Posted by: Kingsguru21 | May 2, 2011

Interpreting Geoff Petrie yet again

The Bee released on Sunday a Geoff Petrie Q&A with Jason Jones amidst all the #Here We Stay that has garnered a lot of attention nationally. It is just like Petrie to agree to an interview at a time when he suspects it will be overlooked by many (and it will) and thus will get ignored.

The only rebuttal I’d point out is that Petrie does it every year, and usually does it earlier.

In my view, there isn’t any great surprises here and upon further examination this is what I read into his statements. This is going old school so beware. (Note: All Jones questions are in bold.)

What was your overall assessment of the season?

I think we all went into the season across the board in most respects thinking we could be somewhat improved from a year ago. We’d only won 25 games, and obviously in that respect we didn’t get there. You could say there were any number of mitigating factors in that, but it’s still the reality we ended up pretty much in the same place, although the last month or so of the season is when we did play our very best basketball. And I was really proud of the team in the sense that they never stopped competing. … I’m really proud of our players for maintaining an attitude that they were still going to go out and play and compete, and we did that right up through the end of the season. Again, I think Tyreke (Evans’) injury was a factor. He played (with plantar fasciitis), but he wasn’t right, and he had to sit out. We played our best basketball after we acquired Marcus Thornton. He gave us another legitimate offensive player with a multifaceted game offensively. He came in and gave us a real jolt of energy. … But in the big picture, we have a very young team, and we’ve relied on young players a lot to try and play major roles during the season and in all the games.

I’d note here that this is a typical Geoff Petrie statement. He talks about this past season in contrast to the previous season. One note about Thornton is that in his last 18 games as a Kings player, the team did go 9-9. That’s a rather big “but” if I’m to be asked. And, unlike the quick start that the Kings sprint out to a 14-15 record in 09-10, the Kings team didn’t take many teams by surprise. Most teams knew what was coming, and, that, I think bodes well for sustained success.

Anything should always be understood with this caveat: Health matters. If Tyreke Evans isn’t healthy, this team is going nowhere. Understand that because that’s what this really comes down to.

Even without the victory total improving, do you feel the team is in a better position to take another step forward than a year ago?

Well, I think so. I think, I’m hopeful, particularly with our young guys, that the greatest improvement is going to come in the knowledge that goes with the understanding of what it really takes, and the commitment it takes, and the discipline it takes physically and mentally to win – win games and become the player you’re capable of being. If that alone is something a lot of our young guys take away from this season, then that is a major positive element.

This is a shot towards all the young players, but mainly towards Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. In the NBA, you’re only as good as your best players or talents. Evans & Cousins represents the Kings two best talents (in that order), and, thus, it’s incumbent upon both of them to develop, grow and mature in order to get the most out of their abilities. Not to put too fine of a point on this, but Evans/Cousins development is paramount if the Kings are to even become a playoff team let alone a team contending for a championship at some point.

As far as other players go, I won’t really put this on them. Other than Thornton, no other young player is a star and thus shouldn’t have to accept that type of responsibility.

Do you feel as if Evans having to play through his injury slowed his progress in his second season because he wasn’t able to be himself?

Yes. This year, because of (the injury), his game didn’t really have the chance to grow on the court in the way it has the potential to if you’re not fighting an injury that doesn’t stop you from playing but diminishes your ability to play to some extent. But going forward as a player, his preparation from the end of this season to the beginning of next season, because of what happened this season, will be of paramount importance as to what kind of player he will come back as to start next season.

I have nothing really to add to this other than if the Kings are going to make the playoffs next season, Tyreke Evans will have to play 75 games and be an All-Star. Sometimes things are just as simple as that.

There was a lot made of how the team would support and “handle” DeMarcus Cousins. How do you feel his season went with all the ups and downs?

He had moments of brilliance, and he had periods where he struggled either because of inexperience or, at times, because of the inability to control his emotions. But overall, as a 20-year-old player and having to compete at this level for the first time … everybody can see there’s an exceptional player there. Even though he’s only played the one year, again his offseason is going to be extremely important in terms of how he improves, how he works on his game and improves his body coming into the start of next season for him to not only realize his potential and go beyond where he was this year. Because they took the most shots, they played a lot of minutes, we really were and are relying on (Evans and Cousins) to be two of our best players, if not the two best players. They need to grow, and they need to apply themselves in ways that will allow that to happen.

At least Petrie is honest here about Cuz & Reke being the two best players and that this team will go as they do.

As far as Cuz is concerned, nothing new here. He needs to get in better shape, get more experience at the NBA level, and continue to work and grow. Those elements exist with him, and, even though much of Cuz’s season was up and down, tumultuous, and rather frustrating, at the end of the day I think Cousins’ trust of the head coaching staff is far greater than it was back in July of ’10.

