Vlade Divac may have been known as a legendary flopper during his playing days, but know this much about the Sacramento Kings vice president of basketball and franchise operations during his nascent career in an NBA front office: he’s no pushover as an executive.
Less than four months into his role as the Kings’ lead decision maker, Divac has already survived a co-worker controversy, faced a superstar crisis and made a sound top 10 pick. It’s a good thing for the embattled Kings, too, because this is no time to fall down on the job.
One day after he ignored the seemingly-endless threats from the DeMarcus Cousins’ camp and drafted a big man in Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein with the sixth pick who should fit quite nicely alongside his disgruntled big man if he suits up for the Kings next season, Divac made it clear that he’s not about to be bullied in his new role.
“I just was tired last week, or days, of these rumors, and putting a lot of stuff on our back, making this even harder than it is,” Divac said in an interview with Sacramento radio station KHTK 1140 Friday morning. “I try to be who I am, and try to do my job best I can and try to do the best I can for the franchise. I’m not going to let somebody change my mind because they’re putting (threats in) the paper or putting the pressure on me. I’ll do the best I can to improve this team.”
For all the understandable comparisons between Cousins’ situation and that of superstars like Carmelo Anthony (Melo-Drama in Denver) or(Dwight-mare in Orlando), there’s one common thread that has been largely ignored by the masses: Cousins’ agent, Dan Fegan of Relativity Sports, who has long since become the industry leader in applying the kind of pressure to a team that he hopes leads to a trade of his choosing.
He represented Howard during those Orlando days, when all the endless twists and turns leading up to his Aug. 2012 trade to the Los Angeles Lakers did the kind of damage to Howard’s reputation that has never been truly repaired. He was behind the scenes in the Denver situation back in 2011, too, working unofficially with then-Nuggets adviser and close friend Bret Bearup to get Anthony to the Brooklyn Nets before then-general manager Masai Ujiri ultimately opted for a trade with the New York Knicks.
Kings coach George Karl, of course, was the Nuggets coach at the time. And while Fegan didn’t represent Anthony (he had and still has Leon Rose of the Creative Artists Agency), his voice had held serious sway within the Nuggets organization in the years leading up to that situation.
So when Fegan tried to orchestrate a trade that would send Cousins to the Los Angeles Lakers in the days leading up to the draft – one that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive gave him permission to pursue when he made it clear that Cousins wanted out – it wouldn’t have shocked anyone if Divac decided to do the deal just to quiet this storm. Instead, he’s trying to fix a fractured situation on his terms.
When asked about the unhealthy dynamic between Karl and Cousins and the idea that they may be able to work it out, Divac pulled no punches and left all options open in terms of what happens next.
“I’ll be honest with you, how I think right now, I think they got the message yesterday,” he said. “So here I am, and if you’re on board, (you’re) more than welcome. If you’re not, I’ve got to go. I can’t wait. We do have everything except time. We have to go forward and try to make it a healthy environment and try to have a good team for next year.