A summer of change for Pete D’Alessandro all culminates tomorrow with the tip-off of the regular season for the Sacramento Kings. Since taking over the franchise as general manager in June, D’Alessandro has been methodical, yet aggressive in his approach to his new job. With the season opener a little over 24 hours away, Cowbell Kingdom caught up with the Kings GM yesterday to gauge his thoughts on several topics, beginning with the handful of contract decisions he’ll have to make in the coming days.
CK: In regards to Jimmer Fredette, where are you with deciding whether to exercise or decline the fourth-year option on his current contract?
PD: We haven’t made a decision on that yet.
CK: At this point, do you have a general feeling that a decision won’t come until the Oct. 31 deadline?
PD: Yeah, I would expect (nothing before the deadline). We have until Thursday, so we’ll have an internal process and conversation and come to a decision. Obviously, we’ll have to do it by then. I would think probably we’ll take our time up until the deadline.
CK: His production in the preseason was similar to what we saw from him early last season when he got an opportunity to play. Based on what he accomplished, he sure isn’t making it easy for either you or coach Malone to decide what to do with him.
PD: You know, I think every decision that you make as an organization these days, especially in the new CBA, is magnified and more important than it’s ever been. And I don’t think that’s just with respect to Jimmer. I think it’s (even) with respect to training camp contracts (too). You have 15 spots on a team, so when you look at your training camp agreement you say “how important today?” Sometimes the further down you go in terms of what you would think is the pecking order in the importance of players, it becomes more and more magnified. And so, I think everything we do, from a max contract right down to a partial guarantee, that analysis is gonna be there.
CK: You also have decisions to make on Greivis Vasquez as well as Patrick Patterson, whose contracts are both up at the end of the year. How have talks progressed with those two and their respective camps as you near the Halloween deadline?
PD: You know, I’d probably stay away from my discussions on those guys because obviously I try to respect our process with the agents and the players. But I think, (and) I’m not trying to go back to the same thing (as the Jimmer discussion), but it is (similar). Everything is analyzed and we’ll go through our process with each of these guys. And ultimately, every single one of us is new here, including in a sense the players because we’re new to them. We’re in a unique situation here and I think we’ve all acknowledged that. I think players, front office, coaches – we’ve all acknowledged that as a staff. So, it’s a little bit different than sometimes you have in a scenario where you’ve been together for a long period of time.
CK: The opening night roster is set. You trimmed the team down last week by letting Trent Lockett go and keeping Hamady Ndiaye. With Carl Landry going down due to injury, it seems like that decision came down to choosing the guy who filled a need over someone who didn’t.
PD: True and I think Trent performed extraordinarily well, and we expected him to. We got to know Trent quite a bit, so those are never easy. The cuts at the very end are really hard especially because we had two guys in Hamady and Trent that really generally put it all in and gave us a 110-percent effort the whole time. There was a situation here (and) obviously, we had to make a decision and as you go onto the season, sometimes it’s just a question of practicality. And I think Hamady makes sense for us this moment. But again, it’s a long season and everyone’s gotta continue to work and we’ll see where this thing goes.
CK: Has Ben McLemore’s progress since summer league surprised you at all? Heading into the regular season, he’s worked to address areas of weakness and looks a lot more comfortable out on the floor.
PD: To answer your question, no. But I think it’s a big adjustment. I’ve been in this league for a number of years now and it’s always an adjustment for every player. And Summer League to the actual NBA season is they’re almost two wholly different animals and so you tend to see different things. I think Ben has really worked hard and that’s the thing I’m most proud of. And it’s not necessarily that he’s gonna jump out and do it immediately. But just that you see a kid who’s serious. He’s serious about his game, he’s serious about his trade and that’s something that I think is more important to us than anything else and we’re seeing that from him.
CK: When it comes to DeMarcus Cousins and the extension you gave him earlier this month, you guys have obviously received your fair share of criticism from detractors and skeptics. But by giving him the extension now, how much of that was about building trust with DeMarcus and showing him that the change you, Vivek Ranadivé and Michael Malone are promising is not just lip service?
PD: I think that it’s just a statement to not just DeMarcus, but to the world that we believe in him. I mean DeMarcus came in and like I said, it was all new and we all got together and we spent time together. We spent a lot of time with DeMarcus and I personally spent a lot of time with DeMarcus. I mean, he’s a unique talent in this league and he came with an (improved) attitude that I felt he would. I felt he would come with that and that was early in the summer. And it just continues to get better with him and we’re really, really encouraged by his growth. We believed in him or obviously, we wouldn’t have done that (extension). And you know what honestly, the criticism…that’s part of the job. The criticism doesn’t really affect me to the extent that (one would think because) I really do believe in DeMarcus. And I think as an organization, Vivek believes in DeMarcus – I know that. And so I think that’s where it came from. To me, you know, other guys get extended and you don’t always get those questions. To us, we felt the same way about our guy (that another team would feel about theirs) and DeMarcus is our guy.
CK: So as we head into Wednesday’s game at home, do you personally feel any butterflies, knowing that this is your first season opener as the man in charge?
PD: (Laughs) I’m excited about it. I’m really excited about it and excited that it’s the first game. The preseason is the preseason and now we get into the real stuff. And (I’m) excited that it’s some old friends that we’ll be going up against in Denver for me and for Mike Bratz and Ryan Bowen as well. So there’s a few of us that come from there, but we’re all excited as an organization. You know, we have a lot of work to do from all the way across the board – front office to coaching staff to players. We all acknowledge that. But we plan on being the hardest working team in this league from all levels and so now’s the chance to start that. So we’re excited about it.