Gaze, Kings issued winning ultimatum
SYDNEY Kings managing director Jeff Van Groningen has issued a reminder to the players and coaching staff about the franchise's expectations to finish the season.
Van Groningen's statement of intent comes as 11 of the club's 13 players are off-contract at season's end.
Despite claiming only five wins this year, he says AEG Ogden is fully dedicated to its three-year commitment to rebuild the Kings.
The Kings have nine games left this season and the ball is now in their court to perform and secure their futures.
"Our expectations are for the players to dig in and get wins and represent the club professionally," Van Groningen told The Daily Telegraph.
"For the remaining games we want to see the level of commitment shown to the Sydney Kings uniform that we have for the Sydney Kings organisation.
"We want to all be on the same page together - the players, coaches, staff and the fans. I want to see how the final nine games pan out to see the building blocks for this club in the future.
"This was always going to be an initial three year commitment to then assess where things are at. We are far from finished and there have been some exciting things unearthed through this season's challenges.
"We won't sleep until we feel we've done everything in our power to build a winning organisation."
Van Groningen admits there have been games this season when the Kings haven't given their best effort.
He also concedes the management have made mistakes, but through the pain he believes Sydney have unearthed a host of positives to build on for the future.
Van Groningen points out the recruitment of former NBL MVP Jerome Randle as a major coup for the club.
The Kings have an option for Randle in their favour for next season and it's understood they will activate it based on his impressive leadership.
"I think it's a very strong and exciting statement that the Kings were able to go out and negotiate a deal with last year's MVP, who desperately wanted to be a part of the rebuild," Van Groningen said.
"He has been a tremendous inclusion as a leader, on and off the floor."
Van Groningen can't wait to see Randle form a potent backcourt combination with Kevin Lisch, who has missed the majority of the season with a calf injury.
He says Lisch has been a tremendous influence on the team, even though he hasn't taken the floor.
"We've learnt that Kevin is not just an MVP player, he is an MVP person," he said.
"The absolutely, fanatical and workmanlike approach he has taken to dealing with two separate calf injuries has been phenomenal.
"He has shown the group how you deal with challenges and that has been noticed.
"We look forward to Kevin being back and forming a combination in the backcourt with Randle, while we also rate the abilities of Jason Cadee as a guard."
Van Groningen also lauded the form of import forward Perry Ellis, while he has been equally impressed with rookies Dane Pineau and Isaac Humphries.
"We think Dane is a great young prospect that has all the attributes of what you want a Sydney King to be," he said.
"He brings energy; work and he bring a positive energy, as does Isaac Humphries. He is his homegrown product with enormous potential and we think we can partner together in the future."
Van Groningen reserved particular praise for veteran forward Tommy Garlepp for handling his reduced role this season with class.
Garlepp is a free agent at the end of the year and his future beyond then remains unclear.
"Tommy is a champion of the Sydney Kings and he has shown that through the way he has dealt with this season," he said.
"He has had to adjust to a role that is a far cry from where he was two or three years ago when he was the captain of the club. A player can take that with professional and good grace or he cannot, but Tom has done the former.
"He has been an unbelievably positive affect on the group. He has mentored the young players and helped stabilise the older players when they've got frustrated.
"He has all the hallmarks of a future coach and I'd like to think he'll have a role with the Kings at some point."
SYDNEY KINGS' CONTRACT SITUATIONS:
Todd Blanchfield - contracted
Kevin Lisch - contracted
Jerome Randle - option for 2018/2019 in the club's favour
Brad Newley - contracted
Jeremy Tyler - off-contract
Tom Garlepp - Off-contract
Jason Cadee - off-contract
Dane Pineau - off-contract
Isaac Humphries - off-contract
Perry Ellis - Off-contract
Adam Thoseby - off-contract
Amritpal Singh - off-contract
Sam Daly - off-contract