Here we are again, talking about the future of DeMarcus Cousins. It must be February. Only this time, unlike the past few lead-ups to the NBA trade deadline, we’re here to tell you he’s not going anywhere.
“We’re not trading DeMarcus,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein in the most adamant denial of the many, many trade rumors that have circulated about the three-time All-Star big man since as far back as we can remember. “We hope he’s here for a long time.”
This isn’t a departure from what Cousins has been saying all season. Early on, he told the Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones, “I’m a King. I’m good.” Even as speculation swirled during another disappointing start, the 26-year-old rolled his eyes at the annual incessant onslaught of questions about his future:
DeMarcus Cousins seems thrilled to be talking about trade rumors in Boston pic.twitter.com/b46UDuZzwC
— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) December 3, 2016
Just last month, amid reports Cousins intended to sign a massive contract to stay in Sacramento this coming summer, he turned an interview around on reporters, asking if they wanted him to stay. And when one said straight to his face he would prefer to see Cousins go, the All-NBA center countered, “OK, well, guess what? Guess what, people? I’m here,” and then cackled maniacally right back at him.
But for every denial, there’s been an equal and opposite rumor, some rooted in former coach George Karl’s preference to deal Cousins, some based on the front office fielding offers and some fueled by the man himself, like when he took to social media to question the team’s draft strategy, aired out Sacramento’s “in-house issues” for the public and openly expressing a desire to play with John Wall.
Then there’s the antics. Cousins threatened a columnist in an outburst that made headlines in mid-December, and the ensuing headache for the Kings always leads to more questions about how they can coexist. The irony is not lost on anyone that Stein’s “We’re not trading DeMarcus” report came on the same night Cousins shoved a Chicago Bulls assistant coach and blew up at a referee with one second left and the game all but over, earning two technical fouls, an ejection and a likely suspension.
The latest rumor came from Arizona Sports talk radio host John Gambadoro, who just last week reported the Kings and Suns discussed a deal that would send Cousins to Phoenix for T.J. Warren, Alex Len and a likely 2017 lottery pick. If that’s the sort of offer Divac is getting for a guy averaging 27.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.8 combined blocks and steals — all while registering career highs for 3-point attempts and 3-point percentage — I’d take Cousins off the trading block, too.
Cousins is scheduled to be a free agent after next season, but the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement revealed a “designated player” exception that would allow for stars like him to sign a five-year extension worth in excess of $200 million, and reports indicated last month the Kings intend to make that offer. Stein confirmed that report with Divac, who added, “We are going in that direction.”
While the Kings remain within 3.5 games of a playoff spot this season, questions linger about Cousins’ ability to lead a team to contention, and that may be why other teams have been hesitant to make an offer Divac can’t refuse, even for a top-15 player playing for an unstable franchise that cycles through point guards and coaches on a near yearly basis. Would you deal a cache of assets for a guy who will be due more than $200 million in the near future and may not be a championship cornerstone?
On the other hand, teams aren’t trading away stars like they used to, and they’re certainly not trading them for below market value, so the Kings may finally have resigned themselves to the fact Cousins is their $44 million-a-year franchise player for the foreseeable future, for better or worse. At least if they sign him to the designated player exception this summer, he can’t be dealt until at least July 2018, so we can stop talking DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors for at least one season. I’ll believe it when I see it.
– – – – – – –