the coaching community wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Walton gets axed.

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 6:35 pm
Reply to  Otis

i dont remember saying anything about surprises?

To reiterate, it is my belief that if you treat a coach unfairly, then you’ll have a hard time trying to convince potential replacements they’ll be treated fairly once hired. That limits the pool of potential coaches willing to work here. We saw a similar situation play out during the GM search.

ManilaBayCleanerCrew
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December 13, 2020 7:14 am
Reply to  Otis

Methinks it’s gonna be Gentry.

HeuristicLineup
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December 12, 2020 8:59 am

Technically the stimulus the league sent them more than covers the costs of Walton’s contract so they wouldn’t even have to do a money grab from the minority owners.

SMF-PDXConnection
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December 12, 2020 9:19 am

Something tells me the league wouldn’t appreciate the optics of using stimulus money to fire someone.

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 11:34 am

who knows. Luke gets paid and they use the money to guarantee another coach’s contract. That’s probably better than just picketing the money from a labor perspective.

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 11:44 am
Reply to  RORDOG

Lol..🪧 the 💰

SunBreakTheDawn
December 12, 2020 1:38 pm

As a fan I’d much rather see that stimulus money go to G1C employees who’ve been laid off. And/or going to local food banks to support families going hungry this winter.

white.chocolate
December 12, 2020 8:52 am

Can’t wait to see the back of him. The sooner, the better.

HeuristicLineup
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December 12, 2020 8:56 am

He’ll have to check the tapes and get back to you.

hank_04
December 12, 2020 9:07 am

I’m curious to what extent our impression of Walton is (very understandably) shaded by the circumstances of his arrival. I find it hard to root for him because of those allegations, and suspect some of us are feeling the same and that it has impacted the way we evaluate his performance.

I wonder this because the criticism you see lobbied toward him most frequently is that he didn’t play with as fast a pace as Joeger did. However, it’s important to note that during Joeger’s first two years here, the Kings ranked 23rd and 30th in pace, respectively. Ah, the Z-Bo days.

Personally, I dislike Walton and would rather have a new coach who I could root for guilt free. That being said, I don’t think he’s as below replacement level as we make him out to be on this site, and that if we were to replace him with any of the immediately available candidates, the outcome would not be too much different.

HeuristicLineup
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December 12, 2020 9:09 am
Reply to  hank_04

The thing is, I hated Walton when he was with the Lakers. I thought he actually had miserable clock management and late game rotations with the Warriors, but that was such a weird situation and I wasn’t sure how much he was actually coaching so I gave him the benefit of the doubt with the Lakers. Then he went to LA and I had absolutely no idea what that team was even running, the misuse of players was abysmal, the rotations were awful, I started tweeting what a shit coach he was… Then he came here and then the allegations came. His time here he basically just left off with every single one of my issues I had with him in LA.

hank_04
December 12, 2020 9:14 am

I didn’t watch enough of him in LA to have an informed opinion. And in Sacramento, I agree with the critiques Tim listed above, I by no means think he’s a great coach. I just think the coach we’d bring in to replace him (likely Gentry) would also have a laundry list of criticisms coming his way as well.

MillersCornrows
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December 12, 2020 10:28 pm

I know Lakers fans who have criticized him in the same manner and can’t stand him.

rc50cal
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December 12, 2020 9:12 am
Reply to  hank_04

My opinion is colored by both the allegations against him and his performance to date as a coach. He’s also a Laker, which doesn’t help.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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December 12, 2020 9:12 am
Reply to  hank_04

The problem I see is he is coaching for save his job and likely head coaching future. I for one feel that if he were fired tomorrow, he’d not get another head coaching job. Now, if McNair were able to hire the coach he wants, that coach would not feel pressure to win to save his job. He’d be in for the long haul and the thinly veiled rebuild. The agenda would be about development of youth at the cost of wins. With Walton, I just don’t think that is the goal.

hank_04
December 12, 2020 9:16 am
Reply to  Adamsite

That’s a good point. I would hope that McNair has had this conversation with Walton and emphasized that his performance will be based on development and culture building rather than wins, but that’s probably easier said than understood when you’re on the hot seat.

RikSmits
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December 12, 2020 9:19 am
Reply to  hank_04

Yeah, if you’re Walton, would you believe McNair if he said that?
I would expect him to switch to a handpicked coach as soon as he can.

