Vivek Ranadive

Pacific Notes: Schroder, George, McNair, Gasol

Dennis Schröder wants to stay with the Lakers but there’s still a good chance he’ll test the free agent market this summer, according to Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. Schroder likes his current situation, stating, “I want to be a part of this organization for a long time.”

However, Schroder has yet to sign an extension, even though he’s eligible for one. Schroder admits he’s conflicted, knowing the Lakers’ salary situation and the fact they can go over the cap to retain him in unrestricted free agency.

“So, we’re kind of, between these: Should we just sign the extension? Or should we wait until the summer? Because at the end of the day, I want to be a Laker for a long time,” he said. “I always say I want it to be fair.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers forward Paul George has drawn a $35K fine from the league for criticizing the officials to the media after a loss to Dallas on Wednesday, according to an NBA press release. George said of some non-calls, “We’re putting a lot of pressure at the rim. It’s insane that we’re not getting these calls.” He also characterized the officials’ explanations for the lack of whistles as a “bunch of lies,” according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.
  • Kings GM Monte McNair has the final say in personnel moves as the trade deadline approaches, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports. Ownership will be consulted, but McNair will be the one making roster decisions and related basketball moves, Anderson adds. However, it’s worth noting owner Vivek Ranadive has to sign off on any major deal, so the Kings organization may be trying hard to downplay Ranadive’s involvement in basketball operations.
  • Lakers center Marc Gasol remains under the league’s health and safety protocols but he’s out of isolation, Goon writes in a separate story. He still has a “few steps to clear” before he’s allowed to play, coach Frank Vogel said. Gasol hasn’t played since February 28.

Pacific Notes: Oubre, Ranadive, Craig, Hill

In previewing trade possibilities facing the Warriors during the final week before the March 25 deadline, Anthony Slater of The Athletic explains the appeal wing Kelly Oubre Jr. could hold for other teams around the league.

Slater notes that Oubre, a young, athletic wing with upside left at age 25, is currently earning $14MM in the last year of his contract, and could be used in a trade to acquire an interesting player along the lines of shooting guards Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier (both also on expiring deals), small forward Aaron Gordon, or restricted free agent point guard Lonzo Ball.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive apparently is averse to surrendering to a full-on tank this season, and hopes to remain semi-competitive by retaining two of the team’s most trade-friendly players, Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield, Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated asserted on the podcast Locked On Kings. Dan Feldman of NBC Sports Bay Area contends that “staying competitive” is not really much of an option as, with a 16-24 record, Sacramento is currently well below the threshold to compete for even a top-10 record in the Western Conference, and thus an appearance in a play-in game.
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams expressed his excitement about the potential on-court fit of new reserve guard Torrey Craig, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. “He’s a big, strong wing defender who can guard ones and twos and power forwards and can switch onto a bigger guy,” Williams raved. “We liked him when he was in Denver. Hated competing against him because he was such a good defender and a tough guy for sure.”
  • The Clippers appear in need of a point guard upgrade. Brian Windhorst of ESPN (video link) thinks that Thunder veteran George Hill could be a fit, but that a player at the level of Lou Williams may need to be sent back in a deal. “He’s a guy who played for [LA head coach Tyronn] Lue in Cleveland and could fit there, but it would probably take a trade of Lou Williams to get that to happen,” Windhorst said.

Luke Walton’s Job Appears Safe; Finances Play Role

Kings coach Luke Walton has been on the short list of NBA coaches with tenuous job status for awhile but he’s likely to retain his position at least through the end of this season, Sam Amick and Jason Jones of The Athletic report.

There are a variety of reasons why Walton is expected to hold onto his job, barring a complete second-half collapse. Finances come into play, as Walton is owed a combined $11.5MM in the next two seasons of his four-year guaranteed deal. The franchise has lost approximately $100MM due to the pandemic and there was even an ownership cash call in May, per Amick and Jones.

The Kings have a history of paying multiple coaches at the same time due to early firings, and minority owners are reluctant to go in that direction again.

Minority owners were asked to come up with funds to ensure the organization was still on track financially in accordance with five-year projection plans. Several of them were unable to do so, and owner Vivek Ranadive had to bridge the financial gap.

Walton has also dutifully carried out the plan set forth during the offseason by new GM Monte McNair.

McNair viewed this season as a “gap year,” with his long-term vision requiring two-to-four years to set in. Franchise player De’Aaron Fox has continued to support Walton publicly and privately and the front office is also impressed how rookie Tyrese Haliburton has blended with Fox. The progress shown by Marvin Bagley II in a starting role has also worked in Walton’s favor.

