The good people of Sacramento have grown accustomed to the NBA commissioner saving their bacon. Be it the Anaheim Royals or the Seattle SuperSonics, the fate of the Kings franchise was placed squarely in the hands of David Stern on more than one occasion and somehow Sacramento always came out on top.
Adam Silver is in place now, and like Stern before him, he found a new way to save the Kings this week.
Maybe we are being overly dramatic, but the decision to allow DeMarcus Cousins into the 2015 NBA All-Star game on Friday by Silver may have changed the direction of the Kings both in the short run and long term.
Cousins is an emotional guy. Actually, he is a very emotional guy and when he didn’t make the initial list of reserves, he had to be livid. Maybe even mad enough to have a serious heart-to-heart with the Kings about his future with the club.
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill situation. Through 15 games, the Kings were the talk of the NBA and Cousins was being mentioned as not just an All-Star, but an MVP candidate. A bout with viral meningitis crippled Sacramento and just as he was set to return, the Kings ownership and front office fired Michael Malone.
Since the loss of Malone, the Kings have been in a complete tailspin. Before knocking off the Pacers in Indiana on Saturday night, the Kings had lost eight straight. With the win, they’re a lowly 6-16 under head coach Tyrone Corbin.
They are already out of playoff contention at 17-29, and the Kings have taken a beating for the post-Malone mess.
This is where Silver comes in. There are plenty who believe that the All-Star team is both a team and an individual award. Cousins has the numbers, but his team is currently 12 games under .500, placing 13th of 15 teams in the powerful Western Conference.
“I kinda understand the ins and outs of the whole system, and like I said, I didn’t expect it to go my way,” Cousins told reporters on Friday.
Silver had plenty of choices lined up to replace the injured Kobe Bryant, most notably being Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard. Not only is Lillard averaging 21.6 points, 6.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game, but his team is leading the Northwest division at 32-16.
While Lillard is a top-10 guard in the NBA, the fans voted both Bryant and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry in ahead of him. And when the reserve spots were voted on by the coaches, the Rockets’ James Harden, Klay Thompson of the Warriors, OKC’s Russell Westbrook and the Clippers’ Chris Paul were all selected ahead of him.
This isn’t a knock on Lillard, but Cousins is either the best big man in the game or really close to it. His omission from the game was egregious.
The Kings’ 24-year-old center is seventh in the NBA in scoring at 24.0 points per game and his 12.4 rebounds per game average ranks third in the league. He is as unstoppable as any player in the league, and every coach in the league knows it.
Cousins was more than deserving, but even he knew he faced long odds after missing out on a reserve spot. In a dark twist of fate, it appeared that the NBA coaches chose to punish Cousins for the sins of the Kings.
The coaching community is tight and not at all happy about the Kings’ handling of Malone. Their only recourse? Shunning Cousins from the February classic in New York in favor of a 38-year-old Tim Duncan, who is averaging just 14.7 points and 10.1 rebounds a night for the defending champion Spurs.
Silver made the right call. Cousins is a superstar and more than deserving of the honor of All-Star. More than that, if he didn’t make the team, the Kings were in for a long ride the rest of the season. We have seen post-All-Star snub Cousins before. It’s not a pretty sight.
While he has certainly matured, the former Kentucky star still wears his heart on his sleeve. The last 36 games of the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings season had the potential to be Cousins’ last in a Kings uniform. But now there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“I think it’s a stepping stone, not just for myself, but for the whole organization,” Cousins said. “We can’t go anywhere but up from here. This is a building block and lets continue to build.”
Yesterday, it was a wrecking ball swing at a glass house. Today, it’s a stepping stone. Sacramento Kings fans owe Adam Silver a major standing ovation when he visits Sleep Train Arena on Tuesday evening. The commissioner has your back Sacramento, just like always.