Kings coach Dave Joerger said of Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic:
“Perhaps there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him – I don’t see it, unfortunately for us,” Joerger said. “He’s great for them and he’s great for our league.”
It was easy to read into that statement. Sacramento drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2, passing on Doncic, who went No. 3. One of Bagley’s key supporters has been Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams, and Williams and Joerger have been feuding.
Now, Joerger is fighting the inferences.
Joerger, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:
“All we’re trying to do is say something positive about another team’s player,” Joerger said. “There’s no veiled shots at anybody. De’Aaron (Fox) gushed about him and Bogi (Bogdan Bogdanovic) gushed about him and his ability and wishing him the best. It’s unfortunate that we had to play him and so is the rest of the league because the guy is playing really well right now.”
“It was out of love and positivity and people are trying to turn it something between Vlade (Divac) and I. Vlade and I are like this. Three years we’ve been working together and we love it. I love him.”
“When we drafted Marvin at two, we were high-fiving like crazy. We got the right guy for us and where we’re going to be. This isn’t going to be a story in three days and it will definitely be buried five years from now when we have the next (Kevin) Durant, (Russell) Westbrook, because that’s how good they are going to be. They are both going to be in the All-Star game and we’re going to be deep in the playoffs and I’m excited about that. I like where we are and love we’re going.”
Talk about an overcorrection. Durant and Westbrook have each won MVP. When those two reached their primes and stayed healthy, the Thunder made the Western Conference finals every year. Fox is having a breakout season and is on the star track, and Bagley looks solid for a rookie. But that’s an insanely high bar.
It might even be Joerger protesting too much, to the point he adds only more belief to the idea his initial statement contained subtext.
Maybe that’s unfair to Joerger. Coaches frequently praise opposing young players with “unfortunately for us” – meaning “unfortunately for us” we must play against him for many years. This could have been totally innocent.
But I can’t help but notice Joerger mentioned Divac, who quickly gave the coach a vote of confidence when hot-seat talk emerged, and not Williams. Joerger also made a point guard-small forward comparison, even though Fox and Bagley are a point guard and power forward/center – unless you recall Divac saying Bagley could play small forward. Another veiled shot at the front office?
I really don’t think so. But Sacramento’s years of dysfunction make people see rifts and subtle jabs where none might exist. That’s just something the Kings will have to deal with until they sustain success.