by Charlie O. Mallonee
The Kings did what?
SACRAMENTO–An NBA organization that was already labeled “unstable” just became more unstable in the minds of owners, managers, coaches, players, agents and fans with the sudden and surprising trade of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. The trade came on the heels of Vlade Divac – vice president and general manager of the Kings – telling ESPN that his team was about to sign Cousins to a 5-year, $200-million plus deal.
Cousins appeared to be excited about the possibilities of staying in Sacramento long-term. Cousins told ESPN, “I’m very happy. It’s where I want to be. I think we’re on the right path this season. We’re playing the best basketball of the season so far. Our team is extremely confident. We believe we can make this push and make it happen. We’ve been preaching it all year. It’s on us to make it happen.”
At the All-Star Break, the Kings are just 1.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot behind the Denver Nuggets. Fans in Sacramento – who have not seen a playoff game in 10 long years – have been be anticipating a first-round match-up between the Kings and the Golden State Warriors. Kings fans hold no illusions about beating the Warriors but what a return to the playoffs that would be for the loyal supporters of the team.
Now, it’s shock and awe time for Sacramento fans once again. Cousins is gone and so are the playoffs. The team now has more shooting guards than any organization can use. Management’s credibility is totally destroyed around “the association”and that credibility was almost no existent before this fiasco. Remember last summer, top rated draft prospects would not even come to Sacramento for workouts.
The Kings need an experienced general manager
The time has come to promote Vlade Divac to president of basketball operations and let him handle things at a 10,000 foot level while he learns the intricacies of running the day to day operations of an NBA team (see the Philadelphia transaction that the Kings came out on the short end of). An experienced GM could also groom Peja Stojakovic in the area of player development. By all reports, the Kings scouting department needs a boost as well.
Divac and Stojakovic are smart guys who have played the game at the highest level. Now, they need to learn how to manage the game at the highest level. It’s like when they were young players. They need guidance.
Sacramento can also help make a social impact in “the association”
While bringing in experienced management to help Divac and Stojakovic, the Kings could also be a part of making a major impact in the NBA. In a June 2016 article in The Undefeated, Marc Spears pointed out that there is “a distressing lack of black leadership in the NBA”. He also reference a 2015 survey that 74.4-percent of the players in “the association” were black while there was one African-American team president, two African-American general managers and one native African general manager among the 30 teams.
A prime time target for the Kings should be Oklahoma City Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver. Weaver – who is an African-American – has been interviewed for the top job by several teams but has never received the call. Weaver is known for his strong scouting abilities which the Kings need. As the story goes, he led the charge to take the chance on Russell Westbrook. As an assistant coach at Syracuse he helped to recruit Carmelo Anthony. Weaver has been an assistant coach and recruiter at the college level. He has been a scout and director of player personnel for the Utah Jazz as well working for the Thunder.
An experienced executive like Weaver would have to have real decision making power to lead and set the direction for the Kings. He would also need some time. Unfortunately, the Cousins transaction means a return to a dependence on newly drafted players to make an immediate impact for the team. That usually does not have positive results as rookies have to learn how to play in the league. Time is needed to develop a team while time without wins and trips to the playoffs is the enemy of marketing and ticket sales.
The team has made some solid decisions
Hiring Dave Joerger as head coach has been one of the best decisions the Kings have made in recent memory. After the turbulent rule of George Karl, Joerger has calmed the locker room, won the respect of the players (including the now departed DeMarcus Cousins) and worked hard on developing young talent (see the resurgence of Ben McLemore). Joerger has also been a master at making adjustments as he has lost players to injury. Now, he has to make an adjustment for the loss of an All-Star center and his regular double-double games.
The Kings number one priority must be establishing stability in the basketball operations. They have done a great job of doing that on the business side which is why the team has doubled in value to just over $1-billion. Now they must achieve excellence on the basketball court.