Ronnie Lester

Kings Seek VP Of Basketball Ops; Otis Smith Withdraws

JULY 28, 2:05pm: Otis Smith has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Kings’ job, a source tells Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). According to Turner, Smith met with the club twice this month, and still has interest in a front office role, but determined that Sacramento wasn’t the right fit for him.

JULY 26, 2:39pm: In the wake of Scott Perry‘s departure for the Knicks, the Kings are seeking a new vice president of basketball operations to report to Vlade Divac in their front office. And according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, team officials have met with former Magic general manager Otis Smith to discuss the job.

Smith, who appeared in 375 NBA games as a player between 1986 and 1992, transitioned into a front office role after his playing career ended, and eventually became the GM in Orlando in 2006. He held that position for six years, and has since worked out as a G League head coach and an NBA assistant with the Pistons.

Perry was believed to have played a major role in the Kings’ offseason this year after joining the franchise in April, following his dismissal from Orlando’s front office. Perry’s reputation around the NBA – and his solid work in Sacramento – attracted the attention of the Knicks, who sent cash and a second-round pick to the Kings in exchange for the right to hire Perry as their new GM.

With Perry out of the picture, the Kings had been expected to hire a new VP of basketball ops. In addition to Smith, Milt Newton and Troy Weaver were believed to be candidates, but they’re no longer in play, tweets Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. However, Jones adds (via Twitter) that former Lakers assistant GM Ronnie Lester is worth keeping an eye on.

Fallout From Jackson/Knicks Press Conference

Here’s a roundup of more Phil Jackson/Knicks-related notes worth passing along tonight..

  • Though it was made clear that Steve Mills will continue to handle the duties of a general manager in New York, sources tell Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News that Jackson will be allowed to choose a “basketball man” to help him run the front office. At that point, Mills will have more of a ceremonial role once Jackson has his preferred brain trust in place.
  • The above piece shed some light on Ronnie Lester potentially being brought in to assist Jackson. Lester, who served as the No. 2 to Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak when Jackson was with the Lakers, would be a viable executive that New York fans could feel better about, says Lawrence. If not Lester, then that person would have to have strong ties to Jackson in order to receive consideration.
  • The Zen Master may have alluded to a plan to “work the bushes” in order to improve the roster, but people who have spoken with him recently say that he’ll deliberately wait until Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, and Andrea Bargnani come off the cap in order to accommodate another star and perhaps other pieces.
  • The thought of Jackson luring Jim Paxson away from the Bulls front office to be his “basketball man” is an intriguing one, opines Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, who also envisions Steve KerrJim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright, Pete Myers, and Kurt Rambis eventually joining Jackson’s regime (Twitter links).
  • James Dolan tells Scott Cacciola of the New York Times that he sought Jackson’s approval on several deadline deals the team tried to make this season: “If it was a trade that didn’t fit what he was thinking — and I couldn’t tell you the specifics of what he was thinking, but I knew he had a plan … I believed he was coming on board, and I felt I should consult him.”
  • The Knicks owner also shared how he plans to let Jackson and Mills operate: “They’re going to come in, and they’re going to tell me what they want to do. They’re going to tell me how much it costs, and I’m going to say yes — assuming it doesn’t bankrupt the company. I don’t think they’ll come in with a bankrupt-the-company scenario, but I’ve told them that I’m willing to spend. We need a championship here.”   

Weltman, Morway Among Suns’ GM Candidates

Having parted ways with general manager Lance Blanks this week, the Suns are the first NBA team this offseason seeking a new GM. And according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, team president Lon Babby and the Suns have already lined up a number of potential candidates for the job.

Coro reports that Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman, former Pacers GM David Morway and former Lakers assistant GM Ronnie Lester are viewed as viable contenders for the Phoenix opening. Assistant GMs Ryan McDonough (Celtics), Wes Wilcox (Hawks) and Troy Weaver (Thunder) are potential candidates as well.

Weltman and Morway have a bit of history either with the Suns or the Phoenix area, as Weltman was a finalist when the team hired Blanks as GM in 2010. Morway, meanwhile, graduated from the University of Arizona.

According to Babby, the team is unlikely to make a promotion from within the organization, but previous GM experience isn't necessarily a qualification for the job. Still, Babby noted that he can't imagine "a first-rate talent evaluator would not have front-office experience." As Coro points out, if front-office experience is a requirement, that would eliminate a couple popular speculative candidates, in former Suns players Grant Hill and Charles Barkley.

According to Coro, members of the Suns organization have hoped to see Hill eventually return to the team in a management role. As for Barkley, he has suggested before that he could have interest in a GM role with the Suns, and reiterated today on XTRA Sports 910 in Phoenix that he hoped to receive a chance to run an NBA team at some point (Twitter link via Eric Sorenson). However, as Coro writes, the Suns' GM position would likely mean a pay cut and a workload increase for Barkley.

"I think the job requires rowing the boat every single day and it’s an all-consuming job and my impression is that he has a pretty full and good life," Babby said of Barkley. "Taking on a challenge like this might be something he really doesn’t want if he knew what it entails."

Latest On Olshey Move, Clippers GM Search

The Clippers were offering former vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey a one-year contract worth $750K when the Blazers countered with the three-year, $3.6MM offer to become their general manager, reports Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. The Blazers deal, which Olshey took last week, includes team options for two additional seasons. Olshey had been making $450K per year on a month-to-month deal with the Clippers since August.

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