In one of the more surprising NBA stories of the summer, tensions between DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings appear to be escalating.
On Monday there was a report that the Los Angeles Lakers wanted to trade for Cousins. The NBA world generally scoffed at the rumour (who wouldn’t want to trade for a 24-year-old All-Star center?), and it came after Kings vice president Vlade Divac told the Sacramento Bee, “That is not happening,” when asked about a potential trade on Sunday.
But late Monday night Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a bombshell report that suggests the Kings are closer to trading Cousins than we realise. According to Wojnarowski, it is “increasingly unlikely this coach-star partnership can peacefully co-exist next season.”
Coach George Karl wants to trade Cousins, Wojnarowski reports, and has been trying to build a coalition of front office people to convince owner Vivek Ranadive to sign off on it. To make matters worse, Cousins has gotten wind of Karl’s plan to trade him through his teammates.
Jason Jones of the Bee reports that Karl and Cousins haven’t talked to teach other since April.
After the Woj report got published, Cousins posted an emoji-based tweet depicting a snake in the grass — an apparent reference to the Karl scheming described in the Yahoo report:
As Tom Ziller of SB Nation points out, star players seemingly calling Karl a snake on Twitter after having a falling out with him is a weirdly persistent trope in the NBA. Carmelo Anthony and Andre Iguodala, both of whom left Karl-coached Nuggets teams under less-than-cordial circumstances, did it before Cousins:
WHEN THE GRASS IS CUT THE SNAKES WILL SHOW.
— Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) February 25, 2011
When the grass is cut…
— Andre Iguodala (@andre) May 15, 2014
While it’s surprising that things are blowing up like this in public, there were signs that Cousins was unhappy during the season. After starting 5-1, the Kings lost eight of their next 10 games while Cousins battled viral meningitis. Ranadive then fired coach Mike Malone out of nowhere. Cousins found out about the firing on Twitter and didn’t seem happy about it.
After hiring Karl the Kings continued to struggle. In March, Cousins told Michael Lee of the Washington Post about the season, “It’s been a circus, man. It’s been a complete circus.”
All things considered, it’d still be a shock if they traded Cousins. Not only is he an All-Star who hasn’t hit age 25 yet, he’s on one of the best contracts in the league. He’s only one year into a four-year, $US62 million contract extension. In 2016-17 and 2017-18, when the salary cap will explode because of the league’s new TV deal, Cousins will only be making around $US16 million per year — well below what he’d make if he got a max contract on the open market as a free agent.
If it’s a choice between the best young center in the NBA and a journeyman coach with a seeming inability to coach star players, it’s hard to imagine them picking Karl.