TORONTO — DeMarcus Cousins is an All-Star and he just wants to enjoy it. Hang out with other elite players, take part in the Skills Competition, have dinner at Sotto Sotto, play in the ASG itself, chill with friends. Chill being the operative word considering the weather.
But for parts of the weekend, he has had to play defense, swatting away attempts to get him to slam coach George Karl or talk trade rumors that have him leaving Sacramento. Mention his friend Isaiah Thomas making it to All-Star Game and you get the gregarious Cousins, but when the other topics come up you can feel his frustration, and hear it in his clipped answers.
“First of all, I can’t control the trade (rumors) and I can’t control if I’m traded or not…” Cousins said. “But I do want to be in Sacramento, and I know everybody in Sacramento knows that.”
Cousins isn’t getting traded. Teams may call the Kings, but they get shot down quickly (then those teams leak the rumor they called, making them look good to their fan base for trying). For one, the Kings have a franchise cornerstone piece under a reasonable contract, that’s not someone you trade unless forced to. Second, owner Vivek Ranadive loves him. Third, and this is key, the Kings open a new arena in downtown Sacramento next season — you don’t trade your best and most popular player, the face of your marketing program in the city, while you’re trying to sell luxury boxes and sponsorships in a new arena.
Cousins has also batted down questions attempting to get him to slam George Karl.
“I can go long term with any coach, but that’s not my decision….” Cousins said. “He’s a free, open-minded coach, he lets his players play. I think every player appreciates that.”
He was more direct with deserving new basketball Hall of Fame journalist David Aldridge of NBA.com in a video (and he’s laughing more and in more of a joking mood in the video than how this quote reads):
“I’m tired of it. Stop trying to make a story out of it, we’re fine. Our only goal this season is to make the playoffs. That’s it. All the other stuff, just stop, it’s not necessary.”
Undoubtedly there is some tension in and around the organization with Karl, although he will be around through the end of the season. However, the one thing that was clear with this team going back to Summer League — when the core guys bonded on a plane trip together to Las Vegas (and doing the other things one might do in Vegas) — the locker room is pretty solid.
“Throughout all this, the one thing that’s been good about the whole situation is the guys in the locker room stay together,” Cousins said. “There hasn’t been any separation.”
It seems Karl has never found a way to reach and inspire that group.
Ask Cousins about the rest of the season and you get some variation of “just stay positive.” He admits that’s not been easy after some tough losses of late, but it’s what they need to do to make a run.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the season, but just find a way to remain positive and get over the hump,” he said.
That may be easier said than done.
But, at least, Cousins will get the chance to enjoy All-Star weekend.