While the Kings aggressive attempts to retain Evans and pursue Iguodala, among others, represents a welcome change from the financially depleted Maloofs regime of regime of recent years, it's good to see that majority owner Vivek Ranadive, GM Pete D'Alessandro and coach Michael Malone have some standards.
Billboards featuring images of the Maloofs promising to mow Chris Webber's lawn if the their All-Star forward re-signed when he became a free agent is one thing. In Sac, the gesture was not without its charm. The Kings have never won a title, and they became contenders only after Webber was obtained for an aging Mitch Richmond in 1998. But those billboards in L.A. begging Dwight Howard to return? The Lakers have only won, geez, a zillion NBA Championships. Dwight Howard? Seriously? Dwight Howard?
Self praises the rookie
Kansas coach Bill Self couldn't heap enough praise on his guard, Ben McLemore, who slid to the Kings at No.7.
During a conversation Monday afternoon, Self's feelings for the former Jayhawk star were unmistakably intense, affectionate, and even a bit protective.
"I think this could be a ton of fun for Ben and the Kings," the coach added. "I don't know the inside situation in Sacramento, but I do know there was a lot of enthusiasm and interest in the city to keep the Kings.
"There has to be a lot of fan interest to make that happen, and the fans will love Ben. He's a team-first guy, a humble kid. Everyone knows his background. He could have stayed for another year and been totally happy. Three squares (meals) and a warm bed. He would have been fine, but I'm happy for him. He's going to be something special."
A few other quotes, thoughts, observations:
In the weeks preceding the draft, Self urged McLemore to schedule more workouts with NBA clubs (he only worked out for three teams) and suspects his reluctance to do so contributed to his draft-day slide. "I do think there's been some negative things that transpired," said Self. "We kept him telling him, 'Ben, you have to do this. You have to do this.' His representatives at the time (who were later replaced) felt the opposite."
McLemore, who chose to wear No.16, the number worn by Peja Stojakovic, said he learned about his connection to the former Kings sharpshooter via social media. "Tweets, tweets," McLemore said, laughing. " 'Ah, man, Peja is a great shooter!' "
According to McLemore's agent, Rodney Blackstock, the league has lined up Webber, Vlade Divac and Mitch Richmond as mentors for the 20-year-old rookie. No word on whether Chris Mullin - who has a soft spot for shooters, understandably - will join the group. Mullin is continuing to work with Ranadive and D'Alessandro in an unofficial consultant role, but whether he takes on a more permanent front office position remains to be seen. D'Alessandro, however, who was on Mullin's staff in Golden State, plans a few more hires.
Blackstock, who was hired by McLemore about two weeks ago, and brought Rudy Freeman in as an attorney/business advisor, said his client was nonplussed when he slipped to No.7. "When David Stern called his name, it was such a proud moment," recalled Blackstone, who accompanied his client to the NBA Draft proceedings last Thursday in New York. "Coming from where he comes from, opportunities don't come around all the time. It's just seizing the moment. It wasn't like 'I like this team and I don't like this team better.' It's the opportunity to get drafted, to be here. It's a once in a lifetime experience. He can't go back again."
While it was later revealed that the Kings had coveted McLemore all along, and in fact, had tried to move up to ensure that he would be available, the most likely alternative would have been C.J. McCollum.
At the very least, Kings second-round pick Ray McCallum, who played for his father at Detroit-Mercy, displayed the smarts of a well-informed point guard during the introductory press conference Monday. "I'm truly blessed and excited to be here, happy to call Sacramento home, alongside Ben," he said. "It's kind of a new era here. New arena being built, be finished in about three years, got a young team, a great organization for us two to grow in . There couldn't be a better organization to come in and try to establish and make a name, not only for myself but for the organization. Try to bring it back on the map." Somewhere out there, CWebb, Vlade, Peja, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, among others, have to be smiling.
Finally, it would be an understatement to say Ranadive is enjoying his new gig as an NBA boss. He had this to say about McLemore: "Ben's story is the stuff of legends. This is the story of the triumph of hard work over adversity. Success against all odds. This is the stuff that movies are made of. I know that Ben's motto is 'stay humble, stay hungry.' And these are words we can live by as well." Turning toward McCallum, he said: "Ray is also a very impressive young man. Coming out of high school, he was one of the most sought-after basketball players in the country. And he, too, stayed hungry. He's a smart kid who decided to play for his Dad, a great coach (Michael Malone) in his own right. And everybody knows I love coaches' kids (laugh).