And just like that, the Kenny Thomas Era has come to an end as a mere footnote following a blockbuster trade, nearly five years to the day it started. With the release of "K-9," who quite fittingly found himself in the doghouse for the majority of his Kings career, goes the final reminder of what was once a dominant and resurrected Sacramento franchise.
Few Kings fans will ever forget where they were on February 23, 2005, when a one-legged Chris Webber, in the fourth season of a cap-crippling seven-year, $127 million contract, was shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Thomas, who was owed $40 million of his own over the next five years, and overpriced backup forwards Brian Skinner and Corliss Williamson. Once the initial shock wore off, I understood, accepted, and eventually talked myself into the trade (as is the case with most of Geoff Petrie's moves).
Although the deal was driven less by on-the-court talent than financial motivation, with the three smaller contracts theoretically proving cap flexibility in future transactions (which sure worked well), fairly or not, Thomas has always stood in Webber's looming shadow. Four years younger than the departed franchise icon, and conceivably entering his prime at age 27, Thomas was exactly the type of unheralded player Petrie coveted: a quietly efficient rebounder and hustling defender who was coming off his best season (13.6 points, 10.1 rebounds). The 6'7" power forward was immediately inserted into the starting lineup and averaged 14.5 points and 8.7 points over the final 26 games — a near exact replica of Webber's numbers with the 76ers (15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds).
But before the subsequent season began, Thomas promptly lost his starting job to the newly-signed Shareef Abdur-Rahim, with whom, adding insult to injury, he had a prior on-the-court altercation in Philadephia. The pair went through heated battles for playing time, and after Abdur-Rahim suffered a broken jaw two months into the season, Thomas regained the starting position for the duration of the year, averaging a respectable 9.1 points and 7.5 rebounds while playing in all 82 regular season games and six playoff contests.