Vance Walberg

Kings Notes: Divac, Cousins, Coaching Search

Kings GM and vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac will lead the effort to find George Karl’s replacement as head coach, according to Sam Amick of USA Today. Sacramento fired Karl earlier today after he compiled a disappointing 33-49 record in his first full season on the job. Divac said he will talk to former Kings coach Rick Adelman to get his opinion on possible candidates, and he plans to consult with Karl as well. “It’s a blessing to work with a guy [owner Vivek Ranadive] who is saving this franchise, building the new arena [that’s set to open in October] and letting me do my job the best I can,” Divac said. “So he has trust in me, and so far I’m so happy with my owner being behind me.” Along with hiring a coach, Divac is planning an addition to the front office, rumored to be former NBA executive David Morway.

There’s more news tonight out of Sacramento:

  • Divac is committed to keeping center DeMarcus Cousins despite ongoing disciplinary problems, Amick writes in the same story. Cousins clashed with Karl virtually from the time he was hired as coach, and the Kings suspended the center for a game in March, leading some to speculate that his time in Sacramento was nearing its end. “DeMarcus is our franchise player, and all heat is going to be on him,” Divac said. “Even my decision about George, [people are] all going to talk about DeMarcus. But it’s not true. He’s just one of the people we have, obviously the most valuable, and we are planning to build around him.” Cousins has two seasons and more than $32.5MM left on his current contract.
  • Divac wanted to fire Karl over the All-Star break, but opposition from minority owners stopped the move, tweets Marc Stein of
  • Sacramento’s “radioactive” coaching situation will scare big-name contenders away, predicts Chris Mannix of The Vertical. The columnist expects the Kings to contact Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks and Kevin McHale, but Mannix believes all three will steer clear of Sacramento. He adds that the Kings should have fired Karl in February and replaced him with Corliss Williamson. Instead, the front office got rid of assistant coach Vance Walberg, which further sabotaged Karl’s standing with the players.

Kings Fire Assistant Coach Vance Walberg

8:58pm: Karl was opposed to firing Walberg, but will be able to appoint his successor, tweets Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Divac said the team may hire a defensive coach. He added that a roster shakeup is still possible before Thursday’s trade deadline (Twitter link).

Divac plans to make at least one roster move Thursday, and actually expected it to happen today, tweets James Ham of CSNBayArea. Divac also emphasized that he is performing the organization’s GM duties (Twitter link).

8:08pm: The Kings have fired assistant coach Vance Walberg, tweets Chris Mannix of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports. Sacramento was expected to dismiss head coach George Karl last week, but decided to keep him in place for now, so a staff shakeup wasn’t a surprise, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today.

“This was a tough decision made after consideration of what is best for the team moving forward,” said GM Vlade Divac in the team’s formal announcement of the move. “We want to thank Vance for his contributions to the organization and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

Walberg, who had been on the Kings’ bench since last February, was a “scapegoat” for the team’s failure, tweets Chris Haynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Haynes charges that the coaching staff has been subject to as much “turmoil” and “dysfunction” as the rest of the organization. Sacramento entered the All-Star break at 22-31, four and a half games out of the last playoff spot in the West.

Walberg started his NBA career as an assistant to Karl in Denver in 2012. He also served as an assistant with the Sixers before joining the Kings.

Pacific Notes: Knight, Perkins, Kerr

The Suns were already planning to a hard push for Brandon Knight in free agency before they traded for him at last week’s deadline, according to Chad Ford of, who writes amid a chat with readers. Phoenix was willing to trade the rights to the Lakers’ top-five protected first-round pick to Milwaukee for Knight, but the Bucks decided instead to take a package that included Michael Carter-Williams from the Sixers in what ended up a three-way deal, Ford adds.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • It was tough for Kendrick Perkins to turn down former coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers, but a pitch from LeBron James was too tempting to pass up, notes Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “He was real honest with me,” Perkins said of Rivers. “He told me, ‘I think your best two situations right now is either us or Cleveland.’ So I was like, ‘Doc? Or I have a chance to go play with The King [LeBron James]. Doc? The King? Uh, I choose The King.”
  • New Kings assistant coach Vance Walberg is being counted on to bring creativity to Sacramento’s offense, which is something the team was looking for when it fired former coach Mike Malone, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes.
  • The hiring of Steve Kerr as coach was the final ingredient needed to change the Warriors from a one-and-done playoff team into a title contender, Chris Ballard of writes. Ballard also runs down how GM Bob Myers constructed the rest of the team’s roster, which is currently an NBA best 44-10.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Western Notes: Warriors, Mekel, Leonard

