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If we're talking about rebuilding, we're talking to Geoff Petrie.
He is, after all, the rebuilder.
The Kings basketball president and I sat down over lunch in early October to talk big picture about his team, and I've made it my personal mission to share all of that interview because, well, the fans don't often hear from him like this. He talked past, present, and future, with some of his thoughts in Sunday's season preview story and some more in today's Q&A that was in the paper.
But the blogosphere being what it is - unlimited space - you'll find below the audio file of the near 25-minute interview from Bella Bru in Natomas (pardon the background music) and below that the transcription of the entire interview. One disclaimer on the audio file: if you listen intently you'll hear two spots where the file was clearly edited, as a few irrelevant ramblings on my part were cut out. After all, if you're here you're here to hear Petrie.
And one note about the interview itself I found most interesting: When Petrie - who is entering his 16th season with the Kings - discusses his future, he has repeatedly said that he plans to continue to work beyond this season "in some form." This is a man who picks his words more wisely than most, and I continue to perceive that qualifier as a potential indication that he could be back next season as GM or perhaps as a guy with a different role. Pure speculation on my part and I don't think even Petrie himself knows the outcome, as we're all at the guessing game point right now. (Click 'read more' to hear/see interview)...
Q: I wanted to chat to have you put it into words, to talk about the direction and the motivations and how you're going to continue to get this thing on track.
A: Well, the immediate plan is to continue to work on the improvement and growth with our younger players, and hopefully we'll get a bounce off of last season and the experience of last season will be positive in the sense that the younger guys who played a lot of minutes will come in and be better for that and grow forward even more. You throw that in with our draft this year, and our younger veterans. We're still trying to develop a core that starts to improve, that you can start to be a little more selective in what you need to add.
Having said that, there's still two critical areas - important areas, anyway - that somewhere along the line are going to play a factor, and that's trading and free agency. Just trying to go it alone by drafting only, unless you get the No. 1 pick in a year where there's LeBron James or Tim Duncan or a player like that and are fairly obvious that that's what they're going to be, it can be a longer road.
So how and when those other pieces happen or things that will come up along the way... But in the meantime, the immediate focus is on the development of the team we have, certainly letting Paul have a chance to mold the team with his own identity in terms of the sense of how he wants the team to play. I'm sure as we go along and he gets more familiar with the group we have, and gets a real handle on the players from his perspective that we have, we'll have discussions about things that he would want to do.
Q: The coaching part of it is very big in the equation, and you guys have been through the ringer for a number of years now. I know you're still watching Paul and seeing what he does day to day and making your own opinion, but it seems like there's a sense of comfort there already that maybe wasn't there before. Do you already in some sense know that this is the guy who really can be with you guys as you take this journey?
A: I just think his demeanor, his knowledge, his consistency that he's shown in the practices and with the players just reinforces all the reasons why we hired him and why he was successful before. He's great to work with. We're from basically the same generation, so we know all the same songs. That's always a good thing (laughs).
Q: Are you as huge a Dylan fan as he is?
A: I'm a Dylan fan (laughs).
Q: I heard Paul wrote a song. Did you know that? Of all people, Carmichael Dave mentioned that to Paul. Somehow he had heard that. You guys have got to colloborate (Petrie plays guitar).
A: Maybe he'll stand up and sing.
Q: And you can get on that guitar...
A: I just think he'll have an impact on the team going forward. It'll take some time and you have to have some patience. But on a daily basis, he's great to work with, and he's totally committed to coaching and doing it the right way. And I think he's enjoying himself too.
Q: The message doesn't get out to the public as much that there's a certain percentage of this that is very normal. You guys weren't able to win a championship like you hoped to, but you got pretty high on the mountain and then you don't sustain forever. Fair statement? Is that how you see it?
A: I think in the modern world, that that's fair because of the way that the salary cap rules are, and the draft rules are. It's really hard to just turn a team around on a dime immediately without some fortuitous set of circumstances. But on the other hand, at least if you're rebuilding, to me that's different than building, because if you're rebuilding that means you were once good. As opposed to the five-year plans in communist Russia where they never worked but they kept having five-year plans. (laughs) But still, the thing is to do it as soon as possible and as quickly as (you can) as opportunities present themselves that will help you get there.
Q: We've discussed your contract, but (as far as) your career and your life and where you're at, you said last summer that the initial goal was to stick around at least long enough to get this team to the playoffs. Is that still how you feel?
A: I told you last week, my intention is to keep working in some form. It's hard for me to think much beyond today and tomorrow and the team we have now.
Q: The health has to be a factor, because you've been through so many things.
A: My health is fine. I don't feel any different, really. Everybody has a few bumps along the way, but I don't feel any different than I did 10 years ago really.
Q: You talk about rebuilding through the draft and needing to keep your eyes out for other things, and...last year before the (trade) deadline...if you're looking at a scenario like (Phoenix big man) Amare (Stoudemire), and the fact that it sounded as if you could go out and get a somewhat marquee player if you gave up somebody like a Jason Thompson or a draft pick...That showed an unwillingness to give up young pieces, so you're standing between two worlds. You look for the big opportunities but you don't want to lose what you have going either.
