Sasha Vezenkov wowed by Kings full court press, ready for new challenge

Vezenkov talks to the media, Kings add JaVale McGee

ESPN 1320/Kings Beat note: I am extremely excited to announce that beginning Tuesday, September 5, Kyle Madson and I are starting a new show on ESPN 1320. “The Insiders” will run from 10-noon, Monday-Friday, leading into D-Lo & KC. I will continue to appear on D-Lo & KC on Mon-Wed-Fri from 3-4, but this new opportunity was too good to pass up.

The Kings Beat isn’t going anywhere. This new role fits perfectly into the schedule and will still allow me to make it to practice and games as I begin my fourteenth year of Sacramento Kings coverage. In addition, this will strengthen and help sustain what we do here at The Kings Beat moving forward, including writing, and of course, podcasting with Sean and Brenden.

Thank you for your continued support!


The side door to the Kings’ practice facility opened up on Thursday afternoon and general manager Monte McNair walked through, followed by EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov. Signing day happened a while back, but this was Vezenkov’s first appearance in front of local Sacramento media members.

Despite the warm Sacramento day, McNair joined the media session wearing his patented puffy vest over a long sleeve shirt. Vezenkov took his seat behind the microphone wearing Kings practice gear after posing for pictures with his new No. 7 jersey.

Vezenkov isn’t the only signing for the Kings this offseason, but he might be the most important of the new players. Listed at 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, the 28-year-old forward looked a little smaller in person compared to measurements and overseas game film. Nothing alarming, but leaner than expected.

A professional basketball player since the age of 15, Vezenkov made it clear that his goal, similar to many other European prospects, was always to make it to the NBA. He mentioned that he almost made a move to the States to play collegiately at Xavier, before eventually sticking out the pro game in Europe.

After turning the Kings down last summer and staying at Olympiacos in Greece, Vezenkov felt the full court press being put on by Sacramento and eventually signed a three-year, $20 million contract. The final year is a team option at just under $7 million.

“I didn’t expect that almost every member [of the organization] would come to Greece, but they showed me, like, they want me a lot,” Vezenkov told the media contingent. “They follow me, they want me here. So it really mattered [for] my decision.”

It started with a visit from assistant coach Jay Triano during the NBA’s All-Star weekend, but then the Kings sent a steady stream to Europe throughout the season, including drop ins from McNair, VP of basketball ops Phil Jabour, owner Vivek Ranadivé, COO Matina Kolokotronis, head coach Mike Brown and others.

“All the members of the organization showed me love and showed me respect and showed me that they wanted me to be and that I have to be a member of the Kings, so I’m really happy about it,” Vezenkov added.

While the franchise was busy racking up airline miles visiting Vezenkov, the forward was keeping an eye on his new potential squad. The breakout 48 win season by the Kings was another deciding factor for Vezenkov as he decided to leave stardom in Europe for a role in Sacramento.

“I like to win,” Vezenkov said. “That’s why we play basketball -- to enjoy, to win games. This helped in my decision. As we saw last year, the Kings were a fantastic team, playing beautiful basketball, but most importantly, winning.”

Despite his age and his 13 years of professional basketball overseas, the Bulgarian-born power forward will open the season as a rookie. He will need time to adjust to the speed, length and athleticism of the league. There are a few questions about his lateral quickness and defensive prowess that need to be answered, but he looks every bit the part of a rotational NBA player who will fit seamlessly into the Kings’ offense.

In what little time the team has had together over the last few days, there are already murmurs that Vezenkov is turning heads. He’s an elite shooter and spectacular cutter playing off the ball. Regardless of where he’s played in the past, his basketball IQ should translate.

Teammates De’Aaron Fox and Keegan Murray were in attendance for the press conference, showing their support for Vezenkov. Brown and plenty of other coaches were in attendance as well. This was a day almost two years in the making and it took an army to land the talented forward.

Another option

So many tall people.

According to a league source, the Kings plan to sign 7-footer JaVale McGee, as reported by multiple outlets. Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the deal is a fully guaranteed one-year league minimum contract for the 35-year-old center.

McGee was waived by the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, just one year into a three-year, $17.2 million contract. The Mavs used the league’s stretch provision to spread McGee’s remaining two seasons and nearly $12 million over five seasons.

With McGee in the fold, the Kings now have roughly 35 feet of big men vying for one or two spots on the roster behind All-NBA center Domantas Sabonis and small-ball center Trey Lyles. The 15-year NBA veteran joins a crowded field that includes Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Neemias Queta and Skal Labissiere.

We’ll analyze this development in the coming days, but for now, the Kings have added another veteran who has spent time with both Mike Brown and Luke Loucks in past stops. This coaching staff knows how to get the most out of McGee and he should be considered a strong competitor to not only make the squad, but have a role in the Kings’ system.

It should also be noted that JaVale is the son of former Sacramento Monarch, Pam McGee. Pam was drafted second overall by the Monarchs in 1997, although she played just one season in Sacramento before being traded to the Los Angeles Sparks in 1998.

Sacramento’s roster now stands at 17, with 14 of those players on guaranteed contracts. They have an additional two, two-way players, bringing their total to 19. NBA teams are allowed to carry up to 21 during the offseason, including two-way contracts, and they have until the day before the start of the regular season to cut down to the maximum of 15 for the standard roster, plus up to three two-way players.

Join the conversation

or to participate.