Posted by: Kingsguru21 | April 20, 2010

End of the Season Review Part 3: The Front Office and Ownership

This is a little shorter (not much) than the coaching version. Remember, hit yourself over your head with a chainsaw and run around the bat 3 times than take a swig of cheap tequila. That will likely be more productive than reading this.

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Has Geoff Petrie succeeded in doing his part to rebuild this Kings team?

Absolutely. But, it didn’t start this past summer. It really started earlier than the summer of ’08. This team changed itself when it traded Mike Bibby to the Hawks. It didn’t net the Kings much except cap flexibility and the ability to re-sign Beno Udrih without going over the luxury tax. (It wouldn’t have made much of a difference as Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s contract would have been taken off due to medical retirement.) Shelden Williams, though, was not deemed to be part of the future, and GP & Co. declined to pick up Shelden’s option for his 4th season. This led the Kings to trade Shelden, and Bobby Brown (signed to a 2 year contract in 2008–with a player option for this season that he did pick up) to Minnesota for Rashad McCants and Calvin Booth. The Kings never had any desire to re-sign Booth, and the Kings severed ties with McCants when they chose to not offer a Qualifying Offer.

The other big trade of 2009 came in the John Salmons/Brad Miller trade that netted the Kings Ike Diogu (who also received the McCants treatment), Drew Gooden (whom they saved money by reaching an amenable buyout), Cedric Simmons (he was on the last year of his contract and who knows where he has went since), and, of course, Andres Nocioni. At the time, Noc was the long term effect of this deal as the Kings essentially swapped the money owed to Salmons and Miller for the next 2 seasons (or this season in Miller’s case) for the remaining 3 years (now 2) on Noc’s deal.

There were also the minor deals for Sam Cassell and Will Solomon (don’t rip your eyes out Ed or Aykis) that netted the Kings some positive cash by doing those deals. There was also the waiving of Mikki Moore and Quincy Douby (end of that era) which ended the tenure of both in Kings land. In Moore’s case that meant costing the Kings 2 million (minus the 282 thousand that the Kings didn’t have to pay him under the CBA) and will come off the cap. In Douby’s case because his option hadn’t been picked up, he was essentially waived to open a roster spot in the Bulls trade. (Moore was waived to acquire Solomon.)

But you gotta ask yourself this: Why does all this stuff matter when judging this past season?

The answer: Because the previous season’s matter in ownership’s determination of how to move forward, I think part of the patience the Maloof’s exhibited with regards to the roster had to do with many of the moves that enhanced the bottom line last season and for future season’s. Rather than paying Miller & Salmons salaries for players they no longer needed, the Kings gained in return a longer contract in Noc but lesser money for each season.

Usually fans don’t really turn out for a young team rebuilding. (This year was really no exception.) So while the Kings ownership wasn’t taking a bath on the monetary front, the Kings were left to make progress on the court. (I’ve already noted much of that in the coaching staff portion.) And make progress they certainly did.

The Kings managed to gain even more financial advantage from their perilous season when they leveraged Portland for some cash to take Sergio Rodriguez’s contract for this season and ultimately pick up Jon Brockman. 2.9 million dollars can buy you many things, and if you consider that money almost certainly contributed to Omri Casspi’s buyout from Maccabi Tel Aviv, that helped the basketball end too.

It’s very difficult to figure out where the business portion ends and the basketball talent management begins. Because both are so incredibly imperative to both in terms of success, it’s really difficult for me to see the difference at this point. Certianly Geoff Petrie is better at bringing in basketball players, but he is hardly a ticket seller or the guy writing the checks.

As such, let’s start again.

Ignoring how the previous season’s contributed to the draft, how did Geoff Petrie realistically fare?

You can argue Geoff Petrie and the Kings had the best draft of any team in 2009. They picked up Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Sergio Rodriguez, Jon Brockman and the 2.9 million in cash from Portland (really the last 3 but the Kings gave up Jeff Pendergraph–fair trade?).

You can argue GP made a mistake by completing the Portland trade before DeJuan Blair dropped out of the 1st round, but I didn’t think he thought, or other teams for that matter, that Blair would drop out of the 1st round. It’s also not like Blair was taken 32nd or 33rd. He was taken 37th. There were a lot of teams that were simply deathly afraid of Blair not having ACL’s in either knee.

Having said that, I think the draft was a clear winner for the Kings regardless of whether it rates comparatively better or worse than other teams. (I would say better than every team.)

In the Free Agency realm, the Kings signed Sean May, Desmond Mason and Ime Udoka to contracts. None of them were larger than the vets minimum, and that was by design. There was simply no reason to go out and sign any players to big money contracts. There was certainly less reason to go out & sign a player for 6 million dollars than there was to play the young players on the team, go with the talent left over from previous years, and work in the new draft picks. If there was a steal among May, Mason or Udoka, so be it. There really wasn’t a steal, but none of the 3 detracted (or very long in Mason’s case) from the Kings long term goal of helping players develop. Additionally, May and Udoka were professionals who acted professionally off the court. That was a huge step in helping change the culture.

