You can’t blame the Kings front office for wanting to change the toxic culture of a team that makes as many headlines about suspensions and court dates as game-winning shots – and that required cutting ties with the childish and churlish DeMarcus Cousins.
But you also can’t blame Kings fans for expecting more than another unproven young player and two draft picks in return for Cousins, who notwithstanding his on-the-court and locker room tirades, is one of the NBA’s most talented players.
Evidently, the Kings made the move before having to decide this summer whether to go all in on Cousins with a five-year deal worth $209 million, one of the richest contracts in NBA history. General Manager Vlade Divac insists this was the best deal he could get. Some league insiders say it shows how negatively most executives view Cousins, but other analysts called the trade a steal for the New Orleans Pelicans.
The fact is that the Kings never won more than 33 games in the six full seasons with Cousins, but went through six head coaches. While he’s averaging nearly 28 points and 11 rebounds a game this season, he also leads the league in technical fouls.
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Still, we’d have much more confidence in Kings management if its recent history on trades and drafts wasn’t so discouraging, and if it had a consistent game plan to win. The team added veteran players before this season to try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. By reversing course in midseason, that shot almost certainly vanished; the Kings may unload more veterans before the trade deadline Thursday.
Season ticket holders can’t be thrilled about having to watch a rebuilding team in a shiny new building, so if attendance declines at Golden 1 Center, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
At least Divac didn’t tell fans to “trust the process.” That’s the mantra the 76ers management foisted on long-suffering Philadelphia fans as the team tanked three years in a row – going 37-199 and breaking the record for consecutive losses – to stockpile high draft picks. Only this season did the Sixers put a somewhat competitive team on the court.
For the Kings, it will be several years before this franchise-changing decision can be fairly judged. Despite all the rumors, news of the trade was still shocking, given that the Kings and Cousins had repeatedly said they wanted to stay together.
One of the conundrums about Cousins is that while he mistreated officials, reporters and others, he has been a force for good in the community, donating to charities and hosting summer camps for kids. That will be missed.
“I still got love for the city, I still got love for the fans,” Cousins told The Bee’s Jason Jones on Tuesday.
We wish him the best, and hope for the best for the Cousins-free Kings.