(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The Sacramento Kings/ New Orleans Pelicans trade pairs former Kentucky big men DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.
As New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis scored a record-breaking 52 points and the NBA All-Star Game MVP last Sunday, the much-maligned Pelicans front office was crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s on what will be the biggest trade of the 2016-17 NBA season. The Pelicans acquired Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Omri Casspi in exchange for Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield and first and second round picks in 2017.
The move ends six frustrating seasons in Sac-Town for Cousins and gives New Orleans a main ingredient for a potential balance-shift in the Western Conference if Cousins decides to remain with the Pelicans.
Cousins remained cool throughout this chaotic moment.
DeMarcus Cousins’ post All-Star Game interview began as strangely as the news we’d later become privy to. The session opened with the words, “All-Star questions first, please.”, to which Cousins responded, “What other questions we got?”. By that time a public relations official was already whispering in Cousins’ ear. The man known throughout the NBA as “Boogie” looked to have absorbed the shock, acceptance and relief of the moment in all of 2.5 seconds. A deal was done and Cousins was no longer a member of the Sacramento Kings. Once word spread on his destination, it became clear this was no pedestrian, salary-dumping sort of deal. The Sacramento Kings were in a total rebuild while the New Orleans Pelicans are looking to build a championship contender through two of the NBA’s most talented big men.
DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are the Oscar Madison and Felix Unger of the NBA. Where Cousins’ game and on-court personality reflect a hard, deliberate and unapologetic flavor, Davis’ delivery and disposition are as smooth and flowing as any Jazz solo resonating from the Crescent City.
Meets Wynton Marsalis.
The question isn’t whether Cousins and Davis can co-exist, but rather if the Pelicans front office can put the supportive pieces around them. Cousins is under contract for next season which gives the Pelicans free agency this summer (approx. $15 million in cap space) and the trade deadline in 2018 to strengthen their roster. With Cousins becoming an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season, the Pelicans need to put a plan in motion.
Cousins and Davis are averaging 27.6 points and 28.1 points per game, respectively. Point guard Jrue Holiday has returned to the lineup and been solid posting 16 points and 7.5 assists a night. After Holiday, the production drops off significantly. It’s clear the remainder of this season will be built working Cousins into the flow of the offense.
Cousins realizes this isn’t all going to fall into place over night.
Through three games with the Pelicans, Cousins is averaging 23 points and 13 rebounds. There have been moments where Cousins looks his dominant self and other stretches where he looks out of sorts — something that’s expected to happen. One benefit is Anthony Davis at 6’10” has an outstanding mid-range game which puts opposing teams in the unenviable position of placing defensive emphasis on him or in the post where Cousins can wreak havoc. Although Cousins can knock down an occasional three, it’s not secret he’s better serviced on the block. No need to have both big men launching shots from Baton Rouge. If the Pelicans can add a reliable shooter from the shooting guard or small forward position, that’s when things will turn for the better.
From a defensive standpoint, Cousins will spend more time banging underneath while Davis will find himself guarding his share of stretch fours.
Vlade Divac kicks Cousins on his way out the door…
While Cousins reminds a few friends who really matters to him.
It’s no secret of Cousins tumultuous six seasons in Sacramento. From the moment he chose to leave Kentucky after his freshman season, he has worn the ‘immature” tag. Whether it’s feuding with George Karl and the Sacramento media, racking up a league-leading 18 technical fouls this season or catching heat for checking out of games when things aren’t going well, Cousins has heard it all.
When enough is enough!
This is the same George Karl who wrote in his book “Furious George” that players Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin — who both played for Karl — “carried two big burdens” because they had “all that money and no father to show them how to act like a man.” . Cousins most infamous blowup at the Sacramento media came when Sacramento Bee reporter Andy Furillo — who has a less than friendly history with Cousins — made reference to Cousins younger brother Jaleel Cousins, a player in the NBDL. Cousins later issued an apology to everyone present at the altercation except the Sacramento Bee. Cousins is obviously a player who wears his heart and frustration on his sleeve and playing for an organization that seems more intent on opening a new arena as opposed to finding players to fill those seats is hustling backwards. This is an organization that’s fourth in the pecking order of professional basketball in the state of California and hasn’t been relevant since the turn of the century. Cousins can be anointed a team cancer, but how can the Kings receive a pass when up to 48 hours before the trade Kings GM Vlade Divac said Cousins would not be traded? A move Cousins later termed as “a coward move”.
The Kings don’t hold a reputation as one of the great franchises in the NBA. When there is questionable management incapable of bringing in coaching and talent, how will it before your star player becomes frustrated? Remember this is a franchise that had 2017 All-Stars Isaiah Thomas and Hassan Whiteside along with Cousins and failed to make it work. Granted Whiteside wasn’t the all-around stud he is now, but Thomas was making his mark and the Kings failed miserably to cultivate a potentially great tandem.
Cousins frustration in Sacramento has earned him a tag he isn’t fully responsible for.
As people we’ve all experienced someone or something that’s brought out the worst in us. In the case of DeMarcus Cousins, I’ll hold fast to the belief that the Sacramento Kings organization and their cavalier approach in building a formidable franchise brought out the worst in him. Critics point to him not making his teammates better and other narrative defining clichés. If it doesn’t work out for some reason in New Orleans (heaven forbid) it’s all going to fall on Cousins and if it does, Anthony Davis will be given credit for getting Cousins in line. The narrative for Cousins has already been put out there and what he does from here will be based on it and that isn’t fair.
Boogie Wonderland is still under construction, but it’s unveiling is closer than you think.