Domantas Sabonis recently spoke with The Athletic's Sam Amick about being traded to the Kings, what went wrong in Indiana, war in Europe, and his future in Sacramento. Naturally, it's that last part that has drawn attention.
From The Athletic:
You have two years left on your contract, what’s your perspective on how this chapter with the Kings might fit for the long haul?
I’m excited. I’m excited about the whole journey. It sucks that we have that (playoff) drought, but the fact that we can be part of something that can turn it around, you know, that’s the goal. Come in and change the perspective of this organization and what people think. We’re excited that we can be part of that and build it, you know? So I want to stay as long as I can. Everything has to go well, (but) I’m happy here. It’s awesome. The fans are great. I’m excited to see us do good.
Somehow in a paragraph-long answer praising the city, the fans, and the future of the team, the conversation has circulated primarily around the caveat of "Everything has to go well".
I understand why this has some Kings fans concerned. After all, we're in the midst of a 16-year run of things not going well. But to me if feels premature to worry about the possibility of Sabonis leaving in another two years.
Sabonis wants everything to go well between now and then. That's perfectly reasonable. If the Kings are still angling for a top 5 pick in two years, Sabonis probably won't be inclined to stick around. But if the Kings are still angling for a top 5 pick two years from now, we've got bigger problems as Kings fans.
Sabonis leaving at the end of his contract is a risk, I'm not denying that. And I'm also aware that the Kings could have maintained control over Tyrese Haliburton for far longer. But at the end of the day, team success will be what matters. If the Kings can right the ship, opinions on the trade will trend more positive. If the Kings can right the ship, Sabonis will have incentive to stay in Sacramento. If the Kings can't right the ship, the trade will be viewed as a failure and Sabonis will be more likely to leave.
But I'm not ready to worry about Sabonis leaving. Not yet. I'm focused on the myriad decisions the franchise will face this offseason. Who will they hire as coach? Where will the land in the draft? Will they trade the pick? Which players will be traded? How will they use the mid-level exception? Those are the concerns I think it's worth worrying about right now, because getting those decisions right or wrong are ultimately going to be what determine if the Kings can be good again.
And being good again is the only thing that really matters.
Your questions are important. They will, in fact, determine where this team ultimately goes IMO.
I didn’t take anything from Domas other than he expects to win and he expects that the franchise will do everything they can to support that.
It’s actually one of my favorite things about this deal. It accelerates the timeline, it requires action, it requires actual movement. That I’m a fan of because too often there’s all these competing ideologies going around. And that in turn creates inertia to a degree. This summer feels like, IMO, you have competent management, and there’s possibilities to create synergy with the players, and the coaching staff you hire will walk in with some idea of the roster. Not to mention to the chance to shape the next several years.
It’s a very good opportunity to improve if you get it right. And God Forbid the Kings do something right for a change.
Yep, all of that, and especially that the timeline creates urgency to act now. This team doesn’t have a year to add a couple of veteran bench tweaks and then see how it all works out. (It won’t.) The team needs to get better this offseason, which requires action, and that’s a good thing. The fact that the team hasn’t looked good with their three existing core pieces in place, healthy and largely playing well creates even more urgency for change. I’m here for it.
I find it hard to get excited about the accelerated timeline. It will likely cause the FO to either draft guys who they’ll think fit and immediately contribute over long term star potential, or trade the pick for a veteran who can immediately help.
And that’s a problem, IMO. It seems that the “plan” is less focused on building a perennial contender and more on breaking the playoff drought, to both save Monte’s ass and soothe the fanbase and Vivek.
And for those who say that is a first step to actual contention, I say that is perhaps true, but it is far more likely that if the plan is to aim low, the result will most likely also be low.
Put differently, if the foundation is crooked, it’s very difficult to build something solid. It seems like another attempt to cut corners, and I have difficulty seeing it succeed.
As to the competence of management, I am still not convinced. There were good decisions, there were bad decisions. One lottery pick was a hit (he’s gone), the other one TBD. I like Davion, but he doesn’t look to be in the top 10 of his class right now, and there are valid reasons to doubt he will be. A short stretch of solid games is too little to dispel concerns about very poor TS% over the whole season. Throw in last season’s 2nd rounders and Monte’s “reputation” as a drafter is really just based on one guy falling into his lap and taking him where others passed him by.
Time will tell, but color me sceptical.
“Accelerated timeline” is phrase of the week. Monte seems to value proven success over potential. After decades of pinning my hope on young players who never lived up to their potential, I can respect that. It can be a solid if unspectacular foundation though.
