Sacramento Kings: The Franchise’s Craziness Starts With DeMarcus Cousins


The Sacramento Kings have a lot of crazy, and it all starts with DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins: All-Star center, easy double-double, dominant post presence… and the source of the craziness for the Sacramento Kings?

The Kings are largely known across the NBA as an unstable organization. From top to bottom, the craziness in-between can be surprising yet not surprise you at all at the same time. Owner Vivek Ranadive might be the Jerry Jones of the NBA: the owner that gets way too involved in the team when he should just leave it to the basketball guys. And the basketball guy with the most power happens to be former King center Vlade Divac, who serves as the team’s general manager and vice president of basketball organization.

Also in the front office are former King players Mike Bratz and Peja Stojakovic, along with analytics guy Roland Beech.

The front office is where a lot of the craziness lies, or at least lied in the past. Last season, Pete D’Alessandro and Chris Mullin filled Sacramento’s largest decision-making chairs. One decision has perhaps had a lasting effect up until this point, which was the one to fire head coach Mike Malone 24 games into the season.

More from Sir Charles In Charge

Sacramento started 9-6 under Malone before Cousins missed some time with an illness. In that time, the Kings managed just a 2-7 record before Malone was fired on Dec. 15. The firing was not only surprising because the team played well while completely healthy, but the fact that Malone was the only coach Cousins has had in the NBA that he actually got along with.

Tyrone Corbin, who coached the Utah Jazz for over three years, then took over before being fired not even two full months later after a 7-21 record while in charge (Kings overall were 18-34). Former Coach of the Year George Karl was then hired, and that marks the end of the Sacramento Kings’ coaching carousel. For now.

Firing Malone was the first mistake made, one that D’Alessandro and Mullin reportedly insisted on. Hiring Karl was something D’Alessandro did not want,  but Ranadive insisted upon it. Cousins was on the side of D’Alessandro and did not want Karl hired as Sacramento’s coach, but Ranadive’s wishes as owner showed to be a higher priority than the wants of the team’s star player.

Ever since the hiring, as should have probably been expected, Cousins and Karl have had their issues. Last spring, Karl said he would be open to trading Cousins away, something that festered the big man. Most recently, as detailed in this ESPN report, Cousins had an outburst at Karl that was filled with profanity that was apparently over the team’s 1-7 start.

Since that report, the Kings are 10-12. Better, but still not good. In the surprisingly average Western Conference, though, 12-19 is good enough for just two games out of eighth place.

Nobody knows what the hell the Kings are doing, including themselves. And for an unstable franchise with a cranky star, that could be a very bad thing.

The report also cites (via USA Today) that Karl is “in trouble,” and that some players including Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore expressed frustrations with the coach to management.

All this craziness in Sac-town since the firing of Malone has all been tied to Cousins in some way. The actual firing of Malone was not his fault, and perhaps the front office should involve him more in decisions like that. But how Cousins has handled himself since has not been a good look.

Cousins is a great player, but why does he think he has the right to act like a spoiled brat? LeBron James has the right to do whatever he wants to do in Cleveland, including having a coach fired if need be. But Cousins hasn’t done anything in his career yet. Is that completely his fault? Of course not. The West has been a slaughterhouse for pigs like the Sacramento Kings ever since Cousins got there, but he hasn’t even gotten them close to the eighth seed yet. I mean, they haven’t even won 30 games with him yet!

Like I already said, that is not all his fault. D’Alessandro and his predecessor Geoff Petrie did a pretty terrible job surrounding Cousins with talent, with McLemore the only of the four lottery selections still on the roster. But still, for a player many claim as a superstar, less than 30 wins is not going to cut it. Anthony Davis didn’t have much around him in New Orleans last season and he got the Pelicans to 45 wins and the playoffs.

The numbers are there for Cousins, but his uninspired-looking play at times when he’s under a coach he doesn’t necessarily like is a big problem. This isn’t in some rule book somewhere, but you’re supposed to play for yourself no matter what. An uninspired Cousins only shows beef with coaches affects him on the court, the one place petty drama shouldn’t matter.

