NBA India Games 2019: Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton says his team will 'fly' in upcoming season

Sacramento Kings missed out on the playoffs spot by a whisker last season and two-time NBA champion Luke Walton has been hired to to make it possible in upcoming season, something that they have not achieved since 2006.

Ujwal Singh October 04, 2019 16:11:12 IST
NBA India Games 2019: Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton says his team will 'fly' in upcoming season
  • Sacramento Kings have not reached the playoffs since 200-5-06 season.

  • Kings finished ninth lat season in western conference, missing the playoffs by a whisker.

  • Luke Walton was hired in April this year with an eye on playoffs spot.

NBA has something special this pre-season before the real action gets underway on 22 October. Two of the NBA sides — Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers — will be playing two games in Mumbai on 4 and 5 October. This is for the first time that teams from a North America sports league are playing in India.

There's a lot at stake for NBA with the upcoming pre-season games as they look to make significant inroads into the Indian sports market. It will be an introduction for the Indian crowd to the fun and frenzy that come along with NBA games, but with all the talk of spreading the game, Kings and their coach Luke Walton has eyes firmly fixed on the upcoming season.

NBA India Games 2019 Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton says his team will fly in upcoming season

Luke Walton said India trip will help improve team bonding for Sacramento Kings. @SacramentoKings

Kings missed out on a playoffs spot last season by the slightest of margins as they finished ninth in the Western Conference. They ended up with a 39-43 overall record and have not made it to the playoffs since 2005-06. To change the status quo, the Vivek Ranadive-owned franchise hired Walton in April this year. Walton, a two-time NBA champion with Los Angeles Lakers, was also the coach of the Los Angeles team for last three years. In those years, the winning percentage was below .500 every year but one must not forget the potential Walton showed as an assistant manager at Golden State Warriors.

During the record-breaking 2015-16 season, Walton led Warriors to a 39-4 start to season in the absence of injured coach Steve Kerr.

Last season at Kings, it was the solid young group of players which made them the attractive proposition and pushed them to the cusp of playoffs qualification. This season, with addition of veterans like Cory Joseph and Trevor Ariza, more will be expected from the team.

Kings earned a name for their run-and-gun style of play which is fast and freewheeling, and this season, what else can be expected? Walton says, flying!

"You talk to our players, ask them if we are gonna run or fly this year. We are gonna fly all year," said Walton during a media interaction ahead of NBA India Games 2019.

The coach, however, added that the conference has only got more tougher, with stars like Anthony Davis joining LA Lakers and Russell Westbrook joining Houston Rockets. Kings may not have attracted a massive name to their roster but have added experienced players like Harrison Barnes, Joseph and Ariza, players who have won the NBA championship,

"The west is very good but we feel very good about the team we have, so as competitors we are very excited to play against the best teams and we feel that we can hold our own," said former NBA champions Walton.

"We love the group that we have and even though we are a new group together, we know how to play basketball, we know how to coach basketball. It's about getting our team to come together. We are very excited about what we can do."

Kings had to travel 8,353 miles for the pres-season games and it is widely considered that the travel would disrupt their preparations for the upcoming season but Walton is convinced it didn't.

"We're still able to get done what we need to get done," Walton said. "We have to be a little more precise with how we want to get everything in, but it's worth it. The NBA becoming more international and more global — look at all the talent we have in the NBA, players from other countries. We got guys on our team from all over Canada, Serbia, and none of that would be possible.

"The game wouldn't be as good without the international flavor that it has now. So it takes teams going across to different countries, continents, kind of showing what our game is all about, then I'm all for it."

Walton also highlighted that the long trip has helped build the chemistry within the "new group".

"When you are at home you get a lot of basketball work done but when you are on trip, you eat every meal together, you do everything together as a group and it's good for the chemistry that we are trying to build here."

Walton is stuck between two different demands; playing his best players in pre-season games against trying out all players and new strategies for 2019-20 season. Walton said high-level basketball will be served to Indian fans along with the coach trying out different lineups and match-ups.

"We are a new group so we want to see that too. We are going to compete but we do have to see some different lineups together, some match-ups that we are looking to us against other teams. So it will be a lot of fun. No matter who is on the court, it's going to be very high-level basketball because both teams know how important it is to us, and how important it is to the NBA."

One thing is for sure, after the NBA India Games, Kings would have the Indians fans cheering for them in the quest for the playoffs spot in the upcoming season.

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