I’m not sure what I would do when I see an optimistic Dutchman, TBH. 🙂 It’ll be akin to having an out of body experience!
Based on your interpretation, I wouldn’t expect this outcome to have a high likelihood of success either.
The narrative is that the Kings aren’t interesting in winning a championship. I highly doubt that’s true. If anything, the issue with Vivek Ranadive is lack of patience and trusting the wrong people to run the team. It seems to me there are good people in the FO running things, but time is required. There are no real shortcuts to success.
And in that vein, who can stay in their job forever? Most coaches can’t. Popovich and Spoelstra, and even Quin Snyder, are rare exceptions. They certainly aren’t the rule. GM positions turn over all the time.
Your interpretation of aiming low is wanting to make the playoffs, I’m assuming, but you can’t win a championship without making the playoffs first. And certainly I think the goal should to be win 50+ games 3 years in a row. I know this cannot be a surprise to you as I’ve said that a number of times since the trade.
You are having a hard time separating Vivek Ranadive from Monte McNair and, frankly, I get it. So am I, in point of fact. But I dont think for a minute Vivek Ranadive has the guts to do anything without getting the fans take on Twitter first because he’s too scared of pissing the fanbase off. (That’s a big problem, in fact, IMO.)
There’s a huge difference between seeing the vision and liking the vision. You can see the vision McNair would like to put out there with Sabonis and Fox as two of the cornerstone pieces (to quote James Ham). You just don’t happen to agree with it.
That’s the difference in my mind. McNair is an actual basketball professional who works in the professional basketball world. Ranadive is a guy who bought his way in. But, my source of optimism is that this is the first of several steps (hopefully), I think the Fox and Sabonis pairing works better than you do, and I think one downside of an interim head coach whom you probably wouldn’t keep in the end is that whatever he’s doing will be to try and save his job. You aren’t running combinations out there to see how they work. In fairness to Alvin Gentry, I can’t blame him. It’s a bad situation to be in as an interim head coach with so many competing agendas inside the organization.
I’m curious what would be on this list for you beyond the drafting you mention further below in that paragraph.
Davion’s TS% is concerning to a degree, but it was a known issue that has not been helped by the season as it’s unfolded. I think we’re going to have to see a great sophomore campaign out of him though to reverse the real criticisms of him right now. And I certainly believe Davion can figure out a way to be valuable. He has all the right tools to do so.
This trade will come down to how well, IMO, the Kings can build around Fox and Sabonis and how much each can help each other maximize their value on the court. Domas isn’t getting enough touches in the post near the hoop, but he’s triple teamed so often the Kings can’t take advantage of it. Fox is playing much better since the trade, but I know better than to get excited about smaller sample sizes with De’Aaron. De’Aaron’s 3pt% since the trade, if sustainable, will lead to better offense IMO if you can optimize Domas and De’Aaron as a two man game. Which has not been done, not yet.
So what are my sources of optimism? A new head coach can optimize your building blocks better than Gentry, a new head coach can definitely get more out of combinations that are fitting together better than what Gentry had, a new head coach can enforce principles to help the team win more consistently. You have trades, the draft to add talent. That’s the trickiest part really, you don’t know what you can do until you know you can do it.
So between internal improvement of existing players on the roster, the draft, trades, a new head coach and a FO finally on the same page, I can see a 45 win roster next year even if you make a trade for Holmes and draft a guy at 6 (because that’s all you can do). I wouldn’t bet the house on it or anything if that’s all the Kings do, but I do see optimism with the right conditions in play. And I think slowly, but surely, those conditions are coming into focus. This is a tough tiger to wrangle since you’re always getting the ass end of it as a new GM coming in, and the (now) historical lack of success only makes it that much tougher. But that was December 2020, Monte McNair has had a few years to calm the tigger down and get this back to being what it should be.
This summer will be very important, and I think the one thing that I come back to with McNair is that he has raised the marginal value of asset’s on this roster a little. I don’t really worry about GM’s missing on 2nd round picks in part because there isn’t any difference between them and undrafted players (other than you don’t have to convince an undrafted player to sign with you for the minimum; that’s the advantage of drafting a player in the 2nd round as you control where they play to a much higher degree). There are plenty of trade possibilities even if you can’t land a big fish OR jump in the lottery. That’s the part that gives me optimism. Under Vlade Divac, I didn’t have a single ounce of optimism that they could land a Sabonis type player. I do with McNair. If you wish to call it a hunch, you’re certainly entitled to that point. I wouldn’t argue that. I just see small subtle signs that I happen to find encouraging that I did not under D’Alessandro or Divac.
