Nemanja Bjelica

Latest On Dave Joerger, Kings

Over the weekend, a report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports suggested that Dave Joerger and the Kings‘ front office don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on the team’s priorities and direction, potentially putting Joerger’s job in jeopardy. General manager Vlade Divac swiftly issued a statement dismissing the report, suggesting that Joerger has the team’s “full support and confidence.”

Digging into the situation in Sacramento a little deeper today, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports that Joerger is not in danger of being fired anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean that Haynes’ report is “much ado about nothing,” according to Amick, who says there’s a genuine disagreement within the Kings’ ranks about player development.

Haynes wrote on Saturday that Joerger is focused on winning as many games as possible, while team management would like to prioritize the development of young prospects a little more, and Amick’s report seems to confirm that. Sources tell Amick that there’s concern within the organization about insufficient playing time for Marvin Bagley III and other young prospects.

Here’s more out of Sacramento:

  • Although Joerger has another year on his contract beyond the 2018/19 season, his assistants are in the final year of their respective deals, per Amick, who describes the situation as “a second-level sort of lame-duck status.”
  • Joerger has believed since last season that assistant GM Brandon Williams was in the market for a new coach to replace him, sources tell Amick.
  • Amick describes Williams as a “major backer” of Bagley. Conversley, Nemanja Bjelica – the veteran power forward who is currently starting ahead of the club’s No. 2 overall pick – was a “Divac-driven” acquisition during the offseason, per Amick.
  • Now that the Kings have lost three of four games and have failed to deal internally with the possible discord within the organization, Joerger will face an even tougher task as he looks to hold his young team together, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Kings Considering A Coaching Change?

The Kings‘ surprising start may not be enough for head coach Dave Joerger to keep his job, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Joerger is locked in a philosophical battle with the front office over minutes for some of the team’s younger players, Haynes explains. Management sees this as a development year for the organization, while Joerger is focused on winning as many games as possible.

Of particular concern is the way  Joerger is treating Marvin Bagley III, the second player taken in this year’s draft, who is playing just 22.3 minutes per night. The 19-year-old is putting up decent numbers despite the limited playing time, with per-36-minute averages of 18.7 PPG and 8.9 RPG.

The front office wants to build around a core of Bagley, point guard De’Aaron Fox and young forwards Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere. Joerger has preferred to rely on veterans, including 30-year-old Nemanja Bjelica, who has started every game this season.

While management recognizes Joerger’s contributions to an 8-7 start, there are concerns that may lead to a coaching change. Several voices in the organization are calling for more playing time for Bagley, who many in the front office projected as a starter before the season began. Bagley is still seeing much more action than Giles, who is averaging 10 minutes per night, and Labissiere, who is at a career-low 5.6 minutes and has gotten into just five games.

The discontent in the front office, coupled with frustration from players over lack of consistency in their roles, could prove too much for Joerger, even though his contract runs through next season.

However, GM Vlade Divac responded to the report with a statement of support for Joerger, tweets James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Dave has our full support and confidence,” Divac said. “We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.”

Pacific Notes: Chandler, Suns, Bjelica, Green

Tyson Chandler, poised to suit up for the Lakers on Wednesday night against Minnesota, said he picked Los Angeles among about five potential teams, according to Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com. Speaking today to reporters, including Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register, Chandler said he knew his days with the Suns were numbered and jumped at the chance to join his hometown team.

“I figured if things didn’t go right it would be my final year in Phoenix, you know, especially in the final year of my contract,” Chandler said. “But when things came up and I looked at the teams, I couldn’t honestly pass up this opportunity and be a part of something that I felt was going to be great.”

According to head coach Luke Walton, there are “no expectations” for Chandler’s first game, but the team would like him to eventually help out with rebounding, provide more protection, and play the sort of rim-running role that JaVale McGee has assumed, writes Goon.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report believes that Chandler could be the “missing piece” in the Lakers’ rotation, writing that the signing will pay immediate dividends and help the team climb up the Western Conference standings. I’m a little less bullish about the sort of impact the 36-year-old will have, but his strengths certainly match up nicely with many of the Lakers’ early-season weaknesses.

