Sunday Musings: Is Marshall Henderson worth the gamble?


We live in a society where second, third and even fourth chances are given.  Most people stay within the basic confines of decent behavior, but there are other folks who need to make mistakes in order to learn.  You hope that those select few who live life by their own set of rules learn from their errors in life, but that’s not always the way it works out.

The Kings are no stranger to extending an opportunity to those of questionable pasts.  Be it legal issues or just a history of major personality quirks, the Kings have often offered that one last shot for someone to get it right.  The list includes players like Vernon Maxwell, Keon Clarke, Ron Artest, Rashad McCants, Bonzi Wells, Terrence Williams and Royce White.  I’m sure there are plenty more, but this is a solid group of misfits to start with.  

Maybe it is the fact that Sacramento is an NBA outpost of sorts.  Plenty of players have come through the Kings facility on their way out of the league.  If you can’t make it in the purple and black, you aren’t likely to get another look.  Maybe it is the loyalty of the fan base that makes the team believe that anyone can be embraced.

The Kings took a gamble on Rajon Rondo early in free agency this summer.  The four-time All-Star has a well documented history of being difficult to deal with in both Boston and Dallas.  The Celtics worked around the issue when he was surrounded by three future Hall of Fame players and were vying for rings, but that changed once the team slipped into rebuild mode.

Rondo was shipped to Dallas last season and that couldn’t have ended in a worse way.  Despite starting 46 games for the Mavericks, the talented point guard was sent packing in the middle of the playoffs.  His teammates thought so little of him that they chose not to give him a share of their playoff money.  

The argument could be made that the Kings overpaid for Rondo.  They were bidding against themselves for his services and somehow he still came away with a one-year deal for $9.5 million.  Plenty of people are scratching their heads over this move and a panel of ESPN writers even voted Rondo the worst newcomer for the 2015-16 season.  

The talking heads may be right.  Mixing Rondo with DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl may be too much for one franchise.  This union may cause a tear in the fabric of the universe and send Sacramento spiraling even further out of control.  

Then again, Rondo may return to his former glory, give the Kings a third star level player and send the team careening towards their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade.  

It’s not a risk-free proposal, but at just 29-years-old Rajon Rondo is worth a gamble on a one-year deal regardless of the price if you are the Kings.

He has been great in the past.  He could be great again.  He could also be a nightmare and the Kings can waive him.

This is a somewhat rare occurrence that a player this talented is available unopposed to a team like the Kings.  This isn’t like the Royce White situation from two seasons ago when Sacramento brought in an unproven player who refused to get on a team plane and already accused another franchise of violating his rights.  

In that situation, the Kings were taking a budget flyer on a former first round pick that was a complete unknown.  When it turned out he wasn’t much of an NBA talent, the team went another direction.  

All of these situations are different, but for the most part, there is a potential reward for the risk associated with each individual.  If Rondo works out, the Kings could win 50 games.  If White worked out, the franchise could have added another young piece to team at a position of need.  

All of this brings us to the Kings’ latest move that by almost all accounts, is a head scratcher.  In case you missed it, Vlade Divac has invited former Ole Miss shooting guard Marshall Henderson to training camp.  To say this move is puzzling is a gross understatement.  

At first glance, I will admit to being somewhat nonchalant in my thoughts on Henderson.  I looked at him as such a long shot to make the roster that I ignored the potential downside to such a signing.  

To start, the Kings already have plenty of guards on the roster.  They also have young players like David Stockton and Seth Curry slated to duke it out for one of the few remaining roster spots.  Rondo, Darren Collison, Ben McLemore and Marco Belinelli will eat up most of the time in the backcourt and whoever survives camp will get the remaining scraps.

Beyond his potential for making the roster, Henderson is a strange choice on other fronts as well.  The 24-year-old gunslinger played last season in Baghdad, Iraq and the season before in Qatar after leaving college.  I’m not even sure how to look at those stats, if I even wanted to waste the time to find them.  What I can tell you is that he shot just 35.3 percent in his final year in the NCAA and 34.2 percent from behind the arc on an incredible 12.6 attempts per game.  Just on shooting percentages alone, Henderson doesn’t warrant a look at an NBA training camp.

And then there are the other issues.  Henderson is brash on the court.  Maybe it’s more than  brash.  He makes Brandon Jennings look like a mime and that’s saying something.  You can find him on Youtube riling up the opposing crowd.  Inciting a riot might be a more proper term.  

There are the drug issues that have plagued him.  He was arrested for possession of marijuana and cocaine while at Ole Miss.  He spent 25 days in the clink for other drug related charges.  He says he’s been clean since playing overseas, but the league will make him prove it come October 1.

He is also a bit a of twitter phenomenon, known for his homophobic slurs tossed towards Michael Sam and his exchanges with Fox Sports broadcaster Erin Andrews.

Why the Kings would venture down this road is unknown.  Helping a player like Rondo find redemption has an upside.  Giving White a second look had the potential to pay dividends.  With all of the chaos and media attention surrounding the Kings over the last few months, adding a personality like Marshall Henderson makes no sense.  You are opening a door for mockery for a player who has little to no chance of making the roster and who has proven untrustworthy in the past.

I’m not saying that Marshall Henderson doesn’t deserve a shot at an NBA career.  I’m all for second chances.  I like a good gamble.  But there has to be upside and it’s tough to see it here for the Sacramento Kings.


James Ham

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