NBA Rumor: Sacramento Kings Turmoil?

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Harrison Barnes: 'We're playing soft'

Following the team’s 138-100 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, frustrations were high. Glenn Robinson III was forceful with his postgame comments, demanding his teammates take accountability for their lackluster play. Harrison Barnes and De’Aaron Fox took center stage after practice Saturday afternoon, reiterating some of Robinson’s frustrations. “Right now, we’re just playing soft,” Barnes said. “We’re not having enough resistance defensively. We’re allowing teams to play free and easy and until we collectively choose to change that, we’re going to keep getting our heads beat in.”

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De'Aaron Fox discusses Twitter drama

Fox, however, is outspoken like his father Aaron, and had no problem squashing the notion that players’ parents could lead to beef in the locker room or disrupt play on the court. “I don’t think anybody’s out there playing basketball worried about two tweets,” Fox said. “And if you are, this ain’t what you should be doing because muthafuckas gonna tweet you every day of your life while you’re playing in this league. If that’s what you’re worried about, then I don’t know what to tell you.”

Fox, who is about as engaging as any Kings player on social media, said there’s nothing hanging over the team because of the tweets. “One, it hasn’t been brought up,” Fox said. “Me, Marvin, Luke talked for five seconds because it wasn’t a big deal. But like I said, when you’re playing basketball if you’re thinking about what somebody said on Twitter, then this ain’t for you. I’m 100 percent completely honest with you when I tell you nobody’s thinking about that while we’re on the court.”

It’s not the first time those running the Team Bagley account have taken shots at the organization. It did so earlier in the week when Bagley III did not play in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s win over Denver, retweeting a post about Lakers fans not liking Luke Walton as a coach and others calling for Bagley III to play more, as well as complaining about Bagley III’s treatment and declaring him healthy after injuries limited him to 13 games last season.

So when the Kings’ season ended Thursday, and Hield was asked if he’s comfortable with his role off the bench in Sacramento heading into next season, his answer raised some eyebrows. Including, I’d imagine, some in Philadelphia. Here’s what Hield had to say: [Hield] provided a series of short answers during a Zoom session with reporters and offered a cryptic response when asked if he could be content with his role going into next season. “Y’all know me,” Hield said. “Y’all know how I talk. Y’all know how I feel. Y’all can read me well, so I’ll let y’all answer that yourselves.”

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive not happy with front office, coaching

Frustration has been mounting among Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and others within the ownership group over the franchise’s front office and coaching, multiple sources tell The Athletic. Sources say Ranadive has shared his frustration with both front office and coaching decisions in a variety of unfiltered ways, including private conversations with business associates and in text messages during a season-long group chat with Divac, coach Luke Walton, assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic and Chief Operating Officer Matina Kolokotronis. The complaints, sources say, have been focused on the team’s underachievement and the part they all played in it.

Throughout the Kings’ pre-draft process in 2018, the Kings scouted Doncic heavily, including a dinner with the young prodigy led by Ranadive that also included Vivek’s son, Aneel, and Divac; the gathering was shared on Aneel’s social media. There was ownership support for the drafting of Doncic at No. 2 overall, but Divac, along with then-assistant general manager Brandon Williams and Stojakovic had concerns about his upside compared to Bagley’s, sources said. As The Athletic reported last month, the belief that Doncic’s ball-dominance would limit Fox’s ability to grow and that they were better suited pairing him with a talented big like Bagley were driving forces behind the decision.

Hield responded with a team-high 21 points in Sacramento’s 98-81 win over the Chicago Bulls to end their six-game losing streak. After the game, Hield told The Athletic his sunny disposition before the game was how he dealt with the talk that he was at fault for the Kings’ struggles the last five-plus weeks that saw the Kings go from 12-14 (going 12-9 after an 0-5 start) before stumbling to 15 losses in the next 19 games. So Hield, who never seems to be down, kept smiling and kept with his usual pregame routine before heading to chapel as he always does.

“Stuff like that, they don’t start you and after that everybody says, ‘Oh, he’s the problem,’” Hield said. “You just let everybody know what the fuck is going on. That’s what I’ve been doing and God he knows what I’m doing, I know what I’m capable of doing. “Nobody was saying that when we had a 12-14 record, it was, ‘He’s carrying the team,’ stuff like that. When we start losing, it’s a big problem. It is what it is, I’ve just got to stay confident, stay locked in and be ready and professional. That’s what it is, man. If I’m happy or not happy, I’m not going to show it out on the court. I’m going to go out and play my minutes.”

But the sting felt different in Sacramento, where the Kings have the league’s longest playoff drought (2006), and so many fans who have been airing their grievances on local sports talk radio ever since saw Doncic as their favorite franchise’s savior. And now, here was Joerger adding a bit of salt to the wound. According to two sources who witnessed the interaction, Joerger told Divac, in a passive-aggressive jest, that he had negotiated an in-season trade with the Mavericks that would finally bring Doncic their way. Cue the record scratch. As if this topic wasn’t touchy enough already.

Joerger started rookie forward Marvin Bagley III for the second time this season, benched guard Buddy Hield for the final 5:42 and played 12 men in an effort to salvage a critical game in the Western Conference playoff race. These decisions raised interesting and legitimate topics of conversation, but Joerger’s answers — which amounted to 22 syllables in response to the first five questions — didn’t exactly open a window into his thought process. Why did Bagley start? “That was for matchups,” Joerger said.

