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Free Agency Breeze-Shootin’

This is what free agency looks like. (Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports)

Patrick Redford (@patrickredford) and Miles Wray (@mileswray) were quite discombobulated indeed by the lunacy of this free agency season. In an attempt to achieve internal orientation, they conversed and decided to embrace the lunacy: 

Miles: Patrick. My sources are telling me that the ’yoffs are finished and that real-live NBA teams are basically 30 chatty Kathys, constantly dialing one another in pursuit of both hot gossip and their Man. The lines between fact and fiction, between absurdity and actuality, between dementia-induced hallucinations and verified Wojnarowski tweets are all getting very blurry indeed.

As a loyal Sacramentian I’m sure it’s not news to you that your own local basketball squad has recently chatted up the Detroit Pistons in an effort to bring Josh Smith to the noble capital.

To you I ask: I mean why, at this point, the hell not? I also ask: Amar’e and J.R. for Travis Outlaw and Carl Landry. Who. Hangs. Up.

PR: The Kings are very much going all in, which is terrifying. There’s emotional insulation when your team is garbage trash and relies on Outlaw for wing play. It feels safe, the same way moving home after college and not leaving your blanket fort feels safe. So at this point, any move scares me, in that it might not be the right move and we could be a sunk, Timberwolf-esque 33-49 for a decade. Every time I scroll up on Twitter, I insulate myself for the probability that we flipped DeMarcus Cousins for a pair of garden shears.

To your question: I think the Kings take that trade! They are trying to deliberately Get Older, and who knows, maybe Amare can teach the young dogs a few tricks. Miles, talk me off this ledge.

Miles: Patrick, I’ve got some bad news for you: the Kings have already been sunk for a decade, and in a Vancouver Grizzlies-esque 28-54 swampy mire. Their last winning season was, and this is actually real, 2005-06. I can’t talk you off that ledge. The Kings lept off it long ago, limbs a-flailin’ as they splat, face-down, in a bog.

What’s so enchanting about the Kings is that they have a very specific type of ineffective player that they pursue. The Kings would never, for instance, trade for Andrea Bargnani — when Bargnani misses shots he does not miss shots with the undertones of aggressive distress that is necessary for any true King. (Additionally enchanting: the Kings have been in uninterrupted pursuit of this type of player despite wholesale changes to ownership and the front office.)

So, yes, of course they would trade for J.R. and Amar’e. Between this Knicks duo, and the Pistons’ duo of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, there are hardly more Kings-like players across the league who have not yet donned the black-n’-purple. Am I missing anybody?

PR: Gonna be cool when the Kings start 2016 off with a lineup of Rodney Stuckey – Dorrell Wright – Khris Middleton – Tristan Thompson – DMC. Death to spacing! Expose the Market Inefficiency on bad basketball players!

Miles: One team that ya never hear wrapped up in rumors is the Toronto Raptors, led by that wily genius Masai Ujiri. There is never the noxious fart-cloud of terrible rumors floating around Canada — there are only the transactions, direct and productive, announced after the fact.

I mention this because we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Bargnani to the Knicks, and it’s six months since the Kings traded away an entire bench unit for Rudy Gay. This summer Toronto has already swapped out a King-ly chucker (John Salmons) for an effective gunner (Lou Williams) with a team looking to salary-dump. At this point, if you get a call from the Raptors, you immediately hang up, no? Or are other General Managers even more stubbornly compelled to roll the dice and try to stump Ujiri?

PR: This gets to a larger thing about team building in the NBA. Everyone has a plan, but those plans almost never work. What Ujiri does really well is account for this and build with flexibility. It’s less about having a golden 5 Year Plan than it is about leveraging efficiencies and timing your plays well. Other GM’s maybe feel too bound to some kind of plan, and are wary of his quick thinking ways. If I recall, he was steering toward a tankjob, then kinda GM’d his way into a really great bench that pushed the team past where he thought they’d go? Can’t wait for him to, just for fun, trade Greivis Vasquez for himself and net two second-rounders in the process.

Miles: What’s most bizarre to me about today’s NBA is that we can, without access, sense the inopportune deals that are coming. When Gay was sent to Sacramento, the consensus response was, “Ah yes, but of course.” And same when hearing that the Kings were looking to trade for Josh Smith.

I really feel like it shouldn’t be possible for me, opinion-y coffee shop laptop boy, to look at the product of so many hundreds of hours of work from so many dedicated analysts and scouts and businessmen and dismiss it with my nose in the air. But, as fans, we can smell an egregiously bad deal from the moment it happens. Actually, this is almost entirely what following the NBA in July has become: crouching on Twitter and waiting to verbally dump on the latest overpay.

Will we ever get to a point where all 30 teams make financially and analytically sound decisions, and teams just end up in the lottery because somebody has to lose the games? Or is this as good as it gets, with a number of easy marks around the league (Cavs, Knicks, Nets, until this spring the Pistons) who just keep eating it on banana peels they themselves put on the ground?

PR: Where there’s an Outlaw, there’s a GM willing to drop $5 million/year. I guess that’s the tantalizing nature of potential and the nebulous future. Everyone wants to fool the system and cop scoring on the cheap, but possession is an illusion. All things belong to the cosmos. Which is to say, Isaiah Thomas, huh? How bout that little fella?

Miles: You know what, blame me for not taking things seriously just because he’s been wearing the black n’ purple. It’s not very often that you can make a legitimate comparison between the first pick and the 60th pick of the same draft, but boy do their careers look similar up to this point (and with no health concerns for Thomas, either).

Why do I have this sinking feeling, though, that as Kyrie collects his massive new contract in Cleveland, Thomas will be the second coming of Nate Robinson, lighting things on fire from the bench for a new team every six months?

PR: Seems like teams have trust issues about handing the starting keys to dudes with glaring physical…defficiencies? shortcomings? I don’t know the code for talking about his height, and it’s weird because it hasn’t hindered him really much at all. So excuse my biases, but he moves the needle so much more than space fillers like Brandon(s) Knight & Jennings or Raymond Felton, and yet those dudes will get more chances than he will.

When Seattle gets their team, I hope he gets a homecoming and they let him start for 12 years then give him a 20 foot statue.

Miles: Isaiah and Nate leading Sonics 2.0. And Martell Webster.

What’s the most absurd possibility that could actually take place in the coming weeks? I say it’s if any remotely “marquee name” signs with the Lakers. The Lakers are basically the Medici family trying to schmooze around Silicon Valley right now, swirling a glass of wine and believing that they’re impressing with their tales of how their old money used to control the world. Selling Abdul-Jabbar-era pedigree can’t actually work when the league’s two polar magnetic forces operate out of pop-up shops in Oklahoma City and Miami. I mean, right? Right?

PR: *trots out replicant James Worthy* “I mean, look at this! Look at him! That’s real human skin! So, how does 5 years, $2 million, a parking spot downtown for life, and a few shrimp tacos sound? Fine we’ll throw in an autographed copy of Transformers 2 and a photo with Michael Bay.”

Miles: “Ah, here we are, the crown jewel of our museum. These are the very shorts that George Mikan was wearing when the Lakers scored a league-high 67 points in just one game against the Providence Steamrollers! Please sign with us.”

PR: Turns out fake offers of free flights in Kobe’s helicopter don’t have the same shine they used to. Perhaps the old wisdom of “On a long enough timeline, every star is a Laker” is dead.

Miles Wray