SACRAMENTO (AP) — Despite coming up empty in his attempts to make a roster move before the NBA trade deadline Thursday, Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac remains confident that the Kings can still make the playoffs.
The Kings were reportedly one of several teams interested in making a deal with the Chicago Bulls for Pau Gasol but couldn’t agree on terms for the 7-foot center. Sacramento also was thought to be in talks for Cleveland guard Iman Shumpert.
Neither deal happened. And Divac — who is in his first season as an NBA general manager — says he’s just fine with that.
“Sometimes the things that don’t materialize maybe turn out to be good deals for us,” Divac said. “We tried to think about what we can improve now but also about our future and where we are. Sometimes you think you should be disappointed but maybe it’ll be a good deal for us, not doing anything. We’ll see.”
Sacramento returned from the All-Star break 4 1/2 games behind Utah in the chase for the eighth and final playoff spot. To get into the postseason, the Kings would have to leapfrog the Jazz and Houston, which is a half-game behind Utah.
Divac had been looking to acquire at least one player prior to the trade deadline in hopes of improving Sacramento’s chances. The first-year GM said he spent most of the previous three days in his office fielding phone calls from numerous teams around the league and making some of his own.
The Kings’ main target was Gasol, the Bulls’ 35-year-old center who will be a free agent in 2017. Trading for Gasol would have given Sacramento a powerful 1-2 punch on the interior with forward DeMarcus Cousins.
While talks between the two teams picked up steam over recent days, nothing materialized and Gasol remained with Chicago.
“We didn’t go in like we have to do something,” Divac said. “We were going, ‘OK let’s go there to see how we can improve our team.’ That was our main thing, how we can improve the next two months but also how we can improve next year and the year after that.”
Divac declined to go into details but said he also had talks with other teams about every player on Sacramento’s roster.
“So that shows me that we have talent,” Divac said.
“I’m not happy with the way we played in the first half of the season but the talent is there. Hopefully they can step it up and do much better in the second half of the season.”
It’s difficult to imagine things getting much worse for the Kings.
The team has been inconsistent on the court and there was increasing speculation that coach George Karl would be fired during the All-Star break. Divac shot that rumor down last week but then fired assistant coach Vance Walberg on Wednesday in a move that Karl said left him confused.
One day later, Karl said he’s still uncertain why Walberg was fired.
“I don’t understand it,” Karl said. “It’s never happened in my time as a coach. It’s just what it is is what it is. You move forward and try to make the best of it.”
Divac and Karl also appeared to be on different sides with regards to how the Kings are doing on the court. The general manager said the problem is more on the players than the coaches, while Karl believes his team has played well for the most part.
Sacramento guard Ben McLemore, who was rumored to be on the trading block, is hopeful the Kings can focus on basketball now that the deadline has passed.
“DeMarcus said it’s the perfect chance for us to come back and compete and get in that playoff run,” McLemore said. “We’ve got the talented guys on the team to do it and we can. The deadline is over so now we have to focus on what we’ve been. Our goal is to get into the playoffs.”