A: That's not totally accurate. One of the issues that everybody has to deal with is that conversations around the trading deadline sometimes are just that. They're not like an offer on the table or something that somebody actually turned down. Some of those things start off as just a conversation that are so far apart that neither side is going to do it, but people get mentioned. They die their own death, but sometimes they get kept alive.
Q: But the point being this: Some teams would be looking for a shortcut, and you could almost argue that a player like that - if you just wanted to improve that record 25 percent right now and without regard for the long term...
A: I don't think there's any question at some point that if you can take on a really proven, somewhat younger high level talent player in exchange for trading and taking on some future money, that's something you have to look really hard at. And then it comes down to whether or not you want to make that commitment and how much better it's going to make you.
Q: The Blazers are a decent example...where they had this bubble around their young guys, and they said, 'Unless it's a hell of a player, we're not touching this core we have going...'
A: They took the longer term view, and was five or six years out of the playoffs for them to do that. Again, you're speculating about potential future events that are unknown to you now...Of our players that we've drafted here, Tyreke (Evans) is the first player in the top five - first time I've drafted that high in Sacramento. Ever, actually. We never drafted that high in Portland. Anyway, it's going to be a combination of those three things to get us there.
Q: Who do you have conversations with about this journey? When it comes to philosophies about rebuilding - approaches, opinions, angles, pros and cons - is that all a conversation you have with yourself or do you talk to colleagues or peers about what the best way is to go about it? You ever talk to a guy like Danny Ainge about... the route they took?
A: I talk internally with all our basketball people, in general. I think things like what Boston did, certainly you look from a historical standpoint at how that happened and what were the things that made it happen. And certainly, the two biggest trades in recent past which were Kevin Garnett and the (Pau) Gasol trade, large expiring contracts played a huge factor, and it was a primary factor in the Gasol trade - with Kevin Garnett, they gave away a very fine, young power forward that had not been an All-Star yet but looked like he might become one someday. The mechanics of that and the components of that, (and) he way it is now - in terms of the salary cap and luxury tax - contracts sometimes have value to other teams beyond the talent depending on what kind of situation they're in.
Q: Kenny (Thomas') situation (his contract is expiring after this season) will be one of much discussion. That's a piece, right?
A: I'm not going to talk about individual players, but the reality is - Has anybody seen any good players traded here lately? They're not going to be, because the season hasn't even started yet. Generally, teams have a certain sense of what they think their team is going to do. And then maybe by late December or January, that's not what it is. Nobody trades good players before their season ever starts, unless there's some underlying issues going on. Teams have basically spent the summer trying to get the teams they have.
Q: Elaborate if you can and to whatever extent you're willing to on the new dynamics you're facing. There was a time when the team was real successful and you basically had a blank check from the Maloofs. How difficult and different are the dynamics now?
A: I think we're in a period where we had to do some things that helped the overall economics of the business, and at the same time prepare us to have some future flexibility while we're in this process. Those are the things that as far as what the parameters of that are, you just work around. I mean everybody's business has been affected here in the last two years. But it's not always going to be that way. Our team will get better and things will change.
Q: When Gavin (Maloof) commented on your situation, did you like seeing that? It was an endorsement. I know you haven't had discussions about the future, but it was a positive reaction to the way you're bosses look at you.
A: That's the same way I look at them. I think we both have the same feelings about the history of our relationship and the goals that we have. Really, at the end of anything, it's not about the preservation of any one person, it's about what's best for the organization. That's what they want. That's what I want. Our working relationship is great.
Q: You said the other day you want this team to improve off of last year's win total and develop. Does the expectation stop there or do you have anything in mind as to what you expect to see from this team?
A: It's hard to be definitive about that, but you'll know it when you see it...That's more speculation at this point. We'll be able to see improvement, and I think we'll get it.
Q: Looking back a bit, when you do feel like you turned the corner and decided that it's time to stop trying to keep pace and compete and it was time to start over. When do you think that happened?
A: That's a decision that you have to make somewhere on that road of when you're really good and you start to decline. You can always make the case that maybe you should've gotten worse faster. But when you're winning, that can be a hard call to make.
Q: Hindsight's 20-20, but when you look back how do you look at it now?
A: I don't know. It's a post-factual question and you can't answer it, because you don't know if it would've been any different. And if there's anybody out there who can say it would be, then there must have been divine intervention (laughs).
It's just like anything - I guess you can say well if I got out of the stock market in '07, I would've have a lot more money. Let's just say you got rid of all your good veteran players right off the bat, how much better would you be today? I don't know. You still have to draft right, you still have to sign right.
I'll be honest. It wasn't on my radar and I don't think it was on a lot of other people's radar that we would go from 38 wins to 17 wins with basically Ron (Artest) leaving and getting Donte (Greene) and the pick and drafting Jason Thompson, that's going to cost you 21 games. I could've seen us falling back some, maybe, but not 21. I could've seen us falling back some, but not 21. - Sam Amick