Kings

Source: Kings to interview ex-Cavs head coach Blatt

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Source: Kings to interview ex-Cavs head coach Blatt

The Sacramento Kings added Hall of Fame big man Patrick Ewing to their list of head coaching candidates Saturday night. Now, it appears that list has grown yet again one day later. 

CSN California has confirmed the Kings will bring in former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt in for an interview early this week.

Blatt's interview with Sacramento's front office will take place Monday, reports ESPN.

In his duration as head coach of the Cavs, Blatt compiled an 83-40 record over a season and a half. Blatt's squad fell to the Warriors in the NBA Finals last season in six games. 

[HAM: New name enters Kings' coaching search, more on the way]

After just 41 games this season, Blatt was fired from Cleveland with assistant Tyronn Lue taking his place. The Cavs were 30-11 at the time of his firing. 

Cleveland went 27-14 the rest of the season under Lue. 

Before coaching the Cavs, Blatt was a storied coach overseas. Blatt was a four-time Israeli League Coach of the Year and was named Euroleague Coach of the Year in 2014, right before he made the leap to the NBA.

The Kings have already interviewed Sam Mitchell, Mike Woodson, Kevin McHale, and Vinny Del Negro. Sacramento also has an interview set up with Ewing later this week.

Two years after DeMarcus Cousins trade, Vlade Divac thriving with Kings

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AP

Two years after DeMarcus Cousins trade, Vlade Divac thriving with Kings

SACRAMENTO -- Feb. 20, 2017 marked the end of the DeMarcus Cousins era in Sacramento. A larger than life personality, the 6-foot-11 center spent six and a half seasons showing flashes of brilliance mixed with bouts of petulance. And then he was gone.

On the verge of signing the star big to a massive, $221 million extension, general manager Vlade Divac changed course and jettisoned Cousins to the Pelicans during the 2017 NBA All-Star game. The scene of Cousins learning his fate played out in real time as cameras surrounded him for post game comments.

It was a jarring move that no one saw coming. It was a jarring move that everyone saw coming.

A few days later, Divac gave the quote of the decade, telling The Bee’s Ailene Voisin, “I believe we are going to be in a better position in two years. I want to hear again from these same people in two years. If I’m right, great. If I’m wrong, I’ll step down. But if I go down, I’m going down my way.”

The two years are up and if you were a doubter, you probably owe Divac an apology. As the Kings prepare to take on Cousins and his vaunted Warriors Thursday evening, they are in the hunt for a playoff spot and they are one of the best stories of the NBA season.  

“Clearly, I had a lot of confidence in what I was doing and I expected us to be better in two years,” Divac told NBC Sports California in a one-on-one conversation Wednesday. “I’m happy that we are in this situation. There’s still a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re happy with our team and where we’re at right now.”

Moving away from Cousins was a difficult call. So difficult that neither Geoff Petrie, nor Pete D’Alessandro, Divac’ two predecessors, were willing to do it.

“Personally, it was very difficult knowing DeMarcus’ talent and everything, but working a year and a half before that, I had a clear feeling that it was a good time for all of us,” Divac said. “For our organization, for me, for him, to do such a thing.”

Cousins’ ability is undeniable. Even coming off Achilles tendon surgery, he is making a tremendous impact on a Warriors team that has won three of the last four NBA Championships.

But sometimes talent isn’t enough. The technical fouls, run-ins with the media and distractions behind the scenes were eventually too much for the Kings’ franchise to overlook.

During his time in Sacramento, Cousins was incredibly generous in the community and beloved by many fans. He put up tremendous numbers, but it rarely translated to victories on the court. The Kings crested the 30 win plateau just once with Cousins in uniform, a 33-49 campaign during the 2015-16 season under George Karl.

From Divac's perspective, there are no hard feelings. It was a business decision that he felt he had to make. As he sees it, the trade worked out for both sides and he wasn't looking to rehash the past.

“For me personally, it’s old news, we’ve moved on from that,” Divac added. “DeMarcus, I think, is in a better place. He’s playing for a great team. I wish him all the best, but we are focused on what we’re trying to do.”

What the Kings are trying to do hasn’t been done in over a decade. With 25 games remaining, the Kings are just a game out of the postseason picture. They are young, they run and it’s an exciting brand of basketball.

Divac rebuilt the team on the fly, in a large part due to the trade. He used the transaction to jump start his overhaul of the roster, turning Cousins into Buddy Hield and the picks that would become Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason.

In addition, Divac’s trade had the expected result of dropping the Kings out of playoff contention during the 2016-17 season. The team owed their first round pick to the Chicago Bulls, but it was top 10 protected. By dropping to the eighth spot in the draft lottery following the trade, Sacramento retained their 2017 first round pick, where they used the selection to take De’Aaron Fox.

If they hadn't moved Cousins, the Kings wouldn’t have the young core they've built over the last two years. Despite their youth and lack of experience, the only one not shocked by the Kings' leap forward is the man who put the squad together.

