Posted Sep 22 2010 11:11AM - Updated Oct 1 2010 2:35PM
The adjustment is more a rumbling seismic shift. An evolving, time-lapse version, yes, because it has been a year in coming, but make no mistake. The Kings are living a dramatic transformation.
Think they became more physical and aggressive in the summer of 2009? Try 2010, when the major trade added a shot blocker, the major draft decision brought in a sledgehammer interior presence and a secondary draft decision went to another shot blocker with the kind of upside that makes him a good bet to stick as a second-round choice.
That isn't a coincidental series of transactions. It's a statement.
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This was the offseason president Geoff Petrie officially altered his thinking, and if Petrie's philosophy has changed, the Kings have changed. It's nothing less than a major policy shift in the wake of consecutive last-place finishes in the Pacific Division -- "I guess the answer to that would be yes, because we did [the moves]," he said when asked if he agrees with the change-of-direction premise -- that has changed the traditional franchise approach toward skill and finesse over muscle.
It started a year ago. They drafted physical point guard Tyreke Evans at No. 4, hard-nosed small forward Omri Casspi at No. 23 and physical power forward Jon Brockman at No. 38 and immediately felt the benefits, going all the way from 29th in the league in rebounding percentage in 2008-09 to 12th last season. It was impressive. But it wasn't enough.
"When we finished last season, I still wanted to improve the size and the strength and the talent level of our front line," Petrie said.
The major trade: Spencer Hawes, the incumbent center, and forward Andres Nocioni were sent to the 76ers for Samuel Dalembert as Hawes' replacement. Hawes, skilled on offense. Dalembert, seventh in the NBA in blocks plus 9.6 rebounds a game in 25.9 minutes, modest burn for a starter. The Kings got the bonus of dodging Nocioni's contract with two years and $14.15 million remaining, and there's no declaration of endless love with Dalembert in the final season of his contract, but it was a move for size and defense.
The major draft decision: Whatever questions surrounded previous lead picks -- Evans, Jason Thompson, Hawes, Quincy Douby, Francisco Garcia, Kevin Martin -- there were no doubts about their drive. DeMarcus Cousins: major doubts. Regarded by many teams as the second-best talent on the board, he slipped to No. 5 because executives saw risk in someone who struggled so mightily with maturity and passion to play. That made him such an un-Petrie selection and a greater risk than choosing Evans for point guard despite very limited previous experience at the position. But the Kings wanted the serious muscle that went with Cousins' considerable skills, so risk away.
The secondary draft decision: Under the radar but noteworthy anyway: 7-footer Hassan Whiteside, another center, another rookie center who needs to mature, but also a shot blocker.
The kicker is that it has all been authored by Petrie, the guy who built the Kings into championship contenders at the top of the 2000s with an offense that ran through the inside because Vlade Divac and Chris Webber were exceptional passers and could drain jumpers. When Petrie moved to replace Divac, it was with Brad Miller and a similar game, and then Hawes and the same. Cousins has the basketball DNA to become another very good passer, but Cousins' power is the real appeal. Getting Cousins, getting Dalembert, getting Whiteside, all a summer after adding Evans, Casspi and Brockman (though Brockman left for the Bucks this offseason) is a concerted effort to get more physical.
"I think that's fair," Petrie said. "I think that's definitely fair."
Under Contract: F Omri Casspi, C Samuel Dalembert, G Tyreke Evans, F Francisco Garcia, F Donte Greene, F Carl Landry, F Jason Thompson, G Beno Udrih
Free Agents: F Dominic McGuire (restricted), F Ime Udoka (unrestricted)
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