March 3, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Tyreke Evans (13) steals the ball and takes it down court in front of Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) and shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) during the first quarter of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Sam Amick of SI.com put to
paper pixels what others had murmured: the Sacramento Kings have replaced Tyreke Evans at the top of podium with DeMarcus Cousins, and would now be open to trading the guard to expedite the team's grueling rebuild. Two years ago, Tyreke was a kid good enough to get a bad coach and a flailing GM contract extensions. Now, he's apparently gone out of style.
Ain't this a tidy little mess? The fact that this rumor is out there, published by the man who's been more accurate on Kings personnel matters over the last six years than anyone else, is damning enough. I speak for myself and not the other front page writers of Sactown Royalty, and I certainly don't speak for the community as a whole. This is not an echo chamber, and I appreciate that there is a spectrum of opinions on everything Kings, from the arena deal to the parade of coaches to the big boss himself.
But for me, this is coddamn sickening.
If this is real, the atom collider that is our front office has spun out of control. Geoff Petrie is an amazing politician. He has largely ducked all levels of accountability for the fine situation this franchise finds itself in, with only a slice of his excuses seeming valid. Sure, he's been strapped by the financial difficulties of ownership. No one denies that. But if Petrie didn't like playing by the rules, he wouldn't have a) signed a three-year extension in late 2009 and b) taken a steep discount to do so. Petrie entered the 2009-10 season with the club already knee-deep in the thrift era ... and he chose to stick around for a discount. Complaints from his camp that Petrie's hands have been tied should be judged accordingly.
Evans' rookie success saved Petrie's reputation, if not his job. (The Maloofs are so unpredictable that we'll never know that if the 2009-10 Kings had started the way they finished whether Petrie would have been kept. His contract was set to expire on June 30, 2010, before the contract extension was inked in December 2009.) And now, it's on to the next flavor. I can't fault Petrie for caring more about Cousins than Evans at this point -- it's a rational move, and the instinct for self-preservation is strong -- but the apparent haste to abandon that which gave the team life is just ... bizarre.
Did we learn nothing from the Spencer Hawes ordeal? Youth takes time to develop. Impatience is rarely rewarded in the NBA, and half-baked plans to hit fast forward on rebuilds are even less likely to bear fruit. Does anyone -- anyone -- think that replacing Evans with any one player who is legitimately in play in a Tyreke trade will put this team on a path toward contention?
Consider the reason Evans was moved to small forward this season: because the last player Petrie thought would make a big difference, John Salmons, was an abject disaster, surprising ... almost no one. Evans wasn't demoted -- Isaiah Thomas was promoted, and Salmons was demoted. That's the fact of it at least. Evans is still a starter, still taking plenty of shots, running plenty of the offense, stepping into plenty of the top defensive assignments. Evans' position was shifted primarily because Petrie's last big move (losing Beno Udrih, who played well with Evans, and adding Salmons) was a total failure.
And now we have chatter about not even offering Tyreke an extension in July, letting him get to restricted free agency in 16 months (!) and getting something for him before he leaves. It's unreal. Five players in NBA history averaged 18 points, five assists and five rebounds through age 22 while playing at least 100 games: one-time All-Star Alvan Adams, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. (Yeah, we're playing that game again.) That injury season last year? He damn near hit 18-5-5. This season, in which his star doesn't shine quite enough? 17-5-5. No one is glad that he hasn't made the leap. No one is thrilled that he's not as productive as he was back as a rookie. But let's have some perspective as to why he and this team are in the position that they are in. Be prudent, be patient and tread lightly. Let us not send this franchise back to the starting line of a rebuild again.