Sunday Musings: Sacramento Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro looks ahead to offseason

Aneel Ranadivé, Pete D'Alessandro and Vivek Ranadivé (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

The Sacramento Kings are working hard to rehabilitate their image, both locally and on a national scale.  Where there was once a veil of secrecy surrounding the inner workings of the franchise, there is now an open door.

Earlier this week, the new policy of transparency continued when Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro cordially invited the Sacramento media to a luncheon at a posh downtown eatery to discuss the Kings’ 2013-14 season.
Yes, the Kings would love to keep Rudy Gay in Sacramento.  Yes, they will extend a qualifying offer to Isaiah Thomas and allow the process to play itself out.  Derrick Williams is heading to Las Vegas Summer League, the wheeling and dealing isn’t over yet and more than anything else, D’Alessandro believes he should be judged on the 28-win total from the season.

Following an hourlong Q&A session, the always open D’Alessandro broke off for one-on-ones to continue the interrogations.  Here is 10 minutes with the transpared GM:

CK: Your first season as an NBA general manager is in the books.  How did exit interviews go with the players?

PD: Really well.  I think the guys were very positive.  I think, for me, we tried to have a very laid-back approach.  We outlined some things they need to do, but one or two things, not 20 things.  It’s more about communication – what the communication in the offseason with each and every one of these guys, even the guys that were here on 10-day contracts that we were checking out.  We’re telling them, ‘Look, you’re part of it, lets see where this thing goes.’  We’re going to communicate with all the guys that were on the team that played throughout the year.

CK: How was the feedback coming back to your staff from the players?

PD: Good.  I think most of the guys see the energy that’s going on here.  I think that’s a good thing.  Sometimes it can get stale and it’s not stale here, I can tell you that.  I think guys appreciate that.  We got some good feedback about it and I would describe the meetings as really, really transparent, because when I talk to guys, I need to know.  I need to know your thoughts on everything and these meetings, it’s like, come into the confessional, because I’m not going to talk about our conversation, but I need to know how you are feeling on everything so I have an idea coming into next year.  I think most of the guys were pretty candid about their thoughts.

CK: You do have some glaring weaknesses on this team and so many huge decisions.  Do you wish that there wasn’t so much on your plate coming into this offseason or are you ready for this?

PD: I think every offseason there are huge decisions, because there are “x” amount of free agents out there.  There should never be an offseason when you feel like you don’t have a huge decision, because that means you’re complacent and sitting on your hands, and we’re not going to do that.  That’s why we’re in the business.  I enjoy it.

CK: We’ve talked about this in the past and you’ve said that you didn’t think Vivek (Ranadive) wants to go above the luxury tax figure.  But with you having nearly $17 million in contracts coming off the books next season, if it takes an extra bit to retain Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas, add your draft pick and maybe chase a budget free agent, is it possible you could exceed the luxury tax?

PD: I’ve never had the discussion with him on that.  I think it’s a generous payroll to go up to there and as a GM, I don’t think we need to do that to improve our team.  The good news and the bad news is (Gay) has a big contract option.  The good news is I (would have) a player.  You kind of have to balance it out and it’s my job to make it work.  I’ll be creative and figure out what I have to do, but I’ll make it work.

CK: You have so many options with Rudy.  You can extend him for three years, you can have him opt out and lose him, you can have him opt out and sign a five-year deal.  What do are you hoping for here?

PD: I want the player and the person; that’s what I want.  I have to plan for all of those options.  I probably have 12 different plans that could happen and none of them will happen; it will be something totally different.  And that’s the truth.  That’s what you have to do.  You have to plan it out like, the perfect scenario would be this, and the second and third… And I’m not at the point yet where I’ve laid it all like that, but I have my goal.  Here is my option 1, my option 2, 3, 4.  It’s going to be none of those.  It will be some combination or variation of one of those and we’ll see where it goes.

CK: DeMarcus Cousins.  You’ve seen him for a season.  You’ve seen how other players interact with him.  How much growth have you seen from him and how different is he than you thought he would be when you took this job last summer?

PD: I like to say that I go in without any preconceived notion, I like to say that.  (Laugh)  That’s not always true.  You’re a human being.  You research guys on every team, so you have your idea of someone.  I found him to be a very “what you see is what you get” kind of person, which I appreciate.  Because that’s kind of the way I try to be with people and I think that’s one of the reasons DeMarcus and I hit it off early, because I said what I felt and he said what he felt.  We kind of worked through the process together.  I think we both showed a lot of respect for each other and I was very, I won’t say surprised, I’ll say pleased with the way he communicated and the way he spoke to me.  It was from that first meeting when coach (Michael) Malone and I went to his mom’s house.  His mom is a wonderful person.  I got to see his family.  It’s a lesson I learned for my whole career – sometimes the best first meeting can be at somebody’s house.  The best first meeting was in that house.  You get to see people with their hair down and relaxed.  That to me, kind of set the tone for the rest of the year.

CK: If you walk into next season with basically what developed into your big three – Cousins, Gay and Thomas – is that a group you think you can win with if you put the right players around them.  Or do you think you may need to make wholesale changes here?

PD: I think if you look at some of winning percentages when they were in the game, we’re a pretty formidable team; we really were.  I think it’s not reflective of the 28 wins.  I don’t know what free agency is going to bring, what is going to happen, but there’s such talent there.  It’s a heck of a place to start, isn’t it?  That’s how I view it.  Now, if something happens this way or that way, I’m open for all of that.  Anything can happen.  But when you see three potent offensive players like that, I think that is something to start with.  We do need to add pieces around, we need to shift it around, but we have a structure of the cap and the structure of a tax and a structure of a future and we go from there.  There is a lot of planning that goes into that.  I just don’t know where it goes from here, because I don’t know what the market brings.  I think it will be a tough decision no matter what.  Whether we keep them together or not, it’s going to be a tough decision no matter what. But we look forward to it.

CK: There were so many changes to your roster during last season. Even Malone spoke about how difficult the changes were to adjust to.  Are you going to try your best to set this roster up early and let Coach get some time with a group of players or do trades just come when they come and you have to be ready to move.

PD: I think we were very proactive and aggressive this year, I think out of necessity. We had to be because we didn’t have time to plan an offseason. In my ideal world, we’d plan an offseason.  you get your contracts done and then you have a crescendo at the trade deadline.  That gives your team time to grow and see what is going on there.  That’s the ideal way.  A lot of teams do it that way.  But the reality is, you need to always be able to be flexible.  If that deal does come early, you’re not afraid to pull that trigger and you’re ready to pull the trigger and you have the assets to pull the trigger.  I know what I would like to see and it would be more like the conventional, but we always need to be ready.  That’s just the reality of the NBA.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".