SACRAMENTO -- DeMarcus Cousins took a microphone at a local Sacramento restaurant on Monday evening and couldn’t fight back tears. After almost seven seasons in a Kings uniform, the talented, yet enigmatic big man professed his love for the city that he has called home and the fans that have supported him.
“My love for this city will never change,” Cousins can be seen saying via mobile phone footage. “Even though I’m gone, it will still be the same. I’m still looking out for these kids. Every family in this city matters to me. Every soul in this city matters to me. Everything’s the same, I’m just not in a Kings uniform anymore.”
Rarely has Sacramento had a player kick and scream to stay. That is what happened behind the scenes over a wild weekend. Cousins made a commitment to remain in Sacramento, likely for the rest of his career. He spent All-Star weekend expounding his love for the city and his team.
The Kings weighed their options and went a different direction. That new path is a youth movement that was already underway.
Cousins wears his emotions on his sleeves. He can’t help it, regardless of what people think. Watching him grow from a 19-year-old kid to a 26-year-old man has been one of the more intriguing aspects of covering the Sacramento Kings since 2010.
Every night was different. Every mood was different. Be it a serious look from across the room and the 6-foot-11 big man summoning you over to explain a tweet, or Cousins seeking counsel after picking up another tech, there was never a doubt that he was real.
Watching him hug and take pictures with kids at his basketball camp showed one side of Cousins. Seeing him come unglued on a reporter while wearing just a towel demonstrated another. There was very little middle ground.
The instability of the Kings did Cousins no favors. Six coaches, three general managers and two ownership groups in seven seasons helped perpetuate the cycle of confusion and chaos. But that doesn’t mean that anything would have worked out differently.
Loyalty isn’t just a brand for Cousins, it’s how he lives his life. He’s been trapped inside a fishbowl from a very young age. Rarely has he let people into his world. His kids have always been off limits. His family history has remained mostly anonymous as well. The larger than life persona on the court has never consistently matched the man you see off it.
The locker room won’t be the same. Maybe that’s a good thing for Sacramento. Maybe the Kings will turn a much needed corner and become something other than a perennial lottery team. But there is no question that they just gave up the best big in the league and a player who never wanted to leave.
Sacramento invested time and energy into Cousins. In the end, they had to make a tough decision. Could they win with him? If not, would they ever be able to move the star big when his price tag read 40 or even 50 million?
There were only two options - sign him to a max deal or trade him. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. His value as an asset was diminishing by the day, despite his incredible production on the court.
They chose to rip the band-aid off in one quick pull and start over. Their decision has sent shockwaves around the league, but very few people know what it feels like to walk in the Kings’ shoes. Sacramento knows they have a new building to fill and they know they got less than market value, yet they still made the move.
The return is not what was expected, but this wasn’t a normal transaction. Cousins’ talent is unquestionable. His on court production was incredible. His generosity in the community is legendary. But pieces were still missing from the overall puzzle.
This wasn’t about Buddy Hield or a draft pick in the stocked 2017 NBA Draft. This was strictly a decision to step off of one long and winding path and choose another direction.
Kings fans will watch Cousins continue to make All-Star appearances. He will likely be a first team All-NBA player this season and he and Anthony Davis might make the best big pairing since Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
The Kings will likely struggle to win 30 games for the next season or two and maybe longer. They might never stumble on a similar talent. But it wasn’t working, end of story.
For the last seven seasons, the Sacramento Kings have been the most interesting bad basketball team in the league. Relocation is over and now DeMarcus Cousins is gone. The focus will now be strictly on hoops, which might be the scariest proposition of all.