Even though I know plenty will see this differently, negative things are not always negative total experiences. Sometimes a negative action can recalibrate to a far more positive overall experience. It’s worth keeping in mind when talking about Cuz. (And worth ignoring when the statheads talk about a terrible TS%, high USG% and inability to hold onto the ball very effectively.) If there is one piece of advice I’ll pass on, ignore Evans’ & Cousins’ critics. They will both have them until they are upper echelon NBA players and have proven the bulk of critics wrong. It’s just the way these things go. Learn to live with it.

Was there any way you could have expected Thornton to play at the level he did for the Kings?

No. I don’t think anybody expected the consistency of the level of play that he gave us. Although if you do go back to his rookie year when New Orleans had the injuries and he and (Darren) Collison had to start a pretty significant stretch of games, he was pretty productive then. … He’s a tough cover. He can get his own shot; he’s a deep shooter, yet he’s got a pull-up game, and he can get to the rim. He was really terrific for us.

I think what surprised me the most was that Thornton was basically the same with or without Tyreke Evans. That provided a very pleasant surprise for all concerned within the Kings management group. As far as Thornton goes, you know how his short stretch here has gone. If the Kings don’t re-sign Thornton, I’ll really wonder why. It will fly in the face of anything that’s realistic when it comes to improvement about this team.

Short of Evans and Cousins regressing from this season’s performance, the other to do list’s here are to resign Thornton and Dalembert and shore up the SF spot.

Was Samuel Dalembert the player you envisioned him being when you traded for him, particularly the last few months of the season?

Sure. Again, he got hurt right away. He didn’t have any real training camp. I don’t think his conditioning level got to where it needed to be until after the first of the year. I think the trade with Carl (Landry) going to New Orleans where we could have just three bigs in a normal rotation of minutes, I think that helped Sam. … And the addition of Marcus, it really gave us a better identity out there, I thought.

I agree with everything GP said here. I’ll add nothing other than I think the expectation for Sam to assimilate immediately, especially with a young team, was a highly ridiculous one. Assimilating without a training camp and unfamiliarity is not going to lead to immediate success. It didn’t stop some Kings fans from having ridiculous expectations though.

What was your and coach Paul Westphal’s last meeting with Omri Casspi like? He wasn’t happy with his role at the end of the season.

I guess he was happy that the team played better and was winning more games, but he was frustrated that his playing time had really diminished from what it had been two-thirds of the season. We did have a discussion, which usually comes up with some players, about maybe it’s better if I play somewhere else. But a lot of that gets borne out of frustration. I think he still has a chance to be a pretty valuable contributor because there are some things he does really well. But, again, there are areas of his game he needs to continue to work on to become more well-rounded in terms of the things he can do out there. He’s a competitive guy, he’s got a lot of pride, and we just left it at that.

I read this as they will look for a trade that makes sense for both sides. If they find it, the Kings will pull the trigger on a deal. Nothing surprising here, but beware that Omri is certainly a player the Kings will discuss trading if they view his trade will bring an upgrade in return.

The small forward position seemed at its best with Francisco García healthy and playing there.

He is, when he’s right, he is a legitimate three-point threat. He’s always going to compete. He’s got a good presence with his teammates. He’ll drift off sometimes into things he shouldn’t try to, but all in all the last two seasons have been tough for him and been disrupted with the broken wrist and then the calf injury this year. … He loves to play, and when he’s healthy and in the flow, he can be an effective player, too.

I doubt Cisco is on the block because, at worst, his injuries aren’t hurting the overall rotation and he can enhance in it small ways when healthy. The key issue’s with Cisco will always be health, and I think the team is certainly looking to improve it’s depth at the SF spot for this reason. However, it’s not the highest of concerns for overall improvement. The SF spot is just one area where the Kings can go out and realistically find improvement in terms of both the upcoming draft and trades.

Does the talk of relocation and what might happen ever enter your mind as you do your job?

You wonder about it, but in the bigger picture the job still has to be done regardless of how that plays itself out. Right now, we’ve got to get ready for the draft, and you certainly prepare internally for free agency whenever it may start. And that work has to be done regardless. And it really gets down to one of those things we all face in life, which is there are some things you have no control over, and if you don’t, while you may be following it, you really have to put as much energy into the things you do have some control over and what you need to do.

I could do a literal translation here, but I won’t. Petrie probably didn’t want to go to Anaheim for any reason, but it comes with the territory. If the franchise moves to Anaheim, he has to kind of move too. But I’m quite positive he didn’t want to move either.

Is getting the best player available the same approach headed into this year’s draft?

I think so. You can make the case when you win 24 games you need everything, but without knowing right now who’s in for sure, where you’re actually going to be and what may happen in front of you. We spent a lot of time this year from January on looking at 15 to 20 players over and over again by our entire staff. There’s other players outside of that as well, but when it’s pretty obvious by then you’re going to be drafting in the top 10 or lower … we really tried to focus in on that group of players.

