Justin Jackson

Vlade Divac helps De'Aaron Fox, Kings through NBA trade deadline sting

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USATSI

Vlade Divac helps De'Aaron Fox, Kings through NBA trade deadline sting

SACRAMENTO -- At 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday, TV cameras were lined up outside the Kings' locker room. Before the team even had time to clear out Iman Shumpert’s locker or pull down his name plate, a blitzkrieg of media stormed the room looking for the remnants of the animated veteran.

Slow pan shots of Shumpert’s jersey were taken. Players were questioned. What would become of the Scores?

By 7 p.m., wing Justin Jackson had been removed from the floor, and within the blink of an eye, he too was headed out of Sacramento. The second-year pro was able to step into the Kings' locker room at halftime to wish his now-former teammates good luck on their journey.

With a broken spirit, the Kings were lambasted by the Houston Rockets that evening by a final of 127-101.

With fewer than 30 minutes for Kings players to process the roster overhaul, cameras were allowed back into the locker room following the loss. It was an emotional room and an awkward reminder of the human element that often is forgotten with regard to professional athletes.

Rookie big man Harry Giles attempted to leave the locker room quietly out the main exit, but he was caught by the bright lights attached to focusing lenses. The 20-year-old stood in front of a blank white wall, and did his best to keep his composure.

Willie Cauley-Stein allowed his emotions to spill out during his postgame interview.

“Just the energy in the room -- who is the first people you hear talking when you walk into our locker room? Shump and JJ,” the 7-foot center said. “That energy is gone, and that ain’t going to come back.”  

Surrounded by two empty lockers, point guard De’Aaron Fox was engulfed by the media as well.

The stall to his left is a constant reminder that even a leader like Garrett Temple can be traded. The locker to Fox's right represented a childhood bond with Jackson dating to their days as AAU teammates.

With both cabinets bare, Fox appeared slightly isolated. For one evening, the 21-year-old’s swagger seemed shaken.

Somewhere in another part of Golden 1 Center, Kings general manager Vlade Divac and his group were busy putting the finishing touches on a few more transactions.

The Kings’ front office had won the day by their estimation. They landed size at small forward in 26-year-old Harrison Barnes, and depth in the backcourt with Alec Burks.

They had filled their two two biggest needs, and done so without hamstringing the franchise financially or giving away any of their core group.

That last sentence was easy to write, but it fails to capture the reality of what a group of 15 players feels.

Iman Shumpert and Justin Jackson were part of the main group. And while they didn’t see a lot of playing time, Ben McLemore, who was later waived, and Skal Labissiere, who was traded Thursday morning, also were part of the delicate and complicated family of players.

Sacramento took to the court with new faces and the need to rebuild chemistry Friday night against the Miami Heat. Before they took on that task, at least one Kings player needed to have a conversation with Divac and clear the air.

It’s complicated, but doing what’s best for the whole doesn’t always feel good to the individual. Needing some clarity, Fox walked into Divac’s office looking for answers. He walked out feeling better about the situation.

“When it happened right before the game, there was a little sting,” Fox told NBC Sports California on Sunday afternoon as he prepared to take on the Phoenix Suns. “It was kind of unexpected but not too unexpected. I think it was good for the team, and I do trust what Vlade’s doing. Since I’ve been here, it’s all positive things and great things. I think we’re still stepping in the right direction.”

Divac said that door always is open and that he welcomed the conversation with Fox and anyone else who needs to chat.

“Personally, I love it, not just De’Aaron, everybody -- how they react,” Divac said in a one-on-one conversation with NBC Sports. “It shows to me that everyone has a heart. The emotions are there. I love it.”

[RELATED: How Kings remade one-third of their roster at trade deadline]

As chronicled by The Athletic's Sam Amick, Divac used his own experiences to help his young point guard walk through the trades. Divac, one of the stars of the NBA European invasion in the late 1980s and early '90s, was a Los Angeles Laker for seven years. And then one day, he wasn’t.

In a gut-wrenching move for the Serbian-born center, Divac was traded to the Charlotte Hornets on July 11, 1996, for a high-school prospect named Kobe Bryant. The move stunned Divac but also gave him a unique perspective on the business side of the NBA.

While it’s likely the moves were the right ones to make, could Divac’s timing have been better? In the high stakes world of professional sports, you don’t always get to control things like timing.

“I don’t choose when I’m going to make a deal, when it happens, it happens,” Divac said. “If I had the choice, I would use better timing. But you never know when it’s going to happen.”