And it’s not just beef with coaches. Cousins just straight up does not know how to control his anger. This is being written the day after Cousins was ejected for arguing his fifth foul vs. the Warriors, drawing the technical that sent him to the locker room early.

As you can see in the video, Sacramento was up two early in the third quarter. As the team’s best player, Cousins getting ejected spoiled any chance of the Kings upsetting the defending champions. Keeping close with a 29-1 at any point past the opening minutes of the game is impressive, and Cousins did something stupid to make the rest of the game for Golden State a lot easier.

This isn’t something out of the ordinary, either. Cousins led the league in ejections right out of the gate his rookie year, and has had at least one every season besides 2011-12. Also, here’s his ranking in technicals every year since entering the league in 2010-11: fifth, second, first, tied first, third and tied for fifth this season.

The thing about Cousins is he’s such a special talent that his mere presence is what’s a lot of the problem. Ranadive and Divac specifically have not done or done certain things just to make Cousins happy. What confuses me is how they now want Cousins’ opinion, but when they finally got a coach he liked they fired him? Why have things changed since then?

Maybe it’s because they (the front office and Ranadive) don’t want Karl and are trying to use Cousins as the scapegoat, saying he’s the one that doesn’t want him? That they can’t have their best player and coach not get along?

There’s still questions to be answered about this team. Winning could clean all of this up, but even in a weaker Western Conference, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be much better than they have been in recent years. Maybe the addition of Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos and rookie Willie Cauley-Stein finally pushes them over 30 wins, but playoffs? Probably not.

If they don’t win enough this year, Karl is probably on his way out. I would make a joke about how after that happens we’ll get to see who the new coach of the Kings will be for the next half-year-to-year, but I don’t believe Divac is all that bad and could make a good coaching hire. Ever since taking over for D’Alessandro, who is now (back) with the Nuggets as a front office member, Divac has had a good offseason with the draft and free agency.

He picked Cauley-Stein at six in the draft, a versatile defender who could be a good long-term front court pairing with Cousins. He bought low on Rajon Rondo, and also brought in veteran shooters Marco Belinelli and Caron Butler. The Kings aren’t playing great, but the roster is better than it’s been in years.

Surprisingly, there’s one thing that could make this whole situation even more crazier: Kings trade Cousins. Rumors have surfaced ever since Karl made those comments in the spring, with the most recent involving Miami, Chicago and Boston.

Related Story: How the Heat, Bulls and Celtics can each trade for Boogie Cousins

Sacramento has said they are not willing to deal Boogie, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to eventually. This is Year six of DeMarcus Cousins as the Kings’ franchise cornerstone, and as mentioned already, they have yet to surpass 30 wins. Even if they pass 30 wins this season, how long do you hold onto such a talented player in his prime if he isn’t helping you go anywhere? How long can you wait to try and surround him with the type of complementary players that will get Sacramento into the postseason?

If they don’t get there this season, I think they seriously have to consider dealing him. And, to me, the perfect partner is the Boston Celtics. Boston is a good team, but they don’t have that superior talent yet to help get them over the hump and into serious title contention. Plug Cousins in, reuniting him with former Kings point guard and possible All-Star Isaiah Thomas, and that team could become a real threat.

Also, there’s no way Cousins wouldn’t get along with player-friendly Brad Stevens. Absolutely no way.

More from Sir Charles In Charge

For Sacramento, this is a deal where the main asset you are coveting is the Brooklyn Nets’ pick that Boston acquired during the blockbuster Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce deal a few years back. That pick will probably end up being top three if the ping pong balls fall the right way, giving the Kings a chance to get perhaps a better player than Cousins come next June.

That pick would probably also come with Kelly Olynyk and maybe even someone like Marcus Smart, along with another piece or two. Again, the pick is the centerpiece of Sacramento’s return, but those other guys are good rotation players to play with that new shiny franchise cornerstone.

Trading Cousins would clean up a lot of the mess there, even though it’s not all his fault.

Nobody knows what the hell the Kings are doing, including themselves. And for an unstable franchise with a cranky star, that could be a very bad thing.