SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings had an epiphany. After seven years of trying things with DeMarcus Cousins, it was time to give it a go without him.
Vlade Divac stood in front of a firing squad of reporters Monday afternoon, fielding questions as to how the Kings not only moved on from their franchise player, but carefully maneuvering around why they received so little in return.
“I decided to make a decision at the best time, best offer we had,” Divac said. “Moving forward was very important for us to think about our culture and try to win. You can’t win if you don’t have a culture.”
Culture was the word of the day and Divac knows a thing or two about that. The sharp move away from both Cousins and veteran Matt Barnes, who was waived to make room for the incoming Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway, set the Kings on a new path.
Divac was quick to point out that Sacramento had a better offer on the table the day before they pulled the trigger to send their star big to New Orleans. But the offer was rescinded, presumably when, according to league sources, teams around the league were informed that Cousins would not sign an extension with a new team, making him a short term rental.
Sacramento went with what they deemed was the best possible offer after collecting information from teams around the league over the past few months. The Kings kept the door open to a potential long term extension with Cousins, but in the end, another six seasons with the talented, but unpredictable big left them with serious questions.
Despite his status as a three-time All-Star and gold medal Olympiad, Cousins still found the waters treacherous with regards to officiating.
According to a league source, the team grew tired of the constant issues on the court. After promising the star big that they had no intentions of moving him during a private meeting on Feb 2, he went out two days later in an overtime win against the Golden State Warriors and picked up his 14th technical foul.
Following the win, Cousins was also fined $25,000 by the league for making an inappropriate statement and gesture towards a Warriors fan in the tunnel.
Two days later he added technicals 15 and 16 against the Chicago Bulls and was suspended for the Kings’ matchup with the Boston Celtics.
Sacramento would go on to beat the Celtics with a massive team effort without Cousins. While it wasn’t the deciding factor, these events helped set the stage for his exit.
The trade comes at a time when the Kings sit just a game and a half out of the playoff picture. Kings fans have waited more than a decade for their team to get into the postseason and losing Cousins will likely end most of that talk.
“We’re going to play hard, we’re going to play with a lot of fun and improve everyday and try and compete and try to make the playoffs,” Divac said when asked what the fans should know about this move. “If not, we’re setting up ourselves in a good place to move forward to make a winning culture.”
Following the scrum, CSN California had an opportunity to discuss some of the topics with Divac in more depth.
Midway through his second season running the team, Divac had made building a relationship with Cousins a high priority. The two could often be seen having conversations both on and off the court.
“It was very difficult, I like him, he’s such a talented guy,” Divac told CSN. “I was really think hard about where we are going, where we are now, what we want to achieve and I made the decision to go other way.”
According to a league source, the entire basketball operations side was part of the discussion on the situation, including head coach Dave Joerger.
The Kings have built their team around the talented big each of the last seven season with the hope of turning the franchise around. Despite being in the conversation for the eighth seed, the Kings sit nine games under .500 with 25 contest left. Even if they found postseason paydirt, the Golden State Warriors would be waiting in round one.
The franchise was ready for a change. The dramatic shift in direction is jarring for everyone involved, but the Kings are confident they made the right decision for what is best for the franchise.
“I wouldn’t do it if I don’t feel comfortable,” Divac said. “Now we have a clear direction (of) what we want to do. I wouldn’t make a deal if I don’t feel comfortable.”
Sacramento returns to the court on Thursday evening when Michael Malone and the Denver Nuggets come through town. The team hasn’t shut the door on making more moves, but nothing is pending. It could be a wild couple of days in Kingsland.