Kings' Petrie taking a big chance

It's not just a blockbuster trade. This one ranks as new-millennium NBA history.

Reason being:

It's a highly questionable deal for Sacramento's Geoff Petrie, and I can't remember ever saying that before.

Petrie didn't just end an era Wednesday night when he agreed to trade away the face of the Sacramento Kings' rise from laughingstocks to NBA elitists. By sending Chris Webber to Philadelphia for three forwards with long-term contracts, one of the most respected minds in the game put himself in line for some rare criticism.

The second-guessing would not be coming on Saturday after the Kings' 101-99 victory at Philadelphia, although they were a Chris Webber putback from becoming the targets of many an I-told-you-so.

There are undoubtedly benefits to trading Webber, who has three years and more than $60 million left on his contract. Although he continues to play at an All-Star level, it's clear to anyone who watches Webber that, besides turning 32 next week, he's essentially playing on one leg after serious knee surgery.

Then there's the bigger benefit: Webber's departure will undoubtedly please Peja Stojakovic. Peja has been quietly miserable this season with his muted role in the Kings' offense, in the wake of his offseason trade demand and Sacramento's struggles late last season after Webber returned to the lineup.

However …

You had to assume a GM as shrewd as Petrie -- widely regarded as one of the league's best -- would get Glenn Robinson's expiring contract as part of a Webber package in the interest of salary-cap relief. Instead Sacramento acquired three smallish power forwards (Kenny Thomas, Corliss Williamson and Brian Skinner) who possess deals that aren't cap-friendly.

Worse yet, Stojakovic will still be a free agent after next season, and as long as Vlade Divac remains with the Lakers, Sacramento's hated rivals will have a shot at luring Peja away. There remains a possibility that the Lakers could trade Divac before Thursday's trading deadline, but that's because Divac is injured and can't help them. Chances are Divac will be retired by the summer of 2006, putting him in position to move into a Lakers front-office role … and thus putting Divac in prime position to recruit his best friend to Hollywood.

At first glance, then, you have to like this blockbuster much more for Sixers president Billy King than Petrie. Look at everything King accomplished here:

  • With Shaquille O'Neal's health suddenly in question, King added a big-name big man who, if he can stay healthy, instantly makes Philadelphia the favorite in the Atlantic Division and a factor in the East playoffs.

  • Within weeks of Allen Iverson voicing concern about the direction of the franchise and the lack of help around him, King found a sidekick AI will love.

  • King accomplished the first and second task without parting with Big Dog's contract or any of his prized youngsters: Samuel Dalembert, Kyle Korver and Willie Green. This enabled Philly to either keep Dog for the rest of the season and let the contract expire at season's end for some cap relief, or -- as King would finally decide -- Dog was dealt to the Hornets before the trade deadline for more help in Jamal Mashburn and Rodney Rogers. Also, don't forget that before the All-Star Game, Philadelphia was close to trading Robinson to Minnesota for Latrell Sprewell, with the deal breaking down when the Wolves also insisted on Green as part of the swap.

    Of course, such is the respect for Petrie around the league that the first few executives we reached to discuss the evening's big news all had a similar reaction: Petrie must know something we don't.

    As in: Webber, perhaps, is in worse shape than his numbers suggest.

    There's no disputing Petrie's contention that it'll be easier to rebuild the Kings with three players earning the same salary as Webber does alone. In other words, moving Thomas or Williamson or Skinner separately in future trades will be easier than it was to find a Webber taker.

    You can likewise agree with the Kings' contention that they have some role-player depth in the short term to complement what still qualifies as a decent foursome: Mike Bibby, Brad Miller, Cuttino Mobley and Stojakovic.

    Yet that's about all we can endorse from the Sacto end. It's difficult not to focus on how giddy Iverson must be; winning the All-Star Game's MVP trophy was apparently just an appetizer.

    Sources close to Webber indicated late Wednesday that Webb, too, is happy with the move. Bittersweet as it must be to leave a franchise he lifted to prominence, Webb is said to be pleased to have a chance to win in his new city and leave a club (and an increasingly frustrated fan base) that didn't want him.

    Yup. The suspicion here is that the biggest smiles Saturday, when the Kings visit the Sixers, will all be on the Philly side.

    The reality turned out that although Webber had 16 points and 11 rebounds for his new team, the visiting Kings wound up having the last laugh on Saturday.

    Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.