Posts Tagged ‘Vivek Ranadive’

Is Vlade Divac the new ‘lead voice’ in Sacramento?

divac

Sources say Vlade Divac has supplanted both GM Pete D’Alessandro and ex-Kings adviser Chris Mullin as Sacramento’s lead basketball decision-maker. (USA Today)

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Sacramento Kings began this season 5-1, and it looked as though they were on their way to playoff contention. But ever since it’s been mostly upheaval, with DeMarcus Cousins contracting menegitis, Kings coach Mike Malone being fired, the firing of interim coach Tyrone Corbin, the hiring of George Karl, and the departure of former adviser Chris Mullin to become coach at St. John’s. With five games remaining in the season, the Kings are currently 27-50.

Now, according to a report from ESPN’s Marc Stein, former Kings center Vlade Divac has emerged as the lead voice to owner Vivek Ranadive. As Stein writes

The Kings have yet to formally announce their new power structure, but sources say that Divac has supplanted both general manager Pete D’Alessandro and former Kings adviser Chris Mullin — who just jumped to the college game as the new coach at alma mater St. John’s — as Sacramento’s lead basketball decision-maker.

The future of D’Alessandro in Sacramento, especially after the departure of his closest ally in the organization in Mullin, is unclear. Sources say, however, that the Kings have already launched a search to add another front-line basketball executive to work alongside Divac whether D’Alessandro stays or departs.

Other high-ranking officials in the Kings’ current setup include assistant GM Mike Bratz, scouting director Chris Gilbert and director of player personnel and analytics Dean Oliver, who left a position at ESPN to join Sacramento’s front office entering this season.

Sources say that Mullin began to lose sway with Ranadive after refusing the owner’s offer to replace Mike Malone as coach when Malone was abruptly fired in mid-December. As ESPN.com reported at the time, Mullin had interest in the position but did not want to begin his coaching career after the season had already begun, without the opportunity to assemble a veteran coaching staff or hold training camp.

Yet when the Kings lost 21 of their first 28 games under interim coach Tyrone Corbin, Ranadive could no longer stomach waiting until the offseason to undertake the more expansive coaching search that had been planned. The Kings instead ramped up their pursuit of George Karl and hired him away from ESPN, where the 63-year-old was working as an analyst, during the All-Star break.

The hiring of Karl as coach, followed by Divac’s surprise appointment in March, were Ranadive-driven decisions. The chain of events thus marks the second time in Ranadive’s brief tenure as Kings owner that he has hired a coach before hiring his lead basketball decision-maker, as seen with Malone and D’Alessandro.

Report: Kings, Karl inch closer to deal


You might think that Vivek Ranadive, owner of the Sacramento Kings, would trust his basketball executives, learn from the team’s recent history and just get on with it. Firing Mike Malone as head coach two months ago hasn’t exactly worked the way Ranadive intended so a big step back by the owner would seem overdue.

You might hope that DeMarcus Cousins and his so-called “camp” would welcome anything that might pull the Kings out of their dreary nosedive since Thanksgiving. The Kings, after winning nine of their first 14 games, have won just nine of their last 36 and only twice in the past 29 days.

And you might expect George Karl, if he truly is as close to being hired by the Kings to replace Tyrone Corbin as reports Monday afternoon made it seem, would stop pushing for every last dollar and contract concession if his life’s desire at age 63 truly is to get his hands on one more NBA team with games to be won.

The bottom line to all this, of course, was that the Karl-to-the-Kings story that gained momentum rapidly Monday was in the sausage-making stage. While the actual event had moved into its third day, the back stories were dominating, with none of the constituents looking particularly good in the wrangling.

There was a lot more smoke than hire as NBA action tipped off Monday evening. The most authoritative came from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Others tracked the unfolding events, as the sides inched closer:

Even those who relate to Karl as a two-time cancer survivor were watching and waiting for an actual resolution to the coach’s and the team’s slow-paced dance, with the Twitter account Cancer Daily @Cancrdaily providing updates.

The Yahoo! report offered the most specifics, while reminding readers that Ranadive hadn’t done a lot for his credibility – already frayed when he talked of using 4-on-5 defensive strategies to station cherry-pickers at the other end of the floor for fantasy easy baskets – when he insisted that Malone be fired. The Kings were 11-13 when the second-year coach was sent packing, to the chagrin of multiple players. They have gone 7-19 under Corbin heading into Tuesday’s game in Chicago.

Karl, after basically campaigning for another opportunity, looked to be on the verge of adding to his 1,131-756 NBA coaching record (with 22 playoff appearances in Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle, Milwaukee and Denver). So he would seem to have his priorities jumbled if he was going to let the dollars in the deal, or the disposition of the contract’s final year (team option vs. guaranteed), get in the way of what he claims he really wants to do again.

