Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro is banking, at least partly, on the culture of the Kings and the vibe of Sacramento to make it difficult on Rudy Gay to make a decision on whether or not to leave the purple and black this summer.
D'Alessandro discussed Gay's pending decision on whether to opt out of his contract next season (which would pay him $19.3 million) at a media luncheon in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday. The general manager, who now has a full season with the Kings under his belt, said one of the strategies all along with the talented small forward was to trade for him before he had to make the big decision and give him some time to get to know Sacramento and the culture of the organization. This all in hopes that it would be enough to impact the outcome.
"There was a strategy and I was very upfront with that with Rudy, ‘you are going to get to know us.' So I have no problem saying this - there was a strategy in getting a Rudy Gay now and letting him see who we are and making it really hard for him, and that's what we tried to do," D'Alessandro said. "He says he enjoyed the experience. So it was a year for us to recruit a player that was already ours. Otherwise you get those two days at the beginning of free agency where everyone's running in and it's harder to sell."
The team's staff, the various neighborhoods in Sacramento, Vivek Ranadive's NBA 3.0 vision - it was all part of "recruiting" Gay this season. D'Alessandro, who was candid and conversational with the media at Tuesday's lunch affair, looks forward to the day when the new downtown arena is open and it can be used as the major recruiting tool to lure players to the small market that is Sacramento.
"Right now, we don't have our arena. We don't have the things that I feel like we need to really go after guys. But this was a chance for him [Gay] to get to know us," D'Alessandro said. "I feel good about his feeling for us."
Gay, of course, can either stay and collect his $19.3 million next season; opt out and become a free agent and/or try to get a long-term deal with the Kings (or another team). He gave two-sided answers to questions about which way he was leaning all season, but in February he did tell Sactown Royalty that Sacramento "could be a good home" for him. He also put up some of the best numbers of his career with the Kings.
Gay has until June 30 to decide his path moving forward. D'Alessandro said he doesn't know when Gay plans to make his decision, but that in general, players wait until the deadline.
The other elephant in the room right now is Isaiah Thomas. D'Alessandro confirmed the Kings will extend him a qualifying offer, which would make him a restricted free agent this summer. He said there is a scenario in his head where the Kings could retain Gay, Thomas and their upcoming draft pick, but it all depends on the market.
"There is a scenario, there are multiple ways to do what we need to do I believe. There's no crystal ball here and a lot of it depends on what the market bears," D'Alessandro said. "Last year, I was faced with an offer sheet [for Tyreke Evans]; I just walked in the door and got punched in the face with an offer sheet, and I was sitting there going, ‘OK time to make a decision big guy.' So I made one and Tyreke, he's played well. So those are hard decisions to make. And you don't always have to be ‘no,' you can match that sheet too …. depending on what the market is we'll have a decision to make and we'll have to figure that out."
The Kings would have the opportunity to match any offer another team may extend to Thomas. D'Alessandro praised Thomas for being classy and a hard worker, in addition to the stellar numbers he put up both off the bench and as a starter last season.
When asked if he has the money to play with in order to retain players and build, D'Alessandro said jokingly Vivek Ranadive would have to answer that, but expressed confidence.
"He [Vivek] went out and got Rudy Gay and he didn't do that with the idea of saving money and I appreciate that there's no handcuffs on us here and our ownership group has been very upfront about that, they want to win," D'Alessandro said.
The Kings general manager fielded questions from members of the Sacramento media on various subjects throughout the luncheon. Here are some other takeaways.
- He stressed the need for more passing and that that was one of the objectives he had coming into last season, which did not pan out: "I didn't bring the guys in that did it because they're not sharing the ball now." When evaluating players to bring in next season, passing will be a focus. "I need to find players that can do that more consistently and I think players that are more into kind of moving the ball up the floor as opposed to players coming back to the ball, and we do that a lot. We kind of fall back and come back to the ball as opposed to just looking up-court right away." Another focus, in terms of upgrading the team's production, will be shooting, particularly more consistent shooting from the three-point line.
- He confirmed Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum and Derrick Williams will be on the summer league squad.
- Even though we heard it all year that this season wasn't about wins and losses, D'Alessandro said it was for him. His expectations for next year hinge on winning more games. "It is about wins and losses…I want to win. It's not enjoyable waking up the day after the season and not thinking about who we are playing next and we gotta catch the plane out and go there. So I want our players, our young guys, to feel that. I want our owners to feel that and I think we have a lot of work to get there, but it's going to be about that for me."
- If Gay opts out and with the salary cap expected to rise, D'Alessandro said the team would be in a "fairly solid position" but that's "not the goal" for the organization. He said the cap went up slightly more than he expected it to.
- There will be more changes to the roster next season, but it may not be as drastic of a turnover as it was last season. "I do think there will be more changes, but I also think we are starting to develop kind of a core of guys and we are starting to feel some comfort in some of these guys in their growth and development."
- He said he thinks the draft is a "very good" draft with "good players up top."
- He said he has talked to DeMarcus Cousins about playing at the power forward spot if the team could bring in another starting center. "Can he guard a guy at the four? Some yes, some no and he would be the first to say it. But if we had a big shot-blocking guy or something like that, that cleans a lot up too. So we're wide open."
- He said having a player like Cousins puts the other players in a position where they can thrive. "Part of the sales pitch of this is: come play with DeMarcus Cousins."
- D'Alessandro said he has called quite a few teams that have multiple second-round picks.
- He spoke to Jason Terry last week and plans to go to Dallas this offseason to see where the veteran guard is physically and mentally. He wouldn't elaborate on whether he thinks Terry will be on the roster next season but said this team needs guys with Terry's level of experience.
- How we would grade his first season as general manager: "28 wins."