Reports of drama in the Kings front office and the rift between DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl swirled this week and it all led up to the selection of Willie Cauley-Stein with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Following the conclusion of the draft, a calm and collected Vlade Divac strolled out of the Kings draft room and onto the practice facility floor to speak to the media.
He wanted to make a few things clear: Cauley-Stein was his selection, he's in charge and there were some issues and those issues were between him and Kings head coach George Karl.
"It was a problem, but it wasn't Vivek and George, it was me and George," Divac said. "I respect my coach and I think he's great, but he has to trust me to do my job."
Divac, vice president of basketball and franchise operations, was trying to discredit the report that the relationship with Karl and Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was strained. He wouldn't delve into what the problems he had with Karl were (disagreements over trading Cousins are likely the culprit), but continued by saying he wants to build more trust with "his" coach, who was in the draft room Thursday night.
"We're trying, I know it's a lot of nervous stuff and maybe sometimes there is not trust there, I would like to have more trust over there between us," Divac said. "I have so much respect for my coach and I felt bad to do something that I didn't want to do, that I didn't like to do, but I had to do. Send a message not just for the coach, but for everybody over there: I want to be in charge of everything and if we make mistake then I know I made mistake, nobody else."
Trust is something Divac and Karl will have try to develop and based on Divac's comments it sounds like they plan to work on it. It was just a few days ago Karl said he loved Divac, after all. But regardless of their differences, Divac is the guy in Sacramento and he has no issue with saying as much. Ranadive put his trust in the big man to make the basketball decisions and Thursday's pick - and it was pick. It wasn't going to be Emmanuel Mudiay, who didn't participate in a pre-draft workout for the Kings. Divac made it clear he did not like that Mudiay refused to work out in Sacramento and it sounded like it was a deciding factor for him in not selecting the point guard.
Vlade didn't know enough about Mudiay, he made his mind up and he was sticking to it - he was very adamant about this.
Following last year's draft, former general manager Pete D'Alessandro was flanked next to Ranadive in the post-draft media scrum. It was just Divac Thursday night. Taking question after question from the large contingent of Sacramento media (he made it a point to call out the national media for what has been written about the front office recently) Divac continued to stand alone and give examples of his control over the basketball decision-making. He said Ranadive and Karl didn't know who the pick was going to be until the last second and that the owner begged him to tell him. Divac said he asked Karl at one point who he liked and the coach responded with the same player Divac wanted: Cauley-Stein.
"Me and coach we have a lot of common stuff, so that's what I like about my coach," Divac said.
Was there any consensus among Divac, Karl and Ranadive? Does it matter? Vlade (humorously) says no.
"No, only me, I didn't care about what Vivek and George Karl said," Divac said
How about those deals that other teams are trying to cram down his throat? Vlade says no.
"A lot of those guys think I'm rookie and they can propose some bad deals. I'm not going to care, I'm all my life in basketball, I know what to do," Divac said.
As for the Kings franchise player, Divac said he believes Cousins wants to be in Sacramento and that he talked to him recently. Divac told him to stay away from all of the drama because "it's not healthy."
Will Karl and Cousins work out their differences?
"I want to believe, and we'll see how it goes," Divac said.
What I gathered from Thursday's stern, but ultra-lighthearted media session (which was surprising given the strenuous nature of the last couple of days), is that Divac is trying to do exactly what Ranadive brought him in for: maintain a level head and steer the ship of egos in one single direction. You can question whether he has done that successfully so far, but as of Thursday, the franchise hasn't been forced into trading Cousins (yet), it doesn't sound like Karl's job is in jeopardy, they now have a defensive-minded rim-protector to go alongside their franchise piece that fits into the system and Divac controlled the draft room. All in all, not a bad first swing by the big guy.
Which led me to the question: What did he learn?
"Nothing, I knew everything," Divac said with a pause and big smile.
If you want to check out the full media session with Divac, click here.