Vlade Divac

Kings Expected To Retain Vlade Divac, Luke Walton

Despite some speculation that changes may be coming for the Kings this summer, general manager Vlade Divac and head coach Luke Walton appear “very likely” to remain in their roles into next season, sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Amick, both of their contracts run through the 2022/23 season.

A report in February suggested that Kings ownership had grown increasingly frustrated with the club’s on-court results and that owner Vivek Ranadive had expressed that frustration in group chats with Walton, Divac, and other team executives. There was an expectation that Ranadive would re-evaluate everything after the season.

The Kings rebounded nicely following the publication of that report, however. Following the All-Star break, the club won seven of its next 10 games, including a pair of three-game winning streaks. By the time the NBA suspended its season, Sacramento had pulled to within 3.5 games of the No. 8 Grizzlies, giving the Kings an outside chance to make a playoff push — and seemingly providing more job security for Divac and Walton.

That February report also suggested that a decision may be coming this summer on Buddy Hield‘s future, since he had been frustrated with his demotion from the starting lineup and the idea of a trade request seemed possible.

However, in a conversation with Amick and Joe Vardon on The Athletic’s Tampering podcast, Walton insisted that the Hield situation isn’t a concern.

“Buddy was not happy about not starting, but he didn’t b—h,” Walton said. “He said, ‘You’re the coach. I’m going to do what I need to do.’ … Even with Buddy (coming off the bench), he was still playing starter minutes, he was still finishing certain games, and it’s one of those things where if you’re truly bought into being on the team, you end up accepting it because that’s a huge value. … And I thought Buddy had really, really done a nice job of embracing that and making our team better.”

Hield’s playing time did take a hit following his move to the bench, but his per-minute production improved. After averaging 20.0 PPG with a .416/.360/.816 shooting line in 44 games (34.4 MPG) as a starter, Hield recorded 19.4 PPG on .465/.476/.970 shooting in 20 contests (26.6 MPG) off the bench. It remains to be seen whether the Kings plan to use him as a sixth man indefinitely, or whether he’d be fine with that.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Clippers, Wiggins, Kings

Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson says his longtime team is “playing the best out of anybody” in the Western Conference right now, but acknowledges that the Clippers may have the deepest roster of the two Los Angeles teams, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.

“If you look at man-for-man, (the Clippers are) probably better than (the Lakers) in terms of the bench,” said Johnson, who predicted the two L.A. clubs would meet in the Western Finals. “… Anthony Davis and LeBron James, to me they are going to be the key and they are going to have to dominate in that series. Then we’re going to need that third scorer (to step up).”

While the Clippers have solidified their rotation by trading for Marcus Morris and reaching a deal to sign Reggie Jackson, the Lakers have been quiet this month. They’re still monitoring the buyout market as they consider how to improve their title chances, according to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Assuming the Clippers finalize their reported deal with Jackson today, they’ll still be $767,620 below the tax line, giving them enough breathing room to remain below that threshold even if and when they sign a 15th man, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
  • Andrew Wiggins has yet to evolve into the sort of lock-down defender that many talent evaluators believed he could become out of college, but Draymond Green is confident that the newly-acquired Warriors forward can still reach that level, Slater writes for The Athletic. “I think he can be an All-Defensive player. That’s one of my goals for him,” Green said of his new teammate. “As a leader of this team, that’s one of the things I really want to push him on.”
  • In his latest mailbag for The Sacramento Bee, Jason Anderson answers questions related to Vlade Divac‘s future, Marvin Bagley III‘s health, and possible roles for Alex Len and Jabari Parker. Anderson doesn’t believe Divac’s job will be in jeopardy this spring, but says the GM’s seat could get hot next season if the Kings are healthier and still don’t take a significant step forward.

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.

Pacific Notes: Russell, Evans, Kings, Vogel

As we’ve detailed before, the Timberwolves put on the full-court press in their efforts to recruit D’Angelo Russell during the 2019 free agent period, but the Warriors‘ maximum-salary offer and the opportunity to play alongside Stephen Curry ultimately swayed Russell to Golden State. Discussing that decision with Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report, Russell made it sound as if it didn’t take him long to choose the Dubs once his agent called him to inform him of the max offer.

“I’m like, ‘Why the f–k is you on the phone with me?!'” Russell said. “‘Tell them yes!'”

Of course, his first year in the Bay Area hasn’t played out like he’d hoped, with Curry joining Klay Thompson on the long-term injury list and the Warriors plummeting to the bottom of the Western Conference.

Russell has been linked to the Wolves again as of late, with Minnesota reportedly intensifying its efforts to trade for him. While a deal seems unlikely to happen before the deadline, D-Lo acknowledged that this has been something of a lost season for the Warriors, who are essentially evaluating their roster for 2020/21.

“This whole year is kind of a test of seeing what’s gonna fit, what’s gonna make sense for next year,” Russell told Sepkowitz. “It’s them kind of sitting back, seeing who I am as a teammate and a player, what I bring to the table.”

