Two things have become very clear about DeMarcus Cousins since the new Sacramento Kings regime took over in late May.
First, the new Kings front office really really wants Cousins to stay a King.
Second, if Cousins can’t put it all together this year, he should be free to go.
These seem like two counter points, but they boil down to the same thing—the Kings are giving DeMarcus Cousins every possible piece that he needs to put his puzzle together. If he can’t take advantage of that, then a departure next summer won’t be a bad thing.
We aren’t talking about Cousins’ skills here—although those certainly need to be improved. We’re talking about the support system around Cousins. There’s Mike Malone, who’s spoken many times since being hired about his desire for Cousins to “be the leader”. There’s also new majority owner Vivek Ranadive, whose first call after getting the team was to Cousins and who speaks openly about the squad’s commitment to Cousins.
It isn’t even just about words – the Kings basically sent their entire front office to Las Vegas to watch Cousins in the Team USA Mini-camp. Vivek, Pete D’Alessandro, Mike Bratz, Mitch Richmond, Mark Mastro, Chris Mullin and Shareef Abdur-Rahim all attended. That’s most of the Kings new power structure all flying out to watch a practice. If Cousins needed more proof that he’s wanted, he’s not going to get it at this point.
Which, of course, leads to the $80 million dollar question: will he remain in Sacramento after this season? That $80 million figure is the approximate max contract Cousins could get, either in the form of an extension this year or next year as a restricted free-agent. Cousins wants that max contract, and has said he wants to remain in Sacramento, but mostly he’s just being silent. His agent wants the max contract for Cousins, and they’ll hold out the “demanding a trade” weapon if they don’t get it – but that’ll be a double-edged weapon that could hamper as much as help.
In an NBA where size is a premium, a player with Cousins’ skillset and height is guaranteed a max contract. Unless Cousins’ burns all his bridges this year—and we’re talking nuclear level fire here—he’ll be getting a max contract next summer. There will be squads that trusts they could tame the beastly big man when the Kings failed, and a player with Cousins desire to win and basketball abilities is an absolute rarity. Some way or another, Cousins will be in for that max payday starting in the 2014-15 season.
It all comes back to Sacramento, though. Cousins has all the support he needs. He has a coach who sluffs off the criticism for Cousins and wants him to be a leader. He has a front-office staff fully committed to him (and who even ask his opinion on players/trades). For the first three years of his career, Cousins went through two bad head coaches and a franchise structure that offered him mediocre support at best. Now that excuse is out the window.
With Tyreke Evans gone to New Orleans and a rookie in Ben McLemore as the Kings second biggest name on the roster, this squad is firmly Cousins’. If he can’t make this work – and again, not just talking basketball wise here – then next summer, his departure wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Here’s hoping (and cautiously expecting) many years of Cousins’ dominance to come.