The Sacramento Kings shocked many in the NBA world when they abruptly fired head coach Mike Malone last week. Malone is respected in league circles and most rival scouts, coaches and executives believe he had been doing a good job coaching the team. He was also popular in the Kings’ locker room, particularly with star DeMarcus Cousins.
Almost instantly after the move landscape-changing rumors of the long-term replacement hit the wire seemingly every other day — George Karl, Mark Jackson, even Vinny Del Negro — leaving Tyrone Corbin in a lame duck situation. We reported last week Karl was considered the early front-runner.
Now sources tell PBT that though the team is still very interested in hiring Karl, they are hesitant to pay an expected asking price in the range of $5 million per year or more.
In the meantime they have allowed themselves to be connected to former Warriors coach Mark Jackson, staging a not-so-secret meeting at Sleep Train Arena following Thursday’s nationally televised game that Jackson called for ESPN.
Sources tell PBT that Jackson has “no chance” of being the Kings’ next coach, adding that the meeting was both personal in nature and mutually beneficial for all parties – sending Karl a message at the negotiating table and for Jackson, keeping his name in the news as a future head coaching candidate.
Karl has made it no secret that he would like to coach the Kings, and the team would appear to have a way out of their coaching mess if they can strike a deal.
Hiring Karl can be sold to a frustrated locker room and fan base as an upgrade, albeit a very messy one that’s going to leave a mark if not dealt with soon. It should be no surprise that the Kings’ locker room has grown tired of the ongoing circus surrounding this front office decision, made by Pete D’Allesandro and signed off on by owner Vivek Ranadive and advisor Chris Mullin.
Had Malone been doing a bad job – on or off the court – there wouldn’t be quite the urgency to find a replacement. But with the collective head-scratching going on in the locker room and on both sides of the wall surrounding the royal kingdom, the lack of action on Plan B is going to continue being a distraction. While reports have said Corbin will get to finish out the season, a hiring sooner than that would help stabilize the situation.
Sacramento Kings starting point guard Isaiah Thomas has beaten the odds for his entire basketball career and now he’s set to get his first big payday.
The Kings recently extended a qualifying offer to Thomas making him a restricted free agent, and league sources tell PBT that as many as five teams have expressed interest in making an offer to steal away the point guard.
The Pistons, Heat, Lakers, Mavs and Suns have all expressed interest, with the Pistons showing the most interest to date and numbers starting in the three-year, $24 million range. Talks with teams in playoff contention have started in the $6-7 million per-year range.
Thomas averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists per game last season while hitting 45.3 percent of his shots. He ranked second for the Kings in win shares with 7.7, just behind DeMarcus Cousins at 7.9 and ahead of Rudy Gay at 4.5, with the rest of the team far behind the trio.
Last season, Thomas also became the 29th player in league history to have averaged 20 points and six assists in a year with a 20.0 Player Efficiency Rating (PER). The Kings were 3.9 points per possession better defensively with Thomas on the floor last season.
Years and even decades of struggles came to an end on Tuesday, when the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 to approve a new Entertainment and Sports Center that the Kings will call home as soon as the 2016 season. This is the final vote on the arena and demolition of a failed mall at the new arena site in Sacramento’s downtown will commence immediately.
Tuesday’s vote was marked by all-day celebrations including appearances by owner Vivek Ranadive, point guard Isaiah Thomas, and a host of local figures that were instrumental in keeping the team in town.
Sacramento had tried for years to come to an agreement on an arena with the intransigent Maloof family, who lost the means to own an NBA team and desperately sought to relocate as a solution to their financial woes.
The team was eventually sold to Ranadive after Seattle billionaires Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer tried to cut a quick deal with the Maloofs, which the league rejected because of its preference to keep the team in Sacramento. The Maloofs begrudgingly sold the team to Ranadive after it was clear that they had no other choice.
Kings fans have dealt with relocation threats for many years and their grassroots efforts to keep the team were well-documented. Their local politicians and business leaders made a concerted effort to keep the team in town. That support was the difference between keeping the team and suffering the fate of other cities like Seattle that did not want to play ball on the issue of public funding for state-of-the-art arenas.
While the topic of public funding for arenas is controversial, what isn’t in doubt is that Sacramento put its time and money on the line and the city deserves tremendous credit for keeping its team. Tuesday’s vote leaves just one last step in a long journey – opening night.