As I try to do as often as possible, I sent some questions to Aykis16, one of the lead writers at the seminal Sacramento Kings blog, Sactown Royalty. His insightful answers are below.
Steve Perrin: Let's start by saying "Congrats on having a team still." I'm very happy for the fans and for the city, and I'm happy that the NBA got this right. But maybe you can shed some light on something for me. At one point in the negotiations, it was reported that Ranadivé had assured the other owners that the Kings would not be a revenue sharing team, i.e. that they would not accept payments from the revenue sharing program. Multi-part question: (a) Is that true and is it part of the final agreement? (b) What does that even mean? (c) How can that possibly make sense? If revenue-sharing is a decision by the league to help small market teams because it's the right thing to do for the league as a whole, how can they possibly say "Except Sacramento"? It's absurd.
Aykis16: The fight to keep the Kings in Sacramento (and it was a fight) took a lot of weird and absurd turns before everything settled. I will admit the revenue sharing thing came out of left field, but I think it was meant to show the NBA's Board of Governors that the Ranadivé group was financially viable enough that they wouldn't need the extra revenue sharing to survive, and that they believed they could make enough money off of a new arena. In response Chris Hansen reportedly offered to guarantee that the Sonics franchise would be a guaranteed revenue sharing payee, so the revenue sharing system was used as a negotiating ploy by both sides. I can't say for certain if the final agreement included no revenue sharing though (although the initial report indicated that the revenue sharing would be limited while the Kings are in the old arena, then cut off after they are in the new arena).
Steve Perrin: At the risk of having this question sound a tad too pejorative for the SR readership, how does it feel to have the future of the team tied to a center of, shall we say, questionable maturity? Not that there was really another alternative, but do you think the max extension for contract is the right decision? The dude is certainly a monster talent.
Aykis16: I know that if I had been in Pete D'Alessandro's shoes, I wouldn't have given Cousins a max extension prior to the season. He would have been a RFA after this year, and if he performed well in the season, a max extension would have been forthcoming anyway. If he continued to have problems, then you have a bit more flexibility in potential trades. However, Vivek Ranadivé and the new management have been clear from Day 1 that Cousins is the face of the franchise and are putting a lot of faith in him ($62 million worth of faith) to forge the right path. So far it seems to be working, as Cousins is saying all the right things, and more importantly, producing like an elite big man. That hasn't always been the case. A big part of me didn't care about the maturity part as much as the actual on-court production: Cousins has put up some big numbers to be sure, but he's also been one of the most inefficient big men as well as a terrible defender who was always in foul trouble. So far in the preseason and the home opener, we've seen a rejuvenated DMC who is working a lot harder on the defensive end and showing more patience on offense. If that continues, the max contract was worth it.
Steve Perrin: Most of the time the team losing a player in a S&T is accepting little more than a trade exception in return -- it's usually just a mutually beneficial alternative to signing the player outright in free agency. But you guys got back Greivis Vasquez, a very useful point guard who was your starter on opening night. How do you see the Kings point guard rotation with Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas?
Aykis16: A lot of the debate in preseason was with regards to who would start between Vasquez and Thomas. Vasquez is taller, and a much better floor general, while Thomas is quicker, a better scorer, and probably a better defender. As we know from the opener, Vasquez is the starter and Thomas is his backup, and both were instrumental in Sacramento's win, combining for 33 points and 9 assists. They also played 17 minutes of the game on the court together, a combination that I could see happening a lot more throughout the season. I think the way I look at Sacramento's point guard rotation is that while we don't have one elite Point Guard, we probably have one of the more solid one-two punches at Point Guard in the league.
Steve Perrin: What's the latest on Jimmer-mania?
Aykis16: Jimmer has had a tough introduction into the NBA. The coach that wanted him, Paul Westphal, was fired barely a week into his rookie season. Then Isaiah Thomas broke out and Jimmer saw even less time. In his second year, he came back much improved, less hesitant offensively and with a way better handle. His playing time dropped though, because Sacramento had too many guards that needed playing time. This preseason, Fredette played in a few games, and had a couple good ones, but he again finds himself third in the rotation at both SG and PG. It was announced [yesterday] that the Kings would not pick up his 4th year option, making him an unrestricted Free Agent after this year. My gut tells me the Kings will find a taker for him by the trade deadline, even if it's only for a second round pick. I think Jimmer can be a good rotational player in the NBA, he just needs a situation where he'll get an opportunity to play some meaningful minutes.
Steve Perrin: I was in Las Vegas at Summer League where Ben McLemore rather famously did not look good. How has he been in pre-season, and what's your prognosis for him his rookie season? Will he be in the starting lineup in place of Thornton by January? All Star break? Next season? Never?
Aykis16: The difference between Ben McLemore in the preseason and Summer League has been night and day. He just looks so much more confident and comfortable. I know a lot of Kings fans would have liked to see him be the starting SG now over Marcus Thornton, but coach Malone prefers to bring rookies along slowly. So for now he's the backup, but I can definitely see him making the starting lineup sooner rather than later, especially if his shot starts dropping consistently. In the home opener, he shot just 1-5 from three, but four of those threes were wide open, thanks to his excellent off-ball movement. I don't think he'll be in the running for Rookie of the Year or anything, but I think he's going to be a real contributor for this year's Sacramento team, and a big part of the future if he keeps improving.
Thanks to Aykis16 for providing his insights into the Kings. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens with Fredette -- with so much emphasis on shooting in the league right now, I can see him being a factor for some team. It should be an entertaining game tonight.