As Chandler prepares to make his Lakers debut, let’s round up a few more items from out of the Pacific…

  • The Suns are still seeking more stability out of the point guard position, having resorted to running the offense through Devin Booker when needed, writes Katherine Fitzgerald of The Arizona Republic. Head coach Igor Kokoskov said he’s looking for more out of Isaiah Canaan: “We know he is a fearless shooter and he is capable of making those shots, but he’s got to also give us stability when it comes to (running the) team, keeping us organized.”
  • It was an eventful offseason for Nemanja Bjelica, who backed out of a deal with Philadelphia and appeared on the verge of returning to Europe before he signed a three-year contract with the Kings. Now, the veteran power forward is finding his stride with his new team, according to Alex Kramers of Kings.com.
  • X-rays on the injured right foot of Warriors big man Draymond Green came back negative, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com relays. However, while Green appears to have avoided a serious injury, having been diagnosed with a right toe sprain, he won’t be available for Golden State’s Thursday game against Milwaukee (Twitter link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic).

Poll: Kings’ Hot Start

The Kings have been one of the season’s biggest surprises so far, as they have jumped out to a 6-4 start. As a result of strong 3-point shooting, the league’s second fastest pace and development from several young players, the Kings have impressed many through their first 10 games.

This is a Kings team that hasn’t won more than 33 games in a season since 2007/08, so a strong start is certainly something that has caught attention. While the team hasn’t been overwhelming on either end of the floor (they are just about league average on both ends), they have gotten strong play from De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein and Nemanja Bjelica.

In his second season in the league, Fox has made major strides. Heading into the Kings’ loss to the Bucks on Sunday, Fox was averaging 19 points, 7.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Hield is providing another capable scoring option, averaging 19.8 points per game while hitting 48.9% of his 3-pointers. Bjelica has been a great addition for the Kings, as his floor-spacing has been much needed in the starting lineup. So far, Bjelica is averaging 15.6 points per game while shooting a staggering 55.3% on 3-pointers. Finally, Cauley-Stein has improved as a rim-running big, averaging 16.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

However, teams have gotten off to fast starts only to fade throughout the remainder of the season. Most recently it was the Magic, who got off to an 8-4 start last season, only to finish 25-57. While that Magic team surprised many early in the season due to some unsustainable shooting, there are certainly ways for the Kings to fall back down to the bottom of the standings moving forward.

Perhaps the development from their young players, their key free agency additions and their style of play will lead them to more success than anticipated. What do you think? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote

Kings’ Frontcourt Logjam Worth Monitoring

The Kings are projected by most oddsmakers and NBA analysts to be the Western Conference’s worst team in 2018/19, but there are several young players on the roster who should be fun to watch. Marvin Bagley III, 2018’s second overall pick, is one of those players, while 2017 first-rounder Harry Giles, who generated buzz with his play this summer after missing his entire rookie season, is another.

However, Bagley only played 12 minutes in Sacramento’s opening-night game on Thursday, while Giles saw just 10 minutes of action. It’s certainly not unusual for rookies to have modest roles to start the season, but the Kings’ frontcourt rotation in their first game highlighted the logjam that exists at the four and five, as Jason Jones of The Athletic details.

With Willie Cauley-Stein and Nemanja Bjelica starting at center and power forward, respectively, and Justin Jackson also playing at the four in some lineups, head coach Dave Joerger suggests it may be “tough” to find minutes for Bagley, especially since the club is thinking long-term with its top pick, Jones writes. For his part, the No. 2 overall pick said he’s “trying to stay patient” when it comes to his playing time.

“I can only control what I can control,” Bagley said after Thursday’s loss. “And whenever my number is called, I’ve just got to go hard, go 100%, and try to do whatever I can to try to help us win. I think I did all right for what I did tonight, how much time I played tonight.”

Besides Cauley-Stein, Bjelica, Jackson, Bagley, and Giles, there are a few more big men on the Kings’ roster who would like to earn some minutes up front. Skal Labissiere didn’t play in the club’s opener, and neither did veteran Zach Randolph, who wasn’t even active for the game. Throw in Kosta Koufos, who should be healthy soon after battling a hamstring injury, and you have seven or eight players vying for playing time at two positions.

