The trade deadline is over. The dust settled and a mostly intact Sacramento Kings roster remains; the swap of Ramon Sessions for Andre Miller notwithstanding.
Here’s the problem: The roster remains mostly intact.
The Kings have no assets and were unable to move Jason Thompson, its ineffectual starting power forward under contract for another season. He’s been on the block for the past few seasons, to no success. If George Karl is serious about Rudy Gay earning more time at the PF position, that will reduce Thompson’s role going forward.
The off season is vital in building the Kings’ inside presence, either through free agency or the draft. Come April, the Kings can stop paying Reggie Evans and Ryan Hollis, while giving Derrick Williams’ agent the task of finding him a qualifying offer (fingers crossed). Here’s a potentially cap-friendly idea:
Offer Larry Sanders a one-year contract.
That’s right: The soon-to-be former Milwaukee Buck, who spent the 2014-15 season fluctuating between earning a massive contract extension and then paying sums out due to suspensions for violating the NBA’s drug policy.
I know, he’s a drug-smoking head case that deserves to be in prison—thanks for your petty, discriminatory input, Mr. Closet Racist. He’s also racked up some undeniable stats by the age of 26; triple-double on November 30, 2012 (third triple being 10 blocks); 201 blocks in the 2012-13 season; career high 25 points on 12 of 19 shooting in 2013-14 season; and a slew of other block and rebound-related high water marks that haven’t been met by a Bucks player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired.
On paper, he is precisely what the Kings lack in the interior: a lanky, defensive-minded shot-blocker that when he applies himself has gobbled up 20 rebounds in a night.
Did I mention he’s only 26? Two years a junior to Thompson. A comparison to keep in mind: Sanders hasn’t played a game since December 23. He has 39 blocks and averaged 6.1 rebounds on the season. Jason Thompson through the All-Star break has 31 blocks ( only earned 17 by December 23) and averages 6.3 rebounds.
There are negatives besides the drug violations. The Kings would be adding another hot head to the interior, creating a Hydra of foul-mouths that draw a deeper ire from officials with every disapproving glance and shouted request of “and 1”. It would not bode well for the general impression of the Kings even in a home court setting.
There’s also the problem of injuries, and he’s yet to play a full season—accumulating only 50 appearances since the 2013-14 season. But, he’d also be joining DeMarcus Cousins, a player intent on changing the narrative of his life on the court from temper-prone manchild to the premiere NBA center, All-Star, and Gold Medal Olympian.
Yes, Sanders gave a sorry-not-sorry, “it’s something I feel strongly about” statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after being suspended in 2014, going on to say “It’s a banned substance in my league. But I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it. I know what it is if I’m going to use it.” Being a professional athlete and advocate is a difficult position. It’s one matter to wear an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt during warm-ups. Choosing to advocate the legalization of marijuana is NBA career suicide, which oddly enough makes Sanders a valuable ally for pot. His position is costing him millions, and yet he persists, mostly. Recently he told Yahoo Sports he would end his marijuana use and move forward with his career.
It’s clear he’s been told by his inner circle it must be one or the other. He is unfortunately too far ahead of the times in his beliefs. With two states having legalized marijuana and the looming feeling of further legalization, this issue ostracized an otherwise serviceable player who’d be playing on a playoff-bound team and contributing. He’s being vilified in some regard, much like what was done to Ricky Williams in the NFL and continues to happen to other players. If I keep going down this path it ultimately ends with racially motivated inconsistencies in regards to athletes and their off court behavior.
Sanders, despite public opinion, is a family man two sons and a daughter. In his spare time, he designs skateboards—a.k.a., he’s hella Sacramento already.
Vivek and the Kings are pushing this NBA 3.0 business model. What if we kept pushing that upgrade of the NBA to 4/20?
If I were joking I’d say make former center Brad Miller head of the 4/20 department. In sincerity*, if Charles Oakley is to be believed, and 60 percent of the NBA smokes weed, then let’s be the franchise that addresses a league issue like its done in the information age—with awareness.
Sign Larry Sanders in California, a state close to legalization and where the mind set is more chill toward pot. Ideally, the franchise could rewrite his story of advocacy for health reasons. Cut the archaic and altruistic message of D.A.R.E. and let an athlete be real with kids—just like you don’t touch your parent’s pain medication, stay away from that other prescription unless you doctor gives it to you.
Yeah… it will never work. In the least, be the franchise willing to recognize another player, like your current star center, in need of a narrative reconstruction, troubled young man rather than criminal with a pro contract. It’s a stretch, but you get a guy at a position you need and you get the opportunity to do some good for a young person who’s being vilified for a substance that looks to be nearing its end of criminalization.
*Much of this essay was informed by the work of Sam Riches in his piece “Everybody Knows NBA Players Smoke Marijuana”.