The rumor mill is spinning.
With the announcement that St. John’s University has moved on from Athletic Director Chris Monasch, Sacramento Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro’s name has surfaced as a possible replacement. Would he leave the NBA to return to his alma mater and join his good friend Chris Mullin with the Red Storm?
D’Alessandro joined the Kings in June 2013 after a stint with the Denver Nuggets. Known as an accomplished “capologist” and student of advanced metrics, the 46-year-old former sports agent seemed like a good fit with new owner Vivek Ranadivé.
The marriage began like most do, but the last six months have been rough, to say the least. The firing of Michael Malone and subsequent handling of Tyrone Corbin left a bitter taste in the mouth of many around Sacramento, including most of the players. The addition of George Karl came about two months too late as the the Kings squandered another season.
Whether D’Alessandro is back for another season with the Kings will be decided soon enough. But what is clear now is that D’Alessandro is no longer running the show. Vlade Divac is now the front man in Sacramento.
If this is indeed the end of Pete D’Alessandro in Sacramento, here is a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from his two-year run with the Kings. We discussed plenty of these issues in this week’s Cowbell Kingdom Podcast, but there is nothing quite like the written word.
The drafting of Ben McLemore didn’t provide the instant gratification that most fans would like, but the shooting guard’s growth in Year Two has plenty of folks excited. Sacramento passed on Michael Carter-Williams, but the 2013 NBA Draft was historically weak. McLemore is a work in progress, but he has shown enough in his first 164 games to intrigue many.
In a wild first season, D’Alessandro moved all but Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins from the roster he inherited. It’s not an easy task to dump an entire roster, including bad contracts like Marcus Thornton and Chuck Hayes. When you trim the fat like D’Alessandro in the first year, there are going to be some hits and misses.
The trade that landed Rudy Gay in December 2013 has proven to be a winner. After a rough stint in Toronto, Gay has flourished in Sacramento. After opting in for the 2014-15 season, Gay signed a three-year extension to remain with the Kings, which is a huge feather in D’Alessandro’s cap.
There was a loud groan from Kings fans when Darren Collison was added on a three-year deal, but the veteran point guard played extremely well when healthy. He may not be a long-term answer in the starting lineup, but he gives Sacramento depth or another trade chip down the road.
While it snuck under the radar, D’Alessandro made a series of cost-cutting moves in the weeks leading up to the 2014-15 training camp. At one point, the Kings were on the verge of moving over the luxury cap, but D’Alessandro was able to move Jason Terry and two second-round picks for expiring contracts, as well as Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy to the Knicks for more cap relief. These were subtle moves, but strong nonetheless.
D’Alessandro has made plenty of moves in his time in Sacramento, but two smaller additions paid huge dividends this season. Omri Casspi returned to Sacramento and played extremely well. The 26-year-old wing would love to return on a long-term contract and his late-season play likely earned him that chance.
In addition to Casspi, a deadline deal brought veteran Andre Miller into the fold and sent Ramon Sessions and his $2.5 million guaranteed salary for this season packing. Miller provided veteran leadership and helped ease the transition into the Karl era. Miller would love to return this season, but at 39 years old, the Kings will likely take a wait-and-see approach.
Regardless of how the Kings got to the end result, adding Karl was a huge move. The future Hall of Fame coach has collected more than 1,100 career wins and is the most accomplished head coach the Kings have had since Rick Adelman left. Whether this was D’Alessandro’s decision or not has been debated repeatedly, but he ultimately signed him to a contract.
D’Alessandro walked in the door and almost instantly had to deal with the restricted free agent status of Tyreke Evans. The former Rookie of the Year eventually left in a sign-and-trade deal with the New Orleans Pelicans for Greivis Vasquez. Clearly, Sacramento didn’t get equal value in return, but Vasquez was later added to the package that yielded Gay. Does Toronto make that deal without Vasquez? I’m not sure. They liked him enough to give him a two-year, $13 million deal.
In hindsight, giving Carl Landry a four-year, $26 million deal was a mistake. There is definitely some finger-pointing on who made this decision, but unfortunately for D’Alessandro, it will fall under his record. Landry will turn 32 before the coming season, and the Kings have very little chance of recouping the money they’ve invested in the power forward.
Sacramento has had very few “fan favorites” over the last half decade, but Isaiah Thomas was beloved. After showing up at city council meetings and supporting Sacramento’s effort to keep the Kings, Thomas entered free agency to a major cold shoulder from the team that had drafted him 60th overall three seasons earlier. The argument that D’Alessandro put forth was that the Kings didn’t see him as a starter, and he would never accept a sixth man role in Sacramento. The result was turning a player who averaged 20 points and six assists per game into a trade exception. For a team lacking talent, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
The jury is still out on the drafting of Nik Stauskas, but the Kings may regret passing on point guard Elfrid Payton for a long time. The Kings had already drafted McLemore the year before and instead of holding onto one of their veteran shooting guard options, they went with a pair of 21-year-olds at the two. It didn’t work out so well, while the Kings are still looking for a long-term fix at the point guard position.
Signing Ramon Sessions and Royce White didn’t hurt the team long term. Neither did dealing Luc Mbah a Moute for Derrick Williams. These are standard low-risk, high-reward deals.
Firing Malone ended the Sacramento Kings’ 2014-15 season. But really, it did a lot more than that. When D’Alessandro and Mullin convinced Ranadivé to relieve Malone of his duties, they destroyed the culture of the Kings and sent the franchise into a death spiral. Malone had formed a bond with Cousins. and he had Sacramento playing stellar defense. His firing was shocking, and the aftermath was despicable.
The leaks…the dutch boy could plug all of the holes in the Sacramento Kings PR machine, and most of the noise can be traced directly back to the front office. From going on the Carmichael Dave show with a room filled with superfans, to hopping on a fan bus to catch a Warriors game, D’Alessandro put himself out there. Way out there.
After nearly two decades of the stoic Geoff Petrie in Sacramento, D’Alessandro spoke early and often. There was a point where being aggressive made the Kings an easy target in the national media. Despite all the talk, the Kings have a total of 57 wins over two seasons.
There is plenty of ugliness from which to choose, but the 270-pound elephant in the room is the handling of Cousins with regard to Karl. D’Alessandro allowed his 24-year-old franchise cornerstone to twist in the wind in the media. Whether he began the message that Cousins’ people were holding up the Karl deal or not is unknown, but what we do know is that the general manager failed to squash the rumor. He later apologized for the way Cousins’ name was dragged into the discussion, but not until he was standing in front of reporters announcing the hiring of Karl.
There is plenty to like about Pete D’Alessandro. He’s personable, he isn’t afraid to swing for the fences and you could argue that the Kings have more talent today than when he took over the general manager job two seasons ago. He’s also shown a mastery of the salary cap and an ability to think outside the box with regard to piecing deals together.
Typically, you would like to see a talent evaluator get more than a two-year run, but I’m not sure it’s that easy. There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed, and if D’Alessandro sticks around, he has a lot of fences to mend.
If he stays, D’Alessandro will have a reduced role in the decision-making of the Kings. The final say now rests soundly on the shoulders of Vlade Divac, but Sacramento still needs an executive with D’Alessandro’s skill set.