Driving home the point that the Sacramento Kings are no longer the underfunded and struggling franchise of recent years, the team's new owners took two high-profile steps Wednesday to improve the team and do it quickly.
The Kings hired a highly regarded NBA executive as team president. Chris Granger, a league vice president, has earned a team "fixer" reputation as head of a marketing and sales support squad that parachutes into NBA cities to help troubled franchises.
Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive also revealed Wednesday that the Kings have signed a two-year deal to take over basketball operations of the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League.
The Kings and Bighorns have scheduled a news conference today in Reno to detail the partnership.
The move gives the Kings a minor league team to use to groom players and coaches. The Kings join a small handful of NBA teams that either own or control D-League team operations.
Ranadive said he initially tried to buy the Bighorns outright after hearing another team was making a bid but the owners declined to sell.
The arrangement, however, gives the Kings first right to purchase the team if the Bighorns' owners decide to sell, Ranadive said.
"We had this in our playbook from the start, part of our NBA 3.0, Kings 3.0 (vision)," Ranadive said.
He said his hiring of Granger, a 14-year NBA headquarters veteran, and the arrangement with the Bighorns advance his vow that "Sacramento should not have to play second fiddle to any city on the planet, and the Kings should not have to settle for anything less than the best.
"We mean what we say, and I think people are starting to see that each day," Ranadive said.
Ranadive called Granger "arguably the smartest guy (available) on the business side."
Granger said Wednesday he is jumping from the league offices in New York to team offices in Sacramento because he is attracted by Ranadive's efforts at turning the Kings into "a 21st-century franchise."
Granger currently is NBA vice president in charge of TMBO Team Marketing & Business Operations which advises NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League franchises on business operations, ticket sales and sponsorships.
As TMBO head, Granger worked with the previous Kings team owners several times since 2004. That included numerous visits to Sacramento, notably in 2011 when the team was trying to re-establish ties with fans and the business community after threatening to move to Anaheim.
"I've always had a bias toward Sacramento," he said. "I don't know (that) I've been to a place that has a more tightknit sense of community than Sacramento."
His goal, he said, is to help the team reconnect with fans and businesses, and become a more positive force in the community.
"We want to make sure everyone understands the franchise really wants to help drive local business, and how much the franchise wants to give back," he said.
He'll report to Ranadive and oversee the franchise's executive team, including Matina Kolokotronis, the president of business operations, and John Rinehart, the chief financial officer. General manager Pete D'Alessandro will oversee player personnel issues.
Granger also will oversee the team's role in the development of a new downtown sports arena and its business operations.
"I have extreme confidence in the city, in our ownership group, in the mayor and in the political environment (in Sacramento)," he said. But, he said, "we have a long way to go."
The team's second major move of the day, the agreement with the Reno Bighorns, allows the Kings to keep pace with the growing number of NBA teams that are creating closer relationships with the NBA Development League.
The Bighorns managing partner, Herb Santos, Jr., a Reno attorney, will retain control over the Reno team's business operations. He called the Kings' agreement a win-win, saying fans in both cities will benefit.
The Kings previously were among several NBA teams that sent players to Reno for short stints.
"There is no other NBA team that I wanted to be affiliated with," Santos said. "With the changes in Sacramento, this seemed like the right time" to expand the relationship.
Ranadive declined to describe the dollar amount involved in the deal, but the arrangement likely means the Kings will be paying salaries for 10 additional players and a coaching staff.
Ranadive said the arrangement will strengthen the ability of Kings coaches to groom players by giving them more playing time or trying them at different positions.
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."
Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059. Follow him on Twitter @tonybizjak.