Thursday, February 24, 2005

Philadelphia Freedom

By Anthony Peretore

I woke up this morning to the news that Chris Webber was shipped to Philly. I immediately figured that some combination of Samuel Dalembert, Willie Green, Kyle Korver and a first round pick or two had to be involved. Nope. Kenny frickin’ Thomas, Corliss freakin’ Williamson, and Brian frackin’ Skinner for a five-time All-Star averaging 21.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 5.5 APG this season. To make this deal even more lopsided, the Kings decided to throw in 24 year-old Matt Barnes (and Michael Bradley), who has shown signs of becoming a valuable commodity off the bench. I couldn’t understand this at 7:30 A.M. and I understand it even less now, four and a half hours later.

Somewhere Billy King, Jim O'Brien and Allen Iverson are all smiling too

It’s obvious that Sacramento GM Geoff Petrie’s premise behind this deal was to restructure his team financially. Webber is due to make $17.M this season, $19.1M in 05/06, $20.7M in 06/07, and 22.3 in 07/08, a grand total of nearly $80 million over this four year span. During this same stretch of time, Thomas is due $22.3 million, Williamson $18.0M, and Skinner $20.7M for a total of a more manageable $61M. Since guys working at Target are making more than Barnes and Bradley, their contracts don’t really factor in. But think about it, saving $18M over four years only nets the Kings an additional $4.5M per season, allowing them to pursue in theory, a Rodney Rogers type player each off-season. So Petrie did unload C-Webb’s mammoth contract, but only to save mid-level exception money over the next few years. So what must Kings fans hope for? 1) That Thomas can fill some of the void created by Webber’s departure and that at just 27 years of age, there is still plenty of time for him to further develop. 2) This deal will help awaken Peja Stojakovic whose numbers are all down considerably from a year ago. It was widely known about Peja’s discontent with Webber in the lineup, which leads to, 3) The hope that the Kings can play like they did last year while Webber was nursing injuries. The team played significantly better without C-Webb last year going 43-15 in 58 games and just 12-12 after his return. All in all it appears now as if Petrie jumped the gun at ridding himself of Webber’s contract and in the mean time got back only marginal talent for an equally marginal amount of cap space. But, if the Kings start to play better (just 4-7 in February) and maybe even start to resemble last year’s group, everyone, including me, will be biting their tongues.

On the other side of the country, Sixers President Billy King is probably sleeping right now after completely his 2,500th cartwheel/back flip combination after this deal went down. Was a case of Heineken included in the deal? Did Petrie sleep with King’s wife? How did the Sixers ever pull this off after making countless deals over the past few years that have kept this team hovering around mediocrity? King has failed time and time again to bring in a player to compliment Allen Iverson. Now all of a sudden he could take three marginal players, all of basically the same position mined you, for an All-Star? This sets up Philly with a lineup of Iverson, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver, Webber and Dalembert with Barnes, Marc Jackson and Willie Green off the bench. If you think this team won’t win the Atlantic you’re crazy. King has basically locked up a three seed for his Sixers and potentially, a showdown with the Heat in the Conference Finals. The Kings on the other hand appear to be on the verge of a lower end seed in the West and yet another first/second round bounce. Maybe later today we’ll see Ray Allen get traded to the Celtics for Mark Blount, Yogi Stewart and a Bill Walton fanny pack.


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