The trades, other than the Rodriguez trade, were obviously the Kevin Martin trade (which has been extensively covered in part 2) and the Hilton Armstrong trade (which preceded the Martin trade).

The Hilton Armstrong trade was made to give the Kings a free look at a big man who could help. (Armstrong did himself no favors by not grabbing a single board in 10 minutes against Charlotte. To be fair, he did grab 4 boards in Atlanta, the next game, in 10 minutes.) Few were expecting much out of Armstrong, and nobody was bothered at all when Armstrong was traded to Houston along with Kevin Martin. (If you aren’t aware, Houston waived Armstrong on April 9th.)

The last trade was, of course, the Dominic McGuire deal who came with 800K cash and this resulted in the Kings waiving Kenny Thomas in order to do so. (Again, I won’t remark on Thomas.) Given that McGuire was acquired for financial reasons, I have no problem with acquiring him. It’s not like the Kings were THAT successful at the box office that they could turn down cash. Also, the Kings gave up a top 55 protected pick in this year’s June Draft. Basically, it cost them nothing. Why did Washington do it? To get under the luxury tax.

How do we judge the Kevin Martin trade?

Okay this is pretty simple. You judge it by the cap space created this summer, and how the draft pick turns out. It’s pretty easy on that front.

Here is my trade deadline stuff in case you missed that.

What about Paul Westphal?

I think coaching and how the basketball decision makers operated go hand in hand, so I’m not really sure what to say that I didn’t in part 2 of this series. Pretty much management and the coaching staff haven’t significantly disagreed about which group of players they should go after yet. So, whatever the case may be there doesn’t seem a lot of reason to discuss this from the basketball management angle.

I will say, like I did the other day, that the extension for Paul Westphal is a good sign for things to come. Petrie clearly thinks highly of PW and that’s something worth noting in the future (for good or bad).

Does Geoff Petrie’s extension mean anything?

Well it means the Maloof’s are happy with Petrie and what he was doing. That was partly why I mentioned all the moves in previous years. Even though Tyreke Evans is clearly the most significant move, it wasn’t the only area where the Kings had a significant showing in a basketball perspective.

The other area’s of interest of course remain with the fact that Jason Levien and Mike Petrie (Petrie’s son) were given additional roles to their previous duties in the past. I assume Petrie and Levien are going to eventually take control of the franchise at some point, and this is worth noting. (Especially since Levien’s hiring was pushed by Petrie.)

All in all, the relationship between Geoff Petrie and the Maloof’s seems very strong in that Petrie has full reigns of the basketball organization.

What about anybody else in the Front Office?

I wouldn’t say there isn’t anything of true importance to add about the other players in the Front Office that include Wayne Cooper (Senior VP of Basketball Ops), Levien, Petrie (I forget what his title is, but it’s in the scouting area), Scotty Stirling (head of scouting) and Jerry Reynolds (director of player personnel/TV analyst). Mostly the thing to note is that the Geoff Petrie guys are getting old and Mike Petrie and Levien are probably the 2 guys who will end up taking control and moving the franchise once these guys start to leave the franchise. It’s worth keeping in mind as things change and move forward in coming years.

How would you rate Geoff Petrie on his job?

Well every GM makes mistakes and every GM has successes. Ignoring the buildup to the 2009-10 season (and there is a lot of that; and with good reason), I would say Petrie did well given what he was dealing with.

At the time, the Bibby trade was done for financial relief and created the flexibility to re-sign Udrih to the MLE contract he received in the summer of ’08. Artest’s trade netted the draft pick that became Omri Casspi and Donte Greene. Miller & Salmons didn’t really net the Kings much other than some roster flexibility (which was huge) and shift the financial burden to 3 years rather than a season or two. I would much rather have Noc given the Kings situation than have Miller & Salmons now. So, even though that trade was done last season, having Miller & Salmons on the roster could have had disastrous consequences that we would be still feeling today. Certainly it would have delayed an essential need to completely rebuild at the very least.

Obviously the FA signings of recent years haven’t gone well, but there hasn’t been a major FA signing since Beno Udrih in 2008. Other than extensions to Martin (in 2007) and Francisco Garcia (which I thought was necessary back in the summer of ’08) , the Kings haven’t doled out a ton of money to players since. Even though many have been critical of Petrie in his FA signings (dating back to the Salmons/Moore signings), it’s just one of those area’s that I think is probably less of an issue than it could be if the Kings had a high money player. I also think the Maloof’s are pretty culpable in this area too. (Especially in the Moore signing. Maybe somewhat in the Salmons signing.)