Here’s more tidbits from The Athletic’s story:

  • Nemanja Bjelica chose not to play for over a month because he was furious that Bagley had been handed his minutes. Glenn Robinson III was also upset with losing his rotation role before he was released.
  • Bjelica and Cory Joseph are the two players most likely to be dealt before the trade deadline. Hassan Whiteside has also been monitored by teams seeking a backup center.
  • Despite the improvements he’s shown, Bagley has drawn little interest on the trade market.

Kings Rumors: McNair, Fox, Bogdanovic, Giles, More

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has long admired Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, so hiring away one of Morey’s top lieutenants – assistant GM Monte McNair – filled a “certain fixation” for Ranadive, according to Jason Jones and Sam Amick of The Athletic.

There had been a growing sense around the NBA that the Kings would pick Timberwolves executive Sachin Gupta to run their front office – Minnesota was preparing to have to replace Gupta, sources tell The Athletic – but the final selection of McNair was driven by Ranadive.

McNair’s first interview with Sacramento took place over video conference, with Ranadive and consultant Mike Forde running the meeting. The second interview occurred in person on Monday, with Joe Dumars and Ranadive’s son Aneel taking part in that session, according to The Athletic. Aneel Ranadive, a member of the Kings’ executive board, was “very involved in the process,” Jones and Amick report.

Although McNair ultimately beat out fellow finalists Gupta and Wes Wilcox, both Gupta and Wilcox made strong impressions on the franchise too. One source described Wilcox as a “sharp interview,” per The Athletic.

Here’s more on the Kings in the wake of their major front office hire:

  • Former general manager Vlade Divac believed the Kings were on the verge of becoming a playoff team, but that sentiment wasn’t shared by everyone around the league, say Jones and Amick. As such, it’s possible McNair won’t hesitate to break up the core of a roster that hasn’t yet produced a winning season.
  • According to The Athletic, Divac had been expected to offer De’Aaron Fox a maximum-salary rookie scale extension, re-sign restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic – even if meant paying $18MM-ish per year – and attempt to retain free agent big man Harry Giles despite previously turning down his team option for 2020/21. It remains to be seen whether McNair will follow a similar playbook in his first offseason with the organization.
  • The Kings have long faced criticism for not having a well-staffed front office, according to Jones and Amick, who say that McNair is expected to make more hires within the basketball operations department. Assistant GM Ken Catanella will also likely remain in his current position.

Joe Dumars Won’t Be A Candidate In Kings’ Front Office Search

Last week’s shakeup left Joe Dumars in charge of the Kings‘ front office, but that’s not a role he wants to keep long-term, according to Sam Amick and Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Dumars has no interest in remaining Sacramento’s head of basketball operations and will not be a candidate in the upcoming search, the authors report. However, he will be included in the hiring process and will interview candidates along with owner Vivek Ranadive. The new GM will have full control of roster moves and will report directly to Ranadive, rather than Dumars.

The Kings haven’t determined what Dumars’ role with the franchise will be once a new GM is selected, which could become a “problematic component,” Amick and Charania add. There’s no timeline to fill the opening, so Dumars and assistant GM Ken Catanella could be making the draft and free agency decisions in October.

Mike Forde of Sportsology is expected to be the leader in the search for GM candidates. He formerly served as senior manager for Chelsea’s soccer franchise in the English Premier League, and his web site lists the Clippers, Spurs, Sixers and Nets as clients. He also worked as an adviser for the Wizards last spring after they fired Ernie Grunfeld as president of basketball operations.

When he hired Dumars, Ranadive reportedly envisioned a power-sharing arrangement in the front office with former GM Vlade Divac. However, Divac wasn’t willing to accept that and opted to resign, followed a day later by assistant GM Peja Stojakovic.

The authors note there is “significant interest” in the position around the league, despite concerns about what Dumars’ ultimate role might be. “A swell of support” has emerged for Knicks GM Scott Perry, who briefly served as VP of basketball operations in Sacramento before leaving for New York. Sources claim Ranadive and Perry are still on good terms and have remained in touch in the nearly three years since Perry’s departure.

Perry helped the Kings get an individual workout with De’Aaron Fox before the 2017 draft and improved the organization’s reputation through his close relationships with agents and executives. Perry still has a year left on his contract, but a source tells the authors he would be interested in returning to Sacramento as long as he’s guaranteed the final decision on personnel moves. The Kings would have to request permission from the Knicks to talk to Perry, which sources tell Amick and Charania they hadn’t done as of Tuesday night.