Golden State stood pat at the trade deadline, but Warriors consultant and part-owner Jerry West, who has plenty of say on personnel, thinks the team still needs to make some kind of move, as he told Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group.

“I think for sure we need to have a piece. For sure,” West said. “And I think as we get further into the year, I think if you watch how teams are going to particularly concentrate on our backcourt, we need more shooting and people who can make shots consistently. I think in games that we flounder in is when our guards are not able to go out there and score 45 to 60 points on any given night. … There’s going to be a bull’s-eye on those two guys’ backs.”

West made his remarks the day after the team signed James McAdoo for the season, filling the last open roster spot. Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Former Pelicans and Mavs point guard Gal Mekel is close to a deal with Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod, a source tells David Pick of (Twitter links). The GM of the Russian team is confident that Mekel will sign the deal, which would have an NBA escape clause, Pick adds. Mekel had been holding out hope for an NBA deal since his brief stint with New Orleans in December, but he recently appeared to be losing patience.
  • It’s been a rough year for Kawhi Leonard, Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich said, with the reigning Finals MVP suffering through injury woes and a shooting slump as restricted free agency looms this summer, as Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News explores. He’s nonetheless averaging career highs virtually across the board and, as McDonald writes, he remains eminently valuable to the Spurs.
  • Amar’e Stoudemire is having an instant effect on the Mavericks, notes Jean-Jacques Taylor of The Mavs signed the ex-Knick last week, and it’s a prorated minimum-salary deal that goes until season’s end, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders shows (Twitter link).
  • The Kings have hired Vance Walberg as an assistant coach, the team announced. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group first reported that the move would be expected if Sacramento hired George Karl as head coach. Of course, the Kings did indeed hire Karl last week. Walberg is leaving the Sixers staff for his new job.

Kings Rumors: Cousins, Jackson, Karl, Gay

DeMarcus Cousins made it clear that he didn’t want the Kings to fire former coach Michael Malone, but owner Vivek Ranadive told him that he had to do so because Malone clashed with GM Pete D’Alessandro and had missed a meeting, sources tell Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher. Cousins asked the team at that point to hire Mark Jackson, but as the Kings instead decided to stick with Tyrone Corbin, team officials promised they would consult him in the future, Bucher also hears. The team now is reportedly close to a deal with Karl, and plenty seems up in the air. Here’s the latest from California’s capital city:

  • Some close to Cousins weren’t sure if Karl’s personality and the intensity of Cousins would be a match, as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote Monday that Cousins’ agents. Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana, have given their approval of Karl and were merely wary of the team’s swift coaching changes.
  • Cousins wasn’t alone among Kings disenchanted with the way the team ousted Malone, Jones adds in the same piece. Rudy Gay recently said he felt “lost” on the court, according to Jones. Gay signed his extension with the Kings in large measure because, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports originally wrote, he wanted to play for former coach Michael Malone,
  • Ranadive asked D’Alessandro to meet with Karl last week, Jones also writes in his piece. It seemed Monday, before the owner gave the GM the go-ahead to hire Karl if he wished, that Ranadive was hesitating while D’Alessandro pushed for a deal, though perhaps that wasn’t the case.
  • The Kings are expected to hire Vance Walberg as an assistant coach should the team complete a deal with Karl, as Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group hears (Twitter link). Walberg, currently a Sixers assistant who previously worked under Karl on the Nuggets, has made his mark on offense, Haynes notes.