As for Cousins, any resistance to any particular coach would seem to be a grave mistake. The Yahoo! piece reported that the Sacramento center’s agents – Dan Fegan and Jarin Akana – primarily were concerned that the Kings, what with all these coaching changes, pick a direction and stick to it. And that’s fine. But any suggestion that Cousins might disapprove of Karl specifically – lest he be asked to work hard or take some criticism – would reflect poorly on the player, who still has potential to be tapped.

Bottom line: This is a deal that make sense for all involved, and the sooner Ranadive, GM Pete D’Allessandro, Cousins, the agents and Karl all get that through their heads – and do whatever’s necessary to get on with the business of basketball rather than business – the better off they’ll all be.

Reports: Kings in ‘serious’ talks with George Karl about coaching position

karl

George Karl ranks sixth all time in NBA coaching victories with 1,131. (NBAE via Getty Images)

Having already made a coaching change once this season, it seems the Kings might be ready to jump back on the carousel.

Reports from various sources say the Sacramento front office is engaged in serious discussions with George Karl to take over as head coach of the slumping team.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Despite the fact that team owner Vivek Ranadive recently signed Tyrone Corbin to a contract through the end of this season, a nose-dive record of 1-10 over the past two-plus weeks has the perennially befuddled franchise getting itchy on the trigger finger again.

But sources say Ranadive is increasingly intrigued by the idea of bringing Karl in immediately after initially pledging to give Corbin the rest of the season to make his case.

From Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports:

Karl has professed to the Kings that he would concentrate solely on coaching and not front-office moves, a source said. He has also told the Kings that he is a huge fan of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.

The Kings do have some concern that Karl could get interest from the Orlando Magic for their coaching opening as well, a source said.

Karl, who ranks sixth all time in NBA coaching victories with a 1,131-756 record, is a fan favorite for the various reclamation projects he’s undertaken in his career and has let it be known that he’s interested in a return to the bench.

Back in December when the Kings fired coach Michael Malone, Karl tweeted: “I want to thank all the @SacramentoKings fans & supporters for their kind messages. It has not gone unnoticed.”

When the Magic fired coach Jacque Vaughn earlier this week, Karl tweeted: “It’s no secret I would love the opportunity to coach one more time. Love the skills and speed of the Magic and the great young players in the league!”

Evidently the possibility of Karl getting snapped in Orlando has lit the fire under Ranadive and could be bringing things to a boil.

Going into Saturday night’s game at Utah, the Kings are 17-31 record, the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference. The are 6-18 under Corbin.

Rockets likely lead contenders for recently waived Josh Smith


VIDEO: Where might Josh Smith wind up next?

The only way Josh Smith could be more of a target is if he had a glow-in-the-dark bullseye painted on his back.

After all, when the Pistons waived him Monday, he was on pace to become the first NBA player to shoot less than 40 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free-throw line while taking at least 12 shots per game.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a line of prospective employers from coast-to-coast as soon as the 11-year veteran hits the free-agent market when he clears waivers on Wednesday.

Here’s a look at the leading candidates:

Rockets — Probably tops on the list. Houston general manager Daryl Morey went after Smith in the summer of 2013, but could not close a sign-and-trade with Atlanta to get a deal done. With Terrence Jones sidelined, the Rockets still have the need for him at the four as a rebounder and long defender and Smith’s penchant for those wild 3-pointers might get lost in Houston’s long distance barrage. Smith could easily envision himself playing for a true title contender this season if he joins a lineup with his good buddy Dwight Howard and NBA leading scorer James Harden. Howard and Smith became close when they played on the same AAU team. Howard was also best man in Smith’s wedding. According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets would offer their $2.077 million bi-annual exception. Likely preferred destination.

Mavericks — That in-state Texas rivalry between Dallas and Houston that has already seen Chandler Parsons head north over the summer and then the Mavs win out last week in the Rajon Rondo Derby is only likely to get hotter. With Brandan Wright sent to Boston in the Rondo swap, the Mavs definitely have a need for a big body up front to come off the bench. There’s another personal connection here. Smith and Rondo played on the same Oak Hill Academy high school team. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News caught up with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle: “My opinion on Josh Smith? He’s a player whose ability I respect a lot,” Carlisle said. “And he’s had enough big games against us. He’s the kind of guy who can put a team on his back and beat you. He’s done it to us a lot of times. So I don’t know details of what happened there. But he’ll be picked up soon, I know that.” The all-in-for-this-season-Mavs should never be counted out.

Grizzlies — While two straight losses still have Memphis sitting as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the grit and grind Grizzlies are always looking for ways to juice up their offense and get easy baskets. Smith’s size could fit in on an already bruising front line with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and when motivated to run the floor, he can finish and take some of the pressure off to toil through the shot clock for buckets.

