By Richard Bowman
“Loyalty isn’t always love, you can be loyal to the wrong things, you can commit to the wrong people and stick around for the wrong reasons.”
As you probably already know, DeMarcus Cousins was traded along with Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, 2017 first-round pick(top 3 protected), and a 2017 second-round pick(from Philadelphia). This trade marks a new chapter for the Sacramento Kings as they will now begin life after DeMarcus Cousins and many Kings fans, and observers, are left wondering what’s next for a franchise that is already one of the saddest in all of sports.
Since after the 2005-2006 NBA season, the Sacramento Kings have slowly become a laughing stock in sports, they were a contender that made the playoffs every season from 1999-2006. Back then, the Kings were a crowd favorite and they were an exciting team with a lot of character. The Kings were the perfect NBA antagonist to the Los Angeles Lakers early-2000’s dynasty. There was no winning culture in Sacramento before. They didn’t have the championship banners hanging all over the arena like the Lakers did but they did have that homegrown feel and they were a team that the common man could relate to. ]
Sacramento became a sanctuary for players like Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, Doug Christie, Jason Williams etc. While they were never able to defeat the Lakers in the postseason (*2002), they gave the people in Sacramento and their fans all over the world plenty of memories from those special years. The Sacramento Kings went from all of that to a team with no direction within just a few years and now they’re officially a basketball wasteland. Now you could argue that Sacramento has been a basketball wasteland before the DeMarcus Cousins, however, they still had an attraction in DeMarcus Cousins and now that’s gone.
DeMarcus Cousins’ time in Sacramento can be described in one word; vehement, and this isn’t a knock on Cousins because he’s the type of person and competitor who’ll wear his emotions on his sleeve and he’s one of the most intense and passionate athletes you’ll ever see.
When the Kings drafted Cousins back in 2010, many thought the Kings were back on track; they had the reigning rookie of the year in Tyreke Evans and pairing him with a big man like Cousins had many NBA fans wondering what could be. However, the Kings would struggle again, Tyreke Evans would regress as he played off-ball a lot more in his sophomore season. The Kings won one less game than they did the previous season. There was talk in the off-season about the Kings potentially moving to Anaheim but talk of that soon that went away, not only were the Kings suffering on the court but the Maloofs at the time were not interested in putting a good product on the court. In the draft, the Kings would select Bismack Biyombo before trading his rights to Charlotte and getting Jimmer Fredette. Moves like this have been plaguing for the Kings for the better part of a decade.
The following season would see the Kings once again struggle and head coach Paul Westphal would be fired just months into the season, which Cousins was blamed for due to a disagreement with the then Kings head coach. At the time, the Maloofs were trying to relocate the team while spending as little money as possible in any way possible. Which is why they kept Keith Smart as head coach until the Kings were officially sold a year and a half later. The Kings would win 22 games that season in a lockout-shortened season, DeMarcus Cousins would enjoy a breakout season putting up 18 & 11 a game.
The following off-season, the Kings would once again have another draft blunder as they selected Thomas Robinson #5 overall. Robinson had a nice story but he’s been on six teams in six seasons, not to mention the Kings reportedly dealt him four months into his rookie season to save money. On the bright side, the Kings lucked out by selecting Isaiah Thomas with the last pick in the draft, as he’d be one of the few positives for the Kings as it was another frustrating season in Sacramento and of course, Cousins would be at the center of it but could anyone blame him? There was constant talk of the team moving, the owners aren’t interested in the product, being coached by an interim coach who has no business being a head coach, all while the players are all out for themselves.
In 2013, the Sacramento Kings went through everything that a bad sports franchise could through in a calendar year. They started the season poorly and in January, it was reported that the team was moving to Seattle. Since 2006 there had been talks about the Kings potentially being relocated. The Maloof family had been fixated on relocating since first buying the team in 1998. At one point there were talks of them even traveling to Mexico and meeting with officials behind the NBA’s back. There had been many agreements between the Maloofs and the city to build an arena but constant backing out by the Maloofs made it impossible for any type of resolution. Before the Seattle news, the Maloofs had tried to get a deal in Virginia Beach but that obviously didn’t work out. Not only had the franchise not made the playoffs for the previous six seasons but they were about miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season but now there was, even more, disarray for everyone within the franchise.