Lots to chew on and you’ll have to pay close attention to this one.

As far as the “we need everything” comment, I’d say this. The greatest source for improvement will come from Evans and Cousins. That will provide the biggest lift for the team overall. A draft pick only provides a real solution if it comes with a legitimate impact player. While I”m sure the 2011 draft isn’t as weak as maybe it appears at first glance, I’m also sure there isn’t a single player in the draft who will end up better than Evans or Cousins. Nobody stands out that way. When a guy who has only played 11 games at the NCAA level, and is considered the surefire 1st overall pick, that’s a bit of a problem.

Now, that doesn’t mean, again, there isn’t talent in this draft. The SF position will likely be the most area targeted by Petrie and his staff. You will assuredly see Derrick Williams, Terrence Jones, Jan Vesely, Kawhi Leonard’s name pop up a lot over the course of this draft process. Why? They all project to be SF’s although Williams is probably being projected as a combo F at this point by NBA scouts in general. Jordan Hamilton may even sneak into this group too. (I happen to doubt this but you never know.) UPDATE: Throw Alec Burks name on this list as well. He certainly can’t be discounted on this list due to the screwiness and uncertainty of the draft.

This is exactly why you will hear Kyrie Irving’s name pop up a lot. He’s considered the best talent in the draft in a very weak draft. I’m not sure if that says more about the 2011 draft than Irving, but I will say this: If Irving is better than Beno Udrih, Marcus Thornton or Tyreke Evans, I will be surprised. Not because Irving is overrated or anything (I’m not sure what overrated means in this context), but because all 3 do unique things at the NBA level. Irving may do 2 or 3 things incredibly well at the NBA level, but it’s not like he’s a superstud in the making. 69 TS% in 11 games does not sway me.

I do think that Petrie’s statement (getting this back to him) is that they know who they think are the top players in the draft are, and that’s why I focused on the SF aspect. I know they probably wish Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes and Perry Jones were in the draft too. A deeper pool makes it more likely that you can get the player you want regardless of how high you are. (The Kings can draft 1-3,5, or 6-8 in the case that 3 teams below them in the lottery jump into the top 3.) But such is life and this is the hand that the 2011 draft has dealt Petrie and his staff.

There was speculation about your job security more than once this season, along with Westphal’s. Was that tough to deal with?

I think sometimes you have to consider the source. But my philosophy on that is continue doing your job, and if the time ever comes where Joe and Gavin (Maloof) want someone else to do the job, I’m sure they’ll let me know. At this point in my career, I’m for what’s best for the Kings. … At this point, I don’t worry about it.

I agree with the “consider the source”. Do you deal with people that are emotional, over-bearing, and frustrated well? Do you reason with them? Or do you walk away? I prefer to walk away as it is the route less traveled. But when you’re a basketball team’s Prez of Bball Ops, as Petrie is, you simply can’t walk away. Taking heat is part of the job description, and fans, and owners alike (this isn’t a shot at the Maloof’s necessarily), don’t like it when their teams lose. That’s part of life, and there is little Petrie can do in the immediate aftermath of such frustration. I know one thing is for sure: The basketball staff wasn’t happy with the losses, but knew why they were happening. That, if nothing else, puts the basketball staff one up on fans.

How do you feel Westphal handled the team this season with injuries and managing a young team?

I think Paul’s got a great capacity for understanding and patience and maintains a pretty even-keeled approach to things. Obviously when you don’t win a lot and you have stretches where you don’t win at all, that’s hard on everybody, but I think coaches are the ones that are closest to it. Trying to maintain your perspective and trying to keep a group together, I think that was a real big focus of his as the season went along.

Paul Westphal is generally considered to have underachieved, but I disagree. I think given the set of circumstances, PW realistically overachieved. If nothing else, that illustrates how difficult this season was for the team. Many teams come apart in those circumstances, and despite every attempt to come apart, the Kings did not. PW’s focus on keeping the team together was a right one. I applaud him for it.

There was talk from ownership that this summer, with salary cap space, the team would be aggressive in improving the roster and spending money. Is that still the plan, or do you have to wait for collective bargaining agreement issues to be sorted out?

That’s going to play a factor, but I think for us to start building additional value with the roster, basically for the last two or three years, we’ve tried to draft it. But for us to accelerate building value in the roster, we have to come out of hibernation in competing for free agents and trade for value … I think at some point that has to happen, and hopefully coming out of this next offseason, we’ll get back to being able to do some of those things.

First, when you are rebuilding, you have to draft players. It’s the one way most teams have of building value. Few teams, the Lakers and Knicks especially, can afford to not draft players, and the Lakers typically draft well as a rule. Additionally, the Lakers don’t tend to buy picks either which suggests that buying picks may not have the impact that some think it has.

