Kings

Where's Zach Randolph? Vlade Divac, Dave Joerger shed light on situation

randolphusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Where's Zach Randolph? Vlade Divac, Dave Joerger shed light on situation

SACRAMENTO -- Mystery solved.

Zach Randolph hasn’t played a minute in the Kings' first 10 games this season. For many of those games, he hasn’t even been on the bench. 

Following practice Tuesday, both general manager Vlade Divac and coach Dave Joerger addressed the situation with NBC Sports California.

“Before the season, we sat down, Vlade and I and Zach, and obviously Zach and I have been together a long time,” Joerger said. “I think he’s a terrific human being, and I think he’s a terrific basketball player, and at this point, you’d rather communicate and be up front with guys and say hey, we’re going to go with the younger guys and get guys as many minutes as possible.”

After leading the Kings in scoring last season, Randolph is the victim of the team’s youth movement this season. He is out of the rotation, and with so many young bigs on the roster, it’s unlikely he’ll see time on the court anytime soon, if at all this season.

[RELATED: Kings Youth Movement: Tracking young core through first 10 games]

Randolph likely saw the writing on the wall when the Kings drafted Marvin Bagley III with the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. His position was weakened again when the team signed Nemanja Bjelica late in free agency. 

The 18-year NBA veteran came from the grit-and-grind system of the Memphis Grizzlies, which worked in stretches last season in Sacramento. With the team cranking up the tempo, it’s hard to see him finding time on the court.

“The way we’re playing and how we’re going to play, he just doesn’t fit in that type of style,” Divac said. “We’re so happy that’s he’s part of this team, being a pro and helping with mentorship of the young guys.”

It was a difficult conversation for Joerger to have. He worked with Randolph for years in Memphis as both an assistant and head coach. One of the reasons the 37-year-old veteran signed with the Kings last summer was due to his relationship with Joerger.

“I need you to be supportive, I need you to be that veteran and positive and help our young guys and lead by example,” Joerger communicated with Randolph.

Randolph has spent time around the team during training camp and early in the season, but he’s been home handling some personal business back in Memphis as of late. 

The plan is for Randolph to be around the team more and to continue to work with the young players. While the team isn’t actively shopping Z-Bo, there always is a chance he'll finish the season elsewhere.

“Any opportunity for us to improve, we’ll look at it, but we’re not focusing (on trading him),” Divac said. “We’re happy that he’s around those young guys.”

Randolph posted 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 59 games with the Kings last season, and there is a chance he can help a team that plays a different style than the current up-and-down game Sacramento is featuring. 

“He’s got a lot left to give,” Joerger said. “We see Tyson Chandler got picked up real quick. Veterans who have experience, have been in the playoffs, those guys are always very valuable and we certainly value him very highly as well.”

Randolph signed a two-year deal with the Kings in the summer of 2017 that pays him $11.7 million this season. If he’s still with the team after the trade deadline, there always is a chance that he becomes a buyout candidate. Until then, he’ll likely focus on the role of veteran teacher on the sidelines.

[RELATED: Kings G League team opens inaugural season in Stockton with lively crowd]

[RELATED: Improving De'Aaron Fox leading the way as Kings surprise rest of NBA]

[RELATED: Jeff Van Gundy praises Kings' Dave Joerger as early Coach of the Year]

Luke Walton says Kings must 'feel that pain' after playoff elimination

Luke Walton says Kings must 'feel that pain' after playoff elimination

Luke Walton summed up 14 years of Kings basketball in one statement Sunday night following Sacramento's elimination from playoff contention.

“We’re not there as a team,” the Kings coach said after Sunday's loss to the Houston Rockets. “Unfortunately the best and only way to really learn that lesson is to feel that pain. And that pain’s gotta mean enough, it’s gotta hurt enough that we’re willing to make changes.”

Changes might come whether Walton wants them or not, but the point is, once again, that the Kings aren’t there.

In Walton's defense, he got the Kings closer to a postseason berth in his first season than they've been in any other season since 2005-06. Sacramento was mathematically eliminated from a playoff spot ahead of their third-to-last regular-season game, albeit in a very bizarre season. It's frustrating and the final outcome is what matters, but there also needs to be some perspective.

The Kings were one of 22 teams to participate in the restarted NBA season because they deserved to compete for a playoff spot. When the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus, Sacramento was in a three-way tie for ninth in the Western Conference. The Kings were the hottest team out of the lot fighting for the eighth seed.

This largely is the same team that showed promise under Dave Joerger last season while still finishing 9.0 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the West's final playoff spot. They were fun to watch, but they "were not there as a team" in the end.

What is missing from this group? The Kings' defensive effort was atrocious in the Orlando bubble, but they also struggled with the finer nuances of the game. They made mistakes at times when you can’t make mistakes and it cost them the opportunity to win at least two games.

“It’s just how important details are,” Fox said about what the Kings learned. “We were in the race last year and we were in the race when we got to the bubble, but it’s just how every little thing matters. Every single second of every game matters. You can’t have mental lapses.”

