Kings’ brass visit Alabama with DeMarcus Cousins’ big payday looming

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In the last two years, a dozen players have posted 17 points and nine rebounds in a season. Here’s the list with the terms of each player’s most recent contract or extension in parentheses:

  • Blake Griffin (five years, $95 million)
  • Dwight Howard (five years, $83,235,900)
  • David Lee (six years, $79,537,680)
  • LaMarcus Aldridge (five years, $65 million)
  • Al Jefferson (five years, $65 million)
  • Kevin Love (four years, $60,825,938)
  • Al Horford (five years, $60 million)
  • Josh Smith (