Why Al Horford makes sense for Sacramento Kings as free-agent signing


Why Al Horford makes sense for Sacramento Kings as free-agent signing

Go big or go home.

The Sacramento Kings are ready to be players in the NBA free-agent market, and they have their eye on big man Al Horford.

It might be a long shot, but there are plenty of reasons why general manager Vlade Divac would chase the 33-year-old center with a four-year, $100-plus million contract offer.

With a decision expected early in the free agency window, which opens Sunday at 3 p.m. PT, here's a look at why the Kings might feel Horford is the right player on whom to spend big money:

The player

Despite his age, Horford still is a very good NBA player. His role changed over the last few seasons in Boston as the Celtics went young, but he brings a specific skill set that the Kings need.

In his 12th NBA season, Horford averaged 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.3 blocks in 29 minutes per game. He posted an offensive rating of 122 and a defensive rating of 107, and his player efficiency rating was 20.2.

He’s a low-usage player who sets big screens and frees his teammates for open looks. He’s not the rebounder he once was, but Horford remains an excellent defender, is one of the better passing bigs in the league and shot 36.0 percent from behind the arc last season.

His player arc clearly doesn’t match the young core in Sacramento, but he can act as a mentor to Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles, and when the time is right, he can move to a secondary role on the team’s frontline.

The star effect

In the summer of 2017, the Kings brought in George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to supply a veteran presence. It probably was the most recognizable free-agent haul in franchise history.

Z-Bo was nearly 36 at the time of the signing. Carter already had turned 40.

If the Kings can land a five-time All-Star who still has tread on the tires, it would be a huge move for the franchise. It might not happen, but he’s the type of player with whom other NBA players want to play. He could open a door that the Kings have been banging on for a while.

Vlade Part II?

When Vlade Divac signed with the Kings during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, it was a huge deal for Sacramento. The 7-footer signed a six-year, $60 million contract with the team, becoming its first real big free-agent signing.

He instantly took hold of the franchise and became the glue that held everything together through the team’s golden age. Divac was a few days shy of his 31st birthday when he signed his contract, and he was able to stay healthy throughout the six years, missing six total games during the stretch.

It’s likely that Divac sees a lot of himself when he looks at Horford. Known as a quality locker-room presence and a player who has accomplished plenty during his time in the league, Horford would have an opportunity to pull a young group together in Sacramento and forge ahead as the team’s leader.

[RELATED: Report: Kings and Rockets still open for Capela deal]

Will he sign?

There’s a good chance Horford chooses a contender over the Kings. While Sacramento is up and coming, the Western Conference is extremely tough.

Horford also makes his offseason home in Atlanta, which is a long way from Sacramento. If the Kings come in as the highest bidder, and it’s substantially more than he's receiving elsewhere, there's always the potential for a deal.

If he has two similar offers and one is closer to home and on a contender, the Kings likely will miss out on one of their primary targets.

How Kings are handling leaving family behind for NBA's Orlando restart

How Kings are handling leaving family behind for NBA's Orlando restart

The NBA’s Orlando bubble -- it’s a concept that somehow we have begun to normalize.

Later this week, the Kings and 21 other NBA teams will travel via private jet to Disney World where they will be under lock and key for a minimum of five weeks.

On paper, it doesn’t sound all that bad. Five-star accommodations, tons of food options, a golf course, bowling alley, ping pong tables. The only thing that is missing are the players' families, who won’t be allowed to join the bubble until after the first round of the playoffs, somewhere around Aug. 31.

NBA players and staff are normal people, just like everyone else. The bubble concept is a way for the league to survive and save at least some of the revenue stream that has all but disappeared due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the league is asking its players to walk away from their families for an extended period of time.

“There’s no way around the fact that this is a sacrifice,” Harrison Barnes said. “Whether you’re being away from your family, whether you’re not going to be able to see your parents, your siblings, whatever it may be. And not having an end date too, definitely adds an extra bit of focus to you, that if you’re going to be away from your family for this long, you want to make it work, you want to make it something that you’re completely locked in and focused on and giving your all to, or else it’s a waste of time.”

Barnes is married, but does not have children. He might be in the minority on that front on the Kings' roster.

[RELATED: Harrison Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500 record]

Nemanja Bjelica’s children can be seen on the court in pregame. Buddy Hield’s daughter waits for him after most home games. Richaun Holmes and De’Aaron Fox both have little ones.

Kent Bazemore has been known to post pictures of his little boy on twitter and his wife has another one on the way due later this year.

“It’s tough,” Bazemore said earlier this week during one of the Kings Zoom media calls. “It’s tough on being a husband and a father. I cried like a little baby when I left to head out here a couple weeks ago -- just seeing him and my wife standing on the front porch as I’m leaving, and he has absolutely no idea I’m gone as long as I’m going to be gone.”

“It’s definitely tough, especially him being such a young age,” Bazemore added. “It’s pivotal as a child to kind of have that stable foundation, and my wife is also pregnant with a little girl coming in September, so the realistic front is very tough.”

A week ago, Corey Brewer was out of the league wondering if he would get another shot at age 34. The 12-year vet will get that opportunity with the Kings, but again, it will come at a cost.

“That’s probably the hardest part for me,” Brewer said. “I have small kids. One’s six and one’s three months, so it was tough to leave them, but they understand I’m getting older. Any chance I get to play basketball, I have to take it. They’re happy. My son’s happy I get to play again, and we FaceTime every day for like five hours, so we still see each other.”

Modern technology has made the world a smaller place, but there is nothing that can replace physical contact.

“In your 20s and 30s, you make a lot of sacrifices, but I’m in a position to really set up my legacy and really help those behind me,” Bazemore said. “So It’s a tough decision and it’s something my wife and I are diligently working on, trying to stay connected, you know, phone calls, videos, FaceTime, doing everything we can to stay connected.”

[RELATED: Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years']

There is a human element that is being missed. Players aren’t just going to Orlando and risking infection by playing a sport. They are leaving everything behind for a month or two and perhaps longer.

This is a complex situation with real life consequences for players and their loved ones. Adding to the issue is that these aren’t normal times and that the world is in the midst of a pandemic.

The league is hopeful that they can limit the exposure to coronavirus by running a tight ship, but the families of the players will not be afforded that same luxury while at home.

There is no perfect solution, but fans should keep in mind that while they want to see NBA basketball and regain some of the escapism that professional sports provides, there might be times when players' minds are not 100 percent focused on the game at hand.

Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov announced as Fenerbahçe Beko head coach

Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov announced as Fenerbahçe Beko head coach

While Kings assistant coach Igor Kokoskov will travel to Orlando with the team, he has a new gig awaiting him after the NBA season concludes.

European basketball powerhouse Fenerbahçe Beko Istanbul announced Saturday that Kokoskov will be there next head coach.

Kokoskov has agreed to a three-year contract with Fenerbahçe, according to their press release.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Thursday that Kokoskov would take over Fenerbahçe. A league source confirmed to NBC Sports California's James Ham that Kokoskov would remain with the Kings through the completion of their 2019-20 slate.

Kokoskov, 48, has been an NBA coach since the 2000-01 season. He spent time as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Utah Jazz and Kings. He also spent the 2018-19 season as the head coach of the Suns, where he amassed a 19-63 record.

The 2019-20 season was Kokoskov's first on Luke Walton's staff.

Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who plays for Kokoskov on the Serbian National Team, congratulated his coach on his new job.

[RELATED: Bazemore open to Kings return]

Kokoskov and the Kings are scheduled to arrive in Orlando this upcoming week for the restart of the NBA season. They will participate in three scrimmages before playing eight seeding games. If they can remain within four games of the No. 8 seed, Sacramento would force play-in games for the last playoff seed in the Western Conference.

If the Kings can find a way into the playoffs, they can send Kokoskov out with a bang.