Sunday Musings: Welcome back to Sac Mr. Divac
The Sacramento Kings have searched far and wide to find a player that fits next to center DeMarcus Cousins. J.J. Hickson wasn’t that player. Neither was Samuel Dalembert, Carl Landry, Thomas Robinson or Patrick Patterson. It shouldn’t be that tall of a task, but two separate front offices worked on the issue to no avail.
There is a new sheriff in town in Sacramento. Despite having players with a higher ceiling on the board and ignoring the turmoil bubbling over between Cousins and head coach George Karl, Vlade Divac found a perfect match for his All-Star center.
Willie Cauley-Stein is a lean, mean, defending machine. The 21-year-old power forward instantly comes in and starts alongside Cousins and Rudy Gay on the Kings frontline. For the first time in a long time, the Kings have a group that are not only talented, but fit together…at least on paper.
After three seasons at Kentucky, Cauley-Stein comes to the team ready to contribute on day one. Of the long list of needs, an NBA-ready defensive big man was high on Divac’s list.
Three months ago Divac was an NBA novice, something the media still hasn’t let him forget. But after weeks of chaos, we now know more about the 7-foot Serb. He is a leader. He is brutally honest and he is fully in charge of the Sacramento Kings.
On Saturday afternoon, Cowbell Kingdom had a chance to get the Kings vice president of basketball and franchise operations alone for a one-on-one. Here is that conversation.
JH: What was this first draft process like for you? How do you feel you survived?
VD: It was very similar to when I was in his (Cauley-Stein’s) position. I was coming from Europe. People doubted my offensive skill set. So I’m so excited about him. He’s (at) the next level of his life you know, and career. He has different interests. I told him before he talks to the press to have fun, basketball is a fun game. Go out there and do what you can do and you’ll be solid. Do what you can do and you’ll be fine.
JH: How do you think you did personally surviving this crazy week of chaos? You’re just a couple of weeks on the job.
VD: I was in a similar stage when I finished my career and worked for the Lakers, so I knew what to expect. But obviously with the rumors and everything that people create, you try to just ignore it and focus on what you can do because you can’t change that. People are going to talk. So when you look at two days ago and people are talking about us, 99 percent of those rumors are not true.
JH: Do you think that surviving this week can help you galvanize this franchise? Everyone knows their roles now. Everyone knows what they can and can’t do. Do you think it can help you?
VD: Absolutely. I don’t think, I know it’s going to help because you need some time to work in a good environment, not having that kind of pressure from the outside world. It’s going to help.
JH: You have free agency opening up this week. How excited are you to go through all of this all over again – your first free agency?
VD: It’s another wave of what we just talked about. Draft is over, now free agency. Free agency rumors, agents, media – what ever agenda, they are going to work on that. But you have to be focused, you have to know what you want to do and you have to execute.
JH: It seems like you are taking a page out of the Geoff Petrie handbook where no information came out from the Kings.
VD: I tried, I tried. I’m happy if I succeeded. Vivek (Ranadivé) tried a couple of times, and some other people (to get information), but I think it was a good decision. For myself, I know that if I did good, I know I did it. If I did bad, I know I did it and I’m not going to point fingers at somebody else, so that’s how we’re going to go.
JH: George (Karl) had said repeatedly that he is not a draft. That the draft is something he doesn’t spend a lot of time doing. But in free agency, he knows players around the league very very well. How much are you going to lean on him during this next step?
VD: A lot. We’ve already talked. I want to hear what he thinks and what he wants and make it balance. We have the reality of the salary cap and how much we can play with, but i’ll try to do my best to find players and please my coach the best I can.
JH: The salary cap situation is not your expertise. Is there someone you are going to bring in help that situation?
VD: We have someone right now who’s pretty good and when I don’t know or Mike (Bratz) doesn’t know, we have a guy and when we don’t know how something works, he delivers. If he doesn’t know, he goes in his office and reads stuff and in two minutes he lays it on the table so we know what’s going on.
JH: So you’re confident right now you have it covered?