I don’t expect you to be optimistic about the chances next year, but I do expect you to root your ass off for this team when (or if) they make the playoffs! Deal?
This team has literally exemplified how to get every possible strategy for success to argue about wrong since 2006.
Fire sale and total rebuild? Failed.
Mortgage prospects for win-now talent? Failed.
Spend multiple years in the lottery to build through good draft position and scouting? Failed.
I really, really wish Tyrese was still on our team. I wanted Sabonis, and I’m glad we have him and am enjoying his game. I don’t think either “strategy” moves the needle, because the Kings have already done both before, and fucked up both times.
I’m not going to care enough to argue about it until the Kings are in the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, and I don’t care now about how they manage to do it. Talk is cheap.
Serious question, when have the Kings ever had a fire sale and total rebuild, because I feel that is the one avenue they have never gone down. A fire sale and rebuild for me is trading off a players of value for future assets. Maybe someone could argue that trading away a prime DMC for Buddy, a pick and expirings is a rebuild, but for me that was tumor extraction and addition by subtraction.
While I, of all people, agree in the addition by subtraction part, what was there to sell on that Kings team other than Cousins? That was a rebuild, Vlade just managed the whole thing very badly.
Yet they sat on Darren Collison and an expiring Rudy Gay. They were still trying to compete post trade. Maybe that’s why I don’t consider it a full reset.
They weren’t ready to trade Cousins yet, wrongly. And you are not going to convince me that either Collison or Gay had a ton of value at that point to make that much difference. You’re welcome to die on that hill all you want buddy!
I think the closest to this type of rebuild you describe was in 2009 when Salmons and Miller got traded. Even then, fans hated the deal.
You don’t think an 30 year old expiring Rudy Gay who was averaging 18 and 6 while shooting 37% from 3 had value to contender?
Not as much as you’re claiming, no.
I didn’t claim anything, but something is better than nothing, right?
It especially comes into play when they used the cap space vacated by Rudy to go out and hand George Hill a ridiculous contract right after they drafted Fox. That right there tells me it wasn’t a rebuild of the roster.
Basically, IMO, you’re pointing out that Vlade sucked at GM. I would point out that Gay was hurt before that traded Cousins and Collison had very little value around the NBA.
Hill was signed to help Fox, and as so many things in that era it didn’t work even a little.
I think it goes back to my original question, was there ever a real rebuild? To me a rebuild could have happened with the DMC trade but that also would have been trading off the other pieces for nickels on the dollar. Clear the cap, get any future assets, trade for youth. IMO, the Kings never really attempted that 100%, they only did it half-assed in typical Kangz fashion.
Other than the first round pick the Kings got for DMC (which ended up being #10, then traded back for two additional firsts on draft night) have there been any other acquired first round picks during this playoff drought? Does the Belinelli draft night trade count? Without looking anything up, I honestly can’t think of any?
Can’t believe you forgot about the draft in 2016 where they traded back (and got Papagiannis and Labissiere) but maybe you meant in advance? If so, the pick in 2009 (23rd overall) that became Omri Casspi in the Ron Artest deal. That’s the last time.
I think that 2017-18 time was a rebuild. Vlade just screwed it up is what it comes down to.
Depending on what moment in time you want to use (personally, I would have traded Cousins roughly 1.5 seasons earlier), you had Gay and Collison that likely had SOME value and clearly wouldn’t be part of the future plan.
I was going off the actual TL, not my preferences. I would have never drafted Cousins, traded him in 2013, etc etc. You get the idea. I don’t think people get that I wasn’t just against Cousins, I never wanted him at any point. I just kept hoping at some point he’d prove me wrong, and, well, he never did. I quit watching the Kings for his last year in Sac because I was so sick of him.
But yes, in that alternative timeline absolutely that’s the time to get value. And that’s yet example 1,267 of why Vlade Divac should never have been GM.
You’re right, they’ve never done it right and fully committed to it. The closest they’ve come, in my mind, is the seasons between 2007 and 2009 when they traded away Bibby, Artest, Miller, and Martin in quick succession.
It is too early to worry about it, and yet if the Kings keep sucking …
Sabonis seems a great piece to build around ! Talented, skilled, and unselfish bigs are rare . Seems Kings have 3 legit starters to win with , now through FA, Draft and trades get two more . Bobby Portis should be top option as he is cheaper and better than John Collins !
