Peja Stojakovic

Big Changes Coming In Sacramento?

Vivek Ranadive and other members of the Kings‘ ownership have grown increasingly frustrated with the team’s poor performance, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Ranadive has been open about his disappointment through text messages in season-long group chats with general manager Vlade Divac, head coach Luke Walton, assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic and chief operating officer Matina Kolokotronis.

The specter that has hung over the franchise for the past two seasons has been the decision to bypass Luka Doncic and take Marvin Bagley with the second pick in the 2018 draft. Doncic has developed into an MVP candidate, while injuries have limited Bagley to 13 games this year and may wipe out the rest of his season.

The Kings put a lot of effort into scouting Doncic, Charania relays, including a dinner with Ranadive that one of the owner’s children posted on social media. Ownership supported taking Doncic, but Divac and former assistant GM Brandon Williams were concerned about how he would fit alongside De’Aaron Fox and believed adding a big man was a better choice.

Sources tell Charania that significant changes aren’t being planned to the front office or coaching staff right now, but Ranadive will reassess the situation this summer. He declined to be interviewed, but the team issued a statement that read, “We share our fans’ frustrations with how the season has unfolded and are working hard to improve. We remain confident in Vlade’s leadership in building the winning team that our fans and city deserve.”

Charania shares more from inside the Kings’ organization:

  • Divac will be held accountable for the team’s free agent signings last summer and other roster decisions. Dewayne Dedmon was a huge disappointment after being given a three-year, $40MM contract and was traded to Atlanta last week. Trevor Ariza was also traded, while Cory Joseph has been effective as a backup point guard and Richaun Holmes was a nice find before being injured.
  • It was Divac’s decision to fire Dave Joerger and target Walton as his replacement, giving him a contract that runs through the 2022/23 season, just like Divac’s. Several members of the ownership group have been critical of Walton, and sources say that Ranadive’s group chats are a way to air those issues. The organization considered Monty Williams and Ettore Messina as other coaching candidates, but only if Walton turned down the job.
  • A decision could be coming this summer on Buddy Hield, who received a four-year extension in October, but lost his starting job last month. Hield called out “trust issues” in the organization a few weeks ago, and there is a belief that he may ask for a trade if he remains unhappy with his role, a source tells Charania. Hield thinks he should be a starter and has been a frequent critic of Walton’s decisions.

Kings Promote Peja Stojakovic To Assistant GM

Former Kings All-Star Peja Stojakovic, a member of the team’s front office since 2015, has received a promotion, the team announced today in a press release. According to the Kings, Stojakovic will serve as an assistant general manager for Sacramento going forward.

Stojakovic, who had previously been the Kings’ vice president of basketball and team development, will assume more responsibilities related to player development and talent evaluation in his new position, per the team. He will also gain additional oversight over the organization’s G League affiliate, the newly-relocated Stockton Kings.

“I am thrilled to announce that Peja will serve in this expanded role,” general manager Vlade Divac said in a statement. “His experience as a player and basketball executive combined with his ability to develop players and assess talent is a valuable asset to the Kings.”

The Kings had already employed a pair of assistant GMs in Brandon Williams and Ken Catanella. According to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee, Williams’ and Catanella’s roles will remain unchanged following the promotion of Stojakovic.

Pacific Rumors: Bryant, Kings, Rivers

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant addressed their previous feuds as Lakers teammates and made it clear they now have an amicable relationship during a podcast hosted by O’Neal and his co-host John Kincade, with the transcript posted on the team’s website. O’Neal declared that his disagreements with Bryant gave both of them motivation to play their best. “I just want to clear the air and let everyone know that: No, I don’t hate you,” O’Neal said. “We had a lot of disagreements. We had a lot of arguments. But I think it fueled us.” Bryant reflected that his issues with O’Neal made him understand how to handle future problems with teammates. “To me, the most important thing was really to just keep your mouth shut. You don’t need to go to the press with stuff,” he said. “You keep it internal. We have our arguments and our disagreements, but I think having our debates within the press was something I wish would have been avoided. … But I enjoyed playing with him. I had a great, great, great time playing with him, and I appreciate it to this day.”

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers will “probably” sign one to three more players before training camp, a league source told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. That will apparently include Marcelo Huertas, who agreed to a one-year deal with the club on Monday. Metta World Peace has also discussed a contract with the team, Medina adds.
  • Vlade Divac has been named Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the Kings amid a number of front office personnel moves announced by the club via the team’s website. Divac had been hired in March as the club’s VP of Basketball and Franchise Operations. Mike Bratz has been named Assistant GM, Roland Beech was hired as VP of Basketball Strategy and Data Science and former Kings player Peja Stojakovic was announced as Director of Player Personnel and Development.
  • Austin Rivers has signed with ASM Sports, according to Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal (Twitter link). Andy Miller and Andrew Vye will represent the Clippers guard. Earlier in the day, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that Clippers teammate DeAndre Jordan had dropped Relativity Sports agents Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana as his representatives.

Kings Rumors: Stojakovic, Divac, Jackson

Former Sacramento All-Star Peja Stojakovic has received an offer to join the organization’s front office, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. VP of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac reportedly asked Stojakovic to assist him in a player personnel role. Stojakovic worked as a consultant to Divac during summer league, Stein notes. Divac and Stojakovic were teammates on the Kings and in international play.

There’s more out of Sacramento:

  • The Kings may have to wait few weeks for Stojakovic’s decision, tweets Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. “I asked him to join me,” Divac said, “and in September we’ll probably know.”
  • Another former Divac teammate could be in line for a job, according to Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link). Divac is reportedly trying to convince ex-Kings guard Bobby Jackson to accept a role with the organization.
  • Sacramento has taken some ridicule for its offseason moves, but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders argues that the organization is daring to be great. The Kings have formed a potentially unstable mix by adding free agent Rajon Rondo and coach George Karl to an unhappy star in DeMarcus Cousins, who has been the subject of trade rumors, but Divac contends that every move is about building a winner. The team assembled its newly signed free agents on a private plane to summer league games in Las Vegas and emphasized the need for everyone to put aside personal interests and do what’s best for the franchise.