The Kings needed impact players, and the one way to do that was through the draft. If you’re going to be bad, you may as well be bad for a few years and get high picks. High picks are where the most talented, game changing players are typically taken. There are exceptions, true, but for the most part this is not the case.

For us to accelerate building value in the roster, we have to come out of hibernation in competing for free agents and trade for value

Getting back to this for a moment. I don’t think this was ever an issue in previous seasons, but the problem was that the Kings were low on quality asset’s. Now? They have loads of cap room, lots of young players they could trade in the right situation, and 2 young (potential?) stars to build around in Evans and Cousins. The time is now to spend the money because the time to build something that continues to be productive and grow starts being sown in the next few months.

One part of the cap room that gets ignored by common fans (and will continue to be) is that trades can often be done with cap room. What smart fans don’t realize (because quite often these fans are too busy justifying the ends to the means so to speak), is that cap room isn’t a high end asset in the NBA. It is if you’re Miami and can sign (or re-sign) Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade. However with a weak Free Agent class , how can anyone argue that an automatic upgrade is available in Free Agency? There are a few restricted Free Agents (Arron Afflalo and Thaddeus Young namely) that have my interest, but for the most part I don’t really see a great upgrade.

That said, a trade gives you flexibility to trade for players under contract and able to get a player that can help you down the road. There is nothing wrong with that in any scenario.

What about Donté Greene? Where is he after three seasons?

He’s still grappling with trying to gain consistency in his game. I think he’s another example of the offseason – for him, he’s got to get himself in the best shape he can possibly be in. He’s proven he can be an effective defender at times, he can get shots offensively, but he needs to become a more consistent shooter.

Nothing new here about Donte.

It wasn’t an ideal start to the season for Jason Thompson. How did you feel about how he finished the season?

I thought he was terrific at the end of the season. I thought a lot of that had to do with his minutes getting more consistent and his place in the rotation being more defined. … I was real happy for him and the way he finished.

As far as the comment being more defined, I think one of the bi-products that the Carl Landry departure created was an easier understanding for JT how he wanted to play. I doubt it was a real criticism of Paul Westphal, although it’s easy to see it as such. If you’re closer to the anti-PW crowd, there will be many who see it that way.

Beno Udrih was probably the most consistent player this season. How did you see his season?

He’s had two terrific seasons. Beno’s definitely played to the level of his ability and then some at times.

Yep. One of the better Free Agent signings Petrie’s had (I’d argue top 3) and that’s a statement given how poor Beno’s 08-09 season was.

What are the specific areas of need? Are you still looking for another ballhandler?

I think we need another creator, ballhandler. We need some more leadership on the court, either by the form of maturity or addition to the roster. Certainly we need to try to improve our three-point shooting, which fell off from a year ago. … We’ll have to look to fill out our roster with another frontcourt player of some kind.

You can look at these comments several ways. And, given the ubiquitous, not to mention ambiguous, nature of Petrie’s comment in this respect, you’ll see needs vary from a person’s perspective. (Especially since many will attempt to translate this with their own perspective as the guide.) Again, this is where the citing for Kyrie Irving as a need will come in rather overtly and thick. Ballhandler can come in various different forms, but I see it more as an attempt to point out that the ballhandling needs to be better. (Read: Less Turnover’s overall.) I think Petrie didn’t want to say that directly, but, I think that’s what he meant. The question is: How do you improve ballhandling, leadership, 3 pt shooting and get another high quality frontcourt player?

That’s the problem. You won’t solve that dilemma most likely with a draft pick whether it’s Brandon Knight or Kyrie Irving let alone with Jan Vesely and Terrence Jones (those are my 2 likely non Irving picks at this point if I had to handicap it). UPDATE: Throw in Alec Burks here as well. There’s no reason not to as far as I can see. And apologies on the oversight.

What I’d say is there are plenty of older more established players who could be on the block for a variety of reasons that should be attainable.

What the draft pick could come down to is the potential player in the draft that the Kings could get is better than Omri Casspi or is that player really worse. Or, does that player not really bring the things the Kings need at the SF position?

I’ll bet that the draft for the Kings comes down to Casspi, Terrence Jones and Jan Vesely. Whoever is considered the best of the 3 the Kings will take in the draft (or in Casspi’s case keep). If the draft pick is deemed internally by Kings brass as less valuable than Casspi, than I suspect that pick will be traded for a veteran. If Casspi is deemed less valuable as the draft pick, than I suppose the Kings will move Omri if it all possible.

Here’s what I know: The Draft will be held and the Kings will pick a player. The question is the where, what, why and how. Maybe that’s all you need to know at the end of the day.

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