It’s that time of the year again. No no, not Christmas season. I’m talking about the annual imploding of the Sacramento Kings front office resulting in speculation that DeMarcus Cousins could get traded.
Cousins trade talk has become a common theme. It happened early in 2011-12, then again this past summer and is surfacing once more.
Of course, up until now, all of the discussion about whether or not the Kings would deal Cousins has been moot. After all, Cousins is still a member of the Kings, and outside of a Los Angeles Lakers rumor a few months ago, there has never really been anything concrete about a potential parting of the ways.
Now, however, things may finally be reaching their breaking point.
After getting blown out by the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night, Cousins reportedly went on a profanity-laced tirade aimed at head coach George Karl, as first reported by Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead.
Cousins then apologized, via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
Apparently, Karl wanted Cousins suspended two games for the outburst, but Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac would not do it, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee.
That’s a lot to take in.
It’s no secret that Cousins and Karl have had a rocky relationship right from the start, and while the two have tried to play the part of a happy pairing, there is clearly tension. A lot of it.
Enter the Boston Celtics, a team that has long been rumored to covet Cousins.
Could the Celtics make a play for the star big man? Should they?
Well, first of all, we don’t even know if there is any desire from either Cousins or the Kings to facilitate a trade, so let’s get that out of the way. This is pure speculation based on the recent course of events and the history surrounding Cousins and the front office.
But let’s just say Cousins, who has been a part of Sacramento’s dysfunctional franchise for six years now, has had enough. The Kings have been an awful team during his entire stay with the ballclub, and things don’t appear to be getting any better.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Cousins asks for a trade.
Tom Ziller of SB Nation thinks it might be time, too:
It’s unlikely the Kings’ front office is ready to give up on the season even at 1-7, so we’ll be waiting until at least January, if not June, to see some action on the Cousins front.
But for the first time in five years, it’s finally worth seriously considering what a post-Cousins Kings team might look like and whether that’s preferable to more of this mediocrity.
If that happens, Boston seems like the perfect trading partner for Sacramento.
For starters, the C’s own the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round draft choice, and judging by the Nets’ 1-7 start, that pick could very well end up being the No. 1 overall selection.
The Celtics also own their own pick, plus the Dallas Mavericks’ pick (top-7 protected).
That’s three potential lottery selections this year alone, four if you include the protected Minnesota Timberwolves’ selection that they possess, but it’s top-12 protected, so that seems unlikely.
Throw in the fact that Boston has the right to swap picks with Brooklyn in 2017 and has complete ownership of the Nets’ first-rounder in 2018, and general manager Danny Ainge has a treasure chest of assets that would absolutely be appealing to the Kings.
Of course, Sacramento would also get some players in return. Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, James Young, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk are all candidates to be involved in any potential Cousins deal, although the C’s would probably want to hang on to Smart.
So, unlike in previous years where the C’s tried to pursue stars but came up empty, this time, they have the goods to get it done.
The question is, do they want to get it get done?
We all know the book on Cousins. In terms of talent, he is a monster. He averaged 24 and 13 last year and has developed into arguably the best center in the game. He can post up, shoot the jumper, run the floor, handle the ball and facilitate. His defense has improved, as well.
So what’s the problem?
Well, it’s Cousins’ attitude.
The 25-year-old is well-known for his volatility out on the floor and is considered very combustible.
Can he lead a team? Can he ever conquer his temper and be a consistently reliable player for his squad?
The jury is still out on that.
If Cousins were a Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett type, someone who was a model teammate and a great locker-room presence, this wouldn’t even be a question. Of course you would want to trade for him, even if it meant dealing the potential No. 1 pick.
But he isn’t. Not right now, anyway, and we’re talking about an incredibly valuable draft choice here, one that can (and should) turn a franchise around. Therefore, you can see the quandary.
Is this merely a matter of instant gratification versus patience?
Or, is this exactly what the Celtics have been accumulating all of these assets for? To wait for a star to become available via trade, in which case Ainge would pounce like a cheetah on a gazelle?
Remember: it was seven years ago that Ainge cashed in his assets for Ray Allen and Garnett which culminated in Boston winning its 17th championship that ensuing season.
That’s not to say that acquiring Cousins would immediately result in a title because the C’s would certainly still have some work to do regarding roster construction, but getting a centerpiece is how you start.
You can probably see where I’m going with this already.
Over the past few years, people have grown impatient with Ainge’s approach. Celtics fans, fans of other teams, the media, etc. They’ve said things like, “Is Ainge ever going to get anything other than draft picks?” and, “Ainge has to start getting actual players at some point, right?”
Well, folks, this is why Ainge kept piling up those draft selections. It’s virtually the same strategy he employed seven years ago. Stock up on assets, develop some young talent and wait for the next big star to become available.
On Thursday, Ainge was asked about making any potential trades on 98.5 The Sports Hub, but, as expected, he was rather cryptic in his response, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg:
“Listen, we consider all talented players, but what is the price?” Ainge said. “Who are the players that we have around to support? All of that is [discussed] when we have trade talks. I think everybody knows who you are talking about. The bottom line is I can’t talk about any players, but I can assure you that we’re familiar with every player in the league and every player’s background and their character. We consider it all.”
One thing everyone can probably take away from Ainge’s comments is that there is absolutely risk in bringing Cousins aboard, but you have to take risks to build a great team. Technically, there is risk involved in any big trade a general manager makes. Ainge definitely understands that.
Say what you want about Cousins, but he is an established star who has just begun to scratch the surface of his ceiling. And not to coddle him, but let’s be real here for a minute: He hasn’t exactly been playing in a wholesome environment in Sacramento. That organization was in trouble long before it drafted Cousins in 2010, and things have continued to spiral downward.
The Celtics are a different animal. They are a proud franchise that is distinctly in much better condition than the Kings. They are actually a decent ballclub with a direction. Who is to say Cousins wouldn’t be positively influenced by the culture and proceed to turn things around?
If Sacramento does decide to move forward in trading Cousins, it will obviously receive a ton of phone calls. However, Boston seemingly has the most to offer. Could the Kings say no to a deal that includes two Nets picks, one or two of the many other picks the C’s own and a couple of players out of the Celtics’ assortment of young talent?
Heck, this might not even be about what Sacramento wants. If the Kings put Cousins on the trade block, they may very well jump at such an offer from Boston.
In the end, this could be about what Ainge and the Celtics want.
Do they want to keep rolling with their current method of patience? Or do they want to take a risk that can either pay huge dividends or completely derail all of the hard work they’ve done over the past couple of years?
It’s a pickle, no question.
But Ainge is the general manager for a reason. Let’s trust whatever decision he makes.