As Sacramento’s only big-league team, the Kings are a point of civic pride. There’s genuine excitement about the upcoming season; the young team sold out its first summer league game at Golden 1 Center, a win Monday night over the L.A. Lakers.
But soon, the Kings and Sacramento will be an afterthought on the NBA stage, overshadowed yet again by their California rivals.
First, megastar LeBron James announced Sunday night he’s taking his talents to the team that Kings fans love to hate – the Lakers.
Then on Monday night, came the shocking gut punch: former Kings All-Star DeMarcus Cousins is joining the champion Golden State Warriors – the team that the Kings can only envy.
This goes way beyond the rich getting richer; even other NBA players were flabbergasted. Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid tweeted “the NBA is NUTS.” Social media went crazy with memes of James being stunned; some analysts are already decrying the injustice.
In any case, this will only heighten the long-running drama as King James seeks to lift the Lakers back into the playoffs for the first time since 2013, even as he builds his off-court brand in Tinseltown. His kryptonite – Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Warriors – will try to win a fourth NBA title in five years, removing any doubt they are a dynasty.
Meanwhile, the Kings will be lucky to get on national TV as they strive for relevance – and fans will likely suffer through another mediocre season, even with the addition of some promising young players.
Let’s face it: Being an NBA fan in Sacramento is going to be bleak.
All we can do is watch from the sidelines – now with the added attraction of “Boogie” Cousins, the immensely gifted but petulant star who was the Kings’ most polarizing player in recent memory.
He made three NBA All-Star teams in six seasons as a King. He was also active in the community, working with youth and holding basketball camps. Earlier this year, he paid for funeral expenses for the family of Stephon Clark, shot by police.
But Cousins also threw temper tantrums with coaches, reporters and referees. Finally, the front office and ownership had enough, deciding not to tie the future of the franchise to Cousins with a $209 million contract. The Kings traded him to the New Orleans Pelicans during All-Star weekend in 2017, without getting a ton in return. In New Orleans, he was having one of his best seasons when he tore his left Achilles in January.
By signing a relatively paltry $5.3 million deal with the Warriors, Cousins may believe he’s found a comfortable landing spot as he recuperates from his injury and proves himself before cashing in on free agency next year.
“This was my ace of spades. This was my chess move,” Cousins told The Undefeated in a column published Tuesday.
But from our vantage point, it seems more like a no-win situation.
If he wins a ring with the Warriors, already loaded with four All-Stars, he won’t get much credit – unless he does something remarkable like hit a series of game-winning shots in the playoffs.
If Golden State somehow doesn’t win the title, Cousins could easily get the blame for ruining a superteam, messing up the chemistry in the locker room or on the floor.
Curry welcomed him with a tweet bestowing the title of third “splash Brother,” along with Klay Thompson. But how does that make Durant feel?
To make this work, Cousins will have to find a way to coexist on a team of flashier stars. Come to think of it, that’s Sacramento’s fate, too.