February 14th, 2017
Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins is the best center in the league. That’s a fact with all due respect to Deandre Jordan, Andre Drummond and the starting center for the Western conference this year Anthony Davis. At 26, he is in the prime of his career averaging 27.8 points (top five in the NBA), 10.7 rebounds and he leads his team in assists per game. New Orleans may not be much better off but certainly without Cousins the Kings could very well be last in the league. Another stat that pops out is Cousins leads the league in technical fouls with 17, already matching his total from last year. On the latest technical he received Cousins said “It’s obvious I can’t be myself...me playing how I play is what makes me the player that I am. Obviously it’s not acceptable, so I’m trying to find a way to, you know, do what these guys are asking me to do. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to find a way.”
Despite all of the talent that Cousins shows on the court, he is constantly in the headlines for his arguments with referees and those aforementioned technicals he receives. A player of his caliber could be the focal point of any great offense but he has spent his last several years in Sacramento never on a team with a winning season. So you have to ask yourself, why can’t the Kings build around Boogie? It’s a complicated answer with a carousel of coaches since Cousins arrived in Sacramento and another one of sidekicks to the big man. Tyreke Evans, Rudy Gay and a bunch of others have tried to succeed alongside Cousins only to fail. Blame has to circle back to the top with current owner of the Kings, Vivik Ranadive.
Ranadive became to the owner of the franchise back in 2013 and he has been miserable in the three years since. He claimed that it was a “ghost town” when he took over but kept around GM Geoff Petrie, whom he recently took shots at being one of the staff that didn’t want to be there when he took over the crumbling franchise. Petrie, a two time NBA Executive of the Year, did in fact want to be there per an interview with Deadspin. “I thought it was kind of a rambling attempt at revisionist history” said Petrie. “A lot of what he said doesn't really ... if you look back on the three-and-a-half years that he's been the managing owner, it doesn't really fit with a lot of the history.” The two not getting along was the first step in failing to build around Demarcus Cousins.
As good as Petrie was as a GM landing Cousins, in the few years after getting him he couldn’t assemble a good supporting cast. Since Petrie’s departure, Vlade Divac has taken over the day to day with the Kings roster and tried unsuccessfully to make the team competitive again. In the past three drafts the Kings selected Nik Stauskas, Willie Cauley-Stein and most recently Marquese Chriss. Stauskas and Cauley-Stein have been average at best players while the Kings traded Chriss to the Suns ultimately for Georgios Papagiannis. Chriss is getting quality minutes as a rookie for the Suns while Papagiannis has appeared in three games this season for Sacramento.
It’s clear based on these past few years that this roster can’t help Cousins lead his franchise back to the winning ways of the early 2000’s. While this has been going on the Kings are clinging to Boogie for dear life with talk of a max contract worth $200 million ready to be signed in the coming summer. It’s hard for anyone, let alone an NBA All-Star center, to walk away from that kind of money and be the face of franchise. The reality is, Cousins is probably better suited not signing such a deal and letting himself become a free agent in a couple of years. The reasoning would be the instability of the franchise hanging on in Sacramento and Divac not delivering on promises of assembling a team around him that can compete in the West. The most important reason? A fresh start.
Boogie has clashed with coaches, the media and teammates in his six years in the league. Part of that is inexcusable. However there is a lot to be said for a guy who goes out every night and outplays anyone at the same position as him. Cousins has given some of his best years to a team that has not reciprocated the effort. They fail to offer foresight or creativity in the draft and free agency. They’re banking on Cousins staying around for the next six years and him being able to compete for a title in his early thirties. If the history of the franchise has taught Cousins anything at this point it should be that he cannot wait that long for his shot at NBA glory.
There’s no shortage of teams that would move heaven and earth to get a star like Demarcus Cousins. Maybe Orlando will be in the market for a center in the near future or a storied franchise like the Lakers. Even the Chicago Bulls have been linked to talks about getting Cousins to the midwest to start a new era post-Derrick Rose. Yes, he would be set financially if he signs that huge extension to stay with the Kings. I could be wrong about the Kings and their lack of building around him in the near future too. If you look around the league there is endless opportunity to change your character and identity as the “head case” he’s been labeled. The money from endorsements and playing in a big market are added bonuses. An NBA career can be finished in the blink of an eye. You don’t want to have taken the safe approach and look back years from now wondering “what if?”