Sources: Kings agree to trade DeMarcus Cousins to Pelicans

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DeMarcus Cousins played seven seasons with the Kings. (AP)
DeMarcus Cousins played seven seasons 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 unloaded the three-time All-Star center to the New Orleans Pelicans, league sources told The Vertical.

New Orleans will send guard Buddy Hield, 2017 first- and second-round picks, and guards Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway to Sacramento for Cousins and forward Omri Casspi, league sources told The Vertical.

The 2017 pick has lottery protection in the top three, which likely means the Pelicans will convey the draft choice to Sacramento this year.

For the Pelicans, Cousins, 26, will join All-Star forward Anthony Davis to create a potentially devastating frontcourt pairing that could facilitate the re-signing of free-agent point guard Jrue Holiday in July. Cousins grew up in Alabama, but not he nor his agents wanted a trade, and both had been assured that it wouldn’t happen. With the trade, Cousins loses the chance to sign a five-year, $209 million designated maximum contract extension this summer.

Cousins and his representatives were blindsided by the deal after being told repeatedly – even as late as Sunday afternoon – that Cousins wouldn’t be moved to the Pelicans in the deal, league sources said. Around the league there was surprise that general manager Vlade Divac would take such strident public and private stands – only to go back on his word.

“DeMarcus is in shock,” one source close to him told The Vertical.

Under coach Dave Joerger, the Kings want to hit the reset button and will now start to play Willie Cauley-Stein at center, Hield at shooting guard and likely take a serious look at using one of its two potential lottery picks in the loaded 2017 NBA draft on a point guard. Hield was highly regarded by the Kings in the 2016 NBA draft. The Pelicans chose him sixth overall.

The Kings have a top-10 protected first-round pick that could convey to the Chicago Bulls in June, but the Cousins trade should spare the Kings the victories that could push them to finish too high in the standings to keep the draft choice.

The Kings simply decided that they no longer wanted to let Cousins’ volatility dictate the culture of the locker room, league sources said. In recent weeks, majority owner Vivek Ranadive had become more open to the front office’s willingness to trade Cousins, passing on the commitment to the $209 million extension this summer, league sources said. Cousins’ uneven behavior in recent weeks chipped away at Ranadive’s resolve to keep him, and he started to listen more closely to the front office’s push to trade him for assets and rebuild, sources said. 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 a 17th technical foul, resulting in a one-game suspension, against New Orleans on Feb. 12 — caused Ranadive to have serious concerns about tethering the franchise to Cousins long term. As a result, Ranadive adopted management’s concerns about Cousins’ temperament to be a franchise pillar, sources said.

Still, the Kings have had a consistently dysfunctional environment around Cousins that contributed to the losing and annual lottery finishes. From revolving front-office personnel and coaching changes to poor draft picks and trades, Cousins’ issues only became more pronounced in the Kings’ wayward environment.

Ranadive, Divac and assistant GM Ken Catanella had discussions over the past several days with Pelicans management at All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, league sources said. The Kings were seriously engaged in talks with the Los Angeles Lakers over the weekend, but the Kings’ desire for 2016 No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram to be included in a package was rejected by Los Angeles, league sources said.

The Lakers believed they could get the Kings a first-round pick by trading guard Lou Williams, but the Kings preferred the Pelicans’ package.

The Kings’ talks on Cousins gathered momentum in the past week but the timing became complicated with Cousins participating in the All-Star Game in New Orleans. Neither the NBA nor the Kings wanted news of Cousins trade talk to overshadow the game.

Cousins had 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 and ownership and they assured us and DeMarcus that he’s not being traded,” Cousins’ agent, Jarinn Akana, told The Vertical hours before the trade on Sunday. “As far as we are concerned, nothing has changed.”

The Pelicans made the trade without consulting with Cousins’ representatives, Akana and Dan Fegan. New Orleans can offer Cousins a five-year, approximately $180 million contract extension in 2018, when his deal expires, or a shorter contract renegotiation this summer if the Pelicans have the salary-cap space.

The Vertical staffers Chris Mannix, Shams Charania and Bobby Marks contributed to this report.

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