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Thomas Robinson trade: The final throes of the Maloofs' Kings

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The strip-mining operation in Sacramento gets one more blast of sand as the Maloofs attempt to extract any possible bit of value in their final days as NBA owners.

I asked several people connected to the team why on Earth this happened, this being the trade that sent Kings rookie Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt to the Rockets for Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas. Every single one replied that money was the driver. Because of course it is. Because until April at least, the Maloofs still own this God-forsaken operation we call a basketball team. And we know that when the Maloofs own something, they will suck it dryer than a London gin. In the great strip-mining operation that has been the Maloofs' ownership of the Kings, this is a final sand blast, a (hopefully) last chance as milking any last piece of profit out of what is now a giant hole on the ground. Kudos, Gavin and Joe. That $1 million will sure look nice on your mantle (until your debtors creditors come callin'.)

The deal's about more than $1 million -- look at the salaries in and out. The salaries coming in add up to $6.6 million this year. The salaries going out add up to $10.3 million. The season is two-thirds of the way through, so the Kings have already paid $6.9 million to the three ex-Kings. They would have owed them an additional $3.4 million. Instead, they'll pay the remainder of the new Kings' salaries, which comes out to $2.2 million. So there's another $1.2 million in savings. The Maloofs, who can reasonably be expected to pay this year's expenses as they'll own the team through the end of its season, actually make $2.2 million in this deal. Well done, old chaps. You've grown the team's talent crater and found yourself a few more quid! Success.

I hope that money is comfort when the Maloofs sit in their manses in Las Vegas or L.A. or wherever and watch the new era of the Kings, be it in Sacramento or Seattle, become ragingly successful thanks to "proper management" and "competitive investment." I hope that they consider it a worthy consolation prize as they come to grips with the reality that they will never ever ever ever ever ever ever own another major pro sports team in this country. Ever. I hope that as they Maloof their way through they take a moment to appreciate that prize of cold cash, and appreciate the expense of that everlasting quest for cold cash, the expense found in our furrowed brows and our auto-flagellated foreheads and our boiling blood and our leaden sighs. Every prize has its cost. The Maloofs' prize has for the past five years and potentially decades to come cost us our sanity. I hope it was worth it to you, Joe and Gavin.

Patrick Patterson is a good player. When you're trading the No. 5 overall pick as a rookie, you've got to do a helluva lot better than "good." Only four other top-five picks have ever been traded as rookies, according to Elias. Derrick Favors got traded for Deron Williams. Drew Gooden got traded for a player one year removed from the Rookie of the Year award (Mike Miller) and a first-round pick. Chauncey Billups got traded for a 27-year-old one-time All-Star (Kenny Anderson). Donyell Marshall got traded for a All-Rookie team, 17-ppg big man who would go on to make an All-Star team (Tom Gugliotta). Patrick Patterson didn't even make the Rising Star Challenge as a rookie or sophomore. An All-Star nod seems out of the question.

Further, even if Robinson never becomes better than Patterson -- if both only reach the level of average or still above-average, Robinson is the more valuable commodity on account of his price. Patterson has one more season before free agency. Robinson has three. If Patterson remains good, he'll cost something like Jason Thompson after next season. If Robinson improves to good, he'll be cheap through 2015-16. The rookie deal is a long wick that the Kings just doused in lighter fluid.

This is asset minimization. The Kings are well-versed in draining all assets of value -- might I remind you of the J.J. Hickson experience? -- but this edition was surprisingly effective. In just four months the Kings took an asset that was floated in rumors for Kyle Lowry or paired with Tyreke Evans and floated for Tony Parker ... and got Patrick Patterson out of it. Again, I like Patterson. But you trade a much lower value asset for something like Patrick Patterson. Not the very recent No. 5 pick, a kid that's working hard to improve and actually making gains. I mean, this trade is always going to be there. Buy the time to see if Robinson is worth keeping. Patterson's not going anywhere.

But you know, the profit margin isn't always going to be there, is it? Get it while you can, Joe and Gavin. You probably need it more than we do.