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How Andres Nocioni Figures Into It All

In case you missed it, Andres Nocioni renewed his displeasure with the state of the Kings, and told Spanish-language media he won't return to the Kings, either because he will have been traded or because he will take a buy-out to escape his lucrative contract.

Part of what made Nocioni a decent acquisition (aside from the cap savings in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons) is that this is who he is. He wants to play, and he'll fight to be on the court. Maybe his game as a bit of what Tim Thomas' would define as "fugazy" -- a lot of El Chapu's so-called defensive prowess is the old Coach K bit: Nocioni scowls and beats his chest and gets in his defensive crouch. He actually quite mediocre on defense. He sags off his man way too much, and his lateral quickness leaves much to be desired.

But I digress. I was trying to compliment him, wasn't I?

Oh, right, he's tough. He's spirited. He's a competitor. You can't fault him for that. Perhaps you can fault him for taking his displeasure so public for the second time in a year. (He made similar comments at the tail end of the thrilling 17-win '08-09 season.) But again: his career is more than halfway over, and his current team continues to stockpile 21-year-olds. I see where he's coming from.

In the end, to get his freedom, it will likely take sacrifice from Nocioni to leave town. The only trade Nocioni could be involved in would be the Kings moving down in the draft (packaging their own No. 5 pick with Nocioni for a team in the late lottery or thereabouts) or taking on a bad contract. As we've been over ad nauseum, Geoff Petrie isn't a fan of trading down. If he likes a player who'd be available at No. 10, he will pick that player at No. 5 without hesitation. We also understand the team isn't likely to take on a bad contract, mostly because bad contracts almost universally belong to veterans, and the team is focused on building through youth.

That leaves the buy-out, which would entail Nocioni giving up a substantial sum of future salary for the opportunity to sign elsewhere. It sounds good on paper, but getting players to relinquish cash is easier said than done. And really, to make it worth Sacramento's while, Nocioni needs to give up at least half his salary. He's owed $13.5 million over two seasons. When you consider Nocioni can be traded but his salary couldn't be in the event there's a buy-out, couple with the obvious fact that Nocioni's production (however middling and apparently superfluous) would be unavailable in the case of a buy-out ... it's not like the Kings can take a couple million in cash savings and cut him loose.

Well, they could, but they'd have a really hard time justifying it.

We're almost to the point where we need to decide whether the Nocioni trade was a failure. To do that, I'm afraid we need real answers about how deep into financial trouble the Maloofs were in 2009, and how much better things got this season. And I'm afraid those answers will never fully come out.