For all the negative sentiment they have recently received, let's give credit where credit is due.
Yesterday's news, via twitter of Jason Jones, that the Kings are in hot pursuit of Andrei Kirilenko, is a pleasant surprise, whether or not AK47 desires to make Sacramento his new home, or ultimately dismisses the Kings in favor of a more established or lucrative NBA destination.
But there is a larger implication in play than the Kings desire to return to competitive respectability.
The Maloofs are not insufferable brats, after all.
It has been easy in the last 6 to 12 months to make wise cracks about Joe, George and Gavin, their flawed and failed business dealings, their sneaky motives and affinity for Mickey Mouse land, their $5000 bottles of wine, their tacky wardrobes, their foot-in-mouth media quotes, their inherited and squandered wealth.
Admittedly, I have been first to chuckle.
And perhaps, now, in the spirit of the holiday season, and the desire to let bygones be gone, it is appropriate for Kings fans to be little less snarky, and a little more conciliatory.
Let me be the first to volunteer to make nice.
I didn't think Joe, George and Gavin would be willing to spend more than the $53.3 million they spent over the last 24 hours. They have committed formally to a 4-year deal with 28-year old forward Chuck Hayes (21.3 million total), and a 4 year deal with 23-year old guard Marcus Thornton (~$32 million total).
By analysis of most astute NBA observers, this will turn out to be money well spent, through subsequent individual achievement and contribution to team success.
The estimated $13.3 million in dollars outlaid for 2011-2012 ($53.3 total / 4 years), which could be greater if the contracts are front-loaded versus evenly weighted, takes the Kings close to the 80% spending floor of $58 million cap, or $46.4 million.
Prior to the signing MT23 and Chuckwagon, the Kings had a salary obligation of $31.75 million. Add to this total the $13.3 million ($31.75 + 13.3 = $45.05), and the Kings are very close to the required spending floor.
Any shortfall to the minimum, estimated currently at just $1.35 million, would be split evenly among the players on year-end roster, per terms of the new CBA agreement.
In other words, in one fell free-agent signing swoop, the Kings satisfied their spending obligation. And if so inclined, the Maloofs could close their checkbook for the remainder of the forthcoming 66-game NBA season.
And based on their well-publicized financial woes, I figured they would.
I thought the Kings were done throwing cash at significant talent, and as such, crossed Andrei Kirilenko off the top of my wish list.
But neither Geoff Petrie, nor the Maloofs, are done wishing. They are not done strategizing or pursuing. They are not done trying to make their team better.
Upon this realization and as devoted Kings fan for over 20 years, I emphatically declare, ‘right on’.
I have concerns about his passion and toughness (he missed games in Moscow recently because of a broken nose), but I am still a serious fan of Andrei Kirilenko.
As a 6’10", lean and quick 30 year old, AK47 has eye-opening agility and hops, impressive coordination and deceptive reaction time. There is no denying his talent, and his potential to be a terrific complementary fit to our collection of scorers.
Jimmer, JJ Hickson, Tyreke, Marcus and Big Cuz would welcome a new teammate that does not consume shots they would prefer to confidently launch. They would further embrace a new teammate that would forgive their defensive lapses with immediate assistance.
Kirilenko might be the best off the ball defender in the NBA not named Dwight Howard. He possesses incredible tenacity as an on-the-ball defender too. He fills the lane on the fast break like a gazelle chasing down the tastiest of wild beasts.
AK47 possesses a PER (player efficiency rating) differential of 6.7, qualifying for 27th best in the NBA last season. This statistic is significant because it separates the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and sorts NBA players close to a general consensus of perceived impact on the floor.
In other words, PER differential over the course of a season effectively combines contribution made on both ends of the court. It results in a list of NBA players sorted as to how they actually help you (or not) to win ball games.
What more could a stat geek want?
Statistics are imperfect, to be sure, but this ranking generally supports what an astute, non-statistician can witness with his own two eyes. And that’s why I refer to it.
Defensive PER 2010-11 Conclusion: Andrei Kirilenko does not let opponents score on him too often. He had the 5th best defensive PER, behind Iggy, D12, Luol Deng and LeBron:
Total PER 2010-11 Differential Conclusion: Andrei Kirilenko does a lot of the little things on the court, despite his sporadic shooting, to help you win games. He is the most likely player in the NBA to record a quintuple five (5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 5 blocks.)
Total PER differential has three unexpected names in Top 30 list below (Andrew Bynum, Rudy Gay, and Lou Williams), who would likely be excluded if minutes were increased. Otherwise, this list is fairly sequenced with those who ball best in the biz:
For fans questioning the ability of AK47, or his potential to make an impact, perhaps his ranking on this list will assuage your concerns. (To put this stat in context, no King had PER differential last season near the 6.7 of AK47. Only two Kings, in fact, had a positive number: Tyreke at 2.0 and Marcus at 1.8.)
Whether Kirilenko signs with the Kings or not, and we should know definitively in the forthcoming days of the free agent frenzy, kudos to the Maloofs for trying. Their words of promise were not hollow, after all.
The Maloofs are attempting to land a major talent at a significant price tag above the spending floor. And for that I commend them.
Joe and Gavin pockets are shallow, as their reduced ownership to 2% in the Palms best exemplifies. Yet they are not consumed with their disconcerting balance sheet. They have authorized spending. They are in aggressive pursuit of improvement through Geoff Petrie guided orchestration.
First, they expressed interest in Tyson Chandler, until he turned sights towards the Big Apple.
Second, they locked down a front court tough guy and back court point-making aficionado on the first day that opportunity allowed.
And now this. A legitimate contract offer to AK47 speculated (by me) at $33 million over 3 years, with team option for 4th season.
Peaches Napear confirms the Kings spending intentions, via twitter:
Team made a great offer (to AK47), now it's wait and see time.
Let's put these current pursuits into a broader context:
The Maloofs are not beyond reproach for their secretive dealings with a scheming suitor to the south. They have work to do, amends to make and loyalty to reciprocate to a community that has been nothing but loyal and supportive for many years. They have trust and confidence to regain that has been significantly eroded.
The drawn out threat to move to Anaheim last spring was an emotionally strenuous time for all Kings fans. And we are not out of the woods. Yet indications and tangible hope for a new arena are strong. Plenty of work remains. Yet collective momentum, influential sentiment and most of finances involved are in favor of a shiny, state of the art home in 3 to 4 years.
Meanwhile, the Maloofs appear to be embracing of these circumstances, striving to do what legitimate NBA owners do.
Grudgingly or not, Stern mandated or not, and ultimately does it really matter, the Maloofs are showing a willingness to make it work in Sactown. After two plus years of cost cutting, they appear committed to return to relevance, aspire to excellence, and gain competitive footing with the best in the NBA.
The pursuit of AK47 affirms this fact.
In lieu of these events, and in eager anticipation of an exciting season, I officially put to rest animosity targeted at our owners, and encourage even the most begrudging of fans to do likewise.
Besides, it’s time to win, baby.
The Maloofs will be cheering with all of us, high fiving and screaming in two weeks. They return to familiar court side seats, to a place they should never have contemplated permanent departure. A new trip is required, however, along the road to redemption.
If recent events are fair indication, they are taking the right steps.