Heat — The season-ending injury to Josh McRoberts has Miami crying out for help on the front line and in terms of raw talent, packages like Smith don’t often drop down your chimney at this time of the year. The Heat don’t have that “you’re joining a title contender cachet” as the top three pursuers in the West. But the thought is that Smith could join a lineup that really needs him and he’d be asked to play in a system suited to his skill set and not necessarily one where a squeeze would be needed to make him fit. Miami hopes to get a $2.65 million disabled-player cap exception with McRoberts headed for knee surgery. The Heat would figure they could keep the wild side of Smith’s game under wraps with the influence of team president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and the on-court presence of veterans Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade among others.

Clippers — When asked about his interest in Smith at the team’s shoot around in San Antonio Monday, coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers simply said: “I don’t know.” The Clippers have been searching for help at the three all season, but would have only have the minimum to offer Smith. Since they are at the 15-man roster limit, they would have to waive a player before they could sign Smith. The personal connection in L.A. is assistant coach Mike Woodson, who was the head man in Atlanta when Smith had his most productive NBA seasons with the Hawks.

Kings — ESPN.com reported last summer that Sacramento tried to trade for Smith, offering various packages that included names such as Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams and Carl Landry. At the time it was said to be Kings owner Vivek Ranadive that wanted Smith to team up with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay in would certainly have been an oddly-matched Kings’ frontcourt. Sacramento could only afford to offer the veterans minimum of $1.4 million. But the biggest handicap the Kings have compared to the other Western is not being a contender.

Morning shootaround — Dec. 16


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kings, Malone were a stylistic mismatch | Monroe denies trade rumors | Bucks win thriller but lose Parker | Blazers lose Lopez for ‘a while

No. 1: Kings, Malone were a stylistic mismatch — Two days after the surprise firing of coach Michael Malone in Sacramento, we’re finally starting to get a few explanations. In a session yesterday with the media, Kings GM Pete D’Allesandro said it didn’t matter what Malone’s record was, it was more about the team’s style of play and philosophy. As Jason Jones writes in the Sacramento Bee

Malone was a coaching disciple of defensive-minded Jeff Van Gundy and Malone’s father, Brendan, an assistant with the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons when they won NBA championships in 1989 and 1990.

But defense is not what the front office or ownership wants to sell to fans.

“It wasn’t about wins and losses,” D’Alessandro said. “I didn’t really care about what our record was. It’s about who we want to be, what we want our identity to be as a team.”

That vision is a team that plays a fast-paced offensive style Tyrone Corbin will try to implement as interim coach.

D’Alessandro would like to see the Kings play like the Rick Adelman-coached Sacramento teams more than a decade ago, when they piled up wins with a dynamic offense – especially with the new downtown arena expected to open in 2016.

“What we’re trying to do is put a style in that reflects the Sacramento fan base, which to us is a free-flowing, up-and-down style of play,” D’Alessandro said. “That’s what we’re striving for; we have time now to install it before we get there. I think it’s going to ignite the arena when we’re playing with the style of play we intend to play with.”

Now the questions are whether the Kings, 11-13 overall and 2-7 without Cousins, have the players to make that style work and direct the team long term.

D’Alessandro wouldn’t commit to Corbin for the rest of the season, though he said Corbin has his support. The Kings are interested in veteran coach George Karl, an analyst for ESPN who was fired by Denver following the 2012-13 season, according to league sources. D’Alessandro worked with Karl in Denver.

Chris Mullin, a Hall of Fame player and an adviser to primary owner Vivek Ranadive, might be interested in the job, league sources said.

Until a permanent coach is hired, Corbin will have the challenge of changing the team’s style.

“It’s so new right now,” Corbin said. “I’m just trying to weather the storm right now and get these guys ready to play a game (Tuesday).”

***

No. 2: Monroe denies trade rumors — A day after a story in the Sporting News reported that he “badly” wanted to be traded by the Detroit Pistons, both Greg Monroe and Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy strongly refuted the rumors that Monroe was on the block. As Vince Ellis writes in the Detroit Free-Press

“They put that stuff out there, say somebody said it and then I got to answer for it, I really don’t have time for that,” Monroe said before tonight’s game at the Los Angeles Clippers.

On the rumors, he added: “It’s getting more irritating. We lost 13 games in row, won a couple of games, and now you got to hear this.”

Sporting News writer Sean Deveney, citing sources, says Monroe “badly” wants out of Detroit and that the team is seeking a first-round pick in return.

He emphatically said he is open to re-signing with the Pistons.

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy also denied the aspect of the Sporting News report saying the Pistons were seeking a first-round pick for Monroe. “I don’t know where that stuff comes from,” Van Gundy said. “We haven’t talked to anybody about trading Greg Monroe.”

***

No. 3: Bucks win thriller but lose Parker — On the one hand, it was a big night for the Milwaukee Bucks in the desert, as they battled the Phoenix Suns and won on a game-winning buzzer beater. But on the other hand, the Bucks had to play most of the second half without rookie of the year candidate and franchise building block Jabari Parker, who went down with a non-contact knee injury and wasn’t able to return. As Charles Gardner writes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Parker’s left knee buckled without contact as he made a drive in transition and he was unable to leave the floor under his own power. He was carried off the court by teammates Zaza Pachulia and Johnny O’Bryant.

