Another season, another wave of dysfunction washing over the Sacramento Kings. This year, after a shaky 4-7 start to the season, the chaos largely involves center Demarcus Cousins and head coach George Karl.
The 25-year-old appears to be at wits’ end with Karl, especially after a reportedly profanity-laced outburst following a loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The issue only became more sticky as the Kings general manager, Vlade Divac, questioned the player’s desire to play for Karl. This led to a team meeting that included the players, coaches, and front-office personnel.
Cousins at the forefront of yet another problem raises a question: Is it time for the Kings to consider trading the All-Star big man? He has continually been a problem in the locker room and struggles to get on the same page as any of his head coaches outside of Mike Malone. This comes to a point where Divac and team owner, Vivek Ranadive, should look into moving Cousins for the betterment of the team.
Through his first five seasons in the NBA, Cousins has developed into arguably the league’s best center. But along the way he has consistently shown a lack of maturity on and off the court. Many people hoped he would turn the page after he signed a four-year, $62 million extension in September 2013, which made him the unquestioned face of the franchise. He had his best campaign last year, posting career highs across the board in points (24.1), rebounds (12.6), assists (3.6), and blocks (1.7), helping him earn his first All-Star game appearance.
The Kings aimed to become a playoff contender this season after throwing everything at the wall this summer [Editor’s note: This has been true for a decade now, since the Kings last made the playoffs in the 2005-06 season]. However, it hasn’t quite worked out through the first portion of the season, with Sacramento floundering at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The team is understandably frustrated with the season’s rocky start, but there appears to be a clear shift between the players led by Cousins and Karl.
Yes, Karl hasn’t had the strongest first few months with the Kings, holding a 13-26 record since taking over as head coach, but without the backing of his players, winning games will come sparingly. This is where Cousins should lead the pack by setting a strong example, putting his best foot forward and playing under Karl — not pitting against him. A few reports suggest Cousins stated to management that he doesn’t want Karl fired because it would interfere with the team’s success this season.
Even if that’s the case, Cousins has been a constant headache for the Kings. He is an extremely talented player, but his lack of maturity continues to be problematic. If Sacramento looks into trade possibilities, the team could get much in return thanks to his elite talent. Several teams, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Orlando Magic, could be viable trade partners because of their young talent and draft picks.
What other teams may also find appealing: Cousins is under contract through 2018, which erases any fear of losing him in free agency anytime soon. Despite his maturity issues, Cousins would draw interest from many teams across the league based on his talent alone. He has become one of the best players in the league and has yet to enter the prime of his career.
All in all, it may be time for the Kings’ front office to come to terms with the idea that trading Cousins is best for team’s future.