Sources: After promising to keep him, Kings have discussed trading DeMarcus Cousins

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DeMarcus Cousins is in his seventh year with the Kings. (AP)
DeMarcus Cousins is in his seventh year with the Kings. (AP)

After promising DeMarcus Cousins privately and publicly that he wouldn’t be moved prior to Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, the Sacramento Kings were engaging in discussions on unloading the All-Star center, league sources told The Vertical.

Talks have included the New Orleans Pelicans in recent days, league sources told The Vertical.

Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Vlade Divac have had discussions over the past several days with Pelicans management at All-Star weekend in New Orleans, league sources said.

In recent weeks, Ranadive has become more open to the front office’s willingness to trade Cousins, passing on the commitment of a five-year, $209 million designated maximum contract extension this summer, league sources said. Cousins’ uneven behavior in recent weeks has softened Ranadive’s resolve to hold on to Cousins. Two incidents in particular – an expletive-laced remark Cousins made about Golden State after Sacramento’s overtime win over the Warriors on Feb. 4 and the astonishing 17th technical foul this season, and resulting one-game suspension, against New Orleans on Feb. 12 – have caused Ranadive to have serious concerns about tethering the franchise to Cousins long term. As a result, Ranadive has started to adopt management’s concerns about Cousins’ temperament to become a franchise pillar, sources said. Nevertheless, Ranadive has gone back and forth in recent days about his willingness to ultimately unload Cousins, sources said.

In the minutes prior to the All-Star Game’s tip on Sunday, one Kings source said, “For now, we’re staying put.”

The Kings’ talks on Cousins were fluid on Sunday and were complicated by his participation in the All-Star Game. Neither the NBA nor the Kings wanted news of the trade talk to overshadow the game.

However, New Orleans has discussed parameters of a Cousins deal, and executives with other teams told The Vertical that Kings management has privately encouraged them to offer up trade proposals for Cousins despite the public proclamation that he wasn’t available.

Talks with New Orleans have included the Pelicans sending multiple first-round picks, pick swaps, rookie guard Buddy Hield and expiring contracts to the Kings, league sources said. The Pelicans are eager to find a center to pair with All-Star forward Anthony Davis and point guard Jrue Holiday. New Orleans has also discussed trade proposals for Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez and Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor, league sources said.

Cousins has indicated a desire to sign the five-year extension, and Divac made a public statement earlier in the month that the Kings wouldn’t trade him before the deadline.

“We met with Vlade [Divac] and ownership and they assured us and DeMarcus that he’s not being traded,” Cousins’ agent, Jarinn Akana, told The Vertical on Sunday night. “As far as we are concerned, nothing has changed.”

The loss of the Designated Player Veteran Exception for Cousins in a trade would cost him approximately $30 million over the length of his contract. If he is traded, he would lose eligibility to earn 35 percent of the salary cap, becoming eligible for 30 percent.

Cousins, if traded, could be eligible for a contract renegotiation in July if the new team had the necessary salary-cap space. He could make up to 30 percent of next year’s projected $102 million salary cap. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Houston’s James Harden signed contract renegotiations to add years onto their current deals last summer.

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks contributed to this report.

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