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After a whirlwind of rumors and reports about a possible DeMarcus Cousins trade from Sacramento to Denver, it’s time to try and set the facts straight…
Late Monday night Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski published a brutally scathing piece pertaining to the Sacramento Kings and their head coach George Karl’s desire to trade their franchise player and All-NBA second-teamer, Cousins.
In his report, Wojnarowski painted the picture of a hostile and fiery situation in Sacramento, calling Karl and Cousins’ relationship “irreparable” and that it was “increasingly unlikely this coach-star partnership can peacefully co-exist next season.”
Wojnarowski also reported that Karl is “recruiting” team personnel to join forces against Cousins, including vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac and numerous players in an effort to convince owner Vivek Ranadive that Cousins needs to be dealt.
“Since the end of the 2014-15 season, Cousins has become aware of Karl’s campaign to move him – including teammates telling Cousins, sources said. All around the Kings and Cousins, there is a growing belief the coach-player relationship is irreparable. Trust is a constant theme with Cousins, and he’s been unable to build any with Karl, sources said.”
“No one in the Sacramento organization – not coaches, nor players, nor support staff – wants to imagine the combustible scenario awaiting Karl and Cousins should the Kings try to reunite them in training camp.”
Over the past two years the Kings organization has been in a state of turmoil. Three head coaches and two general managers were fired under Ranadive’s rein, including former Sacramento general manager and new Nuggets senior vice president of business and team operations Pete D’Alessandro, as well as Kings advisor Chris Mullin who is now the head basketball coach at St. John’s University.
Cousins has been no saint over the course of his career in Sacramento either. In 2011 he got upset and nearly came to blows with then-teammate Donte Green for passing the ball to Tyreke Evans instead of him for a last second shot and in 2012 he and ex-head coach Keith Smart exchanged pleasantries during halftime of a game and was left in the locker room for the second half. Both incidents resulted in an indefinite suspension from the team. Then in 2014, Cousins took offense to a fan’s comments during a game and according to an eye-witness account gestured inappropriately towards him, an incident that was never reported by the Kings or the NBA.
After Wojnarowski’s piece Monday night, ESPN’s Marc Stein published a report that confirmed the toxic situation and echoed that Karl “wants to trade Cousins,” but the pushback is coming from Ranadive. The story takes another turn as Stein mentions a Chris Broussard report that Karl is acting as the de-facto general manager even though that title is reserved for Divac.
“Karl has been given the power to make draft picks and engineer some trades,” the source told Broussard. “But Karl, so far, has not been allowed to move Cousins.”
This is where things get interesting.
Mike Malone, the newly hired Nuggets coach, has a history with Cousins from his year and a half in Sacramento. Whenever the two have talked about each other, there has been nothing but the highest of praises.
“I was extremely happy,” Cousins said on the Nuggets hiring Malone via the Bee’s Jones. “I think he’s one of the better coaches in the league. He’s a great man.”
Whenever Malone is asked about Cousins, his responses echo that same sentiment.
“My relationship with DeMarcus is special,” said Malone to 105.5 ESPN Denver. “In my opinion he’s probably the most talented big man in the league.”
Because of their prior relationship, once word got out that Cousins was seemingly available Denver jumped to the front of the list as a rumored destination for the big man. Add in D’Alessandro’s new title with the Nuggets and the familiarity Karl has with the rest of the Denver roster and the wheels began to spin about a possible trade between the two Western Conference teams.
It’s also no secret that the Nuggets are trying to move point guard Ty Lawson and because of Karl’s familiarity and love for the point guard, Lawson in exchange for Sacramento’s No. 6 pick in Thursday’s draft was rumored and had always made sense on paper.
Tuesday afternoon CBS Sports’ Ken Berger added fuel to the fire and reported that if the Kings were to trade Cousins, Karl was interested in “putting the band back together” and re-uniting with some of his former players from his days in Denver.
“League sources say Karl is enamored with the idea of a deal that would send Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler to Sacramento,” said Berger. “The Nuggets, who have the seventh pick, are open to trading Lawson and Chandler. But Faried would be difficult to trade before July since his contract includes a poison-pill provision; his incoming salary for the Kings ($10.45 million) would be vastly greater than his outgoing salary for the Nuggets ($2.25 million) if traded during the current league year.”
For a moment it seemed like Cousins to Denver was gaining more and more traction, however Divac (and Ranadive) remained adamant, saying to the Bee a Cousins trade “was not happening.”
Since then, the Lakers, Celtics and Magic were mentioned as potential suitors and offered up packages built around multiple first-round draft picks in exchange for Cousins, but it’s unclear at this time if those deals merit any interest within the Kings organization.
Now, enter Dan Fegen, Cousins’ agent and the same guy who orchestrated a trade in 2012 to send disgruntled superstar Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
According to the Bee, Fegen and Jarinn Akana (Cousins’ other agent) “adamantly opposed the move to initially hire Karl and argued instead the demanding coach was too large a personality for their 6-foot-11, 270-pound client.”
With Fegen trying to pull Cousins towards Los Angeles or another destination and the Kings front office attempting to reconcile with their All-Star in Sacramento, the situation seems like it’s sure to come to a volatile end.
Let’s remember although their relationship is rocky, Cousins posted consecutive triple doubles and played some of the best basketball of his career in the 30 games Karl coached last season.
On Tuesday, Karl addresses the rumor mill and talked with Jim Crandell of Northern California’s Fox40 at Del Paso Country Club.
“I think it’s just a lot of crazy, crazy fibs and lies,” Karl said. “You know, it’s just a situation where we won 29 games last year and for us as a basketball organization, we want to get better. I mean, Cuz is our best player, we know that. We want him committed and dedicated to being in Sacramento and playing and leading us to our first playoffs in Sacramento in six, seven, eight, nine years.”
When asked to clarify that “you’re not interested in trading DeMarcus Cousins?” Karl responded with more generalities:
“My interest right now is commitment, trust and building a team that’s excited about being in Sacramento, Karl said. “Excited and committed to being a good basketball team and representing the city of Sacramento.”
Karl went on to evade the question even further:
“If he comes committed, I’m 120 percent into making him the best basketball player he could ever be.”
Then it is was Ranadive and Divac’s turns to weigh in on the situation, which they did to local reporters at the construction site of the Kings’ new arena, set to open in the fall of 2016.
“We love Cousins,” said Ranadive. “And we are not going to trade him.”
Divac was on the same page as his owner and voiced once again that Cousins isn’t going anywhere:
“What I have to do is to improve the team. Demarcus is… and I said it 20 times… He is going to be a part of it,” Divac said. “DeMarcus is in Mexico and on vacation. It’s a good place for him to stay away from this ‘turmoil’ created by… somebody. It’s not from us.”
The Bee’s Ailene Voisin also talked to a “very iritated” Divac who confirmed that Cousins wasn’t on the trading block and was adamant that Karl doesn’t want to deal him.
It’s quite a situation for the Kings to find themselves in with just under 24 hours left until the draft, where they hold the No. 5 pick overall.
Sacramento is left with two choices: Either chose between Cousins and Karl, or hope they can put their differences behind them and go into next season with a clean slate.
And where was Cousins while all of this was going on? Like Divac said, he was in Mexico staying away from the hysteria, yet managed to send out a cryptic tweet that alluded to a relationship that may be damaged beyond repair.
It’s a situation that has the Nuggets front office on high alert, one that will be surely be discussed further and stay on the minds of Malone, president Josh Kroenke and general manager Tim Connelly up to and throughout Thursday night’s draft.