Perhaps the slogan, “Here We Stay,” should be replaced with “We Need Wins.”
The Kings kicked off training camp for the 2014-15 season with media day Friday at the team’s practice facility. After last year’s crash course in ownership, Vivek Ranadive is feeling a lot better about his team. Only two players, center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Jason Thompson, remain from the roster Ranadive’s ownership group inherited in May 2013.
Rather than talking about changing the losing culture, Ranadive believes steps have been taken to show the Kings aren’t the cost-saving team of the past.
The Kings won just 28 games last season, the same as the previous one, and Ranadive said he doesn’t want another season mired near the bottom of the standings.
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“I still have a lot to learn, I’m sure,” Ranadive said. “Last year, when the season started, I said it wasn’t going to be about wins and losses. When I came here and we bought the team, there was dysfunction in the locker room, there wasn’t mutual respect, the arena was literally falling apart, the roof was falling down.
“So we brought in a new team, we restored stability, restored respect, we put in a strong culture. But this year, let’s be clear, it is about wins and losses.”
For today’s first training camp practice, the Kings will have a retooled roster, one they believe is better than the group that began last season.
General manager Pete D’Alessandro knew last season was going to be tough as he made moves to improve a roster he felt included a lot of players best suited to be backups.
D’Alessandro believes Cousins and Rudy Gay, part of the gold-winning Team USA at the FIBA World Cup in Spain, will bring back what they learned from the experience to help the team.
New guards Darren Collison, Ramon Sessions and rookie guard Nik Stauskas give coach Michael Malone flexibility he didn’t have with his lineups last season. The Kings also are high on new center Ryan Hollins and undrafted rookie power forward Eric Moreland, both of whom should make the Kings more athletic in the frontcourt.
With the new pieces in place, D’Alessandro said it is time for results.
“We’re not trying to be patient anymore, we’re not,” D’Alessandro said. “We want to win more, we want to be more exciting. Last year, there was just so much turnover. This year, we’re all kind of settled into our roles. We feel our team has grown, and we had two guys coming back from Spain, so we do have a lot of talent; it’s how we use it, and that’s what we’re striving to figure out.”
Malone said he knew at the end of last season that the Kings had to show significant improvement during his second season. And he said he’s pleased with how different this team is.
“I give Pete a ton of credit,” Malone said. “To pick up guys like Ramon Sessions as late as we did, a guy like Ryan Hollins, drafting Nik Stauskas. I feel like all the guys that we added in the offseason are definitely going to help us.”
The front office and coaching staff has had more time to work together to prepare for this season, too. Malone was hired in June 2013 and D’Alessandro didn’t join the organization until just before that year’s draft.
Ranadive, who says the front office and coaching staff “are all one heartbeart,” is looking forward to seeing how the offseason moves pay off.
“Everybody’s working together and we all speak with one voice,” Ranadive said. “We have differences of opinion, which we should. But at the end of the day, we’re all united and I believe we have a fantastic staff.”
Ranadive wouldn’t say how many wins would satisfy him, but he certainly expects more than 28.
“We have to do a lot better than we did last year, but beyond that I don’t want to make a commitment,” Ranadive said.
Abdur-Rahim update – The Kings are leaving open the possibility that director of player personnel Shareef Abdur-Rahim will be with the team this season.
League sources told The Bee this week Abdur-Rahim, the only executive left from the Maloofs’ ownership group, would not return, but other sources say he can return if he desires.
Abdur-Rahim also served as general manager of the Reno Bighorns, the Kings’ NBA Development League affiliate. If Abdur-Rahim doesn’t return, he will be replaced internally.
The team also has to hire a new coach for the Bighorns. Joel Abelson recently accepted a job with the New York Knicks.