By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Feb 19 2009 7:38AM
The Sacramento Kings are the latest NBA team to engage in cost-cutting moves that will pare money from the team's books next season.
The Kings agreed on Wednesday to a trade that sends forward John Salmons and center Brad Miller to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for forwards Drew Gooden and Andres Nocioni, according to league sources. The deal will reduce Sacramento's obligations next season, saving the Kings millions on the salary cap and keeping them well under any potential luxury tax payments. Gooden, making $7.15 million this season, will likely come off the team's cap after this year, and now, the team is free of the $5.4 million due to Salmons in 2009 and the $12 million due to Miller in '09.
Sacramento also got Michael Ruffin and Cedric Simmons in the deal, but immediately traded Ruffin to the Portland Trail Blazers for forward Ike Diogu and cash. The Kings then waived guard Quincy Douby and veteran Sam Cassell, acquired on Tuesday from Boston, to make room for their new players.
This will be Miller's second go-round in Chicago; he signed as a free agent with the Bulls in 2000 and played two-plus there before being traded to Indiana in a deal that also sent Ron Artest to the Pacers in exchange for Jalen Rose.
"I'm definitely excited for the opportunity to go home and go to a team that I've already played for," said Miller, an Indiana native. "I have a lot of friends and family back there. The Bulls are right on the verge of getting into the playoffs, and winning is something very important to me right now."
Salmons, a versatile swingman and Sacramento's second-leading scorer with 18.3 points, also could be a prominent contributor in Chicago.
Sacramento will absorb the remaining four years and $28.4 million on Nocioni's contract, but Nocioni's contract actually goes down after next season, when he's scheduled to make $7.5 million, to $6.8 million in 2010 and $6.6 million in 2011 before going back up to $7.5 million in the final season -- a season that will be the Kings' option to pick up.
Nocioni, the two-time Argentine Olympian, averaged 10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds for the Bulls this season. While forward Luol Deng seemed dismayed by the trade of Nocioni, his good friend, other Bulls were excited by the move, with Ben Gordon saying it shows the franchise's commitment to a playoff run.
"I like him a lot," Gordon said. "He's a great passer, has a great feel for the game, and I think he can make it a lot easier for guys."
Sacramento might be interested in re-signing Gooden, a Northern California native who has been pursued by the club several times in recent years. He's averaging 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds, but hasn't played since Jan. 19 because of a groin injury.
Kings interim coach Kenny Natt was excited to land Gooden after they worked together in Cleveland earlier in their careers.
"We grew as a team, and it was a very similar situation to this," Natt said. "We both know what it's like to struggle. He's a versatile guy at the (power forward) spot. He can score in the post, score on the perimeter and pass the ball. He's a legitimate double-double guy."
The Kings have gotten good financial news all week. They traded a future second-round pick to Boston for Cassell on Monday in a deal that will net Sacramento approximately $500,000. And yesterday, the Kings learned that the league will grant them financial relief on the remaining two seasons on the contract of forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who has retired after years of knee problems. Because he hasn't played this season, the league will allow insurance to pay 80 percent of his remaining salary. So while he'll stay on the team's books, its out-of-pocket payments will be reduced significantly.
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With second-year center Spencer Hawes and rookie forward Jason Thompson playing big minutes for Sacramento, Miller was a luxury. And Salmons' good play this season made him a candidate to be moved, with Dallas in hot pursuit for several weeks. The Mavericks had hoped to entice Sacramento with the contract of guard Jerry Stackhouse, who is guaranteed only $2 million of his $7.2 million salary next season (Stackhouse would get the full amount if his team wins the NBA title, unlikely in the extreme if he had been sent to the Kings).
Miller's presence could conceivably clear the way for Chicago to move one of its young pivotmen, either Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah, in another deal. Thomas was part of a package the Bulls were trying to move to Phoenix for forward Amar'e Stoudemire, but the Suns have indicated in recent days that they're more likely to keep Stoudemire now that they've replaced former coach Terry Porter with assistant Alvin Gentry.
The Bulls have also been looking to cut costs for next season, and have been shopping Nocioni hard for months. Chicago is still looking for a suitor for Larry Hughes, who has essentially been deactivated from the team in the last month by coach Vinny Del Negro while management seeks a deal for him. Sources indicate Hughes could still potentially be sent to Washington in exchange for guard Mike James and center Etan Thomas if the Bulls don't make any other big deals.
No matter what the Bulls do with Hughes, they've set themselves up to be significant players in the summer of 2010, when the free agent class headed by LeBron James, Chicago native Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh comes up. By getting rid of Nocioni's contract, the Bulls have less than $36 million committed to salaries for the 2010-11 season, and could add one or two top-shelf free agents to go with rookie point guard Derrick Rose, small forward Luol Deng and whichever of the bigs among Thomas and Noah are still around.
That $36 million doesn't include guard Gordon, who's an unrestricted free agent this summer, but who may find the market challenging after turning down a five-year, $50 million offer from Chicago last year. The Bulls will try to re-sign Gordon, but even if he were to leave, they'll have Salmons -- averaging 18 points a game this season -- to step in at shooting guard next year.
As for Portland, it moved Diogu to acquire Ruffin, who hasn't played this season while recovering from a sprained left ankle and an Achilles' tendon injury. Ruffin practiced with the Bulls last week, however.
The Blazers also gained a $3 million trade exception to be used within the year.
Diogu, who joins his fourth NBA team, has barely played since the Blazers acquired him in a trade with Indiana last summer.
ESPN.com first reported the discussions between the Kings and Bulls.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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