Monday, February 20, 2017

An In-Depth Look at the Trade That Brought DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans

On the night of the 66th annual NBA All-Star Game, it was the
Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook saga that was expected to provide the drama we've all been anticipating. To the delight of many viewers, we got a simple give-and-go from Westbrook to Durant before an alley oop between the two. Benches cheered, social media exploded, and that was the end of it.

No trash talk, no shoving (John Wall got shoved by Russ, but we're not counting that) and no real visible hatred between the two. Not a single ounce of drama on the hardwood.

Instead, we got something better.

The Sacramento Kings have been Katy Perry-esc in the sense of their feelings towards DeMarcus Cousins: Hot and cold.At times the organization has shown support, at times they have not. Cousins, widely regarded as one of the best (if not the best) center in the league, has been giving trouble to Sacramento brass for awhile now. His character and behavior on the court has led to much frustration within the organization, with talk of Boogie being dealt dating all the way back to last year's NBA Draft.

However, on the NBA's biggest weekend, it was not a single event of theirs that made headlines or will be remembered. It's a big man headed to the big easy.

The trade was initially announced by Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski sometime after the game on Sunday night.

Trade breakdown:

Pelicans Receive:
DeMarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi

Kings Receive:
Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans,
2017 First (Top-3 Protected) AND Second Round Picks 

With the NBA's trade deadline nearing closer to the finish line on Thursday February 23rd at 3:00 PM Eastern Time, there's a tragically minor chance a bigger trade will be made in the closing moments. The Lakers came close to a deal for Boogie but refused to involve Brandon Ingram, and the Pistons had an offer rejected that reportedly involved Andre Drummond. Whichever way the pendulum swings, this deal can be franchise-shaping for either side, and will heavily be debated for years to come.

However, this trade was never supposed to happen.

New Orleans' newly beloved centerpiece, despite all the "problems" he caused, was not supposed to be traded. Vlade Divac, Sacramento's GM, came out publicly and stated that the Kings wanted to keep DeMarcus around for the long term.

"We're not trading DeMarcus ... we hope he's here for a long time"- Divac to ESPN on 2/6/17

This message was repeated multiple times through multiple mediums for the past two weeks, a message that religiously insisted the future of the Kings franchise had DeMarcus Cousins' name branded to their team. This was even confirmed in the luring hours leading up to the All-Star game, according to The Vertical. 

Sacramento's unfaithfulness shined not only on a public platform, yet privately as well. Cousins and his representatives held face to face meetings before the public statements and were reportedly told multiple times that DeMarcus would remain a King.

In the midst of all the debris of commotion trickling from the front office, the true tragedy for Kings fans everywhere is Boogie wholeheartedly wanted to stay.

“For one, everyone knows I’m all about loyalty – I’m loyal to this... I was brought here, I believe in myself, I believe in my abilities. I’m committed to this team, this city – it’s been noted, and I don’t want it no other way. I want to be with one team my entire career; I want to finish my career here in Sacramento. That’s what it is.”- Cousins to the Sacramento Bee on Saturday

Quite obviously, this wasn't how Cousins foresaw relations with his former team working out. While trade rumors began to gain traction, DeMarcus' agent Jarinn Akana stated that his client would not be open to signing an extension with any team that chooses to trade for him, which provides an interesting shade of dilemma on the blockbuster deal.

Would Boogie refuse to sign an extension with New Orleans?

Cousins would be able to enter free agency in the summer of 2018, making his services available for New Orleans to last at least until then. Clearly those within the Pelicans front office feel confident to sway these feelings otherwise, but one cant help ponder the scenario of an upset Cousins not wanting to re-up with New Orleans. It's unlikely, but so was this deal. Is this what kept other teams from pursuing him?

Setting aside personal conflict, Cousins now finds himself paired with former Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis, co-starring in what is now potentially the association's most feared front court. For years, analysts and fans alike have been screaming for both of these players to get some sort of help, yet nobody could have predicted the outcome in this fashion.  The Pelicans now shift their focus on building a back-court to balance their attack.

As for Sacramento, it's surprising to see a deal made with a few days left to spare. With such a big name on the market (even if he doesn't know he is) the Kings could have entertained a few more offers. The trade brings in Buddy Hield, one of the more promising yet inconsistent rookie guards out of last years draft class. The future isn't predictable for Galloway and Evans quite yet, although early reports indicate at least Galloway will be bought out of his current deal. The Kings riddance of Boogie means Willie Cauley-Stein will be moved to the center position, and the newly acquired draft pick will bring up hope of drafting the likes of Lonzo Ball in the upcoming NBA Draft.

With the recent turn of events in the Kings franchise, you'll be hard-pressed to find a willing soul with a level head to join their franchise. Simply put, Sacramento is arguably the worst-run franchise in sports. It's one thing to be consistently awful: This is the same team who once had Hassan Whiteside, Isiah Thomas along with Cousins on the same team and also drafted Jimmer Fredette over Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson. The inability to acquire DeMarcus Cousins with some form of talent was astounding.

Yet it's another thing to conduct business the way that they do. People can ramble all day about how "this is the business side of basketball" in regards to the trade. What business lies to their most important (and LOYAL) client, face to face, about their future? The Sacramento Kings have lost any credibility they managed to scotch tape together over the past six/seven seasons. The front office is a dumpster fire, and most importantly they let their fans down by dumping the closest thing of a centerpiece to a franchise you could find away on a trade that essentially gives you pennies on the dollar.

DeMarcus wasn't a problem. He was never the problem. He wasn't a cancer to the locker room, he was part of a cancerous organization.

With Boogie's summer of 2018 still looming, the longevity of Cousins in New Orleans does carry some fog with it. Yet for now, Cousins has some time to get acquainted with his new surroundings before any big decisions go down in the big easy. At the end of the day, the Pelicans emerge as the clear victors of the deal. New Orleans gave up little real estate in exchange for the hottest house on the block. As for Sacramento, the Kings hit the reset button and are putting all their chips on acquiring/developing young talent.

There's been no official word from DeMarcus about the events following the All-Star game, although reports that stem close from Cousins relay that he is expected to fly back into New Orleans on Tuesday. Considering his expressed interest in staying with Sacramento and loyalty having a big role in his mindset, March 31st will be a special day for Boogie, as the Kings travel back to New Orleans to play the Pelicans.

And as the Kings are about to find out, revenge is best served with extra gumbo.

Donnie Druin is an award-winning writer from the Arizona Newspaper Assocation. Follow him on Twitter @DonnieDruin for everything in the world of sports, or to scold him for criticizing Sacramento if he's never been there. 

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