Kings’ Cousins demands trade… or did he? Sacramento is a mess.

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UPDATE 8:53 pm: Here is coach Paul Westphal’s pregame quote to the media and comments about the Cousins situation, via NBA.com.

“He can only have so many chances and something has to be done.  And it’s time something has to be done.”  Westphal is not sure if Cousins will travel with the team on their two game road trip that begins on Tuesday in Memphis.  He did say that Cousins needed to do some “soul searching” and that he hopes that, “DeMarcus has a change of heart and joins up with full reinstatement, that’s really up to him and I hope that.”

7:30 pm: We knew there were problems in Sacramento, but we didn’t realize that “black hole-like implosion” was going to be an accurate term.
DeMarcus Cousins has demanded a trade, coach Paul Westphal said in a statement. That is something Cousin’s agent denied to Sports Illustrated.

All we do know for sure is Cousins has been told to stay home as the Kings host the Hornets Sunday. Here is Westphal’s statement.

“Whenever a new season begins, in any sport, there is great hope that everything will progress in only a steady, upward direction. As we all know, it seldom happens like that in this life!

As coaches, we can only ask that our players do everything they can to improve themselves as individuals and teammates. If they do this with all their hearts, we live with the results.

Everything that happens on a team does not become known to the public. This is how it should be. However, when a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely.

DeMarcus Cousins has demanded to be traded. In the best interest of our team as we go forward, he has been directed by me, with the support of management, to stay home from the New Orleans game tonight.”

The coach, who has a running feud with the player, is releasing statements and not the GM and/or team president? Interesting situation in Sacramento. And if Cousins doesn’t want to travel in the same direction as this struggling team, is that a bad thing?

By releasing this statement and sitting him, the Kings have publicly put Cousins on the market.

Cousins’ agent John Greig said there was no trade demand to Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick:

“DeMarcus never demanded a trade. I’m surprised the Kings, if they believe the player wanted… a trade, wouldn’t have made a phone call to his representative. Maybe Westphal is just feeling the heat early this season.”

Yea, all this is going to help rally the hard working people of Sacramento behind the team and keep the Kings in the California capital.

Cousins had been frustrated pretty much since he got to the Kings with how he was being used in the offense. He has clashed with Westphal and the coaching staff repeatedly and was suspended by the team from games because of it. His fit with Tyreke Evans was not developing, although how much of that was on them and how much was on Westphal is up for debate. There are a lot of people who can shoulder blame for a lot of things in Sacramento.

Cousins, just starting his second season, is a good big man with the potential to be very good, but there are plenty of questions around the league about his focus, maturity and work ethic. He is strong, a very good rebounder and has some skills around the rim (although he has struggled with that this season, shooting just 36.4 percent inside three feet and a terrible 32 percent overall, but he keeps shooting a lot). His defense has great potential but needs work. The general consensus can be summed up in a quote from Bull Durham, “million dollar body and a five cent head.”

Which leads to a question of how much the Kings can really get for him? If I were GM of a rebuilding team that had a long way to go I’d consider putting in an offer (I’m looking at you, Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers) but I wouldn’t offer actually valuable pieces going forward. Picks would be top 10 protected, players would not be near the potential that Cousins has. If the Kings trade him, they will not get equal value. But maybe that is worth it to them right now.

Warriors vs. Bucks or Raptors betting favorite to be NBA Finals matchup

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Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?

The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.

The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)

The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1

A few quick thoughts on that list:

• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.

• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.

• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

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Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.

Jayson Tatum guarantees Celtics will win 2019 NBA championship

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Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.

So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.

So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.

Tatum:

We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.

Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.

Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.

I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.

Kristaps Porzingis reportedly gave Knicks wish list of trade destinations: Nets, Clippers, Heat, Raptors

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.

But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.

Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.

The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.

But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.

Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.