Kings Could Be Sellers in Trade Market
So to follow up on some of the diligent work of ESPN.com's Marc Stein regarding the futures of Omri Casspi and Carl Landry, allow me to expound on their respective situations and that of Samuel Dalembert as well. One disclaimer regarding all: the signs remain strong that there is a directive from on high for Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie to avoid taking on any salary unless it's a can't-miss opportunity, which obviously limits the possibilities in play here.
As proof of the Preserve Cap Space For Post-Lockout 2011 mission being pushed by Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, we present the most recent and dramatic example: the Kings had a chance to basically steal Michael Beasley from Miami in July, absorbing his rookie-scale contract ($4.9 million this season, $6.2 million next season and restricted free agency in the summer of 2012) in their salary cap room in the process while raising their talent pool by adding the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft. Instead, they watched that train go by and saw him go to Minnesota in exchange for second round picks in 2011 and 2014.
I'm told that the only way the second-year small forward is traded is if the team landing him agrees to take back one of the Kings' long-term deals, most likely that of swingman Francisco Garcia (combined $11.9 million owed in next two seasons with team option in 2013-14 for $6.4 million).
But sources with knowledge of the Kings' thinking say even that isn't very likely, especially with Garcia playing an increased role of late and the fact that his leadership and veteran presence have never been needed as much as they are now. The Kings are already sorely lacking in that area, and Garcia has become an asset to coach Paul Westphal as he struggles to keep his locker room together.
There's the obvious reason for holding onto Casspi as well: he's a good young player on a team trying to rebuild with good young players. Casspi has seen more playing time of late, logging 34 and 32 minutes in the two games since Stein's story dropped after averaging 11.8 minutes in the previous six games.
We'll file that one away in the Things-That-Make-You-Go-Hmmm department, especially since Casspi had only played 30-plus minutes four times previously (the last time coming on Dec. 6). Meanwhile, third-year small forward Donte' Greene has played a combined 15 minutes in the last five games and -- according to one source close to the Kings -- is more likely to be traded than Casspi.
As Stein reported, New York and Chicago have expressed interest in Casspi. Big shocker, right? Predictable headline reads: Teams that play in markets with huge Jewish populations pursue talented player who is first Israeli to play in the NBA.
Sources tell FanHouse that Denver and the Clippers would love to land Casspi and have inquired as well. According to one site I perused that ranked the Jewish populations by city, New York ranks second to Tel Aviv while LA is fourth, Chicago ninth and Denver is not in the top 20.
Casspi isn't the only Kings player pining for playing time.
Wins would be nice, but being a confident and competent player means you believe your presence on the floor can positively affect the chances at victory. So it goes for Landry, the free-agent-to-be forward who came to Sacramento in the deal with Houston and New York last February in which the Kings sent Kevin Martin to the Rockets.
Landry was revered upon arrival, with the Kings lauding his penchant for clutch play late in games and the added toughness and post play he would bring. But after averaging 37.6 minutes in 28 games with the Kings last season, he is averaging just 27.6 minutes this season.
The cause is certainly tied to the logjam of big men, as the Kings have a glut up front just like they do at small forward with rookie DeMarcus Cousins playing well now and the likes of Dalembert and Jason Thompson seeing time. But if the Kings' absence from the free agent frenzy last summer wasn't enough to inspire Landry not to re-sign in Sacramento back then, the treatment he has received since then certainly is.
The market for Landry, as one source close to the Kings assessed it, would not be the problem. Nearly every playoff-contending team could use a proven scorer like him coming off the bench, and there's no risk involved because his $3 million expiring contract means it'd be nothing more than a short tryout. But since it seems unlikely that the Kings will not add to their league-low payroll, it comes down to whether anyone is willing to give up a draft pick(s) to rent him or swap expiring deals.
And as is the case with Casspi, the way things transpire on the court leading up to the trade deadline will have everything to do with the pressure to move the player. Landry doesn't love losing, of course, but he hates not playing even more.
Which takes us back to the Things-That-Make-You-Go-Hmmm department. Landry's Indianapolis-based agent, Andrew "Buddy" Baker, came through Sacramento just before Christmas to check in with his client and Petrie, then watched that night as Landry finish with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a season-high 37 minutes in a loss to Golden State on Dec. 21.
That was the first of three games (all losses) in which Landry played 30-plus minutes. He averaged 36 minutes in that stretch and started twice, this after he had played 30-plus minutes just twice since Nov. 21. Landry has been relegated as a reserve since then, averaging nearly 24 minutes in the four games since while the Kings have gone 2-2.
Only Petrie knows if he feels any pressure to get something in return for Landry simply because of how it could change perceptions of the Martin trade. Should Landry stay in Sacramento until this summer and then skip town, the Kings would have accomplished nothing more than getting away from Martin's money through that deal (combined $36 million from this season until 2013). That appeared to be the main motivation, to be sure, but the Kings netted no assets beyond Landry in return for Martin and are almost certain to lose him in July if they don't move him now.
If our conspiracy theories hold any weight (and only Westphal knows if they do), then Dalembert might qualify as the most likely Kings player to be moved.
And depending on how the next month plays out, I could almost see Petrie shipping Dalembert out for another player(s) with an expiring deal(s) who wouldn't play in a good-will type gesture. It would relieve the pressure if he still isn't playing while giving him a better chance to showcase himself to prospective employers.
As chronicled by Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee, Dalembert's agent, Marc Cornstein, was in town on Tuesday to see his free-agent-to-be client and check in with Petrie. But there was no similar spike in playing time, as Dalembert logged 18 minutes in a loss to Atlanta and was so ready for more action afterward that I saw him running on the treadmill in full jersey at the team's practice facility that's across from Arco Arena.
Then again, that was a spike in relative terms considering Dalembert played a combined 11 minutes in the previous two games. Dalembert, the nine-year veteran who is being paid $12.2 million this season, is averaging just under 20 minutes per game in what is his lowest playing time mark by far since he was a rookie.
While Cousins' progress has significantly impacted Dalembert's minutes, the veteran believes the two should play together more often. That has yet to happen consistently, though, and the truth is that the desperate need for size among so many potential suitors like Houston, Oklahoma City or Orlando could spark some very intriguing chatter between Petrie and his peers in the next seven weeks.
Again, the subtle pressure being applied from all these directions means you could probably assume that Westphal's handling of the playing time will do two things here: reveal the organization's internal totem pole as it relates to these players and lead to at least one of them being traded. Dalembert's camp is certainly disappointed by the current state of affairs, especially considering Cornstein tried so hard in recent years to get his client to Sacramento because he considered it such a good fit.
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