Unlike Shumpert and Jackson, Barnes actually had suited up and was playing for the Mavericks at the time the trade was first reported. In 26 minutes of play, Barnes scored 10 points for Dallas before being pulled from the game.

The conversation with Divac was exactly what Fox needed to clear his head. When you’re in the thick of a playoff race and the culture behind the scenes is good, it’s hard to see how the team could make changes that might help better the chances for success.

“Just the direction that we’re trying to get the team to go,” Fox said. “We do feel like we got better after the trades. We’re just working on chemistry after the trade, and ultimately, trying to make the playoffs with such a young team.”

Taken with the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, Fox has elevated himself to franchise cornerstone in his sophomore season. While there might come a time when Divac comes to his point guard before pulling the trigger on major decisions, there always will be a need for a separation of roles within an organization.

“Things happen on the fly,” Divac said. “His job is to lead this team on the court, my job is to create the team, [head coach Dave Joerger's] job is to put all that together and coach. Everybody has their own thing. We have to communicate. We have to discuss. But everybody has to do their job.”

[RELATED: Kings' Bagley reminds Suns what they passed on in draft]

As for Fox, he won’t forget his time with his former teammates, but the current experience seems to have helped further the bond between he and Divac.

“Our relationship has definitely developed over the year and a half I’ve been here,” Fox said. “I think it’s just going to continue to get better.”

Despite very little practice time, the Kings have rattled off back-to-back wins since the trade. It will take time to create bonds and build chemistry both on and off the court with the new players, but the early returns are promising.

Kings swing for fences at NBA trade deadline, add depth to rotation

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USATSI

Kings swing for fences at NBA trade deadline, add depth to rotation

SACRAMENTO -- No fear.

Kings general manager Vlade Divac and his front office walked into the 2019 NBA trade season armed with plenty of cash and an abundance of expiring contracts. On the eve of the deadline, they swung for the fences and didn’t stop there.

It was a whirlwind of action that transformed one-third of the Kings' roster without doing major damage to the team’s rotation. Here is a look at the series of deals and how they impact Sacramento’s chances moving forward.

In: Alec Burks (from Cavs), 2020 second-round pick (from Rockets)
Out: Iman Shumpert (to Rockets)

Shumpert started 40 games for the Kings this season at the small forward position, and he was a positive influence in the locker room. After a strong start to the season, Shumpert had slumped offensively since the start of the new calendar year.

After spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Utah Jazz, Burks joined the Cavs earlier this season in a swap for Kyle Korver. He averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 28.8 minutes per game for the Cleveland, while shooting 37.8 percent from behind the arc.

At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, Burks is a big, versatile combo guard that can act as a second playmaker on the court. He gives the Kings depth at multiple positions, although he’s struggled to stay healthy throughout his eight years in the league. He isn't the defender that Shumpert is, but he is a solid locker room player that is playing extremely well.

He’s in the final year of his contract that pays him $11.5 million this season.

In: Harrison Barnes (from Mavericks)
Out: Justin Jackson, Zach Randolph (to Mavericks)

Before the season began, Randolph was politely told that he was not going to play this season for Sacramento. He is likely to be bought out by the Mavs, which might open the door for him to join a contender or return to Memphis to finish out his career.

Jackson started 41 games last season as a rookie, but only three times this year for Sacramento. Taken with the 15th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, the 23-year-old wing averaged 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 20.8 minutes per game this season for Sacramento.

Barnes is already in Sacramento and should be ready to play on Friday evening. The 26-year-old forward can play either the small forward or stretch four positions. Once acclimated to the system, there’s a very good chance Barnes moves into the starting small forward spot for the Kings.

[RELATED: Kings acquire ex-Warrior Barnes from Mavs for Jackson, Z-Bo]

At 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, Barnes has the size and strength to match up against the bigger wings in the league. He’s averaging 17.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game this season while shooting 39 percent from behind the arc.

Barnes has a player option for $25.1 million next season. According to Divac, the Kings hope to retain the seven-year veteran long term, but will wait until the offseason to discuss a potential extension.

In: Caleb Swanigan (from Trail Blazers)
Out: Skal Labissiere (to Trail Blazers)

Labissiere showed tons of potential in his first two seasons with the Kings, but with the additions of rookies Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles, as well as veteran Nemanja Bjelica, the Haitian-born big got lost in the numbers game.

He’s an incredibly hard worker and has a smooth stroke from the perimeter, but he needs time on the court to develop. Maybe a fresh start in Portland is what he needs to reset his career.

