NEW ORLEANS – Now that DeMarcus Cousins is finally gone from the Sacramento Kings, after six-plus long years of failure and acrimony, it’s all on them to prove that the three-time All-Star dubbed “Bad Attitude” was the problem.
In typical Kings fashion, they upstaged the All-Star Game itself Sunday by executing a trade to send Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and a first- and second-round draft pick.
This came after repeated assurances that they were sticking with Cousins, and after the roster moves made going into season to put established veterans around him represented some sort of direction. So the Kings' front office, showing the same lack of impulse control that Cousins has with game officials, opted to tear up the blueprint yet again.
Monday, GM Vlade Divac said this at a news conference that made the deal official: “It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization. Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward."
The thinly veiled shot at Cousins lacking proper character aside, Divac is going to have a difficult time spinning this into a positive. While what he said might be true, it doesn't appear to be a good return for a known quantity in Cousins, who is averaging a career-high 29.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and a career-high 5.1 assists. For this deal to work out in the Kings' favor, it requires good decision-making from a front office that seems immune to sound judgments.
Do lottery picks Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore, Willie Cauley-Stein or Jimmer Fredette ring a bell?
What about draft steals they stumbled into only to flub up in Hassan Whiteside (2010 second-round pick, waived 2012); Isaiah Thomas (2011 second-round pick, traded 2014 for Alex Oriakhi); or Bismack Biyombo (2011 lottery pick swapped for Fredette and John Salmons)
Cousins had eye-popping numbers, but there were drawbacks such as 45.1% field-goal shooting for a 6-11 big man -- at least 10 points below where it should be -- and just a 24-33 record to show for it. Defensively, Cousins' effort alone leaves much to be desired. But ever since Cousins was taken fifth overall in the 2010 draft, this marriage hasn’t worked for reasons beyond his control, too.
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Given where the Pelicans (23-34) are, this move represents a no-lose situation for them though it comes with a risk if they're not able to re-sign Cousins in 2018. They landed another All-Star to play next to Anthony Davis and were able to keep point guard Jrue Holiday in the process.
Cousins’ value around the NBA clearly wasn’t as high as most people liked to have believed. And the Kings’ bad roster decisions, trades (see how former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie fleeced them in the Stauskas deal), coaching hires and handling of Cousins had as much to do with his decreasing value as Cousins himself. They undermined their own leverage with him in the market. They contradicted themselves privately and publicly and even outright lied about their commitment to Cousins.
Owner Vivek Ranadive loves Hield as much as he did Stauskas which should be a caution flag. Ranadive is like George Costanza. Whatever his instincts tell him he should do, the correct decision is always the opposite.
The Kings tried to trade up to acquire Hield last year before New Orleans nabbed him with the No. 6 pick. He averages just 8.6 points and shoots 39.2% from three-point range.
Stauskas was the No. 8 overall pick of the Kings in 2014. He lasted one season before Ranadive, who made the pick, got bored of him and sent him on his way. Stauskas is now with the Philadelphia 76ers with a career average of 7.1 points and 34.1% shooting from three.
It's difficult to be optimistic about anything that the Kings do. They waived Matt Barnes to facilitate the deal to gt Hield and Evans. And truth be told, despite Barnes' public perception he's regarded as a great teammate and locker room influence by other respected veterans in the league.
Now Cousins has a chance to put another nail in the coffin of the Kings under the Ranadive-Divac regime and prove he wasn't the primary problem. They'll have no one to blame anymore, except each other.
And that means Divac will be the next to go. If Ranadive wants a real GM running his organization, he should give Hinkie a call so he can learn that he's far from the smartest guy in the room.
He might even learn how to run a respectable NBA franchise for a change. Divac is correct in that character does matter. This Kings front office simply doesn't have any.
[RELATED: John Wall reacts to DeMarcus Cousins' trade]