Kings general manager Vlade Divac made bold, calculated moves in the opening 24 hours of free agency. He addressed the Sacramento’s biggest priority when he re-upped Harrison Barnes to a new four-year, $85 million contract. And then he went to work on the rest of the roster.
Following the Kings’ 105-101 Las Vegas Summer League win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, Divac sat at a long table in a Thomas and Mack conference room and introduced Barnes, along with new additions, Cory Joseph, Dewayne Dedmon and Trevor Ariza.
“Now we’re going to the next level,” Divac told media members as the cameras rolled. “These are guys that have played on some championship teams. They know how to win and our young guys are going to take another step forward. So they’re going to help them a lot on and off the court.”
Barnes got a 28-game taste of life in Sacramento earlier this year after coming over to the Kings in a midseason trade. The veteran forward fit in quickly both on and off the court and the Kings were excited to lock him up long-term.
“Since I got to Sacramento, it’s been a great experience,” Barnes said. “The fans, the community, the team, made it feel like home, so I’m definitely glad to be playing here long-term with this team. I’m excited to grow and end this playoff drought.”
The overall theme of the day was the excitement surrounding the Kings after plenty of lean years. Sacramento has a talented group of young players and these additions were brought in to fill the holes and push the team over the top.
“I’ve been watching Sac for a couple of years now, they’ve been doing great things,” Joseph said. “The organization has really done a great job of building and last year they were really good. This year I’m happy to be a part of it, try to get to the playoffs this year.”
Joseph landed in Sacramento on a three-year, $37 million contract. He’ll back up De’Aaron Fox at the point guard position and he gives coach Luke Walton a defensive specialist to turn to on the perimeter.
In addition to the young core, the team’s style of play is appealing. For a player like Dedmon, who spent the last two seasons in Atlanta running up and down the court, this was the right fit for his skill set.
“The uptempo style is kind of how I’ve been playing,” Dedmon said. “I like to get up and down, run the floor and now I’m shooting threes. It’s fun basketball.”
After signing a three-year, $41 million contract, Dedmon will likely start on the front line alongside Barnes and second-year big man Marvin Bagley. Outside of inking Barnes, finding a consistent center was high on the Kings’ wish list. The 29-year-old Dedmon checks all of the boxes of what the Kings were looking and he provides leadership off the court as well.
Despite major upgrades to division rivals, the Kings are confident that they can snap the franchise’s 13-year postseason drought.
“Our division got a little bit tougher, there’s no secret about that, but I like what we have,” Barnes said. “I like where we’re going and I think we have a chance to really make some noise.”
Ariza has been around the block during his 15-year NBA career. At 34 years old, he played well last season after being dealt to the Washington Wizards and will be counted on for depth behind Barnes at the forward position.
The 6-foot-8 veteran knows what it takes to win. He’s made it to the playoffs nine times, including a championship run with the 2008-09 Lakers.
Before joining Sacramento, he did his homework on the Kings and heard positive things.
“From what I’ve seen and heard from around the league, the players on this team want to be better,” Ariza said. “I think that’s the key for your team to be successful.”
Sacramento didn’t miss by much last season. They were in the postseason chase, but finished on a sour note, losing seven of their final 10 games.
“We were so close, down the stretch, losing a lot of those games close, little mistakes,” Barnes said. “I think that when we come into the season, that’s going to be our biggest focus – the details. How do we go from being a 39-win team that barely misses, to being a team that’s a fifth [or] sixth seed.”
[RELATED: Barnes preaching ‘culture of family’]
Divac likely felt the same way that Barnes did down the stretch of last season. To remedy the situation, he’s brought in supporting players to help work through some of the mistakes that cost Sacramento dearly last season.
In addition to Barnes, Joseph, Dedmon and Ariza, the Kings reached an agreement with big man Richaun Holmes on a two-year, $10 million deal. The 25-year-old shot blocker was not in attendance on Monday, but is expected to sign his contract with the Kings soon.