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Character starts at the top

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To demand character, you must first demonstrate character

NBA: Sacramento Kings-Media Day Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

In the aftermath of the DeMarcus Cousins trade, I’m less and less bothered by the trade and more and more bothered by the way the Sacramento Kings have conducted themselves. You want to trade a star? You’re probably not getting back equal value. We know that. I can live with it. But the Sacramento Kings aren’t accepting their own faults in the process, and that’s an issue that will have larger ramifications for this franchise moving forward.

The Kings created their own issues by including a shot at DeMarcus Cousins in their official press release. “Winning begins with culture and character matters.” There’s no question that DeMarcus Cousins has had his issues while a member of the Sacramento Kings. Out own Otis put together a rather impressive reminder of everything we’ve endured here.

But despite those issues, the Kings have always been adamant that they weren’t trading Cousins. Vlade went on record for the umpteenth time on February 6th to reiterate this stance.

Divac reportedly reiterated to Cousins’ camp that the Kings weren’t trading Cousins as of Sunday morning, just hours before the trade was completed, and roughly one day after Vlade’s self-acknowledged better offer was pulled from the table. When pressed on this topic during his media availability, Vlade suggested the reporter would have to ask Cousins’ camp about it. The reporter replied that they had, and Vlade went with “no comment”.

And as the hours and days have passed, this has become Vlade’s go-to refrain. “You’ll have to ask them.” It’s being parroted by Grant Napear, as well.

But Vlade’s using this excuse instead of answering tough questions. He blames Boogie’s agents for impacting his ability to get the best deal, but that is a very basic aspect of negotiations that should have been anticipated. Agents are informed before trades are made official. Did Vlade think Boogie’s camp would accept missing out on an additional $70 million?

So with apologies to Grant, I’m not putting any blame on DeMarcus’ agents. They did their job and represented their client’s interest. They did what they’re supposed to do. Vlade, meanwhile, seems to have tried and failed to trade DeMarcus in secret. He lied to fans and DeMarcus in the days and hours leading up to the trade. That’s dishonesty, and it’s something that other players are going to notice.

Cousins brought it up again in his introductory press conference in New Orleans.

This is a business. Players get traded. Sometimes they get traded against their will. But a universal truth of this league is that you don’t lie to the players. You pull them aside and say “We’re listening to offers. We love you, but we’re going to explore every options and make sure we’re doing whatever is best for the team.” What you don’t do is let your players find out via a media scrum.

If the Kings want to rebuild the team and focus on character, sign me up. I’m all for a team of young guys with upside, good work ethic, and no off-court issues. But the Kings can’t expect to be a character-driven organization until they first hold themselves to the same standard.