SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sacramento Kings first-year coach Luke Walton says he is focused on his team and not worried about a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault.
Walton spoke publicly Friday at Kings media day for the first time since being a former sportscaster filed a civil suit against him in April accusing him of the assault.
“I’m here to do my job and focus on the Kings,” Walton said. “The rest will take care of itself.”
Walton was hired by the Kings in April, soon after being fired following three seasons as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was sued shortly after being hired by Kelli Tennant, a former host on Spectrum SportsNet LA, who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in 2014 when he was an assistant with the Golden State Warriors and harassing her after that during his tenure with the Lakers.
The Kings and the NBA investigated the charges but took action against Walton when “investigators determined that there was not a sufficient basis to support the allegations.” Tennant did not participate in the investigation.
Walton still faces a civil suit but has said in a court filing that the allegations aren’t backed up in facts. He said the suit is not a distraction to his job.
“My focus is on the Kings and what we’re doing to get this group to the next level,” he said.
Walton is trying to get the Kings back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the longest current postseason drought in the NBA. He takes over a young team featuring emerging stars like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III.
The Kings hold their first practice Saturday before leaving next week for a trip to India, where they will play two exhibition games. That puts more emphasis on the early days of practice.
“We’ll do more teaching than I’d normally do in the first practice or two,” he said. “There’s a list of things I want to get in before we go to India. We want to make sure we get those in no matter how long we have to be on the court.”
Kings forward Harrison Barnes has been to India and has been telling his teammates how much he enjoyed the food, culture and passion of the fans for NBA basketball.
He also views the trip as a chance to bond with his teammates.
“I think the biggest thing for us is spending that time together,” he said. “I think that’s what we’re looking forward to most about this India trip and about this training camp period is just guys being around each other.”