As much as I’m not sold on the path that the front office has taken here, the timeline can work (it is very, very tight).
The Kings are down two NBA starters right now with no solution on its current roster: a viable shooting guard and a stretch 4-5 that can rim protect at least a bit. I don’t see a path for them filling both positions with +players this off season, but maybe they can add one? That might get them to .500, and they could then address the other open position in the summer of ’23, putting the team into the position of competing for upper 40 wins. As noted, this is a very tight timeline.
Conversely, if this does not look like it’s going to work, the Kings could still trade Sabonis before his contract expires. Of course, it would likely be at pennies on the dollar once he becomes an expiring contract. That is, you probably aren’t getting a Hali-level player back for him at that point, unless he fits a very specific need for a title-chasing team.
Not the lane that I would have chosen, but a very intriguing lane nonetheless. It’s tight, but
Oh it is totally going to work! Not only will it work but it will work well! Playoffs for sure next season!
I will not be betting on that. I will be rooting for that, but I will not be betting on that.
Is this Rockbottoms burner?
No I am not a burner account.
But if it doesn’t work…
Followed by the fan reaction –
Put me in the camp that if the Kings don’t have a drastic turnaround next season, and by that I mean 40 wins, they may be forced to trade Sabonis in summer of 2023. I don’t think they should go into his final year of his deal on the same trajectory they are on now. They risk getting nothing for him at the deadline in 2024 or letting him walk for nothing.
From that, I don’t see a two year timeline, I see a one year or bust.
The summer of ’23 will be the final year of his deal.
No it’s the summer of ’24. 2023 is next summer. I know wearing pants all winter has warped your brain a bit, but I’m confident in the coming days your brain will return to normal and you will see the calendar again clearly!
I think this is a semantics thing. He is a UFA in the summer of ’24. His final year – his year where he becomes an expiring contract and thus a short-term rental – is the summer of ’23.
Ah, yes. Absolutely semantics. I clearly just read your OC wrong. My bad.
letting someone walk for nothing seems more like McNair’s MO
Edited because I am dumb.
Finally you say something smart!
Not down to two, ’51. Down two.
For the record, I did edit my comment before I saw your response, so I quickly realized my silly reading comprehension mistake!
That stretch 4 can be drafted if the Kings win a top 4 pick because 4 of the top prospects are 4’s.
Who is your 4th prospect, because I keep seeing Ivey, Sharpe or Griffin in that 4 spot. Do you have Murray at #4?
I don’t have them numbered exactly yet, but yeah, Murray seems to be ranked around the range of 4 through 7. For some reason, I have Dyson Daniels over Ivey, Sharpe and Griffin.
We all want the team to be good, but before it can be good, it simply has to get better. The Sabonis trade made the team better, full stop.
Sacramento hasn’t the luxury of signing or trading for a likely hall of fame player to fix everything at once. When you can’t snap your fingers and become a contender, you need to start getting better. Sacramento fans don’t have the same kind of snap-your-fingers POOF! you’re a winner! option that some do. 1-15, the team has better pieces than it did before the trades.
As ever, I’m hopeful that the Kings can become competitive, and that Sabonis will want to stay. It’s a tough job, and for any number of reasons, it may not happen. The Kings could get the #1 pick in the 2022 draft, and the guy might have a career-ending knee injury ten games into his career. You can do everything right, and still end up having a pretty lousy team.
The objective is clear; all of us can see it, sitting on top of a verdant hill: Playoffs. Relevance. Respect.
The road to get there? It fades in and out of view, and there is nothing to stop the ground from falling away beneath you, no matter how well-chosen your direction. There are far too many moving parts and possibilities for anyone to pretend that not only do they know the way, but that the road will remain clear until we get there.
With that reality in mind, the important thing, in both the long and short-term, is to get better. The Kings are better than they were before the trades. With some luck in the summer, moving players out and bringing others in, maybe the right mix of talent will be in place, and maybe, maybe, marked improvement in play and in results will be there.
The stewardship over the last eighteen months has been more than just merely competent. If there are viable moves that can be made, I’m certain that the Kings will be in the mix. As we saw with the proposed deal sending Hield to Los Angeles, you can’t make a team that’s determined to be stupid, be anything else.
I don’t think that the Kings need to be great next year, only better, and with an ongoing process to keep moving in that direction. It won’t be easy, but it also isn’t impossible if some things break right.