In other words, there will likely be “unhappy bigs every night” in Sacramento this season, as Jones tweets.

The Kings, who don’t have serious playoff aspirations, are unlikely to address their frontcourt logjam right away, but this is a situation worth monitoring over the course of the season. At least one trade before the deadline seems likely, and vets like Randolph and Koufos could ultimately be strong buyout candidates if they’re not moved by February. Stay tuned.

Pacific Notes: Booker, Suns, Clippers, House

When Devin Booker underwent surgery on his injured last hand in September, the Suns estimated that it would take six weeks for him to recover and return to the court. Based on that timeline, Booker would miss the first week of the regular season, but the 21-year-old is still aiming to get back on the court for Phoenix’s season opener, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link).

The Suns’ season will begin next Wednesday night when the team hosts the Mavericks in what has been billed as a showdown between two of this year’s top rookies, Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic.

As Booker looks to beat his recovery timetable, here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Suns cleaned house in their front office on Monday, with a team source confirming to Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days (Twitter link) that Louis Lehman, the GM of Phoenix’s G League affiliate, was fired. GM Ryan McDonough, assistant GM Pat Connelly and director of scouting Courtney Witte were among the other executives let go by the club.
  • The Clippers‘ success in 2018/19 may hinge in large part on the health of Avery Bradley, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Bradley, who re-signed with the Clips over the summer, only has a small partial guarantee on the second year of his new contract, so he may return to the free agent market in 2019 if he’s slowed by injuries again.
  • With Patrick McCaw still unsigned, there may be an opportunity for Danuel House to earn a regular season roster spot with the Warriors. Anthony Slater of The Athletic (subscription required) takes a closer look at House’s case for a place on the 15-man squad.
  • After initially reaching a free agent agreement with Philadelphia, Nemanja Bjelica changed course and inked a three-year deal with the Kings. Now, he’s showing off his ability to open up the floor for his new team, as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee details.

Nemanja Bjelica Signs Three-Year Deal With Kings

JULY 21, 1:57pm: The deal is official, per a media release from the Kings.

JULY 20, 9:08pm: The Kings have reached a three-year, $20.5MM agreement with free agent forward Nemanja Bjelica, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. The third year will not be guaranteed, Charania adds.

This completes Bjelica’s unusual odyssey in free agency. The former Timberwolves reserve originally agreed to a one-year, $4.45MM deal with the Sixers early in free agency, then backed out of that agreement on Tuesday. He stated publicly he would likely head back to Europe, explaining that he wanted to create “some kind of stability” for his family.

Kings general manager Vlade Divac and other teams then reached out to Bjelica, trying to convince him to remain in the NBA. Sacramento’s offer won him over.

“The organization’s belief in and commitment to me overwhelmed me and my family,” he told Charania. “I am ready to do everything I can to help the Kings and be a part of the Sacramento community.”

It helped the Kings’ cause that EuroLeague powerhouses like Fenerbahce and CSKA Moscow reportedly were not interested in him at this time.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor noted in a conversation last week with Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 that Bjelica entered the offseason seeking a multiyear NBA contract. The stretch four has been a rotation player with Minnesota the past three seasons. He averaged 6.8 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 67 games last season, including 21 starts.

Where Bjelica fits in with the Kings is a mystery. Sacramento already has No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III, Zach Randolph and Harry Giles at the power forward spot. His path to playing time may be at small forward.

Kings, Nemanja Bjelica Discuss Possible Deal

JULY 19, 8:54am: The Kings and Bjelica are discussing a two-year contract worth about $13MM with roughly $2MM guaranteed for 2019/20, sources tell international writer David Pick (Twitter link).

JULY 18, 2:57pm: Kings general manager Vlade Divac reached out directly to Bjelica to explain his value, tweets Charania. Krawczynski expands on that point, tweeting that the Kings and other teams have expressed to Bjelica that he’s “too good to go back to Europe.”

Meanwhile, international basketball reporter David Pick tweets that Bjelica felt “devalued” in his agreement with the Sixers. With EuroLeague powerhouses like Fenerbahce and CSKA Moscow not interested in him at this time, Sacramento may represent his best bet for a big payday, Pick adds.

