Take a seat, Days of Our Lives. The Sacramento Kings have been the top soap opera for almost a year running. Between countless firings and hirings, trade rumors, internal quarrels and losing basketball, the franchise teeters on the edge.
Despite the dramatics, the Kings front office has wisely avoided pushing the eject button. Shipping DeMarcus Cousins, the team’s most valuable asset out of town would fit the storyline seamlessly, but standing pat was the right call all along.
Cousins is the concrete foundation of the team. While the Kings have repeatedly knocked out the walls and ripped up the plumbing within the organization, the base remains something to work with. An extreme roster makeover this summer has reinforced Cousins, who can be expected to arrive in fall training camp stronger than ever.
Since being drafted fifth overall in 2010, Cousins has proven himself as a generational talent. At 6-foot-11, 270-pounds, the center absorbs relentless physical abuse in the paint, yet moves light enough on his feet to make cuts sharper than hockey players. Combining his athleticism with his dribbling, passing and shooting skills and understanding for the game, and claims of the big being “unguardable” deserve merit.
In 2014-15, Cousins averaged 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.7 blocks and 4.3 turnovers in 34.1 minutes over 59 appearances. He recorded 47 double-doubles including two triple-doubles, reached 30 or more points 11 times and never scored in single digits. The 24-year-old’s ability to dominate is undeniable.
What’s frightening for 29 NBA clubs is that Cousins has room to grow. Even if his role in the offense doesn’t change, smarter decision making will lead to less turnovers and easier looks, and he can extend his shooting range to 3 if necessary. An improved supporting cast boosts Cousins’ assists totals and the Kings’ offensive efficiency by default. His commitment to round out intricacies of his game was displayed last season as he transformed into a steady rim protector.
Cousins should continue to mature as a leader too. He already sets the tone with his play, but controlling his emotions and reducing technical fouls must be a priority. So is taking the high road and smoothing rocky relations with head coach George Karl, who shares a burning desire to win.
For the better part of a decade, the Kings and their fans have been receptive to the idea of hope. Keeping a coveted superstar who’s motivated to carry the team on his back keeps those dreams alive. Eventually the disparaging headlines and scathing reports of the Kings’ transactions will fade, but the inaction of Vlade Divac (and Pete D’Alessandro) should be praised, shielding their golden egg when the nest verged on collapse.