Full disclosure, I had intended to write this prior to the draft but, out of an irrational fear of the Kings subsequently selecting Ekpe Udoh, and further remembering a premature piece I’d attempted to write several years ago about the Kings having representatives from 4 of the 5 NYC boroughs on their roster in anticipation of their drafting Joakim Noah, only to watch him land in Chicago, I decided to hold off until post-draft. Of course writing now, realistically, there’s the risk of irrelevance, but when the options are Cousins or irrelevance, given that the alternative, not taking Cousins, could have been a harbinger of the Kings’ irrelevance, I’m comfortable immersing in the now immaterial.
In the weeks leading up to last two Thursdays ago there was some conversation on whether or not Monroe and Cousins were comparable talents. The logic was that while Cousins had the better objective skill-set and broader body of work (a broader body in a shorter period of time no less) Monroe, in a situation that would accentuate his subtle skills, could be the better pro. The extended argument was that Sacramento was one such situation. And in a vacuum that argument wouldn’t be misguided. Petrie, after all, made a career off finding undervalued and/or underappreciated players badly miscast in systems that didn’t utilize their unique abilities and, often for 50 cents on the dollar, brought them to Sacramento where they flourished. And it was here where those players became, only naturally, subsequently overvalued. Remember it was not all that long ago that analysts, when discussing the Hedo-Pollard-Miller trade, said Sacramento had effectively given up Hedo to get, in Miller, the same player as Pollard. That subsequent season Miller was an All Star who carried the Kings to the second round of the playoffs. It was also not all that long ago that Petrie was criticized for not being committed to winning by those same analysts because he didn’t want to overpay Jim Jackson.
In the good old days of the Kings Petrie had come as close as a General Manager could to running an NBA team the way one runs an NFL team. Petrie had a system; a coach who understood the system; and an assistant coach/mentor more or less responsible for creation of said system; in place.
The only other General Managers that came close to having that sort of cohesion and autonomy were RC Buford and Joe Dumars. I find Dumars and Petrie to be intriguing foils for one another. In the era prior to the current days of swashbucklers like Morey/Pritchard/Presti, Buford/Dumars/Petrie were the league’s most lionized GM’s. Primarily for their ability to find fit where others found fissures. While Buford has heretofore avoided any rough patches both Petrie and Dumars have, particularly recently, confronted considerable adversity. And their varying approaches to said adversity, and the current state of their respective franchises, was crystallized, to me, in this year’s draft process.
Cousins, not unlike Monroe with Sacramento, was deemed to be a natural for Detroit. And, not unlike Monroe with Sacramento, that fit seemed in relation to historic, and not current, interpretations of the roster. No one could look at the current Kings roster, with Evans and Casspi and Thompson and Brockman, and see the modern workings of the Princeton 2.0. And similarly one would be hard pressed to look at Detroit in present format, with Gordon and Daye and Villaneuva and Kwame, and see the second coming of the Play the Right Way Pistons. Ironically, or not ironically, but at least interestingly, Cousins and Monroe ultimately made the most sense for the present directions of the respective franchises that drafted them. Dumars may have liked Cousins because he resembled what the Pistons were, but Cousins isn’t what the Pistons are. Sacramento saved Dumars from himself. And after spending the better part of the past decade being relevant because they were likeable, or unlikeable because they were irrelevant, the Kings, with their roster of one and done wonders and demonstrative big men suddenly, and refreshingly, have the chance to be relevant because they’re unlikable.
And does any of this mean anything in the end? Tough, and too early, to tell. I just know I’d rather end the day in a cop car then start it in one.