As year three of the DeMarcus Cousins era in Sacramento rolls along, there are signs that the wheels may be coming off. After Cousins’ latest tiff with head coach Keith Smart and subsequent suspension/benching/pouting media session, it’s time to start asking yourself…
Is it time to move on?
The risk surrounding Cousins coming out of Kentucky was no secret. But many Kings fans, including myself, felt that swinging for the fences was the best play. And I still would make the same move. Cousins has a skill-set that can alter a franchise and make it a perennial contender (with accompanying moves, of course).
Unfortunately, the downside to the equation was that Cousins may never put it together mentally, and even if he did, it may be later in his career with another team, ala Zach Randolph. With no significant strides in his maturity level here in his third season, it’s time to assess the situation.
What will change between now and the time Cousins hits free agency after next season? It’s going to be the same coaching staff — even if Keith Smart were to surprisingly get the axe, the Maloofs will not shell out top dollar for a big-name coach. So you’re looking at Smart or a Jim Eyen/Bobby Jackson interim situation.
The roster figures to be largely the same, meaning no veteran influence will be coming to transform Cousins into a perfect gentleman. Chuck Hayes and Francisco Garcia are the best leaders you’ve got, and while I’ve got much respect for those two, they don’t seem to have any impact on Cousins’ behavior.
So really, you’re banking on Cousins changing his ways, on his own, within the confines of the current system. Hard to say that’s a likely proposition. Here are the trains of thought that covers most Kings fans…
a) The Kings send Cousins out on the first thing smoking. He’s a virus on the roster, and his mere presence brings down the level of all of his teammates.
b) The Kings only deal Cousins if they get an offer with considerable talent coming back. It makes no sense to give up Cousins for spare parts; just keep him and hope he figures it out. But if someone comes with a strong offer, pull the trigger.
c) Stay behind the big man, trust your draft pick and bank on him figuring things out sooner rather than later. Do the best you can to surround DMC with better support.
Consider me firmly in Group B, teetering close to Group A. And I can’t blame fans in Group A; at a certain point, you just get tired of dealing with childish issues. Aside from ticking off fans, this situation has a chance to completely wear down the other players on the team. Guys like Jason Thompson, Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette — consummate professionals who always put the team first.
It’s hard to gauge just what Cousins’ value is across the league. Safe to say, few contenders would rock the boat right now, and those that would likely wouldn’t give a significant piece. For example, the Boston Celtics, a team mentioned in passing by national media members like Chris Webber and Sam Amick as an interesting landing spot for Cousins, aren’t giving Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett (not that the Kings would want them) or Rajon Rondo for DMC.
That leaves rotation players like Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley as trade chips. That’s certainly not enticing enough for me to let go of Cousins. The other hope is that a team in the middle of the pack tries to make a big move to catapult themselves into contention. Teams like Milwaukee, Atlanta and Indiana know they need more talent to compete. Perhaps they would shake things up, but who knows for sure.
So as a result, the Kings must wait. Wait to see how Cousins responds to the latest incident. His storming out of yesterday’s media session wasn’t a good step. How does he conduct himself on the court, in the locker room, with his teammates? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, if Geoff Petrie is still truly alive, it’s time to start putting out feelers around the league. If he reforms, you’ve got the guy you hoped you were drafting. If he doesn’t, you need to have options.
Because with every Cousins’ misstep from this point on, his value takes a small hit.