Hield said it was difficult to sit on the sideline when his team got within four with 3:05 to play in the fourth quarter. “I’m a competitor. I always want to be on the court,” Hield said. “That’s what I do, man. We all make mistakes out there. We aren’t perfect. … Everybody knows what I can do and everybody knows what I bring to the table. “Yeah, it’s hard. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s hard to watch. As a player, you want to be out there, but you’ve still got to respect the guys out there, too. … When I’m doing my thing, they’re out there cheering me on. And when they’re out there, I’m always cheering for them, too.”

Joerger and Hield argued after Hield pulled up for a long 3-pointer instead of running the play Joerger called from the sideline. Joerger addressed the situation for the first time during his pregame news conference before the Kings played the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “I was a little animated at a time when the cameras are really on you and you’re kind of out there,” Joerger said. “That stuff shouldn’t happen out in front of people.”

Joerger got upset with Hield on Thursday after he made a 32-foot 3-pointer to cut Golden State’s lead to three with 19 seconds to play. A league source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation, told The Sacramento Bee that Joerger was upset because Hield took the shot instead of running the play he called from the sideline. “Why don’t you just coach the f—ing team?” Joerger asked Hield, according to the source. Warriors star Kevin Durant then joined in the discussion, asking Hield: “What’s wrong with your coach? You made a great shot.”

A league source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the altercation, said Joerger was upset because Hield’s shot was not the play he called from the sideline. “Why don’t you just coach the f—ing team?” Joerger said as Hield made his way to the sideline during a dead-ball situation. Joerger and Hield exchanged words for about 40 seconds while Warriors forward Kevin Durant stood nearby listening. “What’s wrong with your coach?” Durant asked Hield. “You made a great shot.”

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Divac held a conference call with 13 members of the team’s executive board, along with Ranadive, and made this much clear: Stop with the meddling, bring an end to the alleged leaks in the media about internal matters, try enjoying the ride while it’s going so well and – cue Michael Jackson, circa 1987 – leave him alone as he tries to continue this turnaround. This was Divac, so roundly ridiculed as a front office executive for so long now, demanding respect.

According to sources, some of the team’s assistant coaches were displeased with the fact that Divac had the contractual paperwork sent their way from via Brandon Williams, who has been accused of being a source for a mid-November Yahoo! Sports story about Joerger’s job security. The divide between Joerger and Williams has never been bridged, with Williams traveling extensively (and intentionally) in the weeks that followed Joerger kicking him out of a late November shoot-around as a way of relieving tensions that remain.

According to sources, Joerger on Thursday asked that Williams not be present for the team’s shoot-around in advance of the Kings’ home game against the Clippers. Williams, who had returned from an extended stretch of travel on Wednesday that had helped avoid these sorts of conflicts, subsequently left the shoot-around with Divac as a result of Joerger’s request. Joerger, the sources say, believes that Williams was the source of the story and is upset with the organization for not levying any discipline against Williams.

Here’s the issue. The Kings brought in Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter during the offseason and still have Garrett Temple on the roster. These are respected vets who can play. These are vets brought in to help a young team, and according to sources, were brought in with the promise of a team aiming to be playoff competitive. But that promise was made to them by Scott Perry, who since left Sacramento and now makes personnel decisions for the New York Knicks. So the direction of the franchise has shifted since Perry left. An organization that brought in veterans aiming to win now is aiming to lose. Not surprisingly, Hill isn’t happy, according to multiple sources And the other veterans can’t be too happy, either. So the Kings have a mess on their hands. I’ve always liked Hill’s game, but when he signed in Sacramento, I questioned the prudence of the Kings bringing him on board when they just drafted De’Aaron Fox, the quicksilver point guard from Kentucky.
4 years ago via ESPN

4 years ago via ESPN

Barnes understands the Kings had doubts about giving Cousins a $200 million extension in the summer. He gets the business. But throughout his 13-year career that included stops with nine different teams, Barnes said he’s never observed an organization handle a player — let alone an All-Star player — in such a deceiving manner. “Nah, never. That was bad. That was a bad way it went down,” Barnes said to ESPN. “But you know, my hat’s off to DeMarcus the way he handled it. To give everything he gave to that franchise and for it to go down the way it went down at the end is a tough pill to swallow. But he stayed professional and said the right things. Even though he may have felt another way, he said the right stuff and that’s all that matters.”

A person close to Cousins said he was “blown” by the trade for myriad reasons. Losing nearly $30 million because he won’t be able to sign a designated maximum player contract worth more than $200 million was significant but only part of his frustration. Kings general manager Vlade Divac had told Cousins days before the deal that he wouldn’t be traded, only to ship him out for an uninspiring package from the Pelicans. Over the past few years, Cousins had developed a deep distrust of team management, which often told him one thing and did another.

According to a league source, the entire basketball operations side was part of the discussion on the situation, including head coach Dave Joerger. The Kings have built their team around the talented big each of the last seven season with the hope of turning the franchise around. Despite being in the conversation for the eighth seed, the Kings sit nine games under .500 with 25 contest left. Even if they found postseason paydirt, the Golden State Warriors would be waiting in round one.
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January 20, 2021 | 9:33 pm EST Update