I feel bad for Kings fans. A passionate fan base desperate for a team and players they can get behind finally have that — Sacramento is the biggest positive surprise in the NBA at 10-10. The team has found an identity in pace, De'Aaron Fox is having a breakout season, and this is one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the league.
And yet the Kings’ front office is getting in the way of it all.
Tension in team management — specifically between assistant GM Brandon Williams and coach Dave Joerger — was reported a couple of weeks back. There are different factions within the Sacramento front office, and at the heart of the current dispute is some of them pushing to see rookie Marvin Bagley III used more and see less of 30-year-old Nemanja Bjelica (who has started every game and played well, he is part of the reason for the fast start). It’s about the use of veterans vs. developing young players, a tough balancing act for teams around the NBA.
While Vlade Divac released a statement saying the organization has Joerger’s back, the issues have not gone away and popped up at shootaround on Thursday, reports Sam Amick of The Athletic.
According to sources, Joerger on Thursday asked that Williams not be present for the team’s shoot-around in advance of the Kings’ home game against the Clippers. Williams, who had returned from an extended stretch of travel on Wednesday that had helped avoid these sorts of conflicts, subsequently left the shoot-around with Divac as a result of Joerger’s request. Joerger, the sources say, believes that Williams was the source of the [origional report of tension] and is upset with the organization for not levying any discipline against Williams.
A difference of opinion between a coach who wants to win right now and a front office who drafted and is invested in young players, wanting to see them developed, is common around the NBA. Variations of that same issue take place in the teams at the top of the league and the ones at the bottom of the standings. Questions within a front office about whether they have the right coach for the job also happens on almost every team around the league.
What doesn’t happen is it becomes a very public debate. That’s very Kings.
The coach, his agent, GM Vlade Divac, and owner Vivek Ranadive have had a meeting and talked, Amick reports. But that has not calmed everything down. Joerger has a reputation for being a bit paranoid about things, but he’s also a quality coach — his name has to come up in the too early Coach of the Year conversations for how he developed talent and helped the squad find its identity. Up in Sacramento, the fan base is completely behind the coach.
The Kings do not have their first round pick this coming draft, they have no incentive to play the young stars and tank. After this fast start, they should be trying to win. If they fade over time, priorities can change, but this feels like a time to trust the coach and go hard for wins. Of course, with the Kings things never seem that simple.