“As of right now we don’t know anything. They’ll do all the tests tomorrow and we’ll be able to report something then,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said after the game.

Pachulia, who played a key role in the Bucks’ comeback victory, said all of Parker’s teammates were wishing him the best.

“I hope he’s going to be OK,” Pachulia said. “He’s a great young player. This team and this organization, the whole city counts on him. He has a lot of years ahead of him in his great career. Injuries are part of the game.

“I hope it’s not anything serious. We are all praying for him.

“It was tough to see your teammate going down and not being able to walk himself. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. The doctor is going to make a decision, obviously. But we want to him to have a speedy recovery, whatever it is. We really need him.”

Parker was driving to the basket but his knee gave way before he had mild contact with the Suns’ P.J. Tucker. A double foul was called on the play but there was little contact to merit that.

Jared Dudley said Parker “is the franchise.”

“He’s young; he’s a rookie,” Dudley said. “The good thing about it is he was smiling when he came in, so that’s always good. He was in, I don’t think it was a cast, but something where you couldn’t bend it, obviously.

“He’ll get an MRI. We’re hoping it’s just a sprain where you get him back in a couple weeks. You don’t want to have anything with him, so keep him in your prayers.”

***

No. 4: Blazers lose Lopez for ‘a while — Meanwhile in Portland, the Blazers knocked off the defending champion Spurs, but in the process lost starting center Robin Lopez to a fractured hand. According to Portland coach Terry Stotts, Lopez will be out “a while,” and having to make do without Lopez is not something that the Blazers are relishing, writes Joe Freeman for The Oregonian

“I don’t even want to think about having to play without RoLo,” All-Star point guard Damian Lillard said.

Lopez said he wasn’t sure how he suffered the injury, but it looked like he smacked his hand against the back of Boris Diaw‘s head while pursuing a rebound under the hoop. Lopez didn’t show any immediate pain or discomfort and he continued to play with the fracture for a few minutes. Eventually he was pulled from the game, however, and preliminary tests indicated that he fractured his hand in two places.

“At first I thought I just jammed a finger or something,” Lopez said. “I didn’t hear a pop and I didn’t feel any pain or anything. So I was just trying to shake it off. But as play went along, my hand never could regain any strength, so I figured I was more of a liability out there.”

The true liability lies in Lopez’s absence, particularly a lengthy one. In many ways, he’s the heart and soul of the Blazers’ starting lineup, a selfless, rugged, lane-clogging big man who is the unsung hero to their free-wheeling offense and linchpin to their improved defense. Lopez is averaging just 9.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, but his value is not measured solely in statistics. He’s the team’s best screener, best interior defender and most unselfish player.

How important is he to the Blazers’ success? They are 73-34 with him on the roster and last season — his first in Portland — he was an integral part of the first Blazers team in 14 years to win a playoff series.

“I don’t like it, I don’t like it, I don’t like it,” LaMarcus Aldridge said, when asked about the prospect of playing without Lopez. “That’s it. I can’t get past I don’t like it.

***

SOME RANDOM LINKS: Pacers owner Herb Simon says he’d be fine with a trade to bring back Lance Stephenson, but it’s not his call … Billionaire businessman Warren Buffet sat courtside in Cleveland last night to see LeBron James play … Kobe Bryant on passing Michael Jordan and the time he almost quit basketball for soccer … Mike Fratello will remain coach of the Ukraine National Team for at least a few more years … Darko Milicic will make his kickboxing debut later this week …

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 12


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for the Global Games played October 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Beal’s hurt, Wizards scramble | Parsons packed on pounds | No pressure on Lillard for quick return | NBA seeks to unlock China, India codes

No. 1: Beal’s hurt, Wizards scramble — Bradley Beal is hurt again. Few things tell us it’s NBA season again than the Washington Wizards’ young shooting guard coping with an injury. In his first two NBA seasons, Beal played 56 and 73 games, and worked under a minutes restriction in many of them. Now comes the news that Beal, 21, will be out six to eight weeks with a non-displaced fracture of the scaphoid bone in his left wrist, suffered Friday night in a preseason game against Charlotte. It’s a blow to Washington, a team built around its young backcourt of Beal and John Wall, especially for reasons pointed out by our own David Aldridge in his report:

A source says Beal did not suffer nerve damage in his wrist or have any displacement in the wrist, injuries that would have kept him out much longer than the current expected prognosis.

With Beal out, and veteran Martell Webster still recovering from offseason back surgery, the Wizards would have to turn to Glen Rice Jr., the second-year guard who was the MVP of the Samsung Summer League in Las Vegas this summer, or young veterans like Garrett Temple or Xavier Silas.

The Wizards currently have 14 players under contract, and would be able to add a veteran two guard on a temporary basis if Beal indeed misses significant time. The only vet in which Washington has significant interest at the moment is Ray Allen, who has yet to sign with a team and remains a free agent. Allen’s agent, Jim Tanner, shot down reports earlier this week that Allen was about to sign with the Cavaliers, where he would re-join former Miami teammates LeBron James and Mike Miller.

