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Vivek Ranadivé discusses the DeMarcus Cousins trade, Vlade Divac’s performance and more

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Vivek discusses the past, the present, and the future of the Kings

'ESPN: Down In The Valley' Premiere - 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

Sacramento Kings owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé opened up to the Sacramento Bee’s Ailene Voisin for a wide-ranging discussion. Vivek discussed his plans to bring an All-Star game to Sacramento, the decision to trade DeMarcus Cousins, Vlade Divac’s performance, and the future of the team. The Kings chairman has been far less present in the media lately, and it’s interesting to get his take on the state of the team. We’ll delve into some specifics, but I’d encourage you to read the full article before proceeding.

On the decision to trade DeMarcus Cousins:

That was my hardest decision so far, because DeMarcus was an All-Star, he had been here a long time and the fans haven’t had a winning team for so long. I really felt for the fans. But our front office had a plan – and it’s not a secret. We’re a small market. You build through the draft. This meant that we were entering a total rebuilding (phase). And I think it was the right thing for us...

...But I absolutely support (Divac’s) vision. The worst thing is to be stuck in the middle.”

Ok, fair enough. This doesn’t address if the Kings maximized their return and it doesn’t address why the Kings didn’t blow it up earlier, but the middle is a really bad place to be for a small market team. Ailene, to her credit, follows that response by asking about the team’s struggles in the draft, specifically missing on Papagiannis. Vivek responded

Again, look, I didn’t know who Papa was. But when Vlade explained what the thinking was, that they were not in love with anybody after No. 7 that year, and he had followed this (Bogdan) Bogdanovic kid for a long time … He felt that if he got the rights to that kid, that it was worth whatever the No. 8 could have been. That was not a great draft, as you recall. And we got also a second-round pick and Skal (Labissiere). And, listen, this is not a guaranteed business. There is always some luck involved in the draft.

And this is where Vivek begins to lose me. As has been rehashed ad nauseam around here lately, the fact that 2016 was a bad draft doesn’t excuse that Papagiannis was a baffling pick at the time and in hindsight. There’s always luck in the draft, but there’s also the problem of making a bad selection. What I do find interesting about this answer is that, if we take Vivek at his word, he trusted Vlade to make the draft decisions. This could be putting it on Vlade to protect himself, but I certainly find it more believable that Vlade was infatuated with Bogdan and Papagiannis rather than those being decisions driven by Vivek.

This next question I’m going to include the full question and the full answer. I want to credit Ailene again here, because I think this is a good question that doesn’t pull any punches.

Q: So how do you assess Vlade’s performance? He has been criticized for some of his moves, including the trade with Philadelphia that cost your club its first-round pick in 2019, Papagiannis, as well as his decision to spend considerable sums last summer on aging veterans Zach Randolph ($24 million, two years) and Vince Carter ($8 million, one year). Some also believe he should have gotten more for Cousins. That said, he also has received props within the industry for drafting Willie Cauley-Stein, acquiring Bogdanovic and creating salary-cap flexibility. There is no consensus on Labissiere yet and while the early reviews are favorable, it’s too early to evaluate 2017 picks (De’Aaron) Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason.

A: So, when Vlade came into the job, he was coming in as more of a culture guy, Sacramento basketball royalty. I felt it would be great to have somebody Sacramentans love and respect. At the time Pete (D’Alessandro) was there, but then he left just before the draft (2015) and Vlade had to scramble. But I had full confidence that Vlade would surround himself with smart, talented people, and I think he has done that with Brandon (Williams) and Ken (Catanella), and the staff he put together. Now we have a vision, and we’re executing it.

I wish I could tell you Ailene followed that up by again asking Vivek how he assesses Vlade’s performance, but I can’t. Vivek avoids the real question. And to suggest that D’Alessandro’s departed was anything but expected is laughable. Divac was hired into a new position above D’Alessando, and undercut Pete’s decision-making. Nobody was surprised when he left.

I’ve been rather forgiving with the Kings front office since the Cousins trade. I believe they have a plan, and I believe guys like Brandon Williams and Ken Catanella are helping the Kings operate like a semi-reasonable franchise. It’s entirely possible for Vivek to publicly support Vlade in this interview without trying to rewrite recent history.

In short, this is a typical Vivek interview. He discusses the state of the Kings in broad, generic terms and will allow a few interesting pieces of information to sneak out. The good news is that he doesn’t say anything truly embarrassing to draw negative attention to the team.