PART ONE: Kings’ Abdur-Rahim Had GM Qualities Before Retiring As NBA Player

Shareef Abdur-Rahim has multiple duties with the Sacramento Kings, including as the D-League's General Manager of the Reno Bighorns. Inset: Kings General Manager Pete D'Alessandro said Abdur-Rahim was high on his list to join him on his staff had he took the GM job for the Denver Nuggets. OBSERVER Photos by Antonio R. Harvey

Shareef Abdur-Rahim has multiple duties with the Sacramento Kings, including as the D-League’s General Manager of the Reno Bighorns.
Inset: Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro said Abdur-Rahim was high on his list to join him on his staff had he took the GM job for the Denver Nuggets.
OBSERVER Photos by Antonio R. Harvey

NORTH NATOMAS — Before Pete D’Alessandro’s name popped up as a candidate to become the general manager for the Sacramento Kings, he was in the running for the same position for the Denver Nuggets organization.

As seen through other NBA executives and mid-level stewards, D’Alessandro had methodically worked his way up the ladder in the league, the college basketball scene too, as one of the rising scientists in basketball’s day-to-day management and operations.

His admirable skills, which include a jurist degree from Nova Southeastern University School of Law, employment as a sports agent, and a one-time campaign manager for New York State U.S. Congressman Rick Lazio, are a perfect fit for any NBA team touting his service.

While he was observed in the business of professional sports, D’Alessandro, in return, was also watching other young minds around the league that could possibly be GMs in the future. D’Alessandro said this is nature of front-office business in the NBA.

D’Alessandro, who was aware of the possibility of taking over the front-office duties for the Nuggets, tentatively began to put a list together of people he would consider hiring for his staff should he land the job. He was already the Nuggets’ assistant general manager, a position he was promoted to prior to the 2012-2013 season.

At the top of D’Alessandro’s wish list was Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who was somewhat in limbo as the Kings assistant general manager. D’Alessandro said Abdur-Rahim, who retired in 2008 from basketball as a Kings player, had already acquired what some players who leave the game lack: the art of communicating, the ability to organize, and the basic fundamentals of a GM.

D’Alessandro first notice these attributes when he was given permission to talk to Abdur-Rahim after the new ownership group took over the controls of the Kings.

“I at least felt strongly that I was in the mix for that job and I first started thinking who would work with me in Denver,” D’Alessandro told The OBSERVER. “Interestingly enough, Shareef was the first person that popped into my mind. It’s not a knock on former players, but a lot of former players don’t have the organizational skills and the way to communicate the way Shareef does. Every conversation I had with Shareef was exceptional. He was exceptional for a person if he were not a player. I grew to respect him a lot,” he said.

D’Alessandro ended up instead with the keys to the coveted Kings’ GM post. Sacramento Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadivé said D’Alessandro was the leader needed to “build a championship team in the 21st century.”

In doing so, D’Alessandro wanted to keep Abdur-Rahim around during the process, because “Shareef would have been the right guy bringing him there (to Denver) and the right guy to keep here (in Sacramento),” he said.

After D’Alessandro had a chance to get acclimated as the Kings GM, with Ranadivé’s approval, he announced that Abdur-Rahim would be the Director of Player of Personnel for the Kings, overseeing basketball operations for the team’s D-League affiliate. Chris Gilbert, who spent eight years with the Golden State Warriors organization, was named the Bighorns assistant GM.

Ranadivé said the Kings, Bighorns, and NBA Development League agreed to a single-affiliation partnership that makes Sacramento the 14th NBA franchise a one-on-one affiliation with an NBA D-League team. Ranadivé is sure that Abdur-Rahim will flourish in his role.

“The owners didn’t want to sell (the Bighorns) so we worked out a ‘hybrid’ model with them,” Ranadivé told The OBSERVER in late September. “We’re happy to keep Shareef and we are sure he will do a great job for us.”

Right before the 2010-2011 season started, Abdur-Rahim was promoted from the Kings bench as an assistant coach to assistant general manager. On May 14, 2012, he graduated from the University of California-Berkeley with a degree in sociology, 14 years after he left the campus as a freshman to play in the NBA.

Abdur-Rahim’s educational opportunities were made through summer courses and extension programs available during his playing days in the NBA. The third pick in the 1996 NBA draft not only obtained a college education, though in the process, he graduated with a 3.8 grade point average.

While D’Alessandro was working with Ranadivé and Kings coach Michael Malone to get the team situated for their first NBA Draft since taking over the organization, Abdur-Rahim waited politely until the Kings’ rookie GM had time to talk about his role with the team.

Abdur-Rahim, who like other current and former NBA players, know the important aspects of unpredictability. The routine was all too familiar to him.

“Yes, there was a lot of uncertainty (with the Kings organization),” Abdur-Rahim said. “During the process, I just borrowed my experiences of playing in the NBA. A lot of times you don’t know where you are going to be or what’s going to happen. You just try to do your job and stay focus. That’s the approach I took. Since then, I was fortunate to be retained and began taking on more responsibilities I had not before,” he added.

The Reno Bighorns’ and the D-League’s season started Nov. 22 and runs until the first week in April. Joe Abelson is the head coach for the Bighorns. Abdur-Rahim will now shuffle back and forth to Reno, Sacramento, and D-League road games.

Abdur-Rahim also has to check in on college basketball games and make trips overseas to find talent that could help the Kings. Abdur-Rahim is excited about his role with the Kings and Bighorns but there are still “adjustments” that have to be made.

“I think right now the biggest adjustment is figuring out my schedule and splitting my time with my family,” he said. “My most important job is being a husband and a father while I focus on my duties with the Kings and the Bighorns.”

Everything is falling into place for Abdur-Rahim. Twelve years of professional basketball, two years as an assistant coach, and on-the-job training as a GM is a part of his personal blueprint — a detailed plan that is expanding constantly.

D’Alessandro is more than pleased to have him on his staff, hopefully, for many years to come. However, the NBA is a league of opportunities and some good things don’t always last.

“Shareef just flew off the charts to me,” D’Alessandro said. “To me, he is going to be a GM in this league. If I can be a GM that cultivates GMs…then I have succeeded. I don’t ever want Shareef to leave me. But I expect he will because I think he’s that good,” he added.

Look for Part Two of Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s Journey With The Kings In The OBSERVER During the Week of Dec.16.

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By Antonio Harvey

OBSERVER Staff Writer