Sacramento Kings: Divac should stay in his lane and let Joerger coach this team

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images /

The Sacramento Kings are surprisingly playing some good basketball – much to the chagrin of Vlade Divac and the front office.

The Sacramento Kings front office seems to be playing out the real-life version of that 1989 cult classic movie, Major League – the better you play, the more we will punish you!

In this reboot of the film that nobody asked for, Kings Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Vlade Divac is playing the role of fictional Cleveland Indians owner, Rachel Phelps, who is threatening to punish coaches and players for having the audacity to play well and win games.

Can you believe the nerve of this team for trying to win some games?

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For the first time in a very, very long time, the Kings are playing an exciting brand of basketball. Yeah, they’re a little inconsistent right now and have their ups and downs, but here they sit at 10-8 on the season, currently holding the eighth-seed in a loaded Western Conference.

This Kings team, for all of their inconsistency, has already notched wins against the likes of Oklahoma City (twice), Memphis, and Denver – and if you’re scoring at home, those teams are currently holding the second, third, and fifth-seeds respectively in the West, by the way.

For the first time since most of the current Sacramento roster was wearing diapers and learning how to walk, the Kings are relevant again. Headed up by HC Dave Joerger, they’re a team that is playing a fun, exciting, wide-open style of basketball that has them winning games and is energizing a fanbase that’s been dormant longer than Mt. Vesuvius.

But, in true Rachel Phelps fashion, Divac is reportedly stepping in and inserting himself into the equation – allegedly arguing that the Kings winning games is such a bad thing, that Joerger’s job may be in jeopardy.

And here we thought the point was to win ballgames, huh? Silly us.

In a report that first appeared in Yahoo Sports, columnist Chris Haynes wrote about the “substantial disconnect,” between Joerger and Sacramento’s front office. The crux of the issue being the minutes the head coach is doling out to certain players – and not doling out to others – and the belief by Divac and others that this year is supposed to be a lost year, as it’s a “developmental season.”

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In other words, according to the report, Divac and the front office want to take the same path the Philadelphia 76ers did in tanking year after year to ensure high lottery picks – oh, sorry, tanking is such an ugly word. Divac and the front office want to “develop” their players slowly.

In particular, Sacramento’s front office wants to see Joerger giving this year’s second overall pick a lot more meaningful minutes that he’s currently getting.

From Haynes’ report…

"“Joerger’s handling of 2018 second overall pick Marvin Bagley III could eventually lead to the coach’s dismissal, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Sources said the franchise is growing frustrated with how Joerger is distributing minutes and assigning roles to the team’s young prospects. The front office views this season as a development year, sources said, but it was still confident that the team would be competitive and grow with Bagley, promising guard De’Aaron Fox, and forwards Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere meaningful minutes.”"

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Through the first eighteen games of the season, Bagley is averaging 12.1 poings and 6.1 rebounds in 23.1 minutes on the year – though, over the last three games, he’s been closer to 30 minutes a game. His scoring hasn’t grown appreciably with the extra time on the floor though, as he’s notched 16, 15, and 11 points respectively, in the last three contests.

Bagley has been playing a valuable support role for a starting group that has this team playing at an exceptionally high level – far higher than anybody thought they’d be able to play before the season began.

Wit a mixture of veteran castoffs and young, unheralded talent, most of the “experts” envisioned that yeah, this would be a continuation of the rebuilding effort and a development year for the Kings. Most “experts” predicted that Sacramento would finish with somewhere between 20-25 wins – well out of the playoff picture.

And to be fair, Sacramento very well may falter, fade, and fall out of the playoff picture still. There’s a lot of basketball left to be played this season. But, with 10 wins already, in their first 18 games, it sure seems like the Kings will absolutely be shattering everybody’s preseason expectations of them.

Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings /

Sacramento Kings

And yet, the possibility exists that Joerger could lose his job – for being too good at it, apparently.

That Joerger has helped turn this roster of nobodys and has-beens, into one that competes hard, night in and night out, is notching wins over some of the Western Conference’s top teams, and has firmly inserted itself into the early season playoff chase, is nothing short of astounding.

Which makes the report that Joerger’s job could potentially be in jeopardy not only the ultimate Rachel Phelps move, but nothing short of horrendously stupid. Of course, Divac was quick to quash the reports that have been flying around, producing a canned statement refuting said reports…

"“Dave has our full support and confidence. We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.”"

If there is indeed merit to these reports, you have got to wonder what Divac is thinking. Joerger already has this squad competing their butts off night in and night out, and the development of the young players seems to be going well.

What is the point of Divac throwing a wrench into the works when the engine of this Sacramento machine seems to be humming along pretty well? Is it pride? Ego? Is Divac going to go full Jed York and Trent Baalke by throwing a tantrum and blowing up an entire team because he’s not getting enough credit?

Divac hired Joerger to coach this team – ostensibly to change a moribund, losing culture and help transform it into a winning one. Given the way this team is playing right now, you’d have to say the Kings are beginning to turn that corner.

Sacramento is winning games and the respect of teams around the league once more. This team is being built the right way and is being set up for immediate and longer-term success with a nucleus of young, talented players who haven’t been shoved into roles that don’t suit them and have been given the room to grow and develop.

The idea that Sacramento is winning games again and is no longer the laughingstock of the league is something to be celebrated by this team’s front office, who has put them in a position to turn the corner with some smart drafting and solid free agent acquisitions.

Why slam on the brakes now, threatening to punish the man who’s helped bring this collection of disparate parts together, shape them, hone them, and turn them into a team that is winning some ballgames?

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For his efforts, Joerger could possibly find himself in line as a Coach of the Year candidate – and if he does, we have to hope he doesn’t end up like Dwane Casey, who won the award just before the Toronto Raptors ran him out of Canada on a rail.

If things went down that way and Joerger won the Coach of the Year award – then got canned for it – Divac would not only prove to be an even bigger idiot than his fictional counterpart, Rachel Phelps, it would also highlight the reasons why Sacramento hasn’t been relevant in ages.

Divac and the front office need to let Joerger distribute minutes and run the squad the way he feels is best. In other words, they need to sit down, shut up, and stay in their lane.