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NBA AM: Is It Time To Trade DeMarcus Cousins?

The Kings may be painted into a corner. Is trading DeMarcus Cousins their only recourse for real change?… Phil Jackson met with Carmelo Anthony in Denver to clear the air on the future of the Knicks.

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The DeMarcus Cousins Conundrum

Psst, if you haven’t heard yet, Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins and head coach George Karl don’t really see to eye to eye. As stunning as that may sound, there is a real problem in Sacramento and unfortunately it may not go away quickly.

Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive is in a tough spot. While he has been fun as a character in the NBA circus, he has been dreadful as an active owner. He has meddled in virtually every aspect of the team since being named majority owner in 2013. He has fired numerous coaches and a couple of executives, botched more than a few draft picks – insisting that his team spend those picks on players he felt were the right guys.

Over the years, he has alienated and marginalized his minority partners and cost them millions in eaten or bad contracts. With the pending opening of the new downtown arena in Sacramento, there is an impasse inside the ownership group that may block the Kings majority owner from more change this offseason and he has only himself to blame.

When you ask yourself why haven’t the Kings fired Karl yet, the real answer is that Ranadive really can’t without paying Karl off and his partners won’t sign off on it. At least, not without Ranadive conceding control of the team.

The plan back in 2013 was to turn the Kings around. The franchise was being crippled by the Maloof family, who refused to spend money, so new ownership pledged to spend what was necessary to get the Kings back into the hunt, even if that meant taking on salary (which the Kings did) or spending on free agents (which the Kings did). The goal was a playoff run before the new building opened to help energize all the sales efforts around the new arena.

The reason George Karl was hired in the first place was because he was a credible and proven playoff coach. He might not win a championship, but he’s gotten teams with far less talent into the dance and he was a face the franchise could sell.

The reason Cousins was not traded this past summer was tied to the same goal; the best path to the postseason was with Cousins in the fold and the Kings, specifically ownership, knew the only face they really had to sell in a uniform was Cousins.

So the shotgun wedding that was entirely about getting into the playoffs hasn’t worked out, and the Kings are eyeing a 10th straight lottery appearance. A decade of futility and another offseason of doubt and questions surround the Kings.

Ownership did not get their playoff run in advance of the opening of the new building and change in the offseason is not only needed, but almost required.

The question is will Ranadive’s partners let him eat another coaching contract?

Kings general manager Vlade Divac has hinted that maybe moving Karl into a front office role might make more sense given the $6 plus million Karl is owed and his stature in the NBA combined with his institutional knowledge of the franchise.

Given that the Kings failed to reach the postseason with Cousins, is it time for them to explore his trade value around the draft? And what value does the combustible Cousins really have?

The Boston Celtics have long been a team linked to Cousins; can they pry him out of Sacramento for a handful of draft picks and a few of their lesser roster players?

The best thing the Kings have going for them is Cousins, but that so far hasn’t yielded more than a bloated stat line in the nightly box score, but not much more in terms of unity and progression as a franchise.

Given the corner Ranadive finds himself, would he relinquish control to one of his partners and step down as a majority owner?

The Kings have some serious issues to resolve this offseason and it’s hard to see a clear-cut answer given the murkiness of the situation.

One thing is pretty clear, there isn’t an easy answer to the Kings’ situation.

It Was Time To Talk

Knicks president Phil Jackson and forward Carmelo Anthony had a sit down conversation this week while the team was on the road in Denver. Jackson requested some time with his star player and wanted to understand what was going on around the team and answer some questions about the direction of the franchise.

“He wanted to meet,” Anthony said to Marc Barmen of the New York Post. “We thought this would be a good time to meet on the road in Denver, start of a road trip. I think you should want that as a player and whoever is the top decision-maker. If you don’t have that connection, a lot of things can get misconstrued, miscommunicated. You have to have a conversation and relationship with whoever’s making that decision.”

Anthony admitted he had questions about where things were headed and that the conversation was candid.

“I thought it was a good conversation,” said Anthony. “I thought it was a good time for us to sit down and talk. It was more of just an open dialogue. Questions that I had. I won’t go into details about those questions. It was good for me to get it out there. Talk about it. Get his response and feedback. That was that.

“I got some answers. That’s what I was looking for. I’ll leave it at that. This was a conversation out of all conversations we had, it was more open and dialogue from both sides. Not just one-sided. The questions were asked. Pretty standard questions. Questions you can answer easily.”

There has been speculation that Anthony might be open to waiving his no-trade clause this summer if the Knicks are not able to land the franchise-changing talents that are desperately needed. Waiving the no-trade wouldn’t be open ended, it would be to land him in specific places that make sense for his career goals of winning a championship.

“It’s in their court,” Anthony said. “The ball is in their court. They have an opportunity; we have an opportunity to do something this offseason. We got to do something. It’s there. Everybody has money this summer. It’s an even playing field. We got to hit the ground running.”

Anthony’s stance to Jackson and the Knicks is that he wants it to work in New York, and that winning in New York is his first choice.

The issue facing the Knicks is they will hardly be alone in having cap space. More than 17 teams are looking at what could be at least one full maximum salary slot. At least seven teams could have more than two maximum salary slots, with a total of 24 max salary slot projected to available this summer, making the appeal of cap space a secondary objective. Players will be able to find money all over the NBA, the question becomes does the Knicks’ style of play and roster construction appeal to players more than other suitors will?

Anthony and Knicks are hoping that’s the case, and ‘Melo is believed to have pledged to play recruiter as soon as he’s able.

The question is if the Knicks miss on the big players, how much longer will Anthony be all the way in for the Knicks? This looks to be a big summer on a lot of fronts.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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