In an move to groom young players more efficiently and expand its fan base, the Sacramento Kings have signed a two-year deal to take over basketball operations of the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League basketball team.
The Kings and Bighorns are expected to make the announcement at a joint press conference tomorrow.
Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said the deal gives the Kings the authority to hire the team's coaches and choose team players, using the Reno squad as its minor league affiliate, similar to the relationship between major and minor league baseball teams.
Ranadive said he initially tried to buy the Bighorns outright, but the owners declined to sell. The new arrangement, however, gives the Kings first right to purchase if the Bighorn owners decide to sell.
"This is a hybrid model," Ranadive told the Bee this afternoon. The Kings "pay the operating costs and get to have a significant degree of control over the players and so on. We had this in our playbook from the start, part of our NBA 3.0, Kings 3.0 (vision)."
The Bighorns managing partner, Herb Santos,Jr. a Reno attorney, will retain control over the Reno team's business operations.
Ranadive declined to describe the dollar amounts involved in the deal, but the arrangement likely means the Kings will be paying salaries for 10 additional players and a coaching staff.
The two teams had a previous agreement that allowed the Kings to send players to the Bighorns for short playing stints.
Ranadive said the arrangement will strengthen the Kings business operation as well as its basketball operation. Kings coaches will determine the Bighorns' system of play, control the amount of court time players get, and decide what players' on-court roles will be.
"If they want one of our new kids to get more playing time, or if they want to try a guy who is a one (guard) and him play him at (the shooting guard position), to see if that works," Ranadive said.
On the business side, Ranadive said the arrangement helps the KIngs connect better to fans in Northern Nevada. "We believe the Kings fan base is well beyond Sacramento."
Earlier in the day, the Kings announced Chris Granger, an NBA executive for 14 years, has been hired as team president. He will oversee the team's role in the development of a new downtown sports arena and its business operations.
He'll report to Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive and oversee the franchise's executive team, including president of business operations Matina Kolokotronis and chief financial officer John Rinehart. General Manager Pete D'Alessandro will oversee player personnel issues.
Granger said this morning he was "thrilled" to take on the new role, but acknowledged it's been "a tumultuous few years in Sacramento from a Kings standpoint."
"I think we need to do everything we can to reconnect with our fans, reconnect with the business community and reconnect with the community at large," he said.
Granger has led the NBA's Team Marketing & Business Operations (TMBO), which advises NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League franchises on business operations, ticket sales and sponsorships. Granger and TMBO have driven the Kings' current marketing and ticket sales efforts; the Kings lead the NBA this off-season in new full season ticket sales for the 2013/14 season.
"We have a long way to go," Granger said.
When the Kings threatened to move to Anaheim in 2011, the NBA dispatched Granger to Sacramento to meet with local business leaders to test the strength of the local market. He said he remains confident in the market and its ability to complete a new downtown sports arena.
"I have extreme confidence in the city, in our ownership group, in the mayor and in the political environment (in Sacramento)," he said.
In a statement, Ranadive said he is "confident (Granger) will exceed the high expectations we've set for the future of this organization."