And here’s some speculation from Ben Standig of CSNWashignton.com:

The prospect of being a starter again with Beal’s absence isn’t likely to make Washington any more enticing for Allen. He’ll soon be 40. Six teams have actually contacted his reps since he became an unrestricted free agent — the Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder and …. the Milwaukee Bucks. Yes, the latter is not a mistake. Allen spent the first six-plus seasons of his career in Milwaukee, and the franchise’s pitch was a chance to end things where they began. Creative and worth a shot? Yes. Did it work? No. The Wizards are still hopeful, but suffice to say the Cavs are the front-runners as GM David Griffin has been in contact as recently as a few days ago, CSNwashington.com can confirm. Still, nothing.

The bigger issue isn’t Rice, who only appeared in 11 games as a rookie and had a wrist fracture after a collision with a teammate during a post-game celebration at Madison Square Garden. It’s who will back him up. Garrett Temple is a 6-6 guard but is more of a defender and has been working on being a third point guard this offseason. But he has played with Wall in the backcourt and started in place of Beal previously with moderate success. And remember, last year the Wizards tried then-rookie Otto Porter at shooting guard during summer league. He didn’t look fluid there, though he wasn’t fully healthy either because of his right hamstring/hip flexor strain. If Porter can play some at the No. 2 spot behind Rice, that’ll make navigating this minefield easier.

***

No. 2: Parsons packed on pounds — Boris Diaw got some notoriety last week for the weight clause his bosses with the San Antonio Spurs negotiated into his contract. It’s a series of incentives to stay sleek that, if met, will pay the frequently well-upholstered Diaw a cool $500,000 by the end of the regular season.
Little did the Dallas Mavericks realize that Chandler Parsons might need one when they put together their offer sheet to the now-former Houston Rockets’ forward. Parsons, a perpetual motion type and rather lean-looking through his first three NBA seasons, has caught flak at least twice so far from Mavs coach Rick Carlisle for being too heavy.
“One man’s bulking up is another man’s not quite in shape yet,” was Carlisle’s response when told that Parsons sought to add muscle in the offseason. The former Rocket even posted a shirtless photo on Instagram to show he still was more fit than, oh, 98.9 percent of the general population. Here’s more from Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com:

The 6-foot-9 Parsons, who was listed at 215 pounds in his three-year tenure with the Houston Rockets, reported to training camp at approximately 235 pounds.

Carlisle believes the increased weight has created conditioning issues for Parsons, who had nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, six rebounds and six assists in 20 minutes during Friday night’s preseason loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“He looked tired out there tonight to me, and his shot is short,” Carlisle said. “He’s working on losing some weight. He’s a little bit heavier than he’s been. He’s up over 230, and we want to see him get down to at least 225. That’s a work in progress, and tonight’s one of those nights where I think the extra weight was a hindrance.”

Parsons focused particularly on lifting weights during the free-agency process, when he didn’t play basketball to protect himself from injury. Primarily a small forward, Parsons felt he needed to add strength to play significant minutes at power forward, a role he could fill for the Mavs when Dirk Nowitzki rests during the season.

Carlisle has made his opinion clear to Parsons, who doesn’t necessarily agree with his coach on the matter but is willing to shed some weight.

“His opinion of heavy is different than mine,” said Parsons, who shot 1-for-6 from 3-point range against the Thunder. “We kind of go at it every day about it. At the end of the day, I respect his opinion. After training camp, my weight fluctuates. I’ll get it down.”

***

No. 3: No pressure on Lillard for quick return — No pressure on Lillard for quick return – Preseason? We talking about the preseason? That’s how Allen Iverson might have put it, if asked about the severity of Damian Lillard‘s sore left foot and its implications for the Portland Trail Blazers now and later. Lillard’s foot got stepped on in the Blazers’ first preseason game and caused him to miss the second. His status for Sunday’s tune-up vs. the Clippers was in doubt, too. But it’s nothing over which anyone should fret quite yet, writes Mike Tokito of the [Portland] Oregonian:

Lillard and the Blazers don’t regard the injury — which they are calling a “left foot sprain” after originally listing it as an ankle injury — as serious or a long-term issue.

“I would be able to play if it was a regular-season game, but it’s preseason,” Lillard said. “You don’t want it to be nagging, ongoing throughout the season. It was more precautionary than anything else. I’m just trying to take care of it right now and get it over with. That’s the smartest thing to do.”

Damian Lillard shoots Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard takes shots after practice, which he did not participate in Saturday because of a foot injury.

Lillard said he will see how the foot feels before ruling himself out for Sunday’s game, but feels in no rush to return.

