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A Young Team With an Aversion to Youth

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The signing of Ime Udoka, like the signing of Desmond Mason before it, portends little for the Sacramento Kings. Udoka, like Mason, is an aging defensive roleplayer whose a bit of a drain on offense at a position where the Kings have plenty of talent. Udoka turned 32 years old last August, having only three seasons of real NBA experience. He served as Portland's starting small forward in the halycon Death to Z-Bo 2006-07, 32-win season. Udoka spent the last two seasons as a Bowen Memorial player off the bench in San Antonio. Portland brought him to camp this fall but cut him, and no one had been rumored to give him a serious nibble in the two weeks since.

Except Sacramento.

Before Udoka, the Kings could be considered deep at two positions: point guard (Tyreke Evans, Beno Udrih, Sergio Rodriguez) and small forward (Andres Nocioni, Omri Casspi, Desmond Mason, Donte Greene). The Kings have the youngest frontline (21-year-old Spencer Hawes and 23-year-old Jason Thompson) in the league, and one of those dudes led the entire NBA in fouls last season. Behind them, Sean May has proven to still be 15-20 pounds too heavy to be consistently effective, Kenny Thomas has proven to be too stonehanded to play more than spot duty, and Jon Brockman has rebounded his tail off but can't get consistent minutes. And all three of those dudes are undersized. At the two-guard, the Kings have literally no one but Kevin Martin (until Francisco Garcia returns sometime after the All-Star break, which is about 50 games away). Udrih, Evans and Casspi have all played at two-guard; it hasn't really worked out.

If the team is to sign a free agent right now, the player should do one of two things: fill a positional need (Udoka played the two forward positions exclusively last season, so he ain't a big or a two-guard) or add a real asset to the team's cupboard. A 32-year-old minimum-salary player no one else wanted is not an asset.

As I said back when I argued against the Mason signing, this team -- this young, building team -- needs to spend these roster spots, these minimum salary contracts on players with potential. The best-case scenario with Udoka is that he replaces Mason as the starter at small forward, allowing Nocioni to get back to his mixed-results PF/SF bench role, pushing Casspi back in the rotation and guaranteeing Greene's ticket to Reno. And at the end of the season, what has happened? You've put a used Band-Aid on a gushing wound, and the used Band-Aid a little closer to ruination.

That's the best-case scenario. What's the worst-case scenario if you sign a young big man or two-guard? Honestly? I mean, the team signed Bobby Brown (a young point guard prospect when the team was hurting at the position) last year, and the worst-case scenario came to fruition: the team had to trade him for expiring contracts. Brown had been absolutely awful ... and he was able to be traded despite a second year of guaranteed money. You don't have to guarantee a second season for these young cats. And they also happen to be a bit cheaper than your average Ime Udoka.

It's like Justin Williams getting caught in a threesome made Geoff Petrie and the front office scared of every D-League prospect in the country. It was a bad idea to sign an aging, without-promise Desmond Mason, and it's a bad idea to replace him with an aging, without-promise Ime Udoka. End the cycle!


When Mason is released -- and he will be -- it's going to be pretty sad to hear the send-off. I mean, what can the front office possibly say? "We didn't realize he was this bad, even though all data suggested he was really this bad." How do you justify signing a player for his leadership and defense ... and then signing his replacement five games into the season? It's absurd. Talent is the name of the game, and if Udoka has more talent than no less than two dozen D-League or European league players, call me Mary. Add in the age factor, and it's inconceivable as to why these decisions continue to be made. What's the plan here?