Kings’ latest moves show team culture is hard to change

When the Sacramento Kings fired general manager Vlade Divac and replaced him with Monte McNair, the move was intended to change the culture—winning, instead of losing.

But culture is hard to change, as McNair demonstrated during the NBA’s recent free agent signing period. In perhaps the bonehead move of the off-season, the Kings executed a sign-and-trade deal with Milwaukee that would have sent three players to Sacramento for sharp shooter Bogdan Bogdanovic.

There was only one problem with the deal: Bogy didn’t sign a new contract before the Kings and Bucks pulled the trigger, negating the deal and turning Bogdanovic into a free agent. He subsequently signed with Atlanta for 4 years and $72 million. The Kings were left with nothing.

Nobody has explained yet how the deal was botched. The NBA is reportedly pointing the finger at Milwaukee, but you have to ask how the Kings could pull the trigger without verifying that a legal deal had been completed.

This continues a legacy of poor draft selections and botched deals that started long before Divac became GM. The Kings also let big man Harry Giles, another draft pick bust, walk for nothing when they failed to exercise the fourth year option on his rookie contract.

But they still have oft-injured Marvin Bagley III, a legacy of the Divac era. Divac passed on Luka Doncic, who has become a sensation for the Dallas Mavericks, to pick Bagley. That’s one reason Vlade is no longer with the team.

The Kings made no significant moves during the free agent period to improve a team that won just 31 games last year. The loss of Bogdonovic makes them weaker.

If McNair has a plan to improve the team, it’s not obvious to anybody.

***

The CFB Selection Committee—the one that gets to decides who plays for the national football championship—issued its first ranking of the season this week even though the teams rated have played as few as four games and as many as eight this season.

But in the era of COVID-19, you have to make some allowances for teams if for no other reason than to generate publicity and get the debate rolling. As usual, there is plenty to debate about.

The first ranking of the season rated Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio St. in the top four, the most important slots because the final four will play in the semi-final games for a shot at the national championship.

The top four are trailed by Texas A&M, Florida, Cincinnati, Northwestern, Georgia and Miami (the one in Florida, not Ohio). If the usual trend holds, one or two of those six teams will make it into the final four.

The only one in the four that’s suspect in my mind is the usual one: Notre Dame. The school always gets points because of its importance in the history of the game and just because it’s Notre Dame, but that has no bearing on how good the team is now.

To be sure, the Fighting Irish are undefeated with a win against Clemson, but the Tigers played without the best quarterback in college football, Trevor Lawrence. Even then, Clemson almost won. If there’s a rematch in the playoffs or the ACC championship game, take Clemson with a healthy Lawrence.

Based on my numbers, I rate Notre Dame fifth, behind Alabama, Clemson, Northwestern and Ohio St. Northwestern? Yes. Based on their point differential and the strength of their schedule, the Wildcats rank right up there with the big boys.

Cincinnati is the real problem in this group. The Bearcats have racked up a big point differential, but against a weak schedule. Does that mean they’re no good? No, just that they haven’t proved it against any really good teams. I doubt finishing undefeated will be enough to get them in the top four.

***

Coaches like to tell you how much they value “character” in their players without mentioning the disclaimer: If they have enough talent to help the coach win.

Take, for example, free agent shooting guard Malik Beasley, who has signed a three-year contract (with an option for a fourth year) for $60 million with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Beasley was acquired from the Denver Nuggets in a four-team trade in February, and the Twolves obviously liked what they saw.

I say that because Beasley was signed to the guaranteed deal a month after he was arrested for allegedly aiming a rifle at a family in a vehicle outside his Minnesota home, where a large amount of marijuana and other guns were seized during a police search.

Not your basic character guy.

***

Last week’s picks were my worst of the season, going 2-4 against the spread. Of course, if a “winning” touchdown wasn’t called back because of a questionable interference call and a game-tying field goal wasn’t blocked, I could have gone 4-2 or 3-3. On the other hand, I had the Arizona Cardinals when they won on the “Hail Murray” TD, so things are probably evening out.

Still, confident I’ll end the season with a winning record (now 17-14), here are this week’s picks:

COLLEGE

–Texas (-1) over Iowa State

–Virginia (-9.5) over Florida State

–Texas San Antonio (-3) over North Texas

–Mississippi (-8.5) over Mississippi State

–Boston College (-1) over Louisville

NFL

–Miami (-9.5) over the Jets

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