The authors list Clippers assistant GMs Mark Hughes and Trent Redden as other candidates to watch, along with Raptors GM Bobby Webster, Celtics VP of basketball operations Mike Zarren, Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations Trajan Langdon, Timberwolves executive VP of basketball operations Sachin Gupta, Spurs VP of basketball operations Brent Barry, and Rockets assistant GM Eli Witus.

Kings Notes: Divac, Bagley, Ranadive, Perry

In an interview with Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee, former Kings general manager Vlade Divac discusses his most controversial moves, including the draft day decision from two years ago that likely ended his time with the franchise. Divac got a phone call Friday from owner Vivek Ranadive telling him that Joe Dumars was taking over the front office, but Divac’s fate was probably sealed when he used the second pick in the 2018 draft to take Marvin Bagley III instead of Luka Doncic.

Bagley has played 75 combined games in two injury-filled seasons, while Doncic has quickly become an All-Star. Divac admits the decision became a source of tension with the owner, explaining that he saw Bagley as a better fit and remains confident he has a bright future.

“That was my decision,” Divac said. “I still believe Marvin has big upside. But I needed more time to prove it. I’m sure Marvin is going to prove everybody wrong. But in this league, you need to produce right now. People don’t have patience but I’m OK with that.”

Also in the interview, Divac talks about his decision not to pick up Harry Giles‘ option, the hiring of Luke Walton as head coach and Buddy Hield‘s frustration with his reserve role.

There’s more Kings news this morning:

  • Divac turned down Ranadive’s offer to remain in the front office and share power with Dumars, according to Sam Amick and Jason Jones of The Athletic. After conducting exit interviews with Kings players, Divac spoke with Ranadive again later in the day, but the owner hadn’t changed his mind. Sources tell the authors that Divac will be paid for the remainder of his contract, which runs through the 2022/23 season, and that Walton’s job remains safe.
  • Knicks general manager Scott Perry may be a candidate to replace Divac, suggests Marc Berman of The New York Post. Perry spent a short time with the Sacramento front office before coming to New York and reportedly left on good terms. He also has experience working for Dumars in Detroit. Knicks president Leon Rose recently exercised Perry’s option for next season, but he may not have much job security with a new management team in place.
  • The Kings will take their time finding a new general manager, and the search could extend into next season, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Goodwill thinks Dumars might opt for a younger executive, similar to his experience with the Pistons when he took over the front office at age 37.

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.

Wizards, Kings Ahead Of Sports Betting Curve

Monetizing the legalization of sports betting is a hot topic among owners of North American professional sports franchises and several NBA teams are positioning themselves to be at the forefront of the movement.

The Wizards and Kings are among the teams looking to educate potential bettors in preparation for when legalized betting arrives in their respective areas, as ESPN passes along.

“I think this is the most important new business for us,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said while stressing the importance of making sure new bettors are not confused when placing wagers.

The Kings are allowing fans to “Call the Shot,” something that gives fans the ability to predict outcomes like the score of a quarter or the statistics of a certain player. The team is adding a lounge for premium seat holders where fans can go to and use iPads to make “bets” before returning to their seats to watch the events unfold. The Kings are calling the experience “predictive gaming.” which is expected to be available for four select games in March.

“The arena is the game console,” Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive said. “And your phone is the controller for the game console. So we’re only limited by our imagination.”

There currently is no monetary value to the “bets,” as fans can play for free and will get virtual credits for winning. Sports betting is not currently legal in California but the Kings will have the infrastructure in place should wagering become legal.

“We’d have all the infrastructure in place,” Ranadive said. “We’d have the fan base that’s already educated. We’d have the ability to execute and all of that. So we think that we would be able to flip the switch very quickly and move.”

Washington D.C. is closer to legalized sports betting than California, as a bill that would allow sports betting inside of professional sports franchise stadiums and arenas is expected to be passed before the end of the NBA season. The Wizards are among the franchises in the district that are expected to build a Las Vegas-style sportsbook inside its stadium, according to the Washington Post.

Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are expected to be permitted inside of Audi Field (D.C. United of the MLS), Capital One Arena (Wizards, NHL’s Capitals), St Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena (WNBA’s Mystics and Wizards’ G League affiliate GoGo), and National Park (Nationals of the MLB).

The Wizards have been progressive about getting their fans familiar with real-time betting. The team scheduled live, alternate sports betting broadcast for seven games this season where potential bettors can view what a version of live betting will look like while they watch the Wizards play.

“Right now, the people who go to casinos to gamble, it’s a small community and it generates $8-10 billion a year in revenues and play,” Leonsis said. “But there’s probably $100 billion that’s in the shadows by really sophisticated gamblers. And obviously, the first step is we want to get that audience that’s gaming illegally to come into the sunlight.”

