Hours before the Sacramento Kings began their sixth season under the control of his ownership group with a loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, franchise Chairman Vivek Ranadive expressed optimism in the team’s direction and voiced support for General Manager Vlade Divac.
In an interview with The Sacramento Bee in the team’s offices overlooking Golden 1 Center and Downtown Commons, Ranadive said Divac has “done all the things in terms of creating a portfolio of assets that I think has put us on a good path.”
Divac said in 2017 that he would step down in two years if the team wasn’t “in a better position” than it was before he traded former All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Asked specifically if Divac’s job was safe this season, Ranadive replied: “Vlade is a Sacramento legend, he’s a Kings legend and he’s just a great guy and right now, the way I see it, he’s put the team in a position to have some exciting times ahead of us. I’m very excited about the young players, our rookie (Marvin Bagley), the guys we got last year (in the draft), and I think it will be exciting to watch the team this year.”
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Ranadive clearly wants to see improvement on the court. But he has other measurements in mind that will determine whether this season is a success.
“We have to see that the system they (Divac and Coach Dave Joerger) are implementing – where they’re going to play fast, they’re going to shoot threes – that the system they’ve architected is taking hold,” he said. “Number two, that the players are getting better. Number three, that they’re really working as a team, as a unit together. Beyond that, I want to see resilience. They’re a young team so they will have losses, but how do they bounce back and how do they recover?”
The Kings haven’t made the playoffs for 12 seasons, the longest streak in the NBA. Since the Ranadive-led ownership group took over in 2013, 24 of the league’s 30 teams have made the playoffs. Just four teams – the Knicks, the Magic, the 76ers and the Lakers – have won fewer games than the Kings over the past five seasons.
With a young roster, the Kings are predicted to finish at or near the bottom of the Western Conference standings and the front office – including Ranadive and Divac – have faced criticism for many moves, including trading away next year’s first-round draft pick in 2015.
“I think it’s great,” Ranadive said of the shots taken by national media. “If you’re getting slapped around, that means people are passionate. We haven’t been in the playoffs for 12 years and we should get slapped around. To me, I think that we have to start winning and we have to make the playoffs and as long as we don’t do that, people will take shots and that’s to be expected.”