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Luke Walton’s job security on shaky ground after unfathomable Kings collapse

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Luke Walton’s players were already defending their coach Friday with questions over his job security gaining steam.

And that was before Sunday night’s disaster. The Kings led 123-115 over the Hornets with 1:13 left following a dunk by Harrison Barnes, but couldn’t close out the victory, losing 127-126 to the Hornets behind PJ Washington’s career-high 42 points. Malik Monk converted a three-point play with 1.4 seconds remaining to complete the comeback.

Monk finished with 21 points to help Charlotte come back despite playing without leading scorer Gordon Hayward, who sat out with a hand injury.

“Come to an end of a game, that’s where we have to step up and put teams out and we didn’t do it,” Walton said. “Give Charlotte credit. They hit 3s and made every free throw down the stretch. That’s a painful loss for our guys. We didn’t finish it out.”

The collapse against the Hornets came two games after the Kings were blown out by the Knicks, allowing New York to score a season-high 140 points. Walton was so frustrated that he was caught karate-chopping a clipboard as the team went to time out.

Walton’s fall from sought-after coach to rock bottom is nearly complete now. Filling in for Steve Kerr who had a serious back ailment, Walton led the 2015-’16 Warriors to a 24-0 start and 39-4 record overall before Kerr’s return to the sideline.

Luke Walton during the Kings' loss to the Hornets on Feb. 28, 2021
Luke Walton during the Kings’ loss to the Hornets on Feb. 28, 2021
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Walton was hired as Lakers coach after that season. He proceeded to go 98-148 in his three seasons in Los Angeles before being fired. Now is his second season in Sacramento, Walton has a 44-62 mark.

The Kings have talent on the roster, most notably with De’Aaron Fox and rookie standout Tyrese Haliburton.

“I think it’s on us who are on the court,” Fox told the Sacramento Bee on Friday. “We have to be able to go out there and execute the game plan and there are times where there are just too many lapses.

“I don’t think that has anything to do with coaching. Like, effort or giving up offensive rebounds? We’re going back to middle-school stuff to practice boxing out? There’s nothing that Luke or (player development coach) Rico (Hines) can do about that. That as to be us.”

On Sunday, LaMelo Ball added 24 points and a career-best 12 assists for the Hornets, who trailed the entire fourth quarter before Monk’s game-winning play. The Kings missed five free throws over the final 69 seconds and lost for the 10th time in 11 games.

“As far as pressure from the front office, no,” Walton told the paper on Friday. “I feel very connected with them and very locked in as far as where we’re at and where we’re trying to go as a group, and they’ve been very supportive.”

— With AP



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Bulls’ Zach LaVine called cops on ‘obsessed’ fan at his home

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Zach LaVine had an unwanted visitor.

The Chicago Bulls star had to call the police after an “allegedly obsessed” woman showed up to his Chicago home and refused to leave on Thursday night, according to TMZ. 

The woman reportedly traveled from out of state, demanding to speak with the first-time All-Star, who was home at the time.

Police took her a local hospital for mental evaluation, and she has not been formally arrested or charged with a crime.

LaVine, 25, wrapped up first-half action with the Bulls on Wednesday and was drafted to Kevin Durant’s All-Star side for Sunday’s festivities in Atlanta.

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Blake Griffin a free agent after Pistons buyout

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Blake Griffin will be free to sign with the Nets or another interested NBA team after agreeing to a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons.

The six-time All-Star forward “has interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders and is expected to make a decision on his next team after conversations with prospective teams,” ESPN reported.

The Nets, Lakers, Heat, Warriors and Clippers – his former team — are among those that have expressed interest, according to the New York Times. ESPN.com added that the Blazers are interested

The 31-year-old Griffin hasn’t played since Feb. 12 while the Pistons attempted to trade him before the March 25 deadline, but they found no takers due to the remainder of his $36.6 million salary for this season and the $39 million he’s owed for 2021-22.

Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
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Griffin is averaging a career-low 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20 games this season. He was dealt by the Clippers to Detroit in 2018, during the first season of a five-year extension worth $171 million.



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Broncos send a pretty strong warning to Drew Lock

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Drew Lock is no lock to remain the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2021.

General manager George Paton and coach Vic Fangio both said Thursday that the team expects to bring in competition for Lock, possibly with the ninth pick in the NFL Draft.

“Obviously we’re always looking to bring in players at all positions that can raise the level of competition, and the quarterback is no different in that regard,” Fangio said, according to the team’s website.

“Until we get or until Drew proves to be the next great quarterback, like the ones that the Denver franchise has been used to in years past or certain teams around the league … are used to, we’re going to always try and bring in competition. But I have confidence that Drew can continue to improve.”

Lock made 13 starts in 2020 and tied with Carson Wentz for the league lead with 15 interceptions. He finished 32nd in the league among qualifying quarterbacks with a 75.4 passer rating, ahead of only Dwayne Haskins, Wentz and Sam Darnold.

Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
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“Very talented, was inconsistent at times, has a lot to work on,” Paton said Thursday. “But I’ve spoken with Drew, I see him every day. He’s here early. He’s working. He really wants to be great. And we’re always going to try to bring in competition at every position, and quarterback as well. But I like the track that Drew’s on.”

Lock, the Broncos’ second-round pick in 2019 out of Missouri, had started five games as a rookie, winning four of them. Denver went 4-9 with him as the starter last season.

“I’m confident that Drew’s going to continue to improve,” Fangio said. “Drew’s had a great offseason up to this point. There’s not a lot you can do, but he’s working hard on his own, coming over here and getting workouts, and I know he’s doing a lot at home by himself, watching video by himself. He’s got a good setup over there. And he’s doing anything and everything he can to improve, even in February and now in March.”

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