The Sacramento Kings’ Firing of Luke Walton is 1 More Reminder of How Vlade Divac Set the Organization Back Years

After much speculation, the Luke Walton era is officially over in Sacramento. Kings fans can thank former general manager Vlade Divac for all the dysfunction.

Once upon a time, the Kings’ arrow looked to be pointing up. With young talents De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley entering the fold, Sacramento won 39 games during the 2018-19 season and looked like a franchise on the rise in the NBA. But Divac’s shocking decision to shake things up had massive implications that impacted the Kings in recent seasons and could set the organization back for years to come.

Vlade Divac confusingly hired Luke Walton to replace Dave Joerger ahead of the 2019-20 season

Former Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac and recently-fired Kings head coach Luke Walton arrive at Kobe's and Gianna Bryant's memorial service in February 2020
Vlade Divac (L) and Luke Walton arrive at the Staples Center for the Kobe Bryant & Gianna Bryant Memorial on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California | Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

Sacramento’s improvements under Dave Joerger during the 2018-19 season meant more when considering the Kings’ utter ineptitude for well over a decade.

The Kings’ 39 wins were the most since the 2005-06 season, which also marks the last time Sacramento made the playoffs. Perhaps more importantly, numerous young players made strides.

Buddy Hield averaged a career-high 20.7 points and shot 42.7% from beyond the arc. In his second season, De’Aaron Fox averaged 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds while improving perimeter, basically setting the stage for his rookie extension. Rookie Marvin Bagley III dealt with injuries but also showed promise, averaging 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds.

Despite all the gains, however, Vlade Divac felt obligated to make a change. He fired Joerger and instilled Walton, suggesting the former Los Angeles Lakers swingman could better relate to the young players in Sacramento’s locker room.

The decision to hire Walton backfired spectacularly, with the Kings’ dismissal of Walton ending an extraordinarily forgettable and short-lived tenure.

The Kings fired Luke Walton after a tumultuous tenure at the helm

The Kings started the 2021-22 season with a respectable 5-4 mark. But after losing seven of their last eight, they showed their head coach the door.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Sunday afternoon that Sacramento fired Luke Walton, with assistant coach Alvin Gentry likely taking over in the interim. So ends a brutal era of Kings basketball.

Walton went 68-93 in two-plus seasons at the helm. The record is ugly enough, considering the Kings won 39 games when he took over. But his questionable coaching methods and shaky relationships make Divac’s initial decision to hire him all the more damning.

According to The Athletic, Walton’s methods angered Buddy Hield to the point he thought about requesting a trade in February 2020. More recently, his commitment to playing small and relegating Bagley to the bench led to the 2018 No. 2 overall pick practically refusing to play.

The Kings are once again in limbo after admitting the Walton experiment failed tremendously. Chalk it up as another loss for Divac’s horrific tenure as GM.

Vlade Divac made numerous questionable decisions as GM

When it comes to poor GM decisions, hiring Luke Walton is just the tip of the iceberg for Vlade Divac, who had far more success during his playing career.

The Bagley saga makes Divac’s decision to draft him over Luka Doncic look that much worse, if that’s even possible. There’s plenty more. Divac sent Nik Stauskas and others to the Philadelphia 76ers in a 2015 salary dump, but the unprotected picks attached in the deal ultimately turned into high first-round choices. Despite DeMarcus Cousins’s presence, Divac drafted two centers in the 2016 NBA Draft and allowed Seth Curry to walk that summer.

Despite all those moves, the Kings might have salvaged their future after Joerger’s success in 2018-19. But Divac opted for Walton, and now Sacramento finds itself set back even further.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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