The Kings issued a statement Monday evening to refute reports the team is looking to hire a basketball executive to oversee basketball operations over General Manager Vlade Divac with former Philadelphia executive Sam Hinkie as a target, according to ESPN and Yahoo.
“The Kings are not hiring Sam Hinkie and have no plans to bring anyone in above Vlade,” the team said.
Yahoo reported there is pressure on majority owner Vivek Ranadive from the NBA and minority owners to make the Kings’ front office more “professional.”
The structure of the Kings’ front office has been an issue for most of Ranadive’s time as majority owner. Divac remains a popular figure from his playing days in Sacramento and was hired in March 2015 to oversee basketball operations over general manager Pete D’Alessandro, even though it wasn’t clear to many in the organization that was Divac’s role.
Divac has said he is in charge of all basketball decisions, but that doesn’t preclude Ranadive from hiring someone to be Divac’s boss, just like Divac was to oversee D’Alessandro.
Ranadive has also hired coaches before general managers, too, which forced executives to inherit coaches they might not have wanted. D’Alessandro came in after Michael Malone and Divac came aboard after George Karl had been hired.
D’Alessandro resigned that June before the NBA draft. That left Divac to oversee the draft and free agency with no experience in those areas. One of Divac’s first moves was a trade with Hinkie and Philadelphia that was highly criticized.
The Kings sent Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Nik Stauskas and a 2019 first-round pick to the 76ers in a salary dump that included giving Philadelphia the right to swap picks with the Kings in the first round in 2016 and this year.
Many league observers said it was a hefty price simply to unload those contracts.
Divac then did not hire another experienced front office executive. Mike Bratz remained as assistant general manager, but Divac’s only other major addition was his former teammate, Peja Stojakovic, who serves as vice president of player personnel and development and the general manager of the team’s NBA Development League franchise, the Reno Bighorns.
Stojakovic, like Divac, was not experienced at running an NBA team.
Ken Catanella was hired as assistant general manager last offseason and Bratz was reassigned as director of scouting and advisor to Divac. Catanella was added in part because of his expertise with the salary cap and collective bargaining agreement.
But that hasn’t stopped agents and executives from complaining about their difficulty in trying to workout contracts and trades with the Kings, citing Divac’s inexperience as a reason.
Prior to hiring Catanella, the Kings looked at several experienced executives to work with Divac, but they balked at the idea of working under Divac when they had more experience at his position.
Most recently, Divac has been criticized by some for his handling of trading DeMarcus Cousins, a player Divac publicly said he wouldn’t trade.
The Kings already had credibility issues many around the league and had trouble getting top draft picks to work out for them. The handling of Cousins won’t help with that issue.