With Scott Perry in the fold, the Sacramento Kings could be changing their perception
Agents of top prospects said their clients could work out with Kings if they land a high pick in Tuesday’s draft lottery
For years, the Sacramento Kings have appeared to be more like court jesters than royalty.
No NBA playoff appearances since 2006. Lots of ownership dysfunction, from the Maloofs to current owner Vivek Ranadive. The roller coaster ride with ex-Kings All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, who was controversially traded by general manager Vlade Divac. Let’s not forget a string of disappointing draft picks the past five years, including Nik Stauskas, Ben McLemore and Thomas Robinson. The saving grace is a beautiful new downtown arena.
With Sacramento in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, as usual, Scott Perry hopes he can help the franchise shine its rusty crown.
“It’s all about the team, sacrificing and helping one another on a daily basis,” Perry, the Kings’ new executive vice president of basketball operations, told The Undefeated. “It’s all about development. We have to do a great job of continuing to develop and push young players to improve. It’s creating a culture that is accountable and conducive to winning. That’s the thing we have to do each and every day. You don’t wave a magic wand, but you commit to do it on a daily basis.
“I am very excited about this opportunity to help Vlade and ownership to get the Kings back to the culture they had a while back. There is a lot of young talent in the fold. Through the draft, we can create some pieces. It’s an exciting time.”
The Kings hired Perry, who has 17 NBA seasons of front office experience with the Detroit Pistons, Seattle SuperSonics and Orlando Magic, on April 21. The former Wayne State guard previously served as vice president with the Pistons for four seasons and with the Magic for the past five before being relieved of his duties in April. The former Eastern Kentucky head basketball coach was in the Pistons’ front office when they advanced to six consecutive Eastern Conference finals and won an NBA championship in 2004. Perry also served as the SuperSonics’ assistant general manager during the 2007-08 season and was on the staff that drafted Kevin Durant second overall in 2007.
While Divac remains in his role as general manager, Perry will have a strong influence on basketball personnel decisions. The first major task for Perry with the Kings will be the heralded 2017 NBA draft. This draft is expected to be one of the best in years, with such prospects as Washington guard Markelle Fultz, Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox, UCLA guard Lonzo Ball and Kansas swingman Josh Jackson.
“This is a very promising draft. There could be some very good young talent in this draft. But as the case is with many drafts, so much of it depends on where certain players end up and how they fit in their respective environment to maximize their growth and development,” Perry said.
It’s complicated, but the Kings will likely have two lottery selections in the NBA draft on June 22. Sacramento has its own pick with the eighth-best odds for the first selection at 2.8 percent, but if the selection is higher than the Philadelphia 76ers’, then the latter has the right to swap per a past trade. The Kings also have the New Orleans Pelicans’ selection via the Cousins trade if it’s outside the top three protected picks.
Perry said he expects to have some “anxious excitement” while watching the draft lottery. Kings coach David Joerger will represent the team there. The last time the Kings had a top-three pick, in 1991, Syracuse forward Billy Owens was selected with the third overall pick before being dealt to the Golden State Warriors for guard Mitch Richmond and center Les Jepsen on Nov. 1, 1991.
“We’re going to be looking for the best luck possible,” Perry said with a chuckle. “Our job is to be prepared for whatever happens on that night. Whatever the lottery holds for us, we’re going to embrace and make the most of whatever opportunity comes out of the draft lottery.
“You have no control over what is going to happen on this night. It’s a chance system. If you’re lucky enough to win it, it’s a great thing for your franchise. But if you don’t, you can’t look at it as a loss or curse.”
NBA teams will have a better idea of whom they will invite to work out after the draft lottery. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford reported recently that “multiple NBA agents” told him they were “determined” to keep their clients from working out for Sacramento. Divac previously said he didn’t consider drafting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay with the sixth overall pick in 2015 because the franchise didn’t work him out. Sacramento selected center Willie Cauley-Stein instead, and the Nuggets selected Mudiay with the next pick.
Perry, however, said he and Divac will be well-versed on all draft prospects and won’t be afraid to select a player who declines to come to Sacramento to work out. Perry is quite familiar with the old story that Stephen Curry’s agent told the Golden State Warriors not to draft the Davidson star guard in 2009 and the Warriors didn’t get a workout. Curry was selected seventh in the draft by the then-struggling Warriors and is now an NBA champion and two-time NBA MVP.
“Whatever the post-lottery proceedings are, that is the fate that is meant for us,” Perry said. “We are going to vigorously attack it and do all that we can to make sure we maximize what our position is for the upcoming draft.”
Perhaps with Perry, the Kings are beginning to change their perception.
The Kings were among a short list of teams that Fultz and Fox interviewed with in Chicago at the NBA pre-draft camp last week. NBA agent B.J. Armstrong told The Undefeated that Jackson could work out for the Kings if they get a high selection. Agent Happy Walters also told The Undefeated he would have no problem with Fox visiting the Kings if they have a high pick. Fultz, Fox and Jackson are considered potential top-five selections.
Armstrong, a former Chicago Bulls guard who also worked in their front office, noted that the six-time NBA champion Bulls never won a championship until Michael Jordan arrived. Armstrong said a player like Jackson has “the talent to make an imprint on an organization” and also could “change the culture.”
“I am not afraid of these teams,” Armstrong said. “After working in the front office, I feel I have a pretty good understanding about perception and what they say about a franchise and what is going on. In the end, one player can make a difference in a franchise. I encourage every player to look at every situation as an enormous opportunity.
“I don’t have a problem with the Kings then, and I don’t have a problem with the Kings now. I know Vlade Divac. We’ve been friends for 30-something years, and I played against him in the NBA Finals. Vlade knows something about the NBA. Scott Perry went to six conference finals with the Pistons, won a championship and lost another one to [San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg] Popovich. I feel very confident about those people with Sacramento.”
Said Walters: “De’Aaron is special. He looks at the positive in every situation. If Sacramento has a high pick and they like him, then he will be there for a workout.”
Despite the NBA being a predominantly black league, the current list of NBA presidents or general managers in basketball operations who are African-American or of African descent is short: Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Clippers president and coach Doc Rivers, New York Knicks general manager Steve Mills, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri and New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps.
Perry received numerous congratulatory calls from NBA coaches, front-office executives and players after landing the high-profile gig.
“I got a lot of positive response from a lot of my brethren, and not just from the African-American counterparts but the league in general,” Perry said. “It made me feel really good. I appreciated that people respect what you do and my ability in this profession. And bigger than that, they respect me as a person from the way I’ve conducted myself each and every day for 17 years in this league.”