All Access: 2014 Draft Lottery

Get a behind-the-scenes look at Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery, where top-tier NBA personnel raved about Sacramento’s bright future.
by Alex Kramers

As Kings Chairman and Majority Owner Vivek Ranadivé prepared to address a crowd of local residents in downtown Sacramento following the City Council’s historic vote on the Entertainment & Sports Center, his daughter, Anjali, relished the opportunity to represent the Kings at the NBA Draft Lottery in midtown Manhattan.

“It means a lot, especially (for) my dad and me, our whole relationship with basketball started when I was really young with him coaching my team,” said the U.C. Berkeley graduate. “It’s really exciting for our family and for the Kings – (the two events) are happening at the same time, so I think it just represents a great sign for Sacramento.”

The singer-songwriter sat at the team’s designated podium inside the lavish Disney/ABC’s Times Square Studios as the Kings secured the No. 8 pick in the 2014 Draft, marking only the second time Sacramento has netted the selection in 19 Lottery appearances.

While the pivotal ping-pong balls bounced in a confidential conference room prior to the televised drawing, team representatives and accompanying guests mingled in the pre-event reception area, which featured large flat-screen televisions, tables lined with white linens and miniature bouquets, as well an exquisite dinner spread.

Joined by Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro and surrounded by dozens of high-ranking League executives, prominent coaches and NBA legends, Ranadivé savored the festive atmosphere, perpetually beaming at The River City’s enduring good fortune.

“I feel so lucky and fortunate to be here, and there are so many amazing people here tonight,” she said. “I just feel like we’ve made ‘Power Forward’ come to life.”

Prior to learning Sacramento’s fate in the Lottery, D’Alessandro echoed a similar sentiment as he reflected on his position and the team’s circumstances a year prior.

“You couldn’t write the script,” said the New York native. “It’s a great night for the city of Sacramento and the Kings. It’s been a great partnership from the day I took the job and the day, in fact, that Vivek (became majority owner of) the team.

“A year ago, I was in Denver and I think we’d just gotten bounced out of the Playoffs, so I was watching the (Sacramento) saga from afar. Now, there’s a plan in place and it shows that the right things really do happen.”

D’Alessandro declined to disclose the treasured good luck charm he packed on his cross-country flight, instead pointing to the “Power Forward” pin proudly displayed on his suit jacket.

In an effort to defy the odds in the drawing – in which Sacramento had moved down in four of the previous five years and dropped at least two spots three times – Ranadivé donned a culturally-symbolic forehead decoration.

“I really wanted to wear my bindi because I thought it would be really cool and really important to represent a piece of my heritage,” she said. “One of the things my dad really wants to do is grow the NBA internationally – especially in India – and build an influence (abroad).”

The TIBCO founder and CEO’s innovative global-expansion strategy and pioneering “NBA 3.0” philosophy drew high praise from the room full of NBA personnel.

“He’s certainly a futurist – he has an incredible vision for this sport, and (views) this sport as a world entity,” said Orlando Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams. “I think the addition of him to this league is fascinating, healthy and intriguing as the game grows internationally, particularly in India.”

An equally glowing endorsement came from Minnesota Timberwolves General Manager Milton Newton, who’s been impressed with the revolutionary owner’s utilization of the latest, cutting-edge technological advancements and distress for retreading to the norm.

“(Ranadivé has brought) a lot of thinking outside the box, which helps you think about different ways to do things and that other options might be available,” said Newton. “I think, in the long run, a lot of the owners will be looking at some of the things that happened (in Sacramento) to see if they can duplicate them.”

D’Alessandro’s renowned track record and long-standing reputation as a salary cap guru and strong talent evaluator similarly have not gone unnoticed in NBA circles.

“I think Pete’s done a great job – he’s been very proactive in his thinking and in the decisions he’s made,” said Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond. “I think (the Kings) now have some very good, young pieces and building blocks there. On every possession, they can score in different ways – they can shoot it, they can drive it and they’re athletic.”

L.A. Lakers Hall of Famer and TV Analyst James Worthy gave the St. John’s product high marks on a successful first-year campaign.

“I think he’s done an outstanding job – the Kings are a threat, and I think a lot of it is due to the choices he’s made,” said Worthy. “Their record really wasn’t an indication of how good they are, because they can beat a lot of teams on any given night.”

Collectively praising Sacramento’s dynamic roster and the continued development of its emerging core, Lottery attendees marveled at the versatility and all-around skill set of DeMarcus Cousins.

“Talent-wise, he’s more than an All-Star – he has potential to be in that top-seven or -eight best players in the entire League,” said 14-year NBA veteran and current NBA TV Analyst Steve Smith. “Numbers-wise, he was an All-Star, I thought, this year. You talk about ceiling, but (being an All-Star) is kind of the basement level for him.”

Smith cited the promise of Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas, as well as the poise of fellow Detroit native Ray McCallum, as telltale signs of what’s to come for the up-and-coming ball club.

“Rudy Gay, at any time, arguably, can be top three or four at his position,” said Smith. “Ray really impressed me (when) we did Summer League (on NBA TV) with how he conducted himself … when he got his chance, you could see he has that vet (mentality) in him, and he was calm, cool and collected.”

“(Ray is) a talented, young guy who does a great job, and Isaiah is very crafty (because) he can go right, go left and shoot the basketball,” said Bucks guard Brandon Knight of Sacramento’s electrifying point guard duo.

Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris noted Sacramento’s near-.500 record with Cousins, Thomas and Gay in the starting lineup as one of many reasons for Kings fans to be enthusiastic.

“On paper, (the Kings have) probably top-five talent,” said Morris. “I know a lot of those guys are young – just like us over in Phoenix – and they’re going to be great.”

The Kansas product and his twin brother, Markieff, believe Sacramento’s 2013 first-round pick, Ben McLemore, is just scratching the surface of his immense potential.

“He puts in a lot of work and he’s getting better by the day,” said Markieff Morris. “He’s a great kid, he has a great personality and he works very hard.”

Recognizing this year’s deep rookie class boasts a host of superb players to complement the talent on Sacramento’s rapidly-developing roster, D’Alessandro remained optimistic following the Lottery outcome.

“We’re going to get the 8th pick in a really, really solid Draft, so we’re really encouraged and happy,” said D’Alessandro. “We’re thrilled by the guy we’re going to get.”

The Kings previous No. 8 selection – Xavier forward Brian Grant in 1994 – earned All-Rookie First Team honors and averaged 13.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game over three seasons in Northern California.

Throughout NBA history, a host of standout players have been chosen eighth overall – including Gay, Detlef Schrempf, Jamal Crawford and Vin Baker – illustrating Sacramento stands to add a promising newcomer to its budding nucleus.

With a backdrop of framed photographs inside the studio featuring past top selections on the walls around her, Ranadivé raved about the team’s immense potential, envisioning an exciting offseason and incomparably-bright outlook in Sacramento.

“We’re going to continue to move forward and continue to rebuild … Pete is a genius and my dad is OK, too,” said Ranadivé with a chuckle. “Tonight is such a big night just in general for us. I’m really excited about the future.”

Free Throws

- D’Alessandro has remained updated on the methodical player assessment and valuable input from fans who participated in the “Draft 3.0 Challenge,” disclosing “quite a few” forward-thinking basketball analysts applied to assist the organization in making its first-round pick.

“My staff has been looking at (submissions), so I keep getting emails and (there are) some really interesting ones,” said D’Alessandro. “I can’t wait to get back and we make a decision.”

- Tune-in to the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday, June 26 at 4 p.m. PDT from Barclays Center in Brooklyn on ESPN and ESPN Radio. Plus, stay current with for complete pre-Draft coverage.

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