***

No. 4: NBA seeks to unlock China, India codes — “Global” was a word that got a lot of play when the NBA announced its new broadcast and digital mega-deals last week with Turner Broadcasting and ABC/ESPN. It’s no secret that China and India, representing two massive and largely untapped consumer markets for the league, figure prominently in the business model the NBA and its partners will be pursuing between now and 2025. Of course, it all might go more smoothly and at a little faster pace if India had a known-quantity NBA star around whom its fans could rally and China had one to extend the kick-start it got from Yao Ming. Extending the NBA’s brand worldwide was the topic of Stuart Leavenworth‘s piece in the Sacramento Bee, pegged to the league’s Global Games this fall and filed from Shanghai:

Give it some time, say NBA officials and owners. Vivek Ranadive, an India-born Silicon Valley tycoon who led the purchase of the Sacramento Kings last year for $535 million, says that, in a country as big as China, new stars are out there. He added that the NBA and China are partnering on several initiatives to tap into the top talent, including basketball camps led by none other than Yao Ming.

In China, the system is mainly in the hands of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), which was formed in 1994 and now has 20 teams. There is also the second-tier National Basketball League, for men, and a Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.

According to the Chinese Basketball Association, there are 300 million people in China playing basketball regularly, slightly less than the entire population of the United States. But high schools and sports leagues don’t identify talent early enough and give them the team skills essential for basketball…

Lack of venues is another obstacle for the NBA’s expansion plans. Shanghai and Beijing have NBA-quality arenas, but other major cities don’t have the means, or the year-round demand, to build modern entertainment palaces.

Like other NBA owners, Ranadive wants to develop a Chinese-language app for China to broaden his team’s fan base. Ranadive is a leading proponent of what he calls “NBA 3.0,” using technology to network fans and the team. His perfect app, he says would let fans see instant replays, crowd-source suggestions for the team and even deliver food and beverages to ticket holders at the press of a button.

Ranadive, who made part of his fortune from TIBCO Software, a company he started in 1997, says that India holds unlimited potential. He and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver are leading a league mission there next month. Ranadive said he recently met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in advance of the mission.

Asked whether India is ready for basketball, with its cramped cities, grinding poverty and near-devotion to cricket, Ranadive noted that India is rising faster than many realize. Makeshift courts are popping up across the country.

“Basketball is a game that can be played anywhere, by anyone — rich, poor, boys and girls,” he said. “You don’t need a lot of space to play basketball, as you do with cricket. So I really think basketball is poised to take off.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Members of the Miami Heat sounded relieved to have their big LeBron James reunion game behind them in Brazil. … Maybe Toronto’s Bruno Caboclo isn’t “two years away from being two years away” after all. … Alexey Shved thinks he’ll find the climate in Philadelphia preferable to Minnesota, for his game anyway. … Kyrie Irving is buying Daniel Gibson‘s house. … Boston’s Rajon Rondo did some shooting (but don’t get carried away). …


Kings Start Off Season With Extraordinary Game



VIDEO: Kings open 2013-14 season with some flair

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Two thousand two hundred forty-eight.

Two thousand two hundred forty-eight previous regular season and playoff games in Sacramento Kings history, 1,161 at the original Arco Arena barn followed by Arco II/Power Balance Pavilion/Sleep Train Arena, and never has there been anything like the one played Wednesday night. No. 2,249.

And counting.

It was another game, except that it wasn’t. It was the opener of the season that wasn’t supposed to be, with 17,317 customers in the building representing the hundreds of thousands from the region who were not. This was a celebration of beating Seattle and beating the odds much more than beating the Nuggets 90-88 to start campaign No. 29 in California’s capital city.

The greatest comeback in NBA history complete by overcoming the strong bid to buy the Kings and move them to Washington state, a passionate fan base danced on the unused grave a lot of others built for them.  It had screamed its redemption before, when the Board of Governors denied the Seattle bid on May 15 and again when the unpopular Maloof family sold the team to a group headed by Vivek Ranadive, but that was different. That was the offseason. Wednesday night was the tangible: their team back on the court.

Jerry Reynolds, with the franchise ever since the move from Kansas City as a coach, executive and, now, television analyst, spoke for the masses when when he said, “It’s a new beginning. It really is. I really equate it to the first home game in the history of the Sacramento Kings. The excitement and the optimism looking forward and all that, and I think that’s exactly where we are 28 years later. New owners, new front office, new coaching staff, a change in players. And more importantly, it’s a new enthusiasm for our fans. I go to the grocery store and people want to the talk basketball with me, and it’s different. It goes back to, ‘Wow, we’ve got our team. It’s our team.’ ”

It was a basketball game, and so much more.

“Oh, yeah,” Reynolds said. “No question. It’ll be nice to get to where it is basketball moments, but right now, it’s just way more than that.”