“I believe in my team, I believe in those kids, so I personally am not surprised at all,” Divac said. “Is it faster than I thought? Yeah, but I’m not surprised at all where they are now.”

Divac returned to Sacramento with the goal of fixing the franchise he led as a player. He made moves again this season at the deadline with the hopes of putting his team over the top. He was able improve the team without damaging his young core and he's built a solid foundation, while keeping the team in a great financial position moving forward.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs and make this city proud of our young team,” Divac said. “That’s a big step and I know they are going to grow in this process. That’s our plan.”

Divac isn’t taking a victory lap, but he loves where his team is at. Most people around the NBA love the direction the Kings are heading.

Sacramento is a year or two ahead of schedule and they aren’t done yet. With a strong finish, they have a shot to snap the franchise’s 12-year playoff drought.

It all started with a transformative trade. Divac took a gamble on himself when he dealt Cousins. Two years after one of the most shocking transactions in Kings history, the talk of Divac stepping down is a thing of the past. In fact, there should probably be a conversation about when he is offered an extension.

Kings back in playoffs? Buddy Hield ready to bet his house on it

Kings back in playoffs? Buddy Hield ready to bet his house on it

SACRAMENTO -- 25 games. In the NBA, it can be an eternity, especially when winning no longer matters to a team.

For the last 12 seasons, that is what the stretch run has been for the Kings. In fact, in most years losses were much more value to Sacramento than wins. That is an unfortunate reality of the NBA’s lottery system.

That mentality corrodes a franchise from the inside and it often takes years of work to scrub that idea from the walls of the locker room.

This is one of the reasons why the Kings didn’t give in to the chase for ping pong balls last season. Sure, they sat veterans to develop young talent, but coach Dave Joerger and his staff refused to give in to the culture of losing.

Plenty of teams around the league were tanking down the stretch, but the Kings set their sights on playing spoilers. They finished 9-12 over their final 21 games, which was good enough to push them all the way down to the seventh spot in the draft lottery.

The Kings’ focus on building a winning culture didn’t hurt them in the draft. Good basketball karma and a little lotto luck landed the Kings at No. 2, where they selected Marvin Bagley III.

Early this season, the Kings continued to build from their experience last year. They got off to a surprising start and with 25 games remaining, the team sits at 30-27 and just a game out of the eight seed in the Western Conference playoff chase.

“With us, we’ve just got to stay focused,” De’Aaron Fox said. “Sacramento hasn’t played too many games after the break that actually mean something for ourselves. Instead of playing spoiler, we’re actually trying to get in the playoffs.”

Even if the Kings make the playoffs, they’ll likely matchup against a team like the Golden State Warriors or Denver Nuggets in the first round. They’ve failed to pick up a win against either team so far this season and would likely be massive underdogs coming into the postseason.

With that in mind, why does fighting for a playoff spot matter?

It’s pretty simple. The intensity of a playoff race raises the level of competition, and making the postseason gives the team a taste of something more.

“It can mean everything,” Harrison Barnes said Wednesday evening. “I remember my first year, just making the playoffs with that group, kind of what that did for everybody. Having that collective hunger. Seeing what it’s like playing against elite level teams.”

It’s going to be a battle down the stretch. The team is trying to take it one game at a time, but the players openly admit to watching the standings every night. They know where they are and what it will likely take to make it to the playoffs.

“Now they can really grow up,” Vlade Divac told NBC Sports California. “It’s a great way of developing their game. That experience is priceless and I think that’s why we’re all so excited right now, to be in that race.”

The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since the 2005-06 season. The drought is the longest current streak in the league, something the players understand very well.

Fans have shown up in droves all season long to cheer on the upstart Kings, and the team has responded with a 19-11 record at Golden 1 Center.

“For this organization, the fans, the city, I think it would be great to get back there and just feel that energy,” Buddy Hield told NBC Sports California. “I think it would be good for us and we feed off that.”

It’s going to be a battle down the stretch. The Kings are in one of the tougher grouping of games in their schedule. After falling in a heartbreaker to the Nuggets, the Kings face the Warriors, Thunder, Timberwolves, Bucks and Clippers over the next five games.

They’ll have an opportunity to pick up some games in the month of March, but night in and night out, it’s going to be a battle.

“You look at the west right now, everyone’s vying for a spot, everyone is vying for position,” Barnes said. “Every game means something. I think for us, everything comes back to us focusing on what we can control.”

It’s a confident group. They’ve defied the odds makers all season and they believe they can fight through and be there in the end.

[RELATED: How Kings went from NBA playoffs in 2006 to possible return in 2019]

Buddy Hield is so positive in the team’s chances, he was willing to place a bet on it following practice on Wednesday evening, although it came with a caveat.

"Very confident. I'd bet my house on it... I mean, I make a lot of money to buy the next one," the third-year guard said.

It’s going to be an interesting final seven weeks of the season for the Kings. For the first time in over a decade, the Kings are in the race. Whether they finish the season with a postseason berth or not, they’re building something in Sacramento.