Kings

Emotions across the board as Kings process Cousins' departure

Emotions across the board as Kings process Cousins' departure

SACRAMENTO -- The emotions were raw Tuesday night at the Sacramento Kings practice facility. One by one, the Kings brought out representation, each with a unique point of view of the team's massive roster shakeup over the weekend.

Dave Joerger not only lost his star center, but also a veteran player that came with him from Memphis. Darren Collison watched his two best friends on the team leave on a plane for New Orleans. Anthony Tolliver went from a veteran on a club fighting for a playoff spot to a starter on a rebuild. And Willie Cauley-Stein went from 10-15 minutes of playing time each night to a player with a real chance to show what he can do.

This is what a blockbuster trade does to a team. There is no standard reaction. Every coach, every player, every front office executive has a different level of attachment to the people around them. What is abundantly clear is Sunday’s trade of DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi, as well as the release of Matt Barnes, changes everything in Sacramento.

Dave Joerger signed a four-year deal to coach the Kings over the summer, leaving the safe haven of Memphis where he had spent the last nine years of his career, for the uncertainty of Sacramento. He did so with full knowledge that changes might come much sooner than some might expect.

“I’ll miss DeMarcus, I’ll miss Matt, big time, and yet, I’m a member of another team that is the organization,” Joerger told media members. “I fully support the organization in going forward to making decisions that are sometimes difficult.

“We’re all in this together. We want to make this city proud and I want to be here a long time. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with these guys closely.”

The moves that were made over the weekend has Joerger rethinking his three-year plan with the team. This is now year zero, not year one according to the Kings’ head coach. He no longer has a franchise cornerstone. Instead, he has a group of role players and four rookies that have hardly gotten their feet wet in the NBA.

Collison is now the second longest tenured Kings player behind Ben McLemore. He couldn’t hide the emotion on his face as he described the last two days in Sacramento.

“It’s been tough, I’m not even going to lie to you guys, it’s been really emotional the last couple of days, not just watching them leave, but for myself included,” Collison said. “I got a chance to talk to Cuz last night and I’ve been talking to Casspi as well. It’s just tough, those are my two closest friends on the team and to see them go like that, it’s unfortunate.

“Everybody was shocked, nobody knew it was happening."

To add to the confusion, Collison’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors. For a veteran with a young family at home, this is a difficult time of year, especially when your team is clearly going a new direction.

“There’s really nothing you can do about anything,” Collison said. “If your franchise player gets traded, what does that say about everybody else?"

Tolliver is always the level-headed thinker. There is no place for emotion when you’ve played for nine different NBA franchises, three separate D-League teams and made stops in Germany and Turkey in your career. Trades are part of the game, regardless of what name is on the back of your jersey.

“I just come to work, man, I just come to work - nothing changes for me,” Tolliver said.

Tolliver said he was just sitting down to watch a movie with his wife when his phone started to blow up Sunday night.

This is the NBA life. It’s what you sign up for. Tolliver isn’t expecting to become a focal point in a new redesigned offense. He will play defense, grab rebounds, hit 3-pointers and hammer home an occasional dunk.

“I don’t think anybody's role is going to drastically change,” Tolliver added. “Everybody’s just going to have to do a little bit more of what they do and just be a little bit better at what they do.”

With Cousins gone, the Kings’ frontcourt just freed up 34.4 minutes of playing time for a player like Cauley-Stein. He is young, energetic and ready to prove that he is so much more than what he has put forth in his first season and a half in the league.

“You might see a different spark from me, I’m trying to win,” Cauley-Stein said. “Before, playing 10 minutes, 15 minutes, I didn’t have a lot of saying in what we do. Now, we just lost two verbal leaders, somebody else got to step up and be a verbal leader. So I think, why not me.”

Joerger did his best to show the calm and collective demeanor of a leader. Collison looked stunned nearly 48 hours later and with good cause. Tolliver handled his business like a man who has seen it all and Cauley-Stein had the glimmer in his eye of a kid who was about to jump the Grand Canyon on a BMX bike.

It’s been a tough few days in Sacramento. With 25 games remaining, this team is a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race and that fact seems so far from anyone’s mind. More changes may be in store between now and Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

Hold onto your hats Kings fans, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Al Horford's reported Celtics exit has some thinking he'll join Kings

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USATSI

Al Horford's reported Celtics exit has some thinking he'll join Kings

The Al Horford era in Boston reportedly is over.

