Sacramento Kings

Kings notes: How coach Luke Walton established ‘instant connection’ with new players

One of the first things Kings coach Luke Walton talked about when he was hired was the importance of building relationships with his players and other members of the organization.

Kings guard Buddy Hield said it hasn’t taken Walton long to establish a rapport with his players.

“It’s easy, man,” Hield said. “He just comes in and he has that instant connection. He’s played before, so he knows that player relationship, and he’s a coach, so he knows how to relate to us, so that’s big coming from him.”

The Kings started training camp Saturday at their Golden 1 Center practice facility. They will hold an abbreviated three-day minicamp before flying to India to play two preseason games against the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 4-5.

“We’ll use (the trip) as a great chance to bond as a group,” Walton said. “Even though we won’t practice as much as we (normally) would, we’ll get to spend more time together, traveling together, dinners together, so it’ll be a great bonding experience for us.”

Walton spent 10 seasons in the NBA and won back-to-back championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009-10. His coaching philosophy has been shaped by the likes of former Arizona coach Lute Olson, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and the late John Wooden, who influenced Walton’s upbringing after coaching his father at UCLA.

Walton and members of his staff traveled to various parts of the country to spend time with players over the summer. He has also organized team dinners and a coaches’ retreat near Lake Tahoe.

“I feel like the relationship has grown so much since he got here and we haven’t played a single regular-season game yet, so I just feel like that bond will continue to grow,” Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “I just want to be an extension of him on the court. I’m continuing to learn the things he wants me to do, the things he wants me to get better at and the way he wants me to lead, and I think that will continue to grow throughout the season.”

Buddy Buckets

Hield was all smiles when asked about Walton’s plan for the team to shoot more 3-pointers. Walton told players he wants the team to average 35 3-point attempts per game.

“You already know how I feel about that,” Hield said. “There’s no question. I’ll shoot as much as they want me to.”

Hield shot 42.7 percent from beyond the arc last season. The Kings were fourth in the NBA in 3-point percentage (.378) but tied for 20th in 3-point attempts, averaging 29.9 per game.

“Seeing the numbers that we had – up there in percentage, but not up there in attempts – we feel like we should shoot more 3s,” Fox said. “You can say it, but when the game starts to be played you kind of aren’t thinking about that, but I feel like with the offense we have, we have a lot more opportunities to shoot 3s. … If we can up the volume and keep the efficiency, then so be it. Obviously that’s what we hope to do.”

Area of emphasis

Fox said he had a point of emphasis in his summer workouts following a breakout sophomore season in 2018-19.

“I think my playmaking,” Fox said.

Fox said he studied All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, a member of Team USA who is now with the Boston Celtics. Fox, who averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 assists last season, worked closely with Walker while training with USA Basketball.

“I’ve worked on getting low,” Fox said. “A guy I’ve watched a lot was Kemba, and then playing with and against him at USA, I was able to see up close how low he plays, and that was something I tried to implement in my game this summer.”

Back to work

Former Kings director of player development Larry Lewis has landed a new job as an assistant coach at UC Santa Barbara, where he will work under head coach Joe Pasternack. Lewis spent three years in Sacramento as a member of former coach Dave Joerger’s staff.

“This is a great opportunity for my family and me,” Lewis said in a news release. “This is a program rich in tradition and Joe has it moving in an upward direction. It’s going to be special to be a part of it.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Jason Anderson is an award-winning sportswriter for The Sacramento Bee. He started his journalism career at The Bee more than 20 years ago and returned to cover the Sacramento Kings in September 2018.