McNair Emphasizes Team’s Core at Post-Deadline Presser

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Kings general manager Monte McNair sat down in front of reporters on Friday for a post-trade deadline press conference after Sacramento remained mostly quiet outside of acquiring Kessler Edwards from the Nets.

There, McNair explained a bit about the front office’s thought process even in spite of all the massive moves going on around the conference, describing an organization-wide confidence going forward.

It was a confidence that really sprouted at last year’s deadline with the trade for Domantas Sabonis and the major shakeup to the roster. Based on the results of that deal for this franchise—and the subsequent offseason moves and new coaching staff—all of it is buttressed by the prescience of the front office.

Looking back at this deadline a year from now, who knows what the assessment will be; things change pretty fast in this league and anything can happen. But the previous year nevertheless gives off the impression of an irrefutable upward climb that should continue if the same work and effort keeps being fed into the machine. One can’t say otherwise unless the trajectory flattens.

McNair and company are well aware of this, and he conveyed that at his press conference, emphasizing a few things in particular.

“Protective” of the core

Brenden Nunes asked what result would classify as a successful season, and McNair laid out both his short and long term plans. 

“Certainly, in the short term, we want to make the playoffs,” he said. “Longer term, we want to become a contending team in the west.”

It was a smart way to answer the question, combining both the preferable and less palatable components of the current reality in an ultimately optimistic and noncontroversial way.

But the point is that in order to follow through with the big picture plan of both long and short term, a team needs sustainability, and that comes form its core.

“Our framework heading into the deadline — I think really two things,” McNair said in his opening remarks. “One has been our our mantra since we got here, which is to be discipline yet aggressive when the time comes. But this year, with where we’re at, we also want to be very protective of the core group of guys that we’ve had this year, that have gotten us to this point.”

This was the main factor in standing pat, and it was supported by the fact that the team’s assets were limited—outside of trading key components of the core—and the chemistry factor, the latter of which was a common viewpoint from fans and analysts regarding the Kings and this deadline.

And in that sense, it was actually a pretty good move getting Kessler Edwards because they gave up essentially nothing. If Edwards ends up playing in the G League without ever making an impact at the NBA level, or if he leaves the organization entirely, then so what? If he becomes a contributor in some form for Mike Brown, then the move looks ingenious.

With a central core of 24 to 26 year-old players that will soon enter the prime of their careers, led of course by all-stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, the team is on the right track to producing the sustainable winning McNair believes can transpire. It has always been a primary component of this front office’s strategy, even when much of the conference rushes to win-now mode.

Mindful of the process

Zooming out from the Sacramento Kings, this was certainly a momentous trade deadline. It typically is, but the improvement of the Western Conference was referred to as an “arms race” time and time again for a reason.

It’s hard for many not to be dazzled by Kyrie Irving going to Dallas, Kevin Durant going to Phoenix, the Lakers’ shake up, and all the rest of it, but for the Kings, it is a wake up call.

There is a very good chance this team is not the third ranked team in the conference by the season’s end. And the possibility of being forced into a play-in can’t be ruled out if one’s being honest.

Fox40’s Chris Tavarez asked the GM if all the big moves in the conference produced any instinct to be “reactionary.” McNair said no.

“Our (front office) group, we do a great job of preparing heading into the deadline just like we do during the draft so that we know what our value is,” he elaborated. “Obviously, as things change with our competitors, that can change that calculus, but we also don’t want to be reactionary just to be reactionary. We’ll never do that.”

A lot of those teams that went for the big moves—the Suns, the Lakers, the Clippers, and so on—they need to seize the moment. Sacramento’s treading a path, it’s en route. There’s no pressure to disrupt the technique.

The GM may be aware that the competition is heightened, but it clearly doesn’t cause him to hastily change his approach.

“The West is always tough — I’ve been in the West now for 16 seasons, and this is no different,” McNair added.

It is a process, and one he’s clearly confident in.

Top to bottom confidence

One of the things that doubled down on the previous two components of the process is the fact that this team has demonstrated a ton of positives this season. 

And it’s a goal to continue that productivity.

“We want to make sure that we’re letting this group, and the continuity that they’ve shown, continue to shine through for the rest of the year,” McNair said to close his opening remarks. “So we know the job, as always, is never done. We’re confident in the team we built.”

That confidence makes things easier. And he really believes it.

Asked about a definitive moment so far this season, McNair highlighted December’s home win against Utah where Kevin Huerter hit that big three-pointer. He described it as “completely unselfish, scrappy.” He touched upon De’Aaron Fox fighting on the boards despite missing a few shots, as well as Harrison Barnes kicking it to Keegan Murray, who swung it to Huerter for the great look. Like the proud GM he is, his recollection of the moment was precise.

“I think that just showed our guys aren’t going to quit, but they’re also going to be unselfish, they’re going to get in the fight and they’re going to be confident that when the ball hits their hand they’re going to knock down the shot when we need them to,” he concluded.

He admits it’s not perfect, but hints at the fact this team has performed and only gotten better at a level that suggests that they can improve from within.

“Obviously, there’s been some ups and downs,” McNair noted later on. “We started 0-4, we really busted out after that, we’ve fought through some tougher times, but I think consistently this team has shown that they will answer the challenge (and) continue to improve.”

Best case scenario—and a realistic one, at that—is that their growth in the final 27 games improves them just as much as a big acquisition would have. Both the players and the coaching staff have thus far shown that that’s a realistic expectation.

The confidence appears to run from the top to the bottom of the organization.

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Dan Smith
7 months ago

Good analysis on things Tony. Would’ve been better to add a backup big and some defense at SF but it is what it is. Gotta rely on the improvement and development of our own guys, unless we can get someone good on the buyout market. I guess we will see!


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