Minority owner Shaquille O’Neal showed up and, obviously delirious while caught up in the moment, started talking playoffs and even the No. 6 spot in the Western Confetence. (He also said of some former teammates who actually did make the postseason and then some: “There’s a lot of guys on that Lakers team that couldn’t play. Couldn’t play at all.”) Mitch Richmond, the former Kings All-Star who also owns a small portion, was there. So was advisor Chris Mullin, the ex-Warriors great among the many Golden State connections in the new-look Kings. John Doleva, the president and CEO of the Hall of Fame, came from Massachusetts. Mayor Kevin Johnson, the biggest local hero, the mayor who made Season 29 possible, was of course in attendance.

Commissioner David Stern was too. He walked the purple carpet set up for the occasion outside one of the entrances, high-fived some fans and shook hands with others. He generally got a hero’s welcome after many years of being wrongly cast as a villain in the raging Sacramento inferiority complex that the NBA was out to get the small market. It was never close to true – the reality is the Kings would have been gone long ago if Stern didn’t keep standing in the way.

Now that the NBA had backed the California capital, what may be his final trip to town before his retirement was as a hero. He got a loud ovation between the first and second quarters, as he stood at center court with Johnson on his left and Ranadive on the right and received the key to the city from Johnson. The mayor also declared Oct. 30 as David Stern Day, indicating it would be a permanent distinction and not simply this Oct. 30.

“I would say that we have a pretty appreciative group of fans here,” Stern said when asked about his new popularity. “For the NBA. I don’t take it all personally. The owners did the right thing. They had a vote to cast and they cast it in favor of Sacramento. They did it because of what the mayor and the new ownership promised and Senator (Darrell) Steinberg (a representative from Sacramento and president pro tempore of the state senate) promised and the city council promised. Every promise was kept that was made to the NBA and the NBA kept its promise that if these things happened we’ll keep the team here. It’s a grand bargain in the best possible sense.

“This is a very important opening night, and I go to important opening nights. Expansions. Rings. New buildings. And new beginnings. And this is a new beginning, just as I went to Memphis last year on opening night because they had new ownership. I try to get all of the places where there’s new ownership, but I also try to get to places that are worthy beyond that even of celebrating. This is a celebration of the Sacramento fans and what they’ve meant to the league and to this franchise.”

The game was broadcast live in India, Ranadive’s birthplace. The Kings dancers did a routine to Indian music and in native dress. Johnson hugged Stern with a stronger hit than KJ put on Magic Johnson when they rumbled in the Suns-Lakers days, jostling the commissioner. Ranadive presented Stern with a construction helmet to signify the planned new downtown arena. The crowd cheered everything, including, and deservedly, itself.

No, there definitely had never been anything like it. It was the night the city had been waiting for. It was Game 2,249 and Season 29 after all.


VIDEO: Thompson’s board work helps seal thrilling opening win for Kings

Kings Go All-In With DeMarcus Cousins

a

a
HANG TIME WEST —
And so it turns out the last three seasons of DeMarcus Cousins vs. Himself, an epic showdown without a winner, was nothing more than a warmup. Spending the No. 5 pick in the 2010 Draft on Cousins was a pocket-change investment for the Kings.

The real drama begins now, with news the Kings and Cousins have agreed to a four-year, $62-million extension, a deal first reported by the Sacramento Bee. This is going to be a great ride.

If Cousins, the team’s mercurial center, finally learns how to get out of his own way, the new management team headed by owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Pete D’Alessandro has made a move of foresight that will save millions compared to what Cousins could have commanded as a restricted free agent next summer. They will have secured one of the better talents among big men — though not the most-talented big in the game, not even close — and the franchise will take a giant step forward. They will have cornered the futures market.

If this turns out to be more of the same with Cousins, DMC on a loop, the crater will be much larger than anything seen before in Sacramento. The Kings are on the hook for a lot more money now. They’re reducing the chance to offload Cousins, if Cousins remains Cousins. There is no such thing as a low-risk investment anymore.

In what should be the greatest concern for the Kings, this signing was more about emotion than basketball tangibles. Ranadive drove this with a very public commitment to Cousins before the GM, the guy with the basketball background, had been hired. The outcome will be determined by Cousins’ maturity and whether he can find the stability necessary to reach his potential and better get along with teammates.

With the opportunity to spend a season evaluating Cousins in a fresh environment and the advantage of him being a restricted free agent in July 2014, management instead moved now on the logic that, “Things will be different now. Just because.” The Kings have pledged eternal love. How could Cousins possibly not reciprocate in kind?

For months, every Ranadive statement regarding Cousins has included some version of how much the team believes in him, how Cousins was the first player Ranadive called after the sale of the Kings, and how Cousins is the future of the organization. Management’s vision is that DMC will rise to the occasion because he feels the warmth (though the previous administration made the same embrace).

They see no risk in $62 million over four years.

“I don’t see it that way,” Ranadive said a few days ago. “In some ways every decision you make is a risk. There are risks in games. Somebody could get hurt. Anything could happen. This is a young man of amazing talent. Few big men have that kind of talent. He’s healthy. He’s energized right now. He’s a very smart man. I’m excited.”

Report: Cousins, Kings Agree To Extension

.

