This is, admittedly, a loaded question. It’s a question that doesn’t have an answer just yet. Vivek Ranadive has had his fair share of ups and downs as an NBA owner, and last season was absolutely brutal on multiple levels, but it is starting to feel like things are headed in the right direction.
The 6’11, 270 pound elephant in the room is still the key to all of this. DeMarcus Cousins frustration level, and the Kings ability to rebuild whatever goodwill they ruined, will be the most important factor in regards to the Kings success next season. I’m going to table that piece of the Kings puzzle for now. I’m not going to try and predict what Cousins is thinking, or where his relationship with the Kings is at right now. That feels like a waste of time.
What I will say is that since George Karl was hired, the Sacramento Kings have strung together a few good organizational moves in a row that lead me to believe Vivek Ranadive is starting to get ‘it’. The sample size is small, but I think it’s safe to say things are trending in the right direction. There is hope.
Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee had an opportunity to sit down with Ranadive earlier this week, and I thought a lot of his comments in that interview were telling.
"“When I bought the team, I didn’t know anybody, and what I have discovered is that the NBA culture tends to be more of a ‘crony’ culture than Silicon Valley. ‘This is my guy. Hire this guy.’ I want loyal people, and Vlade is loyal.” – Vivek Ranadive, via Ailene Voisin (Sacramento Bee)"
That is a profound statement by Vivek Ranadive, and one that sounds like it’s coming from someone who is starting to understand how the NBA works. It also sounds like subtle ‘shots fired’ at his former staff, but I’m not going to try and predict who he could be referencing.
This is speculation on my part, but it sounds like Ranadive is just as tired of the nonsense as we are.
In regards to Vlade Divac, Ranadive said what we were all thinking. “I am counting on Vlade to pull this all together”.
Divac has a truly uncanny ability to manufacture chemistry. Between George Karl, Vivek Ranadive, and DeMarcus Cousins, he has his work cut out for him, but betting against Vlade is a bad idea. If anyone can do it, he can.
I thought it was incredibly important to keep Pete D’Alessandro on staff. Towards the end of the season, there were some pretty well sourced Kings insiders suggesting that D’Alessandro was on the way out. Something shifted, and it now appears as though D’Alessandro’s job is safe for at least one more season.
In that same column by Ailene Voisin that I referenced earlier, she noted that Divac appreciated D’Alessandro’s “negotiating skills and salary cap acumen”, which is precisely why I wanted to keep D’Alessandro on board.
As much as I like Vlade Divac, I don’t think every day general manager duties fit his skill set, and D’Alessandro has been a decent general manager for this team. It’s the other stuff that gets him into trouble.
As a drafter, D’Alessandro has been solid. The Jury is still out on Nik Stauskas, but Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum are two solid draft picks considering that draft class. He traded and re-signed Rudy Gay to a pretty good contract extension. The Darren Collison signing from last summer looks like a steal. Smaller trades like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for Derrick Williams, and Ramon Sessions for Andre Miller, have worked.
None of these moves have resulted in an improved record, but D’Alessandro has proved some level of competency at every level as a general manager. Big trades, small trades, draft picks, minimum contract signings, etc. He’s had success across the board.
He’s made mistakes, of course. I didn’t like how the Kings handled anything surrounding Isaiah Thomas’ free agency. The Carl Landry signing was a mistake, but you could blame that on Michael Malone if you looked into that move hard enough.
The point is, I like having D’Alessandro here, and I’d like to see him do his job through a Vlade Divac filter. Let Divac be the face of this front office, while D’Alessandro does his work behind the scenes.
This is the healthiest a Vivek Ranadive front office has ever been, and I couldn’t be more intrigued heading into the offseason. I have no idea what to expect, and that is both exciting and frightening, but bringing in both George Karl and Vlade Divac, while retaining Pete D’Alessandro and dumping Chris Mullin all feel like the right call in each particular case. That is cause for some optimism.
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