Vlade Divac

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


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 vs. Heat watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage


Kings vs. Heat watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

SACRAMENTO -- The new-look Kings continue their long homestand Friday evening at Golden 1 Center.  Sacramento will play host to the Miami Heat looking for their fourth win in five tries.

General manager Vlade Divac made a flurry of transactions at the NBA's trade deadline, including major moves at the small forward position. Iman Shumpert and Justin Jackson are both gone, as well as Zach Randolph, Ben McLemore and Skal Labissiere.

Dave Joerger is faced with the challenge of integrating new additions Harrison Barnes, Alec Burks, Corey Brewer and Caleb Swanigan without the benefit of a practice. At least three of these four players are expected to see time after being acquired over the previous 48 hours.

Miami mixed things up as well at the NBA's trade deadline. Tyler Johnson was sent to the Phoenix Suns, with Sacramento native Ryan Anderson joining the Heat. Erik Spoeltra's team is coming off a big win over the Portland Trail Blazers, but they've lost three of their last four games and currently sit at 25-27 on the season.

Kings Pregame Live on NBC Sports California begins at 6:30 p.m., with tipoff scheduled for 7:00. All coverage can be seen on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.

Sacramento finishes their six-game homestand Sunday when the Phoenix Suns roll into town. The Kings will conclude their pre-All-Star break schedule with a stop in Denver on Wednesday.


Kings by 3.5

Projected Lineups

PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Buddy Hield
SF Bogdan Bogdanovic
PF Nemanja Bjelica
C Willie Cauley-Stein

PG Justise Winslow
SG Josh Richardson
SF James Johnson
PF Kelly Olynyk
C Hassan Whiteside

Injury Report

No injuries to report.

PG Goran Dragic (knee) out, SF Derrick Jones (knee) out.

Rotation Outlook


Dave Joerger has all kinds of new toys to play with. Vlade Divac added three veterans at the deadline, all of which could see time. Barnes is a long term starter, likely at the three. Burks will see time at both guard positions and Brewer adds depth to the wing. Expect all three to see time against the Heat.

The addition of Barnes fills a major need for size at the small forward position and allows Joerger to move Bogdan Bogdanovic back to the second unit, where he's thrived this season. The team might wait until after the All-Star break to make the transition, but it's likely on the horizon.

Swanigan is with the team, but he's played sparingly over his first two seasons in the league. He adds a big body in the post, but he'll need time to develop.


Spoelstra's group is always ready to play. He has five regulars averaging in double-figures, including veteran Dwyane Wade, who is finishing out his final season as a pro before heading into retirement.

Richardson is having a nice season for the Heat and Winslow has been solid for Miami since transitioning to the point guard position.

Miami is a methodical team that ranks 26th in the league in points per game and third in points allowed. They play at the league's 26th slowest pace and they rank in the middle of the pack in both 3-point percentage and rebounding.

Vlade Divac's growth into GM job has Kings heading in right direction


Vlade Divac's growth into GM job has Kings heading in right direction

SACRAMENTO -- A lone microphone sat perched on a table when media members assembled for a post-NBA trade deadline press briefing Thursday afternoon at Golden 1 Center. All 7 feet of Kings' general manager Vlade Divac lumbered up onto the stage, sat down and, in classic fashion, made jokes.

“Two days ago, I had a better deal, but it didn’t go through,” Divac said with a smile after further transforming the Kings' roster at the NBA trade deadline.

Of course, Divac was taking a self-deprecating jab at himself. Those are the words he spoke following the deadline trade of DeMarcus Cousins two years ago, and they went viral and made him a target around the league.

Divac has come a long way since that moment, and he continues to grow into his role. The fact that he was sitting alone on the stage speaks volumes about how far he has come.

Like raising a child, running an NBA franchise takes an army. But someone has to lead the way.

Standing along the side wall during the press conference was Ken Catanella, one of Divac’s three assistant GMs. Known for his work with the salary cap, Catanella had plenty to do with the Kings’ position coming into the trade deadline.

“I’m so thankful for the people that work with me,” Divac said. “I think we did a great job preparing ourselves for this time. We did a great job as a team.”

A series of conservative short-term deals allowed Sacramento to leverage expiring contracts and its existing $11 million in cap space as assets to acquire Harrison Barnes from the Dallas Mavericks.

Iman Shumpert’s expiring contract yielded Alec Burks and a second-round draft pick in a three-team trade with the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers. None of these deals would have worked without budget-conscious Catanella.

[RELATED: Kings praise Shump's leadership after he's traded away]

Brandon Williams and Peja Stojakovic stayed behind the scenes, but both were instrumental in supporting Divac as he navigated the treacherous trade deadline waters.

“It’s very easy to execute when you have a group of people that know each other very well,” Divac added while jokingly pointing out that Catanella was getting a raise for being the only one who showed up at the press conference to support him.

Divac and his team had a clear set of objectives coming into the season as to how they would approach their assets. Initially, they were looking to leverage their expiring contracts and massive cap space to perhaps gain back a 2019 draft pick.

With the team winning, goals shifted, but the Kings’ front office never lost sight of the basic principles that have allowed the franchise to take giant leaps forward in their rebuild.

“Our focus going into this process was to improve our team and not jeopardize our future,” Divac said. “I think we achieved exactly what we tried. We brought talent that is going to help us be a better team, not just for now, but moving forward.”

Sacramento came into the deadline with a glaring hole at small forward, as well as a need for more talent. Shumpert was undersized for the position, and second-year forward Justin Jackson, who went to Dallas in the Barnes trade, wasn’t ready to take on the role full time.

After making it through the first half of the season with eight players on rookie scale contracts, Divac looked for and found a seasoned veteran who matched the team’s age arc.

At 26 years old, Barnes checked a lot of boxes for the Kings. He has the size and physical tools to step in and help right away. Also, his $24.1 million salary for this season with a player option next season at $25.1 million is manageable considering the team's overall cap structure.

“I see him as a player who’s going to help us go to the next level,” Divac said of Barnes. “Everything else about his playing position or whatever, that’s for Dave [Joerger] to decide how he’s going to make happen.”

It’s a hallmark of Divac’s managerial style. He’s learned what he knows and what he doesn’t. While he’s had to play peacekeeper on occasion, he lets the people around him do what they do best.

Barnes will have a chance to see if Sacramento is a good fit. The Kings took a gamble that he will decide to stay with the team beyond this season.

“We want to focus on the rest of the season, and we’re going to talk about it after, but definitely, we have interest to have him here for a long time,” Divac said.

[RELATED: Relive the NBA trade deadline with our live blog]

Burks and Shumpert were a virtual wash financially, and the Kings picked up an additional second-round pick in the process. While it’s not an earth-shattering addition, it’s another transaction in a series of savvy moves that the team has pulled off.

Divac has made plenty of mistakes since taking over the Kings following the 2014-15 season, but he’s learned on the fly and made adjustments. He’s helped rebuild the franchise that he led as a player, and he’s positioned the team well for the future.

While it started off rocky, Divac has stabilized the Kings, who as of now sit only one game out of the Western Conference's No. 8 playoff spot.