Adamsite
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December 12, 2020 9:21 am
Reply to  hank_04

I would hope that conversation was held as well. If Walton begins the season with heavy minutes for the younger guys, I might buy it. If, however, he’s giving Joseph and Parker heavy minutes, I’d question it.

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 11:23 am
Reply to  Adamsite

I still don’t understand the logic that being insubordinate helps one maintain employment.

MillersCornrows
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December 12, 2020 10:31 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Tough crowd tonight. A lot of thumbs down for great comments.

Otis
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December 12, 2020 9:43 am
Reply to  hank_04

He’s a pig and quite likely got away with a felony. So yeah, I’m just generally not a fan of the Kings keeping a guy like that in that position.

Having said that, I also watched a ton of post-game pressers last year, and I’m not sure he even watched most of the games he coached.

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 11:21 am
Reply to  hank_04

I’m still bitter about firing Malone. I haven’t liked any coach since then partly because they all simply aren’t Malone.

RAP87
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December 12, 2020 7:08 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Agreed. Malone was probably the only good decision that Vivek made as chairman for the Kings.

Unfortunately, he chose to listen to Mullin and Pete D which ultimately led us to a downward spiral until now.

Speaking of Malone, he was raving about one of his assistants in Wes Unseld Jr. I wouldn’t mind Monte giving him a shot as our HC.

Carl
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December 12, 2020 1:20 pm
Reply to  hank_04

I thought Walton was a bum from the Warriors days. He got credit for doing nothing on a historically great team. The Warriors could have put a log in that spot at that point in time and would not have lost anything. One could argue that they did in fact put a log in that spot.

RikSmits
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December 12, 2020 9:07 am

I trust him to be the tank commander, I don’t trust him to develop talent nor to maximize the value of all the veteran players.

That’s the story for me, basically.

Otis
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December 12, 2020 9:41 am
Reply to  RikSmits

That might actually be the plan, but I hate the idea of just punting a year of these young players’ contracts on a guy that nobody expects to be the head coach long term.

RikSmits
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December 12, 2020 9:57 am
Reply to  Otis

Oh, I am not saying that agree with keeping him, just trying to see a half partially filled.

MillersCornrows
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December 12, 2020 10:33 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

A lot of thumbs down. Are there actually folks on here who like Walton? If so, don’t be a baby and just give thumbs down. How about you buck up and post a comment.

rc50cal
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December 12, 2020 9:10 am

Keep the chair warm, Luke.

Kosta
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December 12, 2020 10:40 am
Reply to  rc50cal

lukewarm?

hank_04
December 12, 2020 9:23 am

If we were to get rid of Walton this upcoming season, who would you see as the best replacement?

I would be very interested in Atkinson. It seems like what he did with the young guys in Brooklyn looks a lot like what we should hope for here. Granted, an assistant coach position in Los Angeles might look more attractive than a head coach job with the Kings, all things considered.

Adamsite
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December 12, 2020 9:31 am
Reply to  hank_04

He’d be on the list of quality candidates. I’d also add Ime Ime Udoka, Darvin Ham and Dayton’s Anthony Grant. I think there would be quite a few quality candidates our there.

SMF-PDXConnection
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December 12, 2020 9:39 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Don’t forget Becky Hammon, she seems to be doing a good job with the young players in San Antonio.

CarinaM707
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December 12, 2020 10:23 am

Yeah, I like Hammon, Udoka and Atkinson as options

Henry
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December 13, 2020 9:29 am
Reply to  CarinaM707

There would be some poetic justice in Hammon being Walton’s replacement.

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 11:29 am

Imagine downvoting someone for suggesting a woman is capable of being a head coach in the NBA

for the person who downvoted: why don’t you provide a detailed reason for why you disagree? This is a discussion forum after all. Don’t be shy.

SMF-PDXConnection
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December 12, 2020 11:53 am
Reply to  RORDOG

It’s the internet, based heavily in the US, in 2020. Easy to assume misogyny without any sort of explanation.

Have an upvote.

eddie41
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December 12, 2020 9:38 am

Can he? Yes. Will he, I doubt it. It would be ironic if he doesn’t start Haliburton, then gets fired, then remembers his desperate words from the bubble €œwe just gotta get some stops, we just gotta get some stops€, and then he watches the next coach start Halliburton and get some stops.