It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Kings fans were hopeful that this team might break the spell. Instead, they're watching the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers flaunt their experience and surge into the playoff race.

They’ve even watched the talented-yet-mediocre Phoenix Suns streak past the Kings in the standings and jump right into the mix.

Sacramento isn’t the only team to fall apart in Orlando. Oddsmakers gave the New Orleans Pelicans the best odds to finish in ninth and force a play-in series for the last playoff spot, and they've completed flamed out. New Orleans is 2-4 in the bubble, despite having the easiest schedule.

The Memphis Grizzlies are 1-5 since the restart, clinging to just a half-game lead in eighth after starting the restarted season up 3.5 games on ninth.

How do the Kings take the next step and show improvement over a shortened offseason?

“It’s going to take a lot more work, but that’s what we are here for,” Fox said following the loss to the Rockets. “We’re here to win games, but we’ve got to put it together, completely.”

The Kings were a Jekyll and Hyde team all season. Sacramento started 15-29, then won 13 of the next 21 before the season suspended.

All season, you never knew which team would show up. That was firmly on display during a 1-5 start in the bubble.

“We got to be consistent,” point guard Cory Joseph said. “The inconsistency the whole year killed us. We’re a very talented team and that’s why it’s very upsetting that we’re in this position. We just have to learn from it and come back stronger.”

The Kings fought down the stretch in the restart opener, but couldn't execute in the final four minutes of their loss to the San Antionio Spurs. Sacramento was blown out by the middle-of-the-road Magic in the next game, losing a down-to-the-wire nail-biter to the Dallas Mavericks in the third.

A big win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday lifted the Kings' spirits, but they followed that up a day later with a loss to the no-name Brooklyn Nets. Joseph said the finer details are missing from Sacramento's play.

“We got to do the little things,” Joseph said. “We lost a lot of games on make shot, miss shot. To be a good team, it can’t all be predicated on that. You have to come out and have a strong identity every game on both ends of the court -- the way we move it on offense and also the way we play for each other on defense. As long as we get better at that and consistently do it on a nightly basis, we’ll be in a good position next year to make it.”

[RELATED: Kings' future uncertain after they miss NBA playoffs again]

It’s back to the drawing board of Sacramento. The Kings play two more games before heading home, but then the real work begins.

Will they make changes to the coaching staff or management? It seems unlikely at this point, but they have some major decisions to make with the roster as they prepare for another season that’s just around the corner.

Kings' future is uncertain after 14th straight NBA playoff absence

Kings' future is uncertain after 14th straight NBA playoff absence

The writing was on the wall when the Kings dropped an overtime thriller to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. When Sacramento fell flat on their face against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, elimination was just a matter of time.

Before the Kings could get to halftime in Sunday’s matchup against the Houston Rockets, the news hit that the Portland Trail Blazers had officially knocked both Sacramento and the New Orleans Pelicans out of NBA playoff contention.

This is what happens when you don’t come out and play with intensity and force in each and every game. The Kings stumbled out of the gate against a beatable Spurs team to open the NBA restart. They didn’t show up at all in Game 2 against the Orlando Magic.

By the time the Kings found their rhythm in their lone victory against the Pelicans, they were already teetering on the edge of elimination.

Fans are angry over their team’s performance. They have been turning to social media calling for the replacement of both general manager Vlade Divac and head coach Luke Walton.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Is an overhaul in the works? Not the last time we checked in, but that was before a complete collapse in Orlando. 

Divac signed an extension last summer, which coincides with the four-year contract the team signed with Walton. In a normal summer, there would be time to potentially replace both, but this isn’t normal.

The NBA Draft lottery, where the Kings currently sit in 12th place, is set for August 20. Teams will have less than two months to prepare for the Oct. 16 NBA draft, but also free agency, which begins on Oct. 18.  

Teams will have to assemble their rosters on the fly because training camps start in early November for a December 1 2020-21 season start.

In addition to a tight time frame, there is also the issue that the Kings, like every other franchise in the NBA, is hemorrhaging money. It’s not just that fans aren’t allowed in for games. There hasn’t been a concert at Golden 1 Center since March 11. The losses are in the tens, if not, hundreds of millions at this point.

Should the Kings pay out three plus years on both Divac and Walton’s contracts? That’s a heavy question. 

The team was playing very well when the season went on hiatus. While the performance in the bubble has been nothing short of embarrassing, Sacramento isn’t the only team to struggle. 

Can you trust Divac to handle extensions for Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox? Can he retain Kent Bazemore, Alex Len or Harry Giles in free agency? Can he pull off a trade that makes the team better and clears up some of the contract log jam the Kings now created?

Will Walton’s system look better with a regular training camp and his team already understanding not only his terminology, but his playbook after a second year on the job?

[RELATED: Fox developing into star in NBA bubble]

There are no easy answer to these questions, just like there are no quick fixes that magically make this team considerably better between now and December 1. 

Sacramento has chosen a path. Deviating from that path with so little time is a huge gamble. Staying the course might be as well. 

The future is uncertain. The only thing we know for sure is that the Sacramento Kings will miss the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season.