DeMarcus Cousins began his All-Star Game media availability on Friday by answering questions about basketball.
For any other player, that’s customary. But, for Cousins, that’s abnormal this time of year. In past seasons, basketball took a backseat to questions regarding his long-term future with the Sacramento Kings.
Players are typically asked some random questions during All-Star Weekend, so he answered questions about Paul Pierce, his first dunk in high school, growing up with dogs and things like that to begin his media session.
He was finally asked about the elephant in the room.
“DeMarcus, you’ve been up here for about 10 minutes now and it’s all been about basketball, unlike previous years,” a reporter began. “Does this make the weekend a lot more fun just because it’s been all about basketball?”
“This is the first,” Cousins said jokingly. “Yes, keep those questions coming. I appreciate it.”
Cousins said in an interview with ESPN on Thursday that he intended to sign an extension with the Kings this summer because he wanted his “legacy to end in Sacramento” and he wanted his jersey to hang in the rafters.
Due to a new wrinkle in the CBA, the Kings had the ability to offer Cousins a contract extension that would exceed $200 million. The new rule was designed to give teams like the Kings an advantage in re-signing its star players.
Cousins’ comments to ESPN seemed to have cooled any trade talks for the time being. It was thought to be the first All-Star weekend in quite some time that there wouldn’t be a cloud hanging over Cousins.
Oh, how quickly things in the NBA can change.
While the news broke immediately following the All-Star Game, many woke up this morning to see the Kings had agreed to trade Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 second-round pick.
What had seemingly been talked about for the past couple of seasons had finally happened: DeMarcus Cousins had been traded from the Sacramento Kings. Now, it doesn’t even seem like the All-Star Game took place with this trade dominating the headlines.
Many around the NBA are still in shock regarding the trade. Cousins and his representatives were assured by the Kings in recent days that he wouldn’t be traded. It was even reported just a couple of hours before the All-Star Game that he had been reassured he would not be traded.
As players were still speaking to the media following last night’s All-Star Game, news began to surface on the potential trade. Cousins had a feeling something was close as soon as he sat down for his postgame media session.
“There must be some good s–t going on,” Cousins said. “I don’t ever get this much media.”
Later during that same media session, Cousins appears to be told that he had been traded to the Pelicans. He was then asked to sum up his All-Star Weekend experience.
“It was amazing,” Cousins said. “I enjoyed the city of New Orleans. I love it here in New Orleans.”
For Cousins, he’s now seemingly free of any trade rumors for the first time in recent memory. As a player as talented as Cousins is, it’s almost a relief to see him able to finally focus on just playing basketball and not worrying about all of the outside noise.
It seems almost disrespectful by the Kings to trade him just after an All-Star Game in which Cousins appeared in for his stellar play this season. Cousins is averaging a career-high 27.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
The Kings entered All-Star Weekend just a game-and-a-half behind the Denver Nuggets for eighth place in the Western Conference. Now, it appears as though the Kings are looking ahead to next season.
By trading Cousins now, the Kings will have a greater chance to keep its draft pick this year. If their pick falls outside of the top 10 in the draft, it goes to the Chicago Bulls. The pick they are receiving from the Pelicans is reportedly protected for the top three picks, which means there is a good chance the Kings will receive that pick.
The Kings are expected to remain active up until Thursday’s trade deadline. Players like Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison and Ben McLemore are expected to be made available in trade talks over the next few days. By trading their remaining veteran players, the Kings seem intent on keeping this year’s draft pick.
Meanwhile, acquiring Cousins could be the turning point for the Pelicans. The team has dealt with its fair share of bad luck during the past several seasons and Cousins could be the player to help turn things around. Pairing Cousins up with Anthony Davis in the frontcourt has Pelicans fans understandably excited for the first time in some time.
Leaving Sacramento will give Cousins an opportunity for a fresh start. Given his animated play on the court, Cousins is often viewed negatively around the league. It remains to be seen how he’ll fit in with the Pelicans but it’s a risk the team was willing to take on given their poor play in recent seasons.
The arrival of Cousins in New Orleans could potentially be what finally elevates the franchise to national relevance. For years now, it’s been said that Davis needs a legitimate star to help him carry this team. The team finally has its star to pair next to Davis. Now, it’s time to show signs of life on the court.
The organization will be tasked with selling Cousins on their culture over the next year or so. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 2018 and the clock is ticking for the Pelicans to prove to Cousins that he should re-sign in New Orleans.
Cousins told reporters last night that he was looking forward to his plane ride home. As it turned out, he may not have had to go all that far. He’s home now. At least for the next 14 months or so.
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