2:36pm: The Kings and free agent forward Nemanja Bjelica intend to discuss a potential contract, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Bjelica, who initially agreed to a one-year, $4.45MM deal with the Sixers early in free agency, backed out of that agreement on Tuesday. Reports at the time indicated that the former EuroLeague MVP would likely head back to Europe, with Bjelica explaining that he wanted to create “some kind of stability” for his family.

However, as Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor noted in a conversation last week with Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500, Bjelica entered the offseason seeking a multiyear NBA contract. His interest in remaining in the NBA seemingly waned when he was only able to secure a one-year deal, as he suggested in his interview with Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

If the Kings are willing to give him two or three guaranteed years, that may prompt the 30-year-old to reconsider his plan to head back overseas, particularly since not many EuroLeague clubs are in position to make a competitive offer, per Sportando (Twitter link).

It’s not clear yet what sort of deal the Kings would be willing to do with Bjelica, but they have more than $20MM in cap room available with only two roster spots still open, so they’ll have plenty of flexibility if they decide they want to bring the stretch four aboard.

Meanwhile, the Sixers figure to be less than thrilled about Bjelica’s about-face if he ends up signing on with another NBA club rather than playing in Europe.

Latest On Nemanja Bjelica

Earlier today, we relayed the somewhat surprising news that despite agreeing on a one-year, $4.449MM deal with the Sixers earlier this month, free agent Nemanja Bjelica will not sign a contract with Philadelphia or any other NBA team this summer, opting instead to return to Europe for the 2018/19 season.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic has more details on why Bjelica chose to return to Europe, writing that the decision ultimately came down to what the 30-year-old Serbian forward believes is in the best interest of his family.

“I’m thankful for Philly for the opportunity, but I will always do what is the best for my family,” Bjelica said. “It’s not about coach or the Philly organization. Brett Brown, he’s a great guy and a great coach. The most important thing for me is family and some kind of stability.”

Bjelica and his wife have a school-age daughter and an infant son, and Bjelica did not want to uproot his family from their home in Minneapolis for the past three seasons to live in Philadelphia for the next eight months before potentially having to move again if he wasn’t able to re-sign with Sixers next summer.

It’s certainly possible, based on Krawczynski’s story, that Bjelica would have been willing and open to remain stateside if he were given a multi-year deal, but unfortunately, the free agent market this summer was largely limited to one-year contracts, with teams determined to keep as much cap flexibility as possible for next summer, when players like Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving are all potentially free agents.

Bjelica, who was named the EuroLeague MVP in 2015, returns to Europe with NBA career averages of 6.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game in 192 contests.

Nemanja Bjelica Won’t Sign With Sixers

10:00am: Bjelica has elected to return to Europe for the 2018/19 season rather than signing with the Sixers, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Philadelphia will now have its $4.449MM available to use on another player.

9:47am: Having used up all their cap space, the Sixers are now in position to finalize their agreement with Nemanja Bjelica with their room exception. Philadelphia and Bjelica agreed to terms on a one-year, $4.449MM deal earlier this month.

However, according to Nikos Varlas of Eurohoops.net, the 76ers and Bjelica have yet to complete that deal, and there’s still a belief among EuroLeague teams that the veteran forward could be lured away from his verbal agreement with Philadelphia. Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic confirms as much, tweeting that “with a young family,” Bjelica is “looking at all of his options.”

As Varlas suggests, Bjelica had expected a more lucrative and longer-term contract than the one he agreed to with the Sixers. In a recent conversation with Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said that the Serbian forward had been seeking a multiyear deal from Minnesota before the team withdrew its qualifying offer. Taylor added that the one-year contract Bjelica agreed to with the Sixers was worth less than what the Wolves had offered.

European teams can’t match NBA clubs in terms of overall spending power, but Bjelica – a former EuroLeague MVP – would represent a major acquisition. As such, it’s possible a EuroLeague powerhouse would be willing to give him a longer-term contract that would be worth more total money than his Sixers deal.

It’s not clear how seriously Bjelica is weighing a return to Europe, or whether the Sixers gave him their blessing to consider other options. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the two sides eventually finalize their agreed-upon deal, but that no longer appears to be a lock.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.