In an interview with the Portland Tribune, Geoff Petrie opened up about his time with the Sacramento Kings. Or at least he opened up more than you might expect from Petrie. It's an article that stirred mixed emotions for me, and shed a little light on the last days of the Maloof ownership.
"With the exception of the last 3 to 3 1/2 years," Petrie says, "it was incredibly rewarding."
This seems like a bit of an obvious statement, but I guess I'm glad Petrie didn't enjoy those last few years. We often wondered if he even cared anymore, so I take some solace in Petrie's caveat.
"We just didn't have any (resources), really," Petrie says. "Most of the trades we made were to make money, and we did a lot of that. We were still trying to do things in terms of talent, too, but the economics were always at at the forefront."
This confirms a lot of what we knew. The perpetual argument at the end of Petrie's time as the Kings' GM was whether he had lost his touch or if he was simply hamstrung by financial concerns. We've previously heard that Thomas Robinson was drafted because Petrie and the front office weren't sure if the Maloofs would pay to re-sign Jason Thompson. The eventual trade of Robinson was also viewed as being out of financial necessity, although time has shown that the Kings might have recognized something in Robinson and cut ties early. The jury is still out.
But there were certainly deals that didn't make sense from a financial standpoint. The most obvious, of course, was when the Kings traded down three spots in the draft to acquire John Salmons. The argument at the time, an argument I'll admit I bought into, was that the Kings knew Jimmer Fredette would be available, so why not trade down, address the small forward position, and pay your rookie a little less? But the Kings sent Beno Udrih to Milwaukee, when Beno made less than Salmons, was on a shorter contract, and was a better player at the time. Post-trade, neither Beno nor Salmons shined, so the financials become even more important. It was a flabbergasting trade that added salary and failed to improve the team.
About the Maloofs, Petrie says:
"They were incredibly dynamic," Petrie says of the brothers. "It could go off the reservation at times, but in general, they could be really nice and were always respectful to me.
The Maloofs could go off the reservation at times? You don't say.
"When they fell on financial hard times, though, that changed a lot of things. Faced with the seriousness of the situation they had, anybody in the same place would have done a lot of the same things they did to survive. It's really unfortunate the set of circumstances that happened.
With all due respect, Mr. Petrie, this is where I can no longer give you the benefit of the doubt. You see, I believe that most people in the Maloofs' situation would handle it far differently. Like, if it was me, I wouldn't sell my beer distributorship, a profitable business enterprise, to maintain ownership of me fledgling NBA franchise that, by its very nature, loses money more years than it earns. NBA teams are toys for the rich. If I found myself in financial peril, I'd sell my toy.
And sure, eventually the Maloofs got so desperate that they tried to sell the team. But I again would handle it differently. I'd see if maybe there was a local investor in the community who wanted to purchase the team. Or someone who would keep the team in Sacramento, the city that supported the Kings even when the Maloofs' malicious intentions became clear. But that's just me.
"In spite of all that, you still feel completely responsible for the end result. We had some good drafts, but we weren't able to utilize all the pieces to keep on building a team.
Oh? You had some good drafts even during the tough final years? Let's take a look. DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas were obvious successes. And I guess Tyreke Evans was a success, in that e certainly was not a bust. But the rest of that resume? Omri Casspi, who never became what anyone expected and was eventually involved in one of Petrie's other worst trades. Don't worry, Bulls (who acquired the pick from the Cavaliers), we'll send that pick someday!
Hassan Whiteside. Tyler Honeycutt. The aforementioned Jimmer Fredette. Thomas Robinson. I can forgive the second rounders. Those are hit or miss. I won't knock Petrie too much for those, but then we also can't give too much credit for Isaiah. But Jimmer was the result of owning the 7th overall pick. Thomas Robinson the result of owning the 5th. Those are massive disappointments.
As for not being able to "utilize all the pieces to keep on building a team", that tells me that Petrie may have never recognized the issues at the end of his tenure. The roster never fit together. Players were drafted for their perceived talent, not their fit. And drafting is fine and dandy, but when you stop building a team, you stop being a good GM.
I'm fascinated to see how history reflects on Geoff Petrie, Sacramento Kings GM. He did a lot of good. He did a lot of bad. It's easy to excuse some of the mistakes based on the circumstances. Others not so much. But, as with all things, time will tell.
As for the interview, I recommend reading the whole thing. I've focused on but one element of the article, and this is as open as I think I've ever seen Petrie. He also talks about building teams as GM of the Trail Blazers, and talks about the glory-era Kings. Check it out.