After three seasons with the Celtics, the All-Star big man reportedly has decided to opt out of his contract and will look to sign a longer-term deal elsewhere, The Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett reported Tuesday, citing league sources. 

Horford arrived in Boston ahead of the 2016-17 season, viewing the C's as a team that was about to take the leap into NBA Finals contention. Three years later, Kyrie Irving's expected departure has made Danny Ainge's giant asset Jenga board crumble, and now Horford appears to be on the market, looking for a chance to win a title during the latter stages of his career. 

This news, naturally, sent Twitter into a tizzy, and it had some pinpointing the Kings as a likely destination for Big Al.

The Kings, fresh off a 39-43 season where they showed they were one of the up-and-coming young teams in the league, are projected to have the cap space to sign Horford to the long-term deal he reportedly is seeking.

Horford, obviously, would be a great veteran piece on what is a young, inexperienced team. The Florida product has been the model of maturity and consistency during his NBA career and would be a respected veteran voice for a young Kings team. With Sacramento looking to make a leap into the playoffs next season, Horford could serve as a steadying force -- the same way he was in Boston -- and help the Kings navigate the rigors of the NBA season.

Putting Horford next to Marvin Bagley III also would give the Kings a loaded frontcourt that would have the ability to dominate the glass. Also, Horford's intelligence and veteran savvy on the defensive end of the floor is something that could help the Kings go up a level as they look to move above the .500-mark next season. 

Now, are the Kings in a position to take a leap and potentially win a title during the next few seasons? That part's a little iffy.

[RELATED: What Barnes' decision to opt out means for Kings]

NBA free agency begins June 30.

What does Harrison Barnes' choice to become free agent mean for Kings?

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What does Harrison Barnes' choice to become free agent mean for Kings?

SACRAMENTO -- Harrison Barnes, unrestricted free agent.

The news certainly came as a surprise Tuesday morning when the Kings forward chose to walk away from the final year of his contract that would have paid him $25.1 million next season.

While it might have been slightly unexpected, it wasn’t for Kings general manager Vlade Divac and his team. It might have even been the plan all along.

At 27 years old, Barnes has plenty of basketball in his future, and the Kings would like him to remain a part of that. According to multiple sources, the Kings are confident they can lock up their starting small forward to a long-term deal.

There's always a risk that Barnes will find the open market enticing and leave without compensation for Sacramento. That would be bad news for the Kings’ offseason plans, but it also would open up a massive amount of salary-cap space for the team to aggressively pursue other options.

Don’t be shocked if Barnes and the Kings move quickly on a four-year deal once free agency opens June 30. Barnes follows the age arc of most of the roster, and he instantly fit in as a veteran leader with deep playoff experience.

Barnes had the option of accepting his player option and then working on an extension with the Kings later in the offseason. By opting out, there is a possibility that he is willing to forgo some of the $25.1 million this season for a long-term stability.

Is Barnes worth a four-year, $72 million to $80 million contract? To the Kings, the answer is yes. And a contract like that immediately would impact Sacramento’s bottom line.

With Barnes, the Kings have approximately $67 million in guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season. That doesn’t include a $6.3 million qualifying offer for Willie Cauley-Stein, $1.6 million in non-guaranteed money for Frank Mason, or a team option on Yogi Ferrell at $3.1 million.

Without Barnes’ $25.1 million, Sacramento has $41.9 million in guaranteed deals and $67.1 million in available space. The Kings have another $6.3 million in minimum salary-cap holds, giving them roughly $60.8 million in available space, again, without Ferrell, Cauley-Stein or Mason.

There are further cap implications, like massive holds for Barnes and Cauley-Stein, but those are complicated and require far more explanation. The short answer is that the Kings can eliminate those holds by renouncing their rights to either player.

While nothing is locked up with Barnes as of June 18, this might be a perfect world scenario for the Kings. If he takes a longer-term deal, but with a reduced salary in Year 1, it gives the team additional resources up front while retaining an important part of their core.

A starting salary of $18 million to $20 million would open an extra $5 million to $7 million in cap space for this summer, giving Divac and his staff the ammunition necessary to chase a major free agent and still have enough to make one or two major additional improvements.

[RELATED: Kings get good look at two guards in final pre-draft workout]

This likely is the Kings’ road map for this summer, although there are no guarantees that they can pull it all off. Step one now is to retain Barnes. Step two is to swing for the fences and fill the voids in the rotation.