In his first press conference since dealing DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac hardly managed to calm the waters in response to the trade that took an entire league by surprise.
Cousins, the tempestuous three-time All-Star and franchise-level talent, was traded to the Pelicans during Sunday’s All-Star Game for a package that included struggling rookie shooting guard Buddy Hield, along with one-time King Tyreke Evans, a protected first-round pick in the 2017 NBA draft, a second round pick this June, and cap fodder.
The Kings, and Divac, were almost universally pounded for their approach to the deal, the team’s seeming duplicitous nature when it came to promising permanence to Cousins and his representatives, and their eventual and rather embarrassing take for a player currently putting up monstrous numbers on a team that offered him little help.
DeMarcus Cousins, infamously, did not help his own cause in Sacramento, and that appeared to be the tipping point for Divac, who has been on the job since an unexpected power grab landed him the title of personnel chief two years ago. Using the word “culture” three times in the first few minutes of his discussion with local media, Divac went on:
”You can’t win if you don’t have a culture. Winning begins with culture, and character matters”
Cousins, who has clashed with all manner of Kings personnel both past and present since being drafted by the club in 2010, apparently set fire to the last straw earlier this winter in daring to offend the sensibilities of Kings owner Vivek Ranadive’s other favorite club, the Golden State Warriors, with a post-win outburst in the team owner’s presence.
Ranadive “has full faith in me to make basketball decisions,” according to Vlade, but the owner could walk back some of those feelings upon hearing that the package landed for Cousins – “the best offer we had,” according to Divac just a minute into the meeting with the press – paled in comparison to the “better deal,” in Vlade’s words, that the Kings had in place “two days ago.”
A better deal? Better than the promise of a 23-year old shooting guard in Hield, making just 39 percent of his looks from the floor, and a top-three protected first round draft pick coming from yet another middling Western Conference club? Vlade?
“Yep. Talk to those agents. I don’t want to go into details. I don’t want to discuss the process. It was a big process for us.”
Indeed, it must have been. So why the change now?
“I have to do my job, and I felt like this was the best time to move forward. We got the best offer at the best time of the year.”
Yep, Vlade actually said this. pic.twitter.com/CEW7aynAZ2
— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dkurtenbach) February 20, 2017
The Kings had to deal now, before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, as opposed to on draft night this June or in July, when Cousins would be available for a massive, $200-plus million contract extension with the only franchise he’d known, until Sunday night. “We would probably lose more value” had the Kings waited until the offseason, Divac offered on Monday, “when I realized that this was going to be the best offer, I had to pull the trigger.”
One member of the local press, understandably, was astonished:
Let me see if I get this right. You had a better offer a couple of days ago. That disappeared. You thought, ‘this is as good as it’s going to get, we can’t wait any longer.’
Lovely. Remember, this (reportedly) is also your owner:
Source familiar w/ Kings’ thinking: "Vivek thinks Buddy [Hield] has Steph Curry potential.” Am told that fixation was a key driver in deal.
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) February 20, 2017
When pressed about DeMarcus Cousins league-leading batch of technical fouls, fouls that will earn him a one-game suspension for each pair of T’s moving forward, Divac shrugged his shoulders:
“I really love DeMarcus. I think he’s a great kid. It just wasn’t, I would say, a fit right now with what we’re trying to do. I wish him all the best, and hope this has a positive effect on his career.”
Fans “deserve better,” Divac acknowledged, before also acknowledging that his club will have no choice but to look forward to beginning from the bottom yet again, reveling in its chance to, as Vlade put it, “start fresh.”
Everything has to start somewhere, I suppose.
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