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Trading DeMarcus Cousins is not the answer

Kimani Okearah

There was a time and a place in the not-so-distant past where a large majority of Sacramento Kings fans ferociously defended DeMarcus Cousins against his detractors. His ‘bad attitude’ was defended as ‘passion’. His ‘meltdowns’ were defended as ‘he is just frustrated with losing’. And above all else, he was so good at basketball that is was easy to overlook the imperfections. Not to mention the countless hours and funds he put into making himself a huge part of the Sacramento community. There were plenty of reasons to defend him.

A lot of that blind loyalty stopped this season. I can point to the poll Greg Wissinger ran on STR a couple of days go as evidence. 66% of voters now believe that the Sacramento Kings should move on from Cousins, and I would be willing to bet that those numbers would look closer to 70-30 in the other direction if the poll were taken before the season started. Maybe we’re dealing with raw emotion coming off the Kings’ disappointing loss to the 76ers, and Cousins’ ejection vs. Golden State, or maybe the fans are as frustrated with losing as Cousins, and have started their own meltdown.

I don’t think the Kings should trade DeMarcus Cousins, and that isn’t because I think he’s untouchable, or untradeable, or any of that nonsense. It’s just not the right move at this time.

Some of the following comments are speculative, you can agree or disagree, but this is how I’m reading the situation in Sacramento right now.

George Karl is not a long-term option as head coach. If the Kings don’t improve dramatically this season, he won’t make it to next season, and that’s just record based. The Kings have fired a head coach for play style before, and I’m not saying Karl isn’t playing the style Vivek Ranadive and Co. want, but both his offensive and defensive systems look nothing short of broken right now, and his players are obviously not responding to his coaching style.

I can hear the criticism already. Everyone loves to blame the players when it appears as though they aren’t playing hard, and I won’t excuse them from how poorly the Kings have played, but when you are dealing with a team wide issue like this, it goes beyond the players to an extent. It’s not that simple.

The point being, barring a dramatic and unlikely turn around, Karl is gone. That is nothing more than opinion, but if you read between the lines of what and how things have been reported, that is where this thing is headed.

An underreported angle to all this is Vlade Divac and his contract terms. Unless some unreported contract negotiations have taken place over the last month or so behind the scenes, Divac’s contract expires this summer. I think Divac has done a decent job considering the hand he was dealt, and it’s possible that he will have a position with the Kings beyond this season, but he doesn’t yet.

The Sacramento Kings’ head coach is on his last legs, and the general manager’s contract expires in six months. On what planet should those guys be negotiating a trade with the biggest asset Sacramento has ever had?

The correct answer is no planet. None. The Kings should not trade DeMarcus Cousins under this regime.

I wish I had a stronger grasp on Cousins as a person and as a player. I love the way he plays basketball, I love his game, his talent is off the charts, but I’m not blind to his issues, either. He gets frustrated easily, and that can effect how hard he plays, how he treats his teammates, and his discipline. If I didn’t think all of that came from a place of frustration, I would have more concern. I can certainly relate to how he feels in that regard. We are all frustrated with this, and we’re on the outside looking in. I can only imagine how that feels inside those walls.

But I’m not even trying to convince you he is a team leader, franchise player, can’t miss talent, etc. Even if I find those things to be true, he’s done enough at this point to warrant the doubt a lot of people have. I think it’s fair to doubt him, I really do.

None of that takes away from the fact that I think it would be an insane move to trade him at this time. I don’t need to remind you of the past, but I will anyway.

Vivek Ranadive gave Pete D’Alessandro the power to hire George Karl on his way out the door. He made Sacramento commit to Karl, then split. Please tell me why it’s a good idea to let Karl and Divac decide Cousins’ fate?

If I’m wrong about Cousins, if 66% of the voters are right, and it’s time to move on, I could live with that, I really could, but show me organizational stability first. Show me the Kings know what they are doing. Show me that the decision makers are here on a long-term basis. If Cousins isn’t the long-term regimes’ guy, so be it. I’m not trading Cousins to appease a 64 year old head coach with about five months left on the job, if this comes down to an either or thing, and as much as I respect Vlade Divac, I don’t think he should be making that call under his current contractual commitment, either.

This isn’t how you do smart NBA business. Trading Cousins would be rushed, irrational, emotional, and all too familiar. The Kings have made so many poor emotion decisions since Vivek Ranadive purchased the team, and this is where they are. Break the cycle, play it smart.