That last half-sentence is what keeps us all grinding our teeth when we sleep.
i thought it is good, better, best – in that order.
so you have to be good first to get better.
Depending where you’re at, you can get a lot better without getting anywhere close to good. For example
At the end of his contract will he be unrestricted FA?
Why are folks so hell bent in running Gentry out of town? Coaching isn’t the problem, the Kings lack of talent is. Don’t be surprised if Gentry is back next year with a more talented squad.
That would be another terrible coaching decision by Monte
Maybe so, but no coach can win without talent, I just have the feeling Gentry will be back.
Can you explain “another” in that sentence? Because if it’s about not being able to throw Lose Walton out on his ass last summer, it’s apparent that it wasn’t McNair’s decision to make.
can you explain “throw”?
You pick a thing up, and use your arms and/or hands to fling it.
All the way back to Los Angeles, ideally.
What if it’s a Free Throw?
He may not be the cause, but he ain’t the cure, either.
The Kings need to be better, from the ownership to the front office to the coaching to the roster. I wouldn’t single out Gentry, but I wouldn’t retain him, either.
The problem is both coaching and talent.
We talking about the Kings or TKH?
TKH staff certainly doesn’t lack talent in the humor department.
Meat-free Fridays at TKH HQ –
I keep watching this over and over.
I think about the process of writing and executing that bit. It is a level of silliness, stupidity and brilliance that I envy and admire.
Is that 3 Stooges? If not, who?
Monty Python. I think that’s Cleese on the left and Palin on the right.
I typed too soon. And you’re right, comedic geniuses they were.
I see what all of you are saying, I really do. I’m not trying to argue, troll, or anything like that. It’s just, you can’t blame one (coaching) without blaming the other (talent).
I hope not. Coaching has a lot to do with a teams success for many reasons. There are some really good coaches out there both in the pros and the college ranks. It’s up to Monty to find the right one. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Gentry. He is probobly the most liked person ever but he hasn’t done much in my opinion. He has a lot of tunnel vision when it comes to playing certain people and not playing others. Enough said.
I guess I’d say that Gentry isn’t the problem, but more importantly, he’s not the solution. I’m hopeful McNair hires someone with no ties to the organization, and the freedom to clearcut staff as they see fit.
By the point you’re coaching at the NBA level, there’s basically four tiers of coaching:
1) Outright bad coaches that will lose games on their poor skills. Bottom five coaches.
2) Okay coaches that do not fit well in terms of personnel/schemes. They can do well/win, but need a specific roster that they don’t have.
3) Okay coaches whose schemes fit the personnel. They get wins, at least relative to overall talent. But things might get shaky as the core gets changed or ages… but they can win.
4) The greats, who can drag the most value out of ANY roster. Think top 5 coaches.
Walton, for example, is straight outright bad. Gentry is an okay/bad fit. Malone and Joerger’s tenures would be okay/good fits. We want a coach that gets the most value out of our roster, and Gentry’s not it. Landing a great is rare, but landing a better fit is absolutely doable.
Kings might be picking 6th in this year’s lottery.
What I’m worried about is 2-3 years from that pick in June.
Are we gonna have the perennial WTF didn’t the Kings select player A (7th) or Player B (8th)
or player C (15th), etc etc..
How the f__k did we miss out on those gems, those All-Stars again?
After McNair is fired New Guy will come in and flip Sabonis and we’ll be debating the same old thing once again.
Probability of this happening is much higher than the probability of a play off appearance next year.
I know we want each and every move to finally be the move that changes course, but nothing has worked, so my object remains in motion.
Sabonis is not dumb. He cannot truthfully answer that question entirely. Translation of what Sabonis said…
“This organization is shit. Everything needs to change before I stay here. When the time comes for me to decide I will see how this team compares to my other options.”
McNair has about a year and half to turn this thing around. From the towel collector to the coach.
McNair will right the ship, and needs lots of towels
Hey, they have concerts at G1C, too!
Don’t worry, Vivek and Monte are captain of this team!
“With the 6th pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings draft TyTy Tanic, Belfast / United Kingdom.”
Because the other guy’s father is suspect……….
We just need to draft Bronny so that his pops (King James) will come and play for us. Problem solved….
The old man might make a pretty good coach one day, but his record as GM is not great.
I could care less either way. I’m less invested in this team than at any point in my fandom. That being said I love the fact that this gives no cover to anyone. It’s literal shit or get off the pot time for all involved. We haven’t seen the teams hand forced on a time line in years.
How much less do you think that you could care?
Less than less.