On May 16, 2013, the Kings were officially purchased by Vivek Ranadive’s group and for the first time in a very long time, the franchise looked to be back on track. The Kings would then sign DeMarcus Cousins to an extension and Vivek made it clear that DeMarcus would be the focal point going forward. Many believed that the Kings could make some noise, however, it would be the same old just with more optimism. Vivek had hired head coach Mike Malone before general manager Pete D’Alessandro and the two never seemed to click, there became dissension within the organization and it even came to down to who were D’Alessandro’s guys and who were considered Mike Malone guys. This led to the Kings trading Isaiah Thomas for basically nothing, ashe was one of Malone’s guys which led to D’Alessandro leaking false info to the media about a conflict between DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas when there wasn’t any. Fast forward to the 2014-2015 season when the Kings fired Mike Malone, it was reported after the firing that Malone and D’Alessandro hadn’t spoken in months prior to the firing. After Malone was fired, the team including DeMarcus Cousins seemed disappointed by it, at the time it made no sense at all especially since DeMarcus had been in the hospital with a bad illness for some time.
Due to pressure from the minority owners and fans, Vivek decided to hire controversial but successful head coach George Karl. When Karl came aboard, D’Alessandro in a last ditch effort convinced Karl that the Kings should trade DeMarcus Cousins, this of course started a lot of media speculation about the current situation in Sacramento. Many rumors floated around about DeMarcus potentially being traded and there were problems between them both, which was true. Karl had dug his own grave in Sacramento, he had aligned himself with a GM who was essentially on his last days with the organization and by the time Vlade Divac came along, it was basically the end for Karl even though Karl got to coach for a whole season after all of this nonsense.
Entering this season, the Kings were far from a favorite but despite all of the nonsense they had endured in previous seasons, it was apparent that things would be better with newly hired head coach Dave Joerger. There were no problems between DeMarcus and Joerger and despite a somewhat porous record, the Kings were still in the playoff race by the All-Star break, however, for what had seemed like the millionth time there were trade rumors surrounding DeMarcus Cousins. Now as a Kings fan, I’ve learned to block these rumors out, they always seemed to be speculation or just complete nonsense but of course this time it wasn’t nonsense, he was really traded.
After everything, they decided to pull the trigger now but why? Say what you want about the Kings team success with DeMarcus Cousins but he’s a superstar.
Cousins is not the perfect player and he has developed some bad habits due to the situation that he’s been stuck in since he was drafted out of Kentucky. The Kings didn’t have to trade him now, they could have stuck with him for the season then readdressed it in the off-season. The Kings are just 1.5 games out of the eight seed, of course, you could argue why they would just wanna get wrecked by the Warriors in the first round but for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in a decade and just for the fans who have endured so much, a playoff appearance would have done wonders for everyone involved.
Vlade Divac is getting a lot of crap for the trade but it seems like owner Vivek Ranadive was the driving force behind this and forced Divac’s hand. Divac has said some questionable things since the trade happened like bringing up character and culture when referring to the trade but if character and culture really mattered then why keep Darren Collison who was charged with domestic violence this past off-season and why sign players like Ty Lawson and Matt Barnes? The Kings waived Matt Barnes after the trade, which is understandable given his current legal situation but none of what Divac has said since adds up. We saw this same story before with D’Alessandro, it was always questionable roster moves followed by poorly said interviews. It’s almost as if the Kings think they know some secret blueprint on how to build a successful team meanwhile everyone else is just sitting back and enjoying the dumpster fire that they have continued in Sacramento after the Maloofs a decade ago.
The Sacramento Kings had a superstar they could call their own, a superstar who despite everything never wanted to leave, he was willing to deal with it all for the city and it’s fans. Even after they wrongly fired Mike Malone and replaced him with a coach, who DeMarcus Cousins clashed with and was constantly disrespected by. Even after all the questionable motives and moves by the front office, he wanted to be in Sacramento. For the past seven and a half years, DeMarcus Cousins was Sacramento.
“Loyalty Is Love” – DeMarcus Cousins
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