It wasn’t too long ago one future NBA lottery pick made a confession.
As he sat in the green room at the NBA draft and the Kings were on the clock, he prayed. He prayed the Kings would not want him, and his prayer was answered.
The player, who asked not be identified, is like many draft prospects in recent years. Thoughts of being drafted by the Kings made players and their representatives cringe.
What was the direction of the franchise? Who was really in charge? Were the crazy things they’d read about ownership true?
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The Kings won’t erase all the negative perceptions about the franchise in a matter of months, but last week’s NBA draft combine was a step in chipping away at the dysfunction that has defined the team for more than a decade amid losing, coaching changes and multiple attempts at relocation.
The Kings approached their meetings with prospects as more than just chances to probe players about their backgrounds. They wanted to sell them on the future of the team, emphasizing that stability in the front office and the coaching staff will be the norm in Sacramento.
The Kings can’t draft every player they like, but they hoped to leave an impression for years to come when players become free agents. The impression made at the combine could be the connection that leads a player to choose Sacramento in the future.
General manager Vlade Divac likes to keep the meetings loose with humor. The additions of Scott Perry and Ken Catanella along with Mike Bratz have helped give the Kings experienced executives to go with Divac and Peja Stojakovic, former Kings whom players recognize.
“I was a huge fan and knowing (Stojakovic) feels that way about me, it sits with me well,” said Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox. “Also they’re a young team and just hearing from guys what their program will be in three to four years – that’s the question that I’m always asking teams.”
The Kings have a much clearer answer, which helps put prospects at ease. The Kings entered the 2016-17 season with four players with two years of experience or less, but also several veterans, indicating the team was looking to win and make the playoffs.
Trading DeMarcus Cousins gave the Kings, and the rest of the NBA, clarity about the team’s plans.
While conveying those plans to players and their representatives, the Kings managed to make some good impressions, learn more about players and give them time to get to know the organization the Kings want to be.
“It was great meeting Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, guys I remember watching and I have looked up to,” said Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss. “It was a really cool experience. Another team that clearly did their homework on me, knew a ton about me. It was as informal as an interview can be and it was really comfortable to be in that setting.”
And then, the Kings might find they’re no longer a place players hope they don’t land after the draft.