LAS VEGAS, NV -- It’s a busy day in Kingsland. With a big crowd expected for Monday night’s Kings vs. Lakers matchup, both in Sacramento at the team’s viewing party and in Las Vegas at the Thomas and Mack Center, the team took care of more paperwork.
Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill officially signed on the dotted line and became the newest members of the Sacramento Kings. Following signatures, the trio of veterans held a press conference that felt more like a symposium on building a winning culture than an introduction.
Big names are walking in the door, but wins aren’t a sure bet. Building a successful franchise is a process, especially when you bring so many young players in over a span of two seasons.
General manager Vlade Divac measured his club and saw a missing ingredient. He used his cap space wisely and came away with known leaders for his stable of young players.
“It’s very hard to develop guys if you create a losing mentality,” general manager Vlade Divac said following the press conference. “I just want to compete. And those kids need support for that.”
Carter made an appearance Sunday night at Cox Pavilion as the Kings fell to the Memphis Grizzlies. The 8-time All-Star drew a crowd everywhere he went as he signed autographs, took pictures and hugged former teammates around the arena.
The 40-year-old wing signed a one-year, $8 million deal to join his former Grizzlies head coach, Dave Joerger. The 19-year NBA vet ranks 27th all-time in scoring with 24,555 points, just 260 points behind Patrick Ewing for 26th place on the list.
“I definitely didn’t see myself playing to 40, more than anything, it’s not what I do, it’s what I’m willing to do,” Carter said follow the press conference. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to still be here today.”
Carter finished last season averaging 8.0 points and 3.1 rebounds in 24.6 minutes a night for Memphis. With Sacramento, he’ll play, but he’ll also be asked to take on the role of mentor with the Kings, as they enter the season with a bevy of young talent.
“They’re listening, they’re asking questions and that’s all you can ask from young guys,” Carter said about teaching the young players. “When you’ve got guys like us that have been around and are willing to share our knowledge, what we want is young guys that are willing to listen and willing to put in the work and learn. Everything else is easy after that.”
After spending the last eight seasons with the Grizzlies, Randolph inked a two-year, $24 million deal with the Kings. Like Carter, he spent plenty of time with coach Joerger and looks forward to playing for his former head coach again.
The 16-year NBA veteran turns 36 on July 16, but age didn’t stop him from having a very productive season last year. Z-Bo came off the bench for new head coach David Fizdale in Memphis, averaging 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game.
In Sacramento, he’ll play solid minutes at the power forward spot. He’ll also be asked to take the Kings stack of young bigs under his wing and teach them the ropes. Randolph brings a physicality that the team lacks and there is hope that it rubs off on the young guys. According to the veteran big, it’s more than just strength or pushing opponents around.
“It’s not about toughness, it’s about playing for each other,” Randolph said of teaching the young guys. “I’m going hard for George, I’m going hard for Vince, and vise versa. That’s what it’s all about - giving all you’ve got for your teammates.”
Both players confirmed that Joerger was a big reasons they joined the Kings. Despite offers to play for winning franchises, they liked the opportunity to try to turn things around with their former coach. Joerger couldn’t be happier with the additions.
“It’s fantastic, their good human beings and they’re pros,” Joerger told NBC Sports California. “Obviously, having history of competition and playoffs and going through the battles, but even more than that, you’re supporting each other's family, you’re watching each other’s kids, you’re going to weddings together. That kind of stuff that runs pretty deep.”
While Hill hasn’t played for Joerger in the past, he was needed to support a very young backcourt. With both De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason entering their rookie season’s, Divac and his team looked for a veteran leader to help solidify the point guard position. They inked one of the better free agents lead guards.
“You don’t look at it as competing for minutes, you look at it as what’s the best opportunity for us to win the game,” Hill said of working with Fox. “If the front office and coaches or whatever think it’s best that he plays more minutes, then he plays more minutes. At the end of the day, we have to develop him and I know that. My job here is to help develop him.”
After five seasons with the Indiana Pacers, Hill, 31, spent last year posting career numbers with the Utah Jazz. He landed in Sacramento on a 3-year, $57 million deal, although the third year is only partially guaranteed. He brings nine-years of NBA experience to the table, including averages of 16.9 points and 4.2 assists over 31.5 minutes per game last season.
It was just a press conference, but the vets said all the right things. They’ll join Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos as a core group of leaders. Temple briefly played with Hill during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons and Koufos paired with Randolph and Carter during the 2014-15 season in Memphis.
It’s a solid group, but they have a tall task in front of them. Outside of the group of five, Willie Cauley-Stein is the only other player on the Kings with two years of NBA experience. Joerger has the difficult job of balancing competing on a nightly basis with developing his young players. At least he has some familiar faces to help in the process.