Here’s more out of the Pacific:

  • Warriors guard Jacob Evans has been diagnosed with a concussion and a broken nose after taking an elbow to the face on Tuesday, the club announced (Twitter link). It’s not clear how much time Evans will miss, but he’s currently in the NBA’s concussion protocol and will wear a protective mask when he returns, according to the Warriors.
  • The Kings passed on Luka Doncic in the 2018 draft due to concerns about his fit alongside De’Aaron Fox, a decision that some fans in Sacramento have had a hard time moving past, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Amick, former Kings coach Dave Joerger passive-aggressively joked to GM Vlade Divac midway through last season that he’d negotiated a trade with the Mavericks to land Doncic, to which Divac shot back: “Do I get their coach, too?”
  • In an interesting piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Arnovitz explores how the perception of Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has changed over the last several months. When Vogel was hired in the spring, he was viewed as a Plan C whose hiring was proof of the franchise’s dysfunction. However, he has helped right the ship in L.A., leading the team to a 33-8 first-half record.

Western Notes: Dumars, Thompson, Horford, Morris, Zion

The Kings have named former Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars as a special advisor to GM Vlade Divac, according to a team press release. Dumars, who build Detroit’s 2004 championship team, stepped down from his post with the Pistons in April 2014. “Joe and I played together in the league and is a legend in our sport,” Divac said in a press release. “As an experienced and talented basketball executive, I’m excited to have him serve as a special advisor and expert resource for our incredible front office team.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Former Sixers forward Hollis Thompson will join the Kings’ summer league team, J.D. Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Thompson hasn’t appeared in an NBA regular-season game since the 2016/17 season, when he played a combined 40 games for Philadelphia and New Orleans.
  • While numerous teams and agents believe Celtics big man Al Horford will receive a four-year, $112MM offer in free agency, it won’t be coming from the Mavericks, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Horford will decline his $30.1MM player option and has broken off negotiations with Boston.
  • Veteran NBA guard Darius Morris will play for the Spurs’ summer league squad, Shaw reports in another tweet. Morris hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2014/15 season. He had stints with the Lakers, Sixers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Nets.
  • The Pelicans’ top executive, David Griffin, is trying his best to keep the pressure off top pick Zion Williamson. He said on Friday to ESPN”s Malika Andrews and other media members that Williamson doesn’t have the burden of “saving this franchise.” Griffin added that Williamson is not yet the face of the franchise. “This is Jrue Holiday‘s team,” Griffin said. “Zion is going to be learning how to win at a really high level. At some point, if there is a time that the baton gets passed in terms of who is expected to carry us to win games, it will. That is not now.”

Western Notes: Cousins, Grizzlies, Divac, Griffin

DeMarcus Cousins suffered a left quad injury during the first quarter of the Warriors’ game against the Clippers on Monday night will undergo an MRI on Tuesday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Cousins suffered the non-contact injury while making a steal. If the injury is serious, it would naturally be a major blow to Golden State’s quest for a third straight championship. The Warriors signed Andrew Bogut late in the season and his role would grow if Cousins misses significant time.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Grizzlies may be more focused on front office hires than filling their head coaching vacancy, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. J.B. Bickerstaff was fired and head of basketball operations Chris Wallace was re-assigned to a scouting position last week. Jason Wexler was promoted to team president and Zach Kleiman was named executive VP of basketball operations. “Trending that way,” Wexler told Cobb about the need to fill out the front office before hiring a coach. “But at the same time, I’m not definitely saying that we’ll have a full front office as we move through the coaching search. There will be a little bit of dual-tracking, but focusing a little bit more heavily on the front office out of the gate.” There’s been no talk yet about potential candidates, as we detail in our Head Coaching Search Tracker.
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac hinted at a disconnect between himself and former coach Dave Joerger during Luke Walton‘s introductory press conference on Monday. Divac, who played with Walton on the Lakers 14 seasons ago, commented that he hired someone who was “on the same page” with him. “I think coaching is the toughest job in the NBA,” he told Noel Harris of the Sacramento Bee and other media members. “Having somebody who is behind you to work together, be on the same page and share the same philosophy about the game is definitely going to help both of us.”
  • David Griffin, who was hired over the weekend to run the Pelicans’ front office, received assurances from the franchise that it would bring in reinforcements to its basketball staff, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate reports. The front office, including the scouting department, executive staff and developmental arm, will be expanded. Griffin might still hire a GM and several assistant GM to work beneath him, though he will be the ultimate decision-maker on basketball moves, Kushner adds.

Kings To Interview Walton; Messina Also On Their List

The Kings have formally requested an interview with Luke Walton, who parted ways with the Lakers on Friday, and also intend to request permission to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina for their vacant head coaching job, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. (Hat tip to USA Today’s Sam Amick).

