When Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie recently said he was "very, very open" when it came to trade talks, it was largely because the door has already closed on this season.
There is no need to hold onto veterans for a playoff push, nor is there reason to think anyone besides Kevin Martin couldn't be living in a new zip code in these next few weeks. With 15 days left until the trade deadline, there is desperation within the organization to start the resuscitating process. The tricky part is to not act out of desperation.
There is added pressure as the Kings' trades thus far in this rebuilding era have yielded little in return. The Mike Bibby trade last February was largely seen as a positive, with the Kings not only absolving themselves of Bibby's $15.2 million salary for this season but making way for the breakout of Beno Udrih. But a year later, Udrih's five-year, $32 million contract signed during the summer has become another albatross on the team's salary cap, and he is among those being discussed in a flurry of trade talks.
The Ron Artest trade with Houston decimated this team from a competitive standpoint. For all of Artest's misgivings, his fiery ways sometimes served as a dysfunctional leadership for a team that now lacks leaders. What's more, the Kings' defense without him has plummeted to league-low depths while the significant rebuilding piece acquired in return – rookie small forward Donté Greene – rarely plays.
There is still hope for the Kings' deals to produce positives. Greene could develop into the dynamic player they believe he can be, and they will have Houston's No. 1 draft pick in June that – while lottery-protected – is on pace to fall somewhere in the 20s.
They also have three trade exceptions by way of that deal worth a combined $1.8 million. Artest's exception is worth $912,112, and those of former Kings second-round picks Sean Singletary and Patrick Ewing Jr. – who were also sent to Houston – worth $442,114. In essence, these trade exceptions – part of what is also dubbed non-simultaneous trades – are assets the Kings acquired at the time of the trade and have until an Aug. 14 deadline to collect on. They offer flexibility in trades and allow teams to take back more salary than they send out in a deal.
But the Kings have yet to find a deal to their liking. League sources continue to indicate they are among the most active teams in trade talks, and most expect at least one move to be made. With a front-office team of Petrie, vice president of basketball operations Wayne Cooper and assistant general manager Jason Levien doing the inquiring, it is unclear which King – if any – will be first to go.
Swingman John Salmons is believed to be drawing the most interest among the players who are potentially available. Two league sources said in recent days that Oklahoma City has expressed a strong interest in the seventh-year player. The Thunder has offered the $4.8 million expiring contract of veteran forward Joe Smith in the deal, although it is not known if Oklahoma City is willing to part with draft picks or perhaps a younger player in return.
Udrih may be on his way out as well, as Dallas is believed to have inquired about him as a possible backup for Jason Kidd with the pieces coming to Sacramento likely including Jerry Stackhouse (this season and next for a combined $14.3 million). Udrih may draw interest from New Orleans or Orlando as well. Both teams just saw their top-tier points guards (Chris Paul and Jameer Nelson, respectively) go down with serious injuries and could shop for a stop-gap solution.
Then there's Brad Miller. While the value of the Kings center seemingly has declined with his inability to replicate the strong season he had in 2007-08, he could find himself wearing a new jersey soon.
League sources said Miller remains in the mix for a possible deal with Miami involving Shawn Marion (expiring contract worth $17.1 million) and Kings forward Kenny Thomas, as the Kings are believed to be among three teams considered as trade partners by the Heat. Miller also could be sent to Chicago if the Bulls are unable to land a higher-profile big man.
The list goes on from there and includes veteran forward Mikki Moore, who told The Bee recently that his old Nets bosses informed him of their desire to bring him back. The Nets also offered a deal for third-year guard Maurice Ager in exchange for third-year Kings guard Quincy Douby earlier this season.
As Petrie made clear with the trade deadline drawing closer, the Kings are open for business.