Ailene Voisin, sports columnist
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    Hector Amezcua Thomas Robinson became the fifth top-five pick in the lottery era to be dealt during his rookie season. The Kings' rookie struggled against bigger power forwards.


    Rookie Thomas Robinson reacts after dunking for two of his 12 points. He also grabbed a season-high 14 rebounds.


    Kings power forward Thomas Robinson listens to coach Keith Smart during Monday's game. "(Monday) night he was possessed, and no one could keep him off the glass," Smart said.

  • Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Why trade Robinson now instead of in the offseason?

Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 17, 2013 - 4:46 pm

There is something to be said for admitting a mistake and cutting your losses. Most of the Kings' front-office types regarded rookie Thomas Robinson as an undersized power forward with bad hands and poor basketball instincts.

His inability to finish at the basket – dunks, layups, follow shots – was particularly worrisome. His brooding nature was another concern.

Some things can be taught and some things never change.

Maybe Robinson will harness his energy and athleticism and become an adequate NBA role player. Or maybe not. But that doesn't excuse the Kings for bypassing Weber State point guard Damian Lillard, failing to ascertain Robinson's weaknesses before ranking him second on their internal draft board, using the No. 5 pick on him, and then compounding their error by trading him to Houston on Wednesday and receiving little in return.

Patrick Patterson is a better shooter, defender and overall player at this juncture of his career. True. Also true: He is undersized and not much of a rebounder.

For the Kings, this is one of those trades that wastes paper and eats up cellphone minutes. No draft picks? No significant cap relief? No talented young point guard?

Why bother?

This makes little sense. It doesn't even make much sense in terms of dollars and cents. The team cut payroll by an estimated $1.3 million and the Maloofs receive $1 million in cash, little more than pocket change for owners who are in the process of selling their majority interest in the team for $341 million.

The motivation remains murky, partly a money deal and partly an admission of guilt – or what has become chronic franchise incompetence. Sources close to the Kansas Jayhawks insist that, in contrast to other organizations with high lottery picks, the Kings were the least inquisitive.

While Robinson's stay in Sacramento was surprisingly short, a few things quickly stood out, among them his exaggerated 6-foot-10 size, his raw offensive skills and a temperament that contributed to an already dysfunctional locker room. Surely the former Kansas standout is to be admired for overcoming personal tragedy and adversity, but he maintained a sense of entitlement fueled by his lofty draft status – as was often noted by Kings coach Keith Smart.

Can Rockets coach Kevin McHale coax more out of Robinson? Will the Rockets' superior spacing and the presence of a bona fide facilitator be transformational?

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey quietly is assembling a talented roster with depth and character, and furthering his reputation as one of the league's sharpest personnel executives. Earlier this season, he added emerging superstar James Harden to a team that includes Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons.

Those were the types of slick maneuvers once executed by Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie. Jason Williams dispatched for Mike Bibby. Corliss Williamson traded for Doug Christie. And, in what set the standard a decade ago for fleecing an opponent, a declining Mitch Richmond for Chris Webber.

The Kings were deep and compelling and intriguing. The owners were constantly present, the season-ticket waiting list stretched toward 3,000, the business plan made sense in a small-market community, and there was leadership on the court and in the front office.

We will say it again – there is nothing wrong with trading Robinson. Former Kings and Kansas center Scot Pollard thought he was rated too high. Draft him at No. 20, and the current conversation never takes place.

Wouldn't it have been more logical to wait until the offseason to trade a No. 5 pick? Absolutely. Couldn't Petrie flash his old golden touch at least once in a while, perhaps for the first time since the words "mid-level exception" became a hyphenated obscenity around here?

The murkiness of the ownership situation undoubtedly is at play. The Petrie-Maloof dynamic reflects the dysfunctional nature of the locker room. The Maloofs' people insist Petrie made the deal, while Petrie's people are suggesting the Maloofs' prints are all over it.

Whatever. None of the involved players are stars. But the Kings made another questionable lottery selection, did nothing to hint at a recovery, and solidified their status among Western Conference bottom-feeders.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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