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Divac says the Kings rank fourth right now in the contest for his services next season.
By Martin McNeal -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, July 16, 2004
Free-agent center Vlade Divac said Thursday evening that four teams - the Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers and Phoenix Suns - have shown legitimate interest in him for next season.
And as Divac sat in New York City's Trump International hotel during a brief break in travel from Belgrade to Sacramento, he said in a telephone interview the Kings ranked a beaten-down fourth in that group if he had to choose then.
"Those teams all are interested in their own ways," Divac said with a laugh. "You know what I mean. If it was close, I would stay with the Kings. But right now, it's not even close. If I decided I wanted to play for something totally other than money, I would play for Sacramento."
Divac, 37, who made $12 million last season, said none of the teams has discussed extending its mid-level exception ($4.9 million). The Kings are believed to have talked to Divac's agent about playing for less than $2.5 million this season as they attempt to keep their already high payroll around $60 million.
Sacramento is expected to make a luxury tax payment of about $10 million for the second consecutive season. Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said earlier this week that he does not know what the luxury tax situation will be next season.
Petrie, who did not return phone calls Thursday, said "the luxury tax next year is a total phantom."
Rememebering there were so-called experts who last year predicted there would be no luxury tax this summer, Petrie said, "Of course, you can't find any of those guys right now."
The luxury tax is a figure set by the NBA after the season ends. Teams with payrolls over that figure pay a tax in the amount of the difference. The NBA decides each year whether to impose the luxury tax.
Divac said last season that he didn't want to leave a large amount of money on the table in what will be his 16th - and he suspects final - NBA season.
"What the other teams are talking about is basically double (the amount the Kings say they can pay)," he said. "Phoenix and the Clippers have talked about more than the Lakers. Now it's a matter of whether these teams will give it to me or give the money to someone else. If I had offers, then I'd have a decision to make."
Divac cautioned there is a difference between showing interest and receiving an offer. He plans to meet with agent Marc Fleisher tonight and further discuss the situation the affable center said may take a while to unfold.
Divac and countryman Peja Stojakovic will conduct a fantasy camp for adults this weekend and then hold a two-week camp for kids at Folsom High School.
"I'm going back to Europe on Aug. 1, and I definitely don't want to go back there not knowing where I am going to play," Divac said.
Divac said the Lakers and Kings have the advantage of familiarity because he has enjoyed playing with both organizations and living in both areas.
"I would be a happy man, and my whole family would be happy if we stay here," he said. "This is my team, these are my fans in a great town with great people. The Lakers are in a similar situation where there are people I know who did a lot of good things for me. ... I want to play for a decent team and make some decent money."
I think he is going for the moey and if Phoenix can offer the money he should head out of Sacramento. The Lakers would benifit from Vlade and it would be in their best interest if they offered their MLE to him. Plus that would add a little to the Lakers - Kings rivalry which is good news to see the big competition games.
Vlade Divac's six-year stay with the Sacramento Kings is apparently over ... and the veteran center told ESPN.com on Sunday night that he's leaning toward a return to the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It looks like right now I'm definitely leaving Sacramento," Divac said in a phone interview, after a meeting with Kings officials earlier Sunday confirmed to the 36-year-old that his current team won't be increasing its offer of $2.5 million for next season.
"If you ask me right now," Divac added, "it's going to be the Lakers."