I still remember where I was when the Kings drafted DeMarcus Cousins. I was at a work conference in San Diego and our meetings had wrapped up for the day so I headed to my room to watch the Draft. The Kings had the 5th pick, and it was looking like the Kings would be choosing between guys like Wesley Johnson, DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe.
When Johnson’s name was called with the 4th pick to Minnesota, I pumped my fist in the air because I knew it meant the Kings would be taking either Cousins or Monroe, a big man of the future to pair with Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. David Stern got on the stage and spoke Cousins’ name and I cheered, all by myself in the hotel room. At that moment, I was happy, giddy even, thinking about this team’s future.
Here we are six and a half years later and DeMarcus Cousins is no longer a Sacramento King. Not only that, but none of the success I had hoped for in that time came to pass. The Kings changed owners, almost moved, switched coaches every year, swapped out players until there was no one remaining but DeMarcus Cousins. Now, even he is gone.
Cousins himself lived up to his promise. He was a highly skilled big man, capable of putting the ball on the floor like a guard and finessing his way to the hoop or using his size and strength to bully his way to the rim. He kept adding things to his game, whether it was a three point shot or a focus on setting up teammates. He solidified himself as one of the best big men in the league while he was here. He was our homegrown talent, the best draft pick the Kings had ever had.
But he also lived up to the promise of being hard-headed and temperamental. His flareups were legendary and just as much a part of his legacy as his on-court skill. He got into arguments with teammates, coaches, and management, all for the world to see. He would take plays off because calls didn’t go his way. He would berate officials until they had enough and threw him out of the game. Sometimes, being a fan of DeMarcus Cousins was exhausting. This part of him wore many in the fanbase down, and ultimately led to his exit as the team feared attaching so much money to such a volatile personality.
But through all the chaos and madness, DeMarcus Cousins embraced the city of Sacramento like few players ever have. Time after time, he would tell anyone who would listen how much he loves the city and how much he wanted to be here long term. Just last week, he mentioned that it was one of his dreams to finish his career here and to have his jersey in the rafters.
Cousins was also a behemoth in the community off the court. He spent his own money as well as giving his personal time to help needy kids in the community. He paid for the funeral of a slain Grant High School football player. He did so much more that was never reported because he himself wanted it that way.
Cousins took more than his fair share of blame for Sacramento’s struggles during his time as the face of the franchise. Even now, in the aftermath of this trade there are those who will point to the team’s record in the past 7 seasons or to his attitude as if Cousins were the main problem. Cousins definitely wasn’t blameless when it came to the dysfunction in Sacramento, but far more detrimental to the team have been the series of decisions that have put the Kings in the position they are in today.
For Cousins, this move was an unwelcome one. But he’s finally free of the burden that was placed on him here and joins his most talented partner yet, Anthony Davis. He’s in a better position to win now than he’s ever been at any point with Sacramento. From a purely basketball perspective, this was a great move for Cousins, as ideal a fit as you could get from joining a non-playoff team. But the Kings’ betrayal of his trust after all that Cousins and the franchise have been through together has to hurt.
DeMarcus Cousins will always be remembered in Sacramento. Unfortunately, he will represent one of the most chaotic periods in this franchise’s history. It’s only fitting that he leaves with chaos in his wake.