From NBA.com staff reports

At 6-foot-11, Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins boasts a repertoire of moves that make him one of the league’s emerging low-post players. Aside from those traditional big man skills, Cousins can handle the ball (just check out the play above), shoot with range, finish with power and make a crafty dish or two, too.

Those talents give him the look of a future franchise player and of someone the Kings weren’t about to let walk away in free agency. According to the Sacramento Bee‘s Jason Jones, who first reported the news, the Kings and Cousins have agreed to a four-year, roughly $62 million extension. Per collective bargaining agreement rules, Cousins, the No. 5 overall pick of the 2010 Draft, and the Kings had until Oct. 31 to reach an agreement on an extension.

The Kings have reached an agreement on a contract extension with center DeMarcus Cousins for four years worth approximately $62 million, league sources confirmed Thursday night.

The most Cousins was eligible for under the collective bargaining agreement was five years and $80 million. The contract takes effect for the 2014-15 season.

Cousins averaged 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds last season, slightly down from the 18.1 points and 11 rebounds in his second season.

Cousins was one of eight players to average at least 17 points and nine rebounds last season. Dwight Howard, Al Horford, David Lee, Tim Duncan, Al Jefferson, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love were the others. At 23, Cousins is the youngest in the group, and he and Jefferson are the only two who have not made an All-Star team.

Cousins joins the Pacers’ Paul George, the Bucks’ Larry Sanders and the Wizards’ John Wall as players from the 2010 Draft who signed long-term extensions this offseason.

The Kings’ move to lock up Cousins may be seen as somewhat of a risk, given his many off-the-court incidents (he was suspended twice last season alone) throughout his career. But Cousins has apparently received votes of confidence from those who matter most: new owner Vivek Ranadive, new part-owner Shaquille O’Neal and new general manager Pete D’Alessandro. O’Neal, for one, specifically mentioned Cousins several times during his introductory news conference on Tuesday, while Ranadive and D’Alessandro have chimed recently as well, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

D’Alessandro, who has been scouting the EuroBasket tournament in Slovenia, returned to Sacramento this week to join Ranadive in resuming negotiations in earnest Thursday with Cousins’ agents Dan Fegan and Jarrin Akana.

Cousins has averaged 16.3 points and 9.8 rebounds while frequently flashing his unique gifts for a player his size, but he has also led or been near the league lead in fouls committed throughout a career marked by defensive struggles. Cousins’ volatility has likewise resulted in multiple suspensions, including a team-imposed ban last December for what the Kings termed unprofessional behavior, which is largely why Sacramento insisted on a four-year deal instead of a full five-year max.

But the consistent praise Cousins has received from Ranadive since his ownership group won the battle with Seattle to keep the franchise in Sacramento had made it widely assumed in league circles that the Kings were prepared to make a long-term commitment to the 23-year-old. Sacramento is now banking on the notion that the security it has extended, as part of the fresh-start feel circulating throughout the entire organization, will lead to a more plugged-in Cousins.

After announcing the addition of future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal as a minority owner and mentor to Cousins earlier this week, Ranadive told USA Today Sports: “I don’t want to say anything premature [about an extension], but I’ve been constant in my support for DeMarcus. I reached out to him when we first closed the deal. He was the first person I reached out to. They’re out there practicing on their own every day and he’s out there leading those practices. He’s out there with the team practicing every single day by themselves. [The players] all came to Sacramento early. I don’t know if that’s ever happened.

“So ‘Dr. O’Neal’ and I are going to have dinner with him on Monday night, and Dr. O’Neal is going to spend a couple of days with him and the team. So I’m very, very pleased with everything that I’m seeing.”

With Cousins in the fold long term and a core that includes guards Greivis Vasquez, Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas, rookie Ben McLemore and veteran forwards Luc Mbah a Moute, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson, Sacramento is piecing together a team that may make some noise out West sooner than we think.

 

Kings Moving Forward With India Plans

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Kings have started talks with the NBA and officials in India about playing an exhibition game in the native country of new owner Vivek Ranadive as soon as next season, Ranadive said.

The connection between the league’s desire to generate a larger presence in the second-most populous nation in the world and the emotional link for Ranadive comes as the Kings announce that the Oct. 30 season opener against the Nuggets will be televised live in India, with plans for a viewing party in Bombay.

“In India, there’s a billion people,” Ranadive said. “When they have a cricket match, there’s 600 million people watching. If we got a small fraction of that, that would still be a very big number.”

Having NBA teams play there, though, is far more problematic because of the lack of arenas at NBA standards. That would be the biggest obstacle for the Kings in India in October 2014.

“We have to find the right facility,” Ranadive said. “Right now they don’t have one. But we have a year and the NBA is very, very supportive about building the brand in India.”

Even though a year is extremely fast for this sort of project?

“I think it’s realistic,” Ranadive said. “We’re building a new arena (in Sacramento) and that will be done in three years. We’re very aggressive and ambitious.”