Klam
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December 12, 2020 9:53 am

Walton?
comment image

RobHessing
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December 12, 2020 10:16 am

Eh…

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Klam
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December 12, 2020 11:40 am
Reply to  RobHessing

But Vivek and Luke might have other plans…
comment image?itemid=14054558

meadsdman
December 12, 2020 10:35 am

I believe in any other year he would already be gone. The fans definitely want him to go. He has not shown the ability to make adjustments mid game or even have a game plan for some opponents. Kings will only go backward with Luke

SunBreakTheDawn
December 12, 2020 1:42 pm
Reply to  meadsdman

#fadeforcade

Kosta
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December 12, 2020 10:46 am

Vlade Divac certainly left an imprint on this franchise. Luke Walton is a chunk of that imprint.

It’s like almost a whole decade wasted–the half decade Vlade was in charge, and the half decade it might take to clean the mess up and get back to being relevant.

Jman1949
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December 12, 2020 10:57 am

OT: Housekeeping issue

Just a heads-up that new comments are appearing time-stamped as already 6 or 7 hours old. Hopefully someone is working on a fix before these threads get long enough that searching for newer, unread comments becomes impossible.

Just let us all know when to initiate €œCache Considerations€!

Klam
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December 12, 2020 12:06 pm

Lol, someone is definitely mad at all the Luke Walton jokes we’re making in this thread, considering they’ve gone in and downvoted like every comment. 😀

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 12:27 pm
Reply to  Klam

the Becky Hammon downvoter is trying to prove they’re not being misogynistic. It’s funny since they don’t realize the top downvoter ranking thing goes live on site tomorrow!

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 12:39 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Lol this is like when I won €œmost talkative€ in junior high:

EDA81AC8-A93E-41E2-842B-A7A2904F1C02.jpeg
Brown.says.Good.or.Bad
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December 12, 2020 1:09 pm

This is good

Kingsguru21
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December 12, 2020 2:40 pm

So I was thinking about Luke Walton, and I said: What if, just if, Luke Walton ends up coaching 3 seasons? Then I had a scary thought: That would put him in the top 5 in the Sacramento era of total games coached.

The current top 5:

Rick Adelman (to the surprise of noone): 624 total games
Garry St Jean: 395 games
Dave Joerger: 246 games
Paul Westphal: 171 games
Jerry Reynolds: 170 games

To round out the top 10 in total games coached.

Dick Motta: 161 games
Keith Smart: 141 games
George Karl: 112 games
Michael Malone and Reggie Theus: 106 games

Assuming Walton even coaches this full season, he’ll end up 7th in the Sacramento era on this list at 144 games total. That doesn’t change whether Walton was a good hire, or the franchise’s penchant (over multiple ownership groups) for constantly turning over it’s coaching staff.

But change for changes sake is not the way to go, and if there isn’t a real upgrade out there, I don’t see the point in firing Luke Walton. I doubt anything that happens this season will convince anyone that Walton should be the coach of the future in Sac or anywhere else for that matter. But if you’re in a transitional state, as the Kings are, and if you have a head coach with a contract, it really doesn’t matter what he does. At worst, he’s a placeholder that you can change. At best he’s an effective head coach who is better than what people remember him as.

Can Luke Walton salvage his time here by getting players to buy in? Of course he could. Will he? Probably not. And really, like most of the coaching hires in the Sacramento era, it’s a function of who made the hire not the coach himself. And so it goes.

RORDOG
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December 12, 2020 8:56 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

👍

Kingsguru21
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December 13, 2020 7:48 am
Reply to  RORDOG

I do not appreciate your snark young man.

Henry
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December 13, 2020 9:26 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Utterly tragic that Walton will likely end up coaching more games for the Kings than Malone.

9sac8
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December 12, 2020 2:42 pm

LOSE OFTEN!

LesJepsen3pointer
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December 12, 2020 6:04 pm

Like Walton: Tutelage regressor

ImJoeKing
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December 12, 2020 10:08 pm

After that headline I was sure the article was just going to say “No. He can’t.”

MillersCornrows
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December 12, 2020 10:22 pm

The sooner Walton is out the better. His answers to the media are jumbled, inconsistent, hard to believe at times, and just plain stupid. His offensive system is a dumpster fire and his ability to teach defense is the equivalent of a bag of flaming dog poop on Grant Napear’s front porch. We need a disciplined coach for these young guys, a player’s coach possibly, but also one that will hold them accountable, fire them up, and be a good teacher.

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