Vlade Divac is the first to admit he doesn’t know everything about preparing for the NBA draft.
So in the weeks leading up to this week’s draft combine, the Kings’ vice president of basketball and franchise operations has been meeting daily with general manager Pete D’Alessandro and assistant general manager Mike Bratz before they watched hours of game footage of college and international prospects.
The meetings are aimed at ensuring the Kings make the best selection in the draft June 25. But they’re also intended to build rapport in the front office and establish a singular goal of improving the team.
Divac wants the front office to set an example for the players on how to work together as a team.
The players’ faith in the front office waned in the aftermath of the unexpected firing of coach Michael Malone and playing for three coaches in one season.
“The most important thing is, do we have a team that plays hard and is competitive,” Divac said. “That’s the main goal, but it starts from the organization.
“We have to create the team here, and that’s what we’re doing, creating a team with good chemistry. It’s exciting to be in the office all day and be a good example for our players.”
Divac has talked with executives who have built successful teams and friends he has made during his nearly three decades associated with the NBA. He believes those relationships will help as he becomes more comfortable directing the front office.
Divac was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers’ Jerry West, widely recognized as one of basketball’s top executives. Divac also worked for Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak for a year after retiring from basketball in 2005, with duties including scouting and being a liaison to Europe.
“Before I came here, I contacted a lot of people just in case I needed some advice or help,” Divac said. “I talked to (San Antonio coach) Gregg Popovich, Mitch Kupchak and people from the NBA office. My goal when I got here was to talk to (former Kings basketball president) Geoff (Petrie), and I had lunch with him about things he did and to kind of learn from him. I’m blessed to have next door somebody I can call (in D’Alessandro). If I don’t know anything about something, I can get around one of the best.”
Divac wants to create a positive atmosphere in the front office, similar to the one he remembers when he signed with the Kings in 1998, when many players dismissed Sacramento as a free-agent destination.
Change in the front office started before last season when director of pro personnel Shareef Abdur-Rahim didn’t return. Then, after principal owner Vivek Ranadive hired Divac, adviser Chris Mullin left to become coach at St. John’s, his alma mater.
6, Kings position in the NBA draft, pending the outcome of Tuesday’s lottery
Divac acknowledged “there’s a lot of pressure on us,” but he said he likes the challenge of leading the Kings back to respectability.
“I feel like we were so unfair toward our team,” Divac said. “We put so much pressure on them, and obviously, they had a lot of injuries this year and three coaches, it was really tough on them.
“This year, we have to make sure there’s stability, we have a goal, and create a good environment for them to have fun and go out there and play, because you see the talent we have. It’s one or two steps from being competitive, and we want to make sure we make those one or two steps this summer.”
The Kings are slated to pick sixth in the draft, pending the results of Tuesday’s lottery. They could move into the top three or fall as low as ninth.
The Kings will meet with prospects this week in Chicago and again in Sacramento when the team begins pre-draft workouts.
“The last three or four weeks, we’ve made sure we’re on the same page with the same goal, to have a good team,” Divac said. “To have a good team on the floor, we have to have a good team in the front office. And right now, that’s what we need, stability, trusting each other and doing things to improve. So I’m happy with it right now.”
- What: Annual NBA draft combine; prospects are measured on shooting, dribbling, jumping, etc., and play five-on-five scrimmages
- Where: Quest MultiSport Complex, Chicago
- When: Today-Friday
- TV: ESPN2, noon both days