Shifting experienced bettors away from the illegal market remains a challenge. CEO Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association believes it’s going to take a partnership between the leagues and betting operators to ensure that illegal bookmakers are put out of business, as I passed along previously in a piece for CNBC.

Eight states (DE, MS, NJ, NM, NV, PA, RI, WV) currently allow for sports wagering, though the impact on the illegal market hasn’t been drastic. “It’s not as if the bookies are out today shopping for new careers,” Joe Asher, CEO of the Britain-based sports betting operator William Hill, said after the landmark Supreme Court decision which made sports betting a reality in many states.

Pennsylvania is the only state with an NBA team that currently has legalized sports betting in place. However, there is no mobile betting available yet, so Philadelphians cannot place legal bets from inside the Wells Fargo Arena as they watch the Sixers play.

Western Notes: Capela, Brunson, Kings, Roberson

Clint Capela‘s thumb injury could cost him a $2MM bonus, Bobby Marks of ESPN notes. The Rockets center has a 2,000-minute criteria tied into the team reaching the Western Conference Finals and for a defensive rebounding percentage above 30%. He has another bonus for attempting 150 or more free throws and a free throw percentage above 65%. He is currently shooting 62.6% from the line. Through 42 games, Capela has played 1,436 minutes. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Mavericks rookie Jalen Brunson and veteran Devin Harris will pick up the minutes vacated by backup point guard J.J. Barea, who suffered a torn Achilles on Friday, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Brunson played 30 minutes against the Warriors on Sunday but Harris will see his role expand as well. “He’s going to be ready and he’s going to be there for us,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Harris.
  • Kings assistant coaches under Dave Joerger are having their options for next season picked up by the front office, Sam Amick of USA Today tweets. That group includes Bryan Gates, Elston Turner, Bob Thornton, Jason March, Duane Ticknor, Larry Lewis, Bobby Jackson, Phil Ricci and Dan Hartfield. It’s a way of aligning the contracts of the staff with Joerger’s deal. The surprising Kings are currently a game above .500.
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac warned members of the executive board to stop meddling in the team’s affairs, Sam Amick of USA Today reports. Divac made the pronouncement during a conference call with 13 members of the  executive board, along with lead owner Vivek Ranadive. Divac has been frustrated by internal complaints and used the forum to demand respect, Amick adds.
  • Thunder shooting guard Andre Roberson remains sidelined indefinitely, coach Billy Donovan told Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman and other media members. “He’s worked hard, he’s doing all he needs to do but he’s still in the rehab process.”  Roberson suffered a season-ending left knee injury last January and suffered a setback in late November when an MRI revealed an avulsion fracture in the knee.

And-Ones: NBA Owners Ranked, Tomjanovich, NCAA Tournament

ESPN concluded their management series with ownership rankings, citing the Spurs (Julianna Hawn Holt), Warriors (Joe Lacob, Peter Guber), and Celtics (Wyc Grousbeck) as teams with the best ownership in the league (article link). ESPN’s panel ranked owners in terms of “performance in guiding the franchise to overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.” To that end, it perhaps isn’t surprising to see the Kings (Vivek Ranadive) and Knicks (James Dolan) round out the list; two owners who have made unfortunate headlines for on-and-off the court stories this season.

More from around the game…

  • Rudy Tomjanovich, a five-time NBA All-Star and decorated head coach, wasn’t inducted into the 2017 Basketball Hall of Fame class. Several figures around the league were critical of Tomjanovich receiving the shaft, including former Rocket Calvin Murphy and Jeff Van Gundy. (Twitter links) In an op-ed piece for the Houston Chronicle, Jonathan Feigen chastised Hall of Fame voters who “inexplicably” snubbed Tomjanovich. “Tomjanovich, especially, deflected attention, not just in the way he downplayed his coaching contributions, but even in his coaching style that stripped away excess to get the ball simply and quickly to his best player, turning the Rockets from winners to champions,” Feigen writes. “The exclusion of Tomjanovich and others said nothing about their achievements, and everything about the secret panel’s failure.”
  • Tim Duncan‘s ex-adviser, Charles Banks, plans to admit financial misconduct from his business relationship with Duncan (Associated Press link). According to court paperwork, Banks will confess to misleading Duncan into obtaining $6MM in loans.
  • Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress provided an NBA prospect guide to the Final Four, naming South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell as the NCAA Tournament’s MVP thus far.
  • Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett will put his name in the NBA Draft but won’t hire an agent, Jeff Goodman of ESPN reports (link). Per Patrick Brennan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Bluiett is “certain to again seek out evaluations from industry experts on his likely draft stock.”