Most Kings fans at Sleep Train Arena probably remember Luke Walton best as a visiting player for the rival Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000s.
But the now-interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors did play at least one game in the building in front of a friendly crowd.
“I like playing here – I won a state title here in ’98,” Walton said before the Kings played the Warriors on Saturday. “I’ve got a lot of good memories of what I call Arco Arena.”
Walton starred for the University High School team from San Diego that beat Enterprise of Redding to win the CIF state Division III title in 1998. Then a senior, Walton went on to play at Arizona before spending 10 seasons in the NBA with the Lakers and Miami Heat.
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“I think I had like 25, 26 (points), something like that,” Walton said with a grin when asked about his recollections of the title game. “I was good in high school. It went downhill from there, though.”
Walton was mostly a role player during his NBA career but did play on four title-winning teams in Los Angeles and Miami. He won another ring as an assistant under Warriors head coach Steve Kerr last season. With Kerr sidelined by back problems this season, Walton has stepped in on an interim basis and led the Warriors to a league-best record of 34-2 entering Saturday’s game.
With the Warriors making their last scheduled visit to Sleep Train Arena before the Kings move to the new Golden 1 Center next season, Walton was asked about his recollections of the building and why he enjoyed playing there.
“The fans,” Walton said. “The fans are great. I got into the league right after (the Kings) had the really good team that used to battle with the Lakers, but their fans show up and are loud no matter how the team is doing. It’s just a fun environment to play in.”
There is one scenario in which the Warriors could appear in Sacramento again this season – if the Kings were to snag a low playoff seed and match up with Golden State, the front-runner for the No. 1 seed in the West. Though not asked specifically about that scenario, Walton did say a situation down the road in which the Kings and Warriors are both perennial postseason contenders would make for a good rivalry, given the teams’ proximity.
“Absolutely, with how close we are,” Walton said. “The Kings and Lakers were a great rivalry. And I think the distance between here and Oakland would make it very similar to how it was back then.”
Lineup matters – Quincy Acy made his fourth consecutive start in the absence of forward Omri Casspi (upper back soreness). Acy scored a season-high 18 points in the Kings’ win over the Lakers, and head coach George Karl said he has been pleased with Acy’s play.
“I love pros that are ready for an opportunity and when they get an opportunity take advantage of it,” Karl said.
Center Willie Cauley-Stein checked into Saturday’s game in the second quarter after missing two games with a right middle finger laceration. Casspi could be close behind; Karl said he would “figure out Omri and Willie in the next two or three days.”
Gaining a reputation – A visiting reporter asked Karl whether he has been “drawn” to coaching teams with fiery dynamics, citing his previous teams in Seattle and Denver along with the current Kings.
“I don’t think I’ve been drawn,” Karl said. “I hope not. Maybe that’s going to be my legacy, but I think in a lot of ways I’m misinterpreted with people’s opinion of me.”
Told he can display his own fiery side, Karl said, “In my past – not anymore. I’m mellow now.”