Walton is reportedly GM Vlade Divac’s leading candidate for the job. Messina was a finalist for the Raptors’ job last season, which wound up going to Nick Nurse. He also met twice with the Bucks’ brass last season before Milwaukee chose Mike Budenholzer.

The Kings fired Dave Joerger on Thursday, even though they improved enough to win 39 games. Sixers assistant Monty Williams is also expected to get a long look from Divac.

The fact that Divac is already lining up interviews suggests he’d like to make the coaching hire quickly.

Kings Sign GM Vlade Divac To Extension

10:37am: The Kings have issued a press release officially announcing Divac’s extension through 2022/23.

“It is an exciting time to be in Sacramento and I am honored to continue my work of building towards sustained success for this franchise,” Divac said in a statement. “I believe our team has what it takes to win and make the playoffs. I want to thank (owner) Vivek (Ranadive), the entire Kings organization and the fans for all their support.”

10:29am: Divac is pushing to consolidate his power as the Kings’ top basketball executive and is seriously weighing the possibility of dismissing Joerger, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Woj, Divac and Joerger will have a meeting today.

Meanwhile, Divac is currently meeting with Williams and has decided that the assistant GM won’t be retained for next season, per Amick (Twitter link).

8:21am: The Kings have reached an agreement on a contract extension with general manager Vlade Divac, sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Amick, Divac’s new deal will run for four years, keeping him under contract through 2022/23. Previously, his agreement with the team was set to expire in 2020.

Although the Kings couldn’t snap their league-high 13-year playoff drought this spring, the franchise showed promising signs of growth, with second-year point guard De’Aaron Fox and third-year shooting guard Buddy Hield both enjoying career years and exhibiting All-Star potential.

Other young players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley, and Harry Giles also took steps forward, and Sacramento was able to add forward Harrison Barnes at the trade deadline. All of the Kings’ core players were acquired by Divac’s management group.

With the general manager now locked up to a long-term deal, the focus in Sacramento will now shift to head coach Dave Joerger, whose fate rests “solely in Divac’s hands,” sources tell Amick. Joerger has one year remaining on his own contract.

While the Kings exceeded expectations this season, the team didn’t finish particularly strong, losing 17 of its last 26 games, including a few defeats at the hands of clubs that didn’t seem to be trying too hard to win, Amick notes. Joerger also clashed with assistant GM Brandon Williams earlier in the season. Based on those factors, league insiders don’t view Joerger as a lock to return, per Amick.

Marc Stein of The New York Times first reported that the Kings and Divac were expected to explore an extension at season’s end.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kings, Vlade Divac Expected To Discuss Extension

The Kings are expected to open contract extension discussions with general manager Vlade Divac following the club’s regular season finale, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). Divac’s current deal runs through the 2019/20 season.

Although the Kings couldn’t snap their league-high 13-year playoff drought this spring, the franchise showed promising signs of growth, with second-year point guard De’Aaron Fox and third-year shooting guard Buddy Hield both enjoying career years and flashing All-Star potential.

Other young players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley, and Harry Giles also took steps forward, and Sacramento was able to add forward Harrison Barnes at the trade deadline.

With the Kings pointed in the right direction, Divac – once a target for constant criticism – deserves much of the credit for the team’s transformation, as all of the core pieces on the current roster were drafted or acquired by his management group.

While Divac appears to be in line for a new deal, there’s still some uncertainty surrounding head coach Dave Joerger and assistant GM Brandon Williams, Stein tweets. Joerger and Williams reportedly clashed this season, raising questions about whether the duo can coexist going forward.

Joerger’s current contract also expires after the 2019/20 season, and NBA teams rarely ask their head coaches to enter a season on lame-duck deals, so it will be interesting to see if Sacramento also looks to extend Joerger this offseason.

2019 Hall Of Fame Class Announced

Several former NBA stars are among the Class of 2019 for the Basketball Hall of Fame, writes Dave Campbell of The Associated Press. The announcements were made today at the site of the Final Four in Minneapolis.

Sidney Moncrief, Vlade Divac, Jack Sikma, Bobby Jones and Paul Westphal are the more modern players chosen for enshrinement, joined by Al Attles, Carl Braun and Chuck Cooper. Also headed to the Hall are coach Bill Fitch, former WNBA star Teresa Weatherspoon, the Tennessee A&I men’s team that became the first back-to-back national champions in any college division from 1957-59 and the Wayland Baptist University women’s team that strung together 131 straight wins in the mid-1950s and captured 10 AAU titles overall.

Weatherspoon was chosen by the Women’s Committee, Attles was selected by the Contributor Direct Election Committee, Cooper was picked by the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Divac was the choice of the International Committee and Braun was tabbed by the Veterans Committee.

“I’m overwhelmed by this honor,” Divac said in a statement released by the Kings. “As a young man, I never would have believed the opportunities afforded to me by this great sport. “Basketball has looked after me for most of my life, and I’ve always done what I can to give back to this special community.”

The enshrinement ceremony is set for September 6 in Springfield, Mass.