I don’t envy Kings GM Geoff Petrie in any way. He’s in a no win situation that involves some of the cheapest owners in the NBA and a locale that, right or wrongly, is shunned among NBA players – especially the youth of the league.
I’ve long heard that if you have the money, free agents will come, they don’t care about where they play – they just want financial security. And while that does have some truth to it, it doesn’t really apply to Sacramento or a handful of other small markets, like a Milwaukee or Toronto. Once a franchise and/or a city gets a stigma attached to them, it’s difficult to shake and it’s hard to find a city or a franchise with a worse reputation then that of the Kings and Sacramento.
That’s in no way a slight to the fans (or the community), who support the team unconditionally and are some of, if not the best in the entire league. And in no way is it a slight to former players who’ve come to love the city and surrounding areas, even as going as far as to build homes here after their careers were complete – despite their original reluctance to play in the California Capitol. But players frown upon Sacramento – even some of the Kings own youthful talents in Tyler Honeycutt and Hassan Whiteside have made less then desirable comments about the area.
So what does all of that have to do with Geoff Petrie, the Kings and the free agent market? Well, everything, really.
Despite their best efforts, getting a big name free agent to sign in Sacramento is like pulling teeth – or maybe more like pulling teeth out of a hippopotamus with a dull screwdriver. In spite of them flaunting their available cash last year, they were shunned by multiple free agents. Some, like Jamal Crawford simply opted for another franchise. Others like Andrei Kirilenko decided even a rumored hefty contract wasn’t worth leaving Russia and others, like Nene, refused to even return the calls of the Kings front office.
So what is Petrie forced to do? Find role players – and not just any role players, but ones with ties to the Sacramento area. Last year it was Modesto native Chuck Hayes, this year it’s Sacramento native Ryan Anderson, Petrie undoubtedly using the cards of playing at “home” to his advantage – the lone advantage he seems to have. Even then, the Kings are forced into overpaying for borderline starting talent, essentially role players – who while important, are replaceable talent.
Many take the term “role player” as a slight and in no way is a derogatory term. Role players are the glue to any successful team and despite the bright lights of stardom, it’s usually the role players who come through with the blue collar plays and big shots that, while many times unnoticed by the media, certainly are appreciated by the team and fans.
Role players are a vital piece to a teams success, but as important as they are, teams can’t continually afford to overpay marginal talent and when it comes to Geoff Petrie, well, we’ve read this book far too many times. Whether it be Francisco Garcia, Beno Udrih, Mikki Moore, Travis Outlaw or countless others that Petrie has whiffed on, you can’t help but harness a bit of concern as to what might happen in the next few weeks for the Sacramento Kings.
The front office has been quiet, despite small leaks of news involving an offer to Jason Thompson (while talented and appreciated, another role player and potential luxury with Thomas Robinson) and a rumored hefty front loaded deal to restricted free agent Ryan Anderson (again, talented, but role player material). And while I love what both players can bring to the Kings, overpaying again has to be the concern for Petrie – but sadly, he has little choice.
Despite his poor free agent choices of past years, he’s playing handicapped – not only financially from the Maloofs, but with a stigma the Kings franchise can’t shake. There’s no doubt money can bring in talent, but more then that, winning, brings in talent. Money just makes it an easier decision.
It’s just hard to win when you overpay role players without a foundation already established.