Eight days ago, then-New Orleans Pelicans guard Buddy Hield was kicked out of a game for the first time in his rookie season.
His transgression: hitting DeMarcus Cousins in the groin while going around the big man’s offensive screen at Golden 1 Center, an action officials deemed worthy of a flagrant 2 foul.
Now, Hield is linked with Cousins in another way that leaves some Kings fans wincing. Late Sunday night, the Kings traded Cousins, a three-time All-Star, and veteran forward Omri Casspi to the Pelicans for Hield, guards Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway and two 2017 draft picks.
Of the players Sacramento received, Hield is the centerpiece. The 23-year-old shooting guard from the Bahamas was drafted sixth overall as a senior out of Oklahoma, and the Kings were said to have coveted him then. Two picks later, Sacramento drafted Washington forward Marquese Chriss and traded him to Phoenix.
The 6-foot-4, 214-pound Hield was regarded as one of the top scorers in last year’s draft. He averaged 25.0 points as a senior and shot 50.1 percent overall – 45.7 from 3-point range – to earn the Naismith Player of the Year honor.
His first NBA season has been a transition. With the Pelicans, Hield averaged 8.6 points and shot 39.2 percent in 20.4 minutes a game. He was named the Western Conference’s Rookie of the Month for December, when he averaged 10.6 points, and over All-Star Weekend scored 28 points in the Rising Stars Challenge to help the World Team to a 150-141 win.
Evans, meanwhile, is familiar to Kings fans. The 27-year-old guard was the Rookie of the Year in 2009-10 for the Kings, who had drafted him fourth overall.
Evans played his first four seasons in Sacramento, averaging 17.5 points and 4.8 assists, but toward the end of his tenure, he fell into an undefined role. When he became a restricted free agent in 2013, the Kings declined to match his offer from New Orleans and parted with Evans in a sign-and-trade deal in which they acquired guard Greivis Vasquez.
In the past two seasons, Evans has played just 51 games while undergoing three surgeries on his right knee in nine months. This season, he has averaged 9.5 points in 26 games, all off the bench.
Evans is in the final year of a four-year, $44 million contract and was due to make about $10.2 million this season, according to spotrac.com. The Kings could buy out the remainder of the contract and waive Evans, who would become a free agent.
Galloway 25, had been the Pelicans’ backup point guard after serving the same role for New York last season. He was named to the All-Rookie second team in 2014-15 after averaging 11.8 points and 3.3 assists for the Knicks but has fallen short of those numbers the past two seasons. He is in the first year of a two-year, $10.6 million deal signed with New Orleans.
Hield, Evans and Galloway join a Kings guard rotation that includes seasoned point guards Darren Collison and Ty Lawson and shooting guards Arron Afflalo and Ben McLemore.
It remains to be seen if trading the franchise’s erstwhile cornerstone in Cousins signals more moves to come. The NBA trade deadline is Thursday.