That didn't turn out too well!
J.J. Hickson was a particularly difficult acorn to chisel through three years with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He looked awesome as a starter in the LeBron James whirlwind ... and mediocre as a featured scorer in the post-King malaise. We hoped that the Sacramento Kings had traded for the edition that could excel playing off of high-usage Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. Our hopes might as well have been snowflakes in the Gobi. We somehow got a version of Hickson worse than anyone had ever imagined.
On one hand, the entire escapade is indefensible. There's no gilding the lily. There's no crediting Geoff Petrie for excising a player who has turned sour. Because Petrie did not fall into the sunken costs black hole does not warrant commendation. He put himself and the team in this position, either by not doing due diligence on Hickson's attitude and performance, or by taking the risk anyway.
On the other hand, teams stuck at the bottom need to take calculated risks.
Bad attitudes tend to be wildly overblown in the NBA. We know this better than most fans, given the DeMarcus Cousins Reputation Experience. Hickson was a full-time starter on a 60-win team! He had decent offensive numbers in 2009-10, and even at his individual nadir (last season) was a really good rebounder. The salary wasn't an issue, the player exchanged (Omri Casspi) wasn't the issue. The only risk was that draft pick. You'll notice that in the post and most of the comments from June 30, the only hesitation in endorsing the move was based on the pick.
Welp, there goes that pick.
The buy-out of Hickson on Monday ensures that the Kings will have gotten nothing -- nothing -- out of the trade of that pick. What a drag. There's really no way to navigate around how much this sucks for Petrie, either. You can't play it off as just a mid-first pick -- other teams actually do stuff with the lower first-round picks. (The Kings under Petrie used to be one of those teams. It's been a while, though.) You can't really keep blaming Paul Westphal (though I fully expect some reporting to soon turn up saying that Westphal really, really, really, really, really wanted to trade Casspi). If you argue that the Kings won't lose the pick for a couple years, you're reminding fans that the team still isn't close to being a playoff club. If you say that Sacramento doesn't need more young players anyway ... well, you can say that. And you'd be ignoring the incredible value of good players on rookie contracts.
As I wrote last week, Hickson quickly became a real pickle for Petrie as the deadline approached. Now that J.J. is gone, explaining what happened is Petrie's new pickle. We'll see if his head pops out to assess the wreckage in the next couple of days.