Vlade Divac, left – the Sacramento Kings’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager – talks with Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive during a preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs in Sacramento, Calif., on Oct. 8, 2015. Rich Pedroncelli The Associated Press
Vlade Divac, left – the Sacramento Kings’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager – talks with Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive during a preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs in Sacramento, Calif., on Oct. 8, 2015. Rich Pedroncelli The Associated Press

Andy Furillo

Offering insight into the artistry of the sports world

Andy Furillo

Andy Furillo: Thank Vivek Ranadive for arena, blame him for team

By Andy Furillo

afurillo@sacbee.com

February 28, 2016 06:44 PM

You look at the accomplishments of the principal owner of the Kings, and you first must conclude that he is no dope.

Malcolm Gladwell does not do write-ups on dopes, and Vivek Ranadive is far from dopey. He’s a guy whose company made billions writing the software that allowed Wall Street to trade zillions in real time – you can’t keep the 1 percent waiting, you know.

One national commentator recently suggested Ranadive is “a certifiable dope.” Pardon this interruption, but can somebody please pour a pint over Michael Wilbon’s head for that remark? Maybe he meant Ranadive is “dope,” which is a good thing to be, as in music or song, in the lexicon of the young people today.

One national commentator recently suggested Ranadive is “a certifiable dope.” Pardon this interruption, but can somebody please pour a pint over Michael Wilbon’s head for that remark?

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Ranadive’s building on L Street may be the dopest thing to go up in Sacramento since the Capitol. Of course, the town had been on its way toward becoming very cool before he got here. But with Golden 1 Center coming on line in October – on top of the artistic and entrepreneurial boom that already had been under way – Sacramento will soon be hot as well as cool.

Get ready for second-story outdoor cafes overlooking a new public square at the entrance to the G1C. Remember to bring your Mardi Gras beads to throw off the balconies, because it’s going to remind you of the French Quarter. From the plaza floor, you’ll see the high rises of Capitol Mall and J Street. It will be the center of town, the best place in town to watch the world go by on a big screen. We’ll have a place to watch the World Cup together, to celebrate New Year’s Eve, to mourn the loss of David Bowie. It’ll be Times Square meets Millennium Park, on a Sacramento scale.

Despite this achievement, Ranadive has drawn understandable criticism for the poor performance of his basketball team. He is in charge, so he must take responsibility for it being a miserable loser. He took over amid horrible circumstances, with the team all but gone to Seattle, the building falling apart and all the players wanting out. But he is still the guy who hired a coach and general manager who did not get along, both of whom are now gone. He also wrote the four-year, $65.6 million check in the name of DeMarcus Cousins, his center, and then brought in another coach with whom the large young fellow does not get along.

As much as some of us may not like it, Cousins is not going anywhere. Ranadive vouches for Cousins both personally and professionally. You can understand half of it – the talented Cousins generates huge statistics almost every night and draws roars from the crowd when he swishes threes and pumps his fist after stuffing a dunk in traffic. But the temperamental side of Cousins often sucks the life out of the building, as it did Friday night against the Clippers. First, he drew a technical foul for his emotional overreaction to an over-and-back call that rightfully went against the Kings. A couple minutes later, he threw the basketball at Clippers point guard Chris Paul and hit him in the head. Will somebody please suspend him?

While Ranadive likes Cousins, he loves his general manager, Vlade Divac. They bonded last year on a visit to a children’s AIDS ward in Ranadive’s hometown of Mumbai. Divac had no NBA executive experience, but he is a man of the world whose internationalism appealed to a boss with a world view of the game.

Divac has a chance to become a terrific executive. So far, his record is mixed. He showed strength when he scotched reports that the coach, George Karl, was going to be fired. He showed weakness when he didn’t back Karl when Cousins cussed out the coach in front of the team. Personnel-wise, Divac drafted a good one in Willie Cauley-Stein, but it appears he goofed in signing Marco Belinelli to a three-year, $19 million contract. Divac said he was trying to “shake things up” when he canned Karl’s top assistant. The move “confused” Karl. Us, too, coach.

While Ranadive likes Cousins, he loves his vice president, Vlade Divac.

Ranadive and Divac need to resolve the Cousins and Karl situation of mutual disdain. Maybe they should move Karl into the front office. The Kings have to spend a ton more on Karl, anyway, so why not put his decades of experience to work in support of the GM?

Higher up the food chain, the Kings have almost as many owners as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has voices. Their shares range from the significant percentages held by the so-called “whales” such as Ranadive, to the single-digit “minnows.” Unnamed sources have told news agencies that some of the partners have not been pleased with Ranadive’s stewardship. Phone calls were placed to some owners to obtain their views on the matter. Most were not returned.

The ones who did respond supported the managing general partner.

Developer Ali Youssefi is one of the little guys, but one who is doing a big thing in transforming the former dump of a downtown block along 700 K Street into a nice back door to Golden 1 Center. He said, “We’re moving in the right direction” under Ranadive, in basketball as well as business.

Chris Kelly, the first general counsel at Facebook, said in a prepared statement released through the Kings that Ranadive “has done a wonderful job managing our investment.”

Paul Jacobs, the executive chairman at telecommunication behemoth Qualcomm, similarly said: “We have great talent in place on the basketball side,” as well as the business side of the Kings operation, and “I’m extremely happy with my investment and have full confidence in Vivek and Vlade and am excited about the direction the team is headed.”

As for the rest of the owners, Ranadive told The Bee, “If somebody’s unhappy, I’ll write them a check today.”

It’ll be interesting to see if any take him up on it.

As for us, we’re about to get a dope new arena and public square – even if we’re stuck with a dopey basketball team.

Andy Furillo: 916-321-1141, @andyfurillo