I would give Petrie reasonably high marks considering he lost a coach whom he had a quality working relationship with in Rick Adelman in 2006. The Maloofs took more ownership and control of the organization in the 2 years past that, but essentially have abdicated leadership and reigns to Petrie since.

This aspect of the Kings has shone through since late 2008 when Jason Levien was hired. The sense of unity between Petrie and the Maloof’s is working well again. That can only mean good things for the franchise. How much of that credit is Petrie’s I do not know. Some of it is surely his as he lived through the following years of the franchise as they tumbled away from championship contention. Right now I’d say Petrie is still doing his job well to merit his 3 year extension the Maloof’s announced in Xmas time 09.

******

As far as the Maloofs go, this is a complicated thing to write. Much of what I wrote up above has something to do with the Family in one way or the other.

The big issue’s I have revolve around letting the basketball people do their jobs and run the team. I don’t expect the Maloof’s to not have a say in how their money gets spent, but I do expect that they let their basketball people do their job’s when it’s critical for them to do so. A key example is the Ricky Rubio/Tyreke Evans decision. I have a feeling the Maloof’s thought Rubio was the better choice, but the basketball side “no way no how”. (That’s just a minor example.)

From an organization standpoint, I think the decision to take John Thomas out of the ticket sales realm is a major decision that stands to reap big benefits in the future. I’ve already mentioned Thomas in the various impact he did have (he made the Maloof’s money and got them a TV deal with CSN to name two), but at some point his approach didn’t work.

I won’t give any credit to the Maloof’s on the convergence plan. That really wasn’t, and hasn’t been, their deal. I will note this is only true unless they are directly financing a huge portion of the arena. That changes the entire level of the arena entirely. But until certain things happen, I won’t be giving them kudo’s for something that hasn’t even begun to come close to even happening.

On the whole I’d say their ownership has been a positive one over the last 2 season’s. There are negatives, but many of those negatives were from the 2 seasons following Rick Adelman’s deparature more than these last 2 season’s. They’ve given complete basketball control to Geoff Petrie (he never lost much control but the control he lost was pretty critical), and the franchise seems to have an idea of where it wants to go on the court. There is a vision for how to sell tickets (if you read Voisin’s piece the other day the Maloof’s noted that the momentum that saw the Kings sell out the Memphis game in November–the only game all year to be sold out by the way–was lost and never really recovered) with mostly the idea being to lower ticket prices. There seems interest from the team over the last several seasons to gain traction within the Kings fan community by giving access to players through Kingsflix (helpful to me in particular) and KingsConnect among others.

Between the media access, arena progress, unity in basketball operations, a re-shuffling of business priorities starting with the removal of John Thomas (can’t say enough how key that really was), and some regained enthusiasm for the team has helped the Maloof’s show at least some level of quality ownership. There are owners who kill trades because players they are attached to (the Maloof’s were attached to Kevin Martin) and don’t want to deal them for whatever reason. The Maloof’s separate their emotions from their business decisions, and that helps this Kings team. (Or Geoff Petrie tells them why he wants a deal done, and they simply say okay and deal with their emotions privately. Either way, it works.) The Maloof’s have a history of doing business with people they have strong relationships with, and that’s another factor I think that has staying power. They might not have as much money as Larry Ellison, Mikhail Prokhorov or Mark Cuban, but they know that money is not the only thing that matters to a NBA team.

While I’m not always in love with every move they make as owners (I’m not going to analyze the selling of their Coors distributorship–mostly cuz I don’t care) in their outside businesses, ultimately what I care about as a fan is that they keep the Kings in Sacramento. I think they’ve taken some steps as owners to make themselves more accountable, and make their basketball people more accountable too. Nobody in the Kings franchise is perfect, but it’s a group of people that understands each other and is willing to work through their issue’s.

There are a lot of franchises in the NBA that do not always play nice or work well together. A lot of credit goes to the Maloof’s for demanding that type of atmosphere exists. As such I think there is a foundation for a strong franchise moving forward in the years to come depending on which aspect of the franchise in which you are referring.

This may not be the best measure to regard where the team is at, and in relation to how the Maloof’s are performing as owners, but it feels that this team is headed towards the top of the NBA on the court. It also feels that there is a significant change being had in the front office. There is progress in many needed area’s in the organization. Ultimately, that’s all you can really ask.

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Responses

  1. I think Petrie did a great job on selling the Maloofs on taking Tyreke. I still remember Gavin’s excitement immediately the selection of ‘Reke with the 4th pick. No way he was faking that.

    • Yeah I don’t think the Maloof’s were unhappy with the pick at the time of the selection. I just think during the process they were leaning towards Rubio. At some point by draft day they switched it up.


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