Like Labissiere, Swanigan has struggled to find minutes with the Blazers. The 6-foot-9, 250 pound big impressed in his pre-draft visit to Sacramento before the 2017 NBA Draft, but he’s played a total of 334 minutes in his two seasons in the league.

Sacramento has done a nice job of developing young players and they view Swanigan as a project big with tremendous size. He’s on a budget rookie scale deal and under team control for the next few seasons. As of now, he is organizational depth and may even see time in Stockton with the Kings’ G League affiliate.

Out: Ben McLemore

Following the deadline, the Kings pulled the plug on Ben McLemore’s second tour of duty in Sacramento, waiving the 25-year-old guard and eating the remainder of his $5.5 million contract.

McLemore joined the Kings as part of the Garrett Temple deal over the summer, but played in just 19 games this season. Once he clears waivers, he becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with another NBA team.

In: Corey Brewer (free agent)

Following the series of moves, Sacramento added veteran Corey Brewer to a 10-day contract to fill one of their open roster spots. The 32-year-old wing is fresh off a pair of 10-day contracts with the Philadelphia 76ers.

In his 12th NBA season, Brewer is averaging 7.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in seven games this season. He’ll get a short-term audition with the club to see if he is a fit with the new-look rotation.

The Rotation Moving Forward

Divac and his staff attacked two of the team’s biggest weaknesses at the deadline. They added size on the wing and versatility in the backcourt. More importantly, they did so without damaging the team’s long term cap flexibility or dipping into the young core.

[RELATED: Barnes, Shumpert react to Kings' trades before deadline]

Barnes is viewed as a long term starter. Burks gives the team another option in the backcourt. Brewer and Swanigan provide depth for coach Dave Joerger.

If Barnes sticks around, Sacramento has roughly $38 million to make offseason additions. If he opts out, the Kings walk into the summer with nearly $63 million in cap space and a clear idea of their positions of need.

Kings overwhelmed by last-minute trades, unrelenting Rockets in loss

Kings overwhelmed by last-minute trades, unrelenting Rockets in loss

SACRAMENTO -- Stunned. Shellshocked. Overwhelmed.

The Kings looked broken after their 127-101 blowout loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and it had nothing to do with the final score. It’s a young squad, and the two transactions that changed the look of their rotation seem to have taken a toll on the group.

Iman Shumpert? Gone. Justin Jackson? Gone. All within two hours of tipoff.

For point guard De’Aaron Fox, losing Jackson as a teammate was especially difficult. The two played high school basketball together, and Jackson served as a big brother of sorts to the Kings star.

“I’ve got to get through it myself,” Fox said. “We’re off tomorrow and we’ve got to just let this roll off our back, especially this game. We’re not going to let this become the norm, but it’s just one of those days.”

Fox went through the deadline last season. He watched guards George Hill and Malachi Richardson walk out the door and not come back. He also saw Garrett Temple, the team’s leader, leave over the summer.

While Harry Giles was with the team last season, he didn’t play or travel with the group full time. This experience was new, and he gave a heartfelt answer when asked about what Jackson and Shumpert meant to the Kings.

“You can’t put a enough appreciation on those two,”  Giles said. “The energy they brought was priceless in a way, very priceless. Something that shakes and you feel it when they leave.”

Fox was emotional. Giles was emotional. The entire room felt different. The vibe was off and the group knows that it’s still not over. The deadline doesn’t hit until Thursday at noon PT. There is time for another move or two.

Maybe it takes being traded to gain the necessary perspective.

Buddy Hield compared the feeling to switching schools and having to get used to a new environment, make new friends and figure out all the rules. After three trade deadlines, Hield knows what to expect.

"This is professional business and you've got to move on,” Hield said. “You can't dwell on it. If you dwell on it, you know, you get lost in the sauce."

Shumpert’s locker was next to Hield’s for the last year. They spent plenty of time together, and the banter between the two was comical at times. Saying goodbye to a friend like this just moments before a game is difficult.

“Today leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Hield added. “Everybody’s mind is all messed up. It happened so quick. We lost some guys we’ve been to battle with.”

[RELATED: Latest 2019 NBA trade deadline news, rumors, updates]

To add insult to injury, the Rockets came in and thumped the Kings. Houston was the agressor from the opening tip, and Sacramento looked lost.

Thursday should be a day to regroup. The Shumpert trade is not official through the league yet, although it is expected to go through the league office early on Thursday.

There is no early word as to whether Harrison Barnes or Alec Burks will be available to play Friday against the Miami Heat. All players from both trades have 48 hours to report and take physicals before the transaction can be finalized.