First off, how exciting was the Summer League Championship for this organization?
“It’s just one step – we have a process. We talk a lot about culture… we [want to be] an organization that wins at everything we do. This is one small step, but it’s a step toward that winning culture that we want to implement here.”
The team has made a handful of moves this offseason with the most recent trade sending Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw to New York for Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Tyler. Could you talk about the benefits of this agreement with the Knicks?
“First, I would say Quincy did a phenomenal job for us – we loved Quincy. I think when we looked at our positioning and the positions we had filled, it became much more difficult. So we worked with Quincy – in a partnership with him – to make something happen that worked for him and worked for us. And we’re really happy for him because I think he’s going to play really well for the Knicks. On our end, we give ourselves a little flexibility. We took some protection off a pick, which we now have in an unconditional manner and we got a young player who has a chance to make our team and who’s an exceptional shooter. So we have flexibility and also we have other players in which we’re negotiating with who we think could fill the role that Travis played, which was a huge role. Travis is another hard guy to let go – he was such a good citizen and a really good player for us. So overall, it was a broad brush of things that it did for us and cleaned some things up and it put us in position for future [moves]. For Quincy and Travis, we wish them the best and really do thank them – they are great guys and great players.”
You mentioned adding a new player – are you referring to Deonte Burton?
“Yeah, we signed him to a contract. With Deonte we see a guy with a lot of promise. A lot of guys saw him highly ranked, but he didn’t get drafted. And this Draft was such a tough one because it was so loaded and stacked. When you got to the second round you just didn’t know what was going to happen – there were teams who didn’t necessarily want to bring guys in, so they take guys who are stashed. Deonte’s not a guy who wanted to be stashed – he feels like he’s an NBA player and we would like to see what he has.”
How would you assess his pre-Draft workout in Sacramento?
“He [had] a great workout. He’s a great kid too – I think he fits in with what we’re trying to do. We’re excited that he’ll be part of this process and training camp and he’ll have an opportunity to try to make the team.”
Another offseason addition was Summer League invitee – Eric Moreland. What did you see from him that stood out?
“I thought [he brought] energy and he had an ability to block shots, but really just how hard he plays. …These guys come in and play hard – they play really hard and we expect that out of Eric and that’s what it’s going to take for him to succeed in this league.”
How well do his skills translate to the system you’re trying to install here in Sacramento?
“Really well. Guys like him translate to almost any system because those are the guys who raise the energy of your team and the players around them. To me, you can insert a guy who’s 22-years-old and now it’s up to him. It’s up to him to step in and create a niche for himself.”
DeMarcus Cousins trained with the team during mini-camp in Las Vegas. How important was it for Moreland to learn from him and compete against him in practice?
“I think all of our young guys benefited from that – to see your max-contract player out on the floor running sprints with you is really impressive. And it’s not just impressive for our young guys, but it impresses GM’s because it’s not very often that you see that. It’s really promising for us.”
How does Darren Collison fit in with this squad?
“[He’s another guy with a high] motor – a guy who can just go, flat-out go. He can help pick up our pace. He’s a great veteran and he’s a guy we look forward to bringing more than just his skills [to our team].”
How does his experience help Sacramento this next season?
“You’re talking about a guy who has playoff experience – a guy who has an expectation of winning. When I talk to Darren, it’s always ‘how do we make the playoffs? How do we get there?’ That’s something that’s important to me – that you have players that are thinking that way, and more important, acting that way.”
What do you like most about his game?
“His ability to pull it together – we talk about the-straw-that-stirs-the-drink analogy and that’s [our] hope for him. We want him to be that guy that brings out the talent from everyone else, while also showing his talent and leadership in the process.”
Collison talked about becoming one of the leaders of this team alongside Cousins. How valuable is that quality in your eyes as a general manager?
“You have Rudy Gay as well. So now you’re talking about two guys around the same age who have a few years of experience in the league and you have DeMarcus, who is still [only] 23-years-old and emerging as a leader himself. So all of those pieces point to an exciting future.”
Before Summer League play began, the team added a key piece to the coaching staff in Assistant Coach Tyrone Corbin. What attributes does he bring to this organization as a coach?
“He’s just such a class act. I mean to have the experience he has under so many head coaches – most recently under Jerry Sloan – on top of the success he’s had as a head coach makes him a great addition. He’s a great person and I think he’s going to fit right in with Michael [Malone] and our staff. And let’s not forget he played under [current Assistant General Manager] Mike Bratz too – another great coach he was able to learn from.”
How important is it for coaches to establish their identity with a new team quickly and start building a relationship with the players?
“For him to establish those relationships with players - that’s natural for him, that’s easy and everyone who meets him knows that. He’s a personable guy and it’s just one of his greatest strengths – his ability to embrace almost anyone – it’s a skill.”
We've talked a lot about Nik Stauskas following the Draft, but how do you see him progressing as a player over this next season?
“We have high hopes for Nik. He’s very young so we’re not going to put a lot of pressure on him this year, but I don’t think we don’t need to. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. We have very high hopes for him as a player, as a shooter, and as a guy who can help us to stretch the floor, so there’s a lot of opportunities for him.”
What did you see from him specifically during Summer League?
“Confidence. If he gets three shots, he feels like he’s going to make all three. If he gets 20 shots, he feels like he’s going to make 20. He’s not a guy that will ever have the ball in his hands and feel like he’s not going to succeed with it and you saw that in Summer League. We didn’t go to him as often as we might have, but nothing really fazed him. He continued to shoot the ball well and do what he does. So we’re looking forward to his development.”
You've been in Las Vegas quite a bit over the past two months – most recently at Team USA training camp in support of DeMarcus Cousins. What kind of conversations have you had with DMC lately?
“I told him that I’m proud of what he’s doing. He’s being the type of person we know him to be and he’s showing that here. I told him, ‘Your talent is unquestioned. Everyone knows your talent – everyone in this building knows how talented DeMarcus Cousins is.’ In my estimation, the most talented big-man in the NBA, so I feel strongly that is known around the league, so [I told him to] go out and do the things they don’t know you can do – defend, dive on the floor and do the things we’ve seen you can do and let the rest of the league know it as well.”
With four years in the league and three stints here at Team USA training, how beneficial is Cousins’ experience this time around?
“To compete in this situation, you’re talking about a very confident guy. We have a couple of guys like that on this team. For him to walk in here with that level of confidence and knowing that he’s done this before is probably a little less intimidating for him, however I don’t know how intimidated he ever was.”
How often do you go to DeMarcus for advice?
“I go to DeMarcus all the time. We’re partners in this and I tell him that all the time. I don’t want any of our partners in the blind on anything. We’ve established an incredible working relationship and it will get better.”
Rudy Gay was added to the U.S. National Team 16-member finalist roster. What was your initial reaction to the news and how excited is the front office about this move?
“First of all, we see Team USA as an honor – not just for our players, but for our organization and our community. When Rudy got the call, we were just blown away in terms of excitement. It was interesting – we were actually flying, Vivek [Ranadivé], myself and Chris Mullin, to Springfield together and we ended up hearing that Kevin Durant had pulled out. By the time we landed, there was already a big push for Rudy – I actually don’t know how much of a push was needed. [Team USA] was ready – they were ready to go to him. He played internationally before and they loved what he did for them. It really says a lot about [Rudy] – the fact that they think that highly of him and of his talent level. Now, to have two guys from Sacramento potentially on a team of 12 – I mean, right now they’re down to 16 and they’re two of 16 and they are from Sacramento. When you put guys on that team from our community, now we’re all focused on it.”
So you’ll be keeping a close eye on them this weekend?
“I was just out there in Vegas and now they’re playing in Chicago. I know Ty Corbin is planning to be out there in Chicago [to show his support]. Chris Mullin will be out there as well. So we’re keeping tabs, we’re talking to these guys every day and we’re just so proud of them.”