There was once a time when the Maloof brothers were seen as model owners — mostly because they inherited a good team and GM — and the Sacramento Kings were title contenders. Those were the glory days when Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac had the team within a lucky bounce of the NBA Finals. Everyone just ignored the fact George Maloof was thinking of moving the team to Anaheim, winning cures all ills in this league.
Now that time seems eons ago.
After their financial fortunes had turned off the court (they doubled-down on Las Vegas at the wrong time), the quality of ownership from the Maloof family faded fast. In-fighting within the family and looking to save money became the modus operandi. By the last couple years, the franchise was a mess off and on the court, and almost was sold and moved to Seattle.
Vivek Ranadive and his partners swooped in to buy the team and put together a stadium deal that will keep the Kings in the California capital. For that he should be lauded by the team’s fans. But he is a hands-on owner who has made some very curious decisions over time — firing Mike Malone mid-season, the 4-on-5 basketball experiment, and hiring the inexperienced Vlade Divac as GM without telling anyone in the organization.
The Kings had deep pockets again, but dysfunction is still the franchise’s calling card.
That dysfunction was on full display Monday.
First came the report that the Los Angeles Lakers were trying to put together a three-team trade, involving the Orlando Magic, which would bring DeMarcus Cousins to Los Angeles.
Those rumors that would not die about Cousins being available brought a response directly from Kings’ owner Ranadive himself, speaking to Sam Amick of the USA Today.
“We have zero interest in moving Cousins, so I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Ranadive said when asked about an ESPN.com report in which a Kings-Los Angeles Lakers-Orlando Magic trade scenario was discussed. “But if you like, you should talk to (Kings vice president of basketball and franchise operations) Vlade (Divac), because I know Vlade feels exactly the same way. And I’m deferring to Vlade on everything. We have no interest in moving him. From my perspective, it’s really simple: we feel that he’s a one-of-a-kind player, and we have a group of players right now and we’re going to build on it.”
Usually, if an owner says no, the answer is no.
But not in Sacramento. George Karl — the up-tempo coach Ranadive wanted, but a guy with a reputation for trying to push around the front office wherever he’s been — has forced the Kings’ hand. He wants Cousins out. From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
Karl has been recruiting Kings vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac and multiple players on the Kings’ roster to unite with him in making the case to owner Vivek Ranadive that Cousins needs to be traded, league sources said.
Karl and members of the Kings front office have made it clear to opposing team executives and coaches that they hope to soon have a formal ownership authorization to actively shop Cousins, sources said. Kings officials, including Karl, have discussed potential deals informally with other teams, but no other front office has felt comfortable that any deal can happen until Ranadive is fully on board.”
How does Cousins feel about Karl?
Now come reports that before Divac came was given the wheel, former GM Pete D’Alessandro had been polling people in the organization “Karl or Cousins.” They saw it coming, just not the owner.
All this leaves the Kings in a tough spot. Again.
They have a just hired, big name coach and a 24-year-old franchise player who would be combustible if forced to work together come training camp. Which most likely means Ranadive will come around to Karl’s way of thinking and trade the center — a deal that will be put together by a raw GM in Divac with limited front office experience.
The faces change, but dysfunction remains the Kings’ calling card.