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Vlade Divac and the Continuing Saga of Boogie Cousins

(Nik Stauskas, Ben McLemore and Omri Casspi kidnap Vlade Divac and deliver him to DeMarcus Cousins‘s lair, where Boogie can vet the latest in a long series of decision-makers that’ll control the trajectory of his career.)

Well, well, well, what have we here?

Former Kings star Vlade Divac is now the de facto general manager for the Sacramento Kings. He was hired around mid-season but has already climbed ahead of Pete D’Alessandro, Mike Bratz and Dean Oliver in terms of the weight his opinion holds with owner Vivek Ranadive.

I’m not sure Boogie Cousins should be so excited, considering the dysfunction that has surrounded the team during his entire career in Sacramento. A number of qualified NBA personnel people have been passed over in favor of a former player with no experience as an NBA executive.

You’re jokin’, you’re jokin’
I can’t believe my eyes
You’re jokin’ me, you gotta be
This can’t be the right guy

Divac is not without any credentials. Along with his friend and teammate Predrag Danilovic, he took over his former team in Serbia, KK Partizan in 2000. For four years they ran the club, both leaving in 2004. Divac went on to spend a year as a European scout for another one of his former teams, the Lakers.

He’s ancient, he’s ugly
I don’t know which is worse
I might just split a seam now
If I don’t die laughing first

Those who point to his time spent as the head of operations for the Real Madrid basketball club will also fail to find relevant experience. His role there was symbolic at best, much like his role with the Kings seemed to be when he was hired.

Boogie has now had five head coaches: Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Tyrone Corbin, George Karl. If reports are to be believed, Divac becomes the third general manager, to go along with two owners. To make it worse, Cousins has also had to play with about a dozen starting point guards in five seasons.

Meanwhile, Cousins is putting up 24.1 points per game and 12.7 rebounds per game, good for fifth and third in the league, respectively. He was an All-Star and should have a good shot at making an All-NBA team as a center. Especially early in the year under Malone, Cousins and the Kings were a sneaky possible contender for a playoff spot in the West. Cousins then missed time with viral meningitis, and he returned to a team with a new coach. The team fell off the map, but Cousins has remained productive for the entire season.

Now, it could be up to Divac to make the basketball decisions required to bump the Kings up into the playoffs in a brutally tough Western Conference.

It’s funny, I’m laughing
You really are too much
And now, with your permission
I’m going to do my stuff

No matter who’s on the team next season, I imagine Cousins won’t change his game much. Malone got him to buy in to a system, and Boogie’s defensive effort improved to go along with his undeniable offensive skills. Unfortunately, without the right coach reeling him in, he’s prone to a lot of plays that’ll appear on SportsCenter under the headline “Boogie being Boogie.”

These headlines are almost never a good thing. They’ll probably consist of him standing still while his man goes up for an easy alley-oop, or getting ejected from a game for harassing an official.

Unless Divac and Karl can put the right team around him, and get him to really buy in to the team’s goals, it would be a stretch to expect Cousins to turn around his career by himself. He might be destined to have a long career putting up huge numbers on bad teams, but he’s too talented not to take the next step into the playoffs.

Knowing his volatile nature with the refs, with teammates, with the media and especially with his coaches, it gets harder and harder every year to imagine his time with the Kings ending well. There’s only so much he can take. At this rate, Cousins playing until the summer of 2018 without any progress from the team will all but guarantee he leaves in free agency.

Of course, at this rate, it’s easy to see him forcing his way out of Sacramento before he ever reaches free agency. Cousins has proven to be stubborn and difficult to work with. However, he has proven he can score, rebound and even protect the rim when he wants to, and that means that there will be dozens of teams willing to deal with any problems he causes to team chemistry. When they were rolling with Malone, those problems went away. Winning cures everything, and smart organizations see a player who can really help a team win.

Oh, brother, you’re something
You put me in a spin
You aren’t comprehending
The position that I’m in
It’s hopeless, you’re finished
You haven’t got a prayer
‘Cause I’m Boogie Cousins
And I ain’t gonna stay here

Divac has a lot of work to do if he’s indeed the one making the decisions going forward. Whatever he does, his tenure with the Kings as an executive will be defined one of two ways. He’ll be judged either by the ability to keep Cousins in Sacramento for another contract after the 2017-18 season, or he’ll be judged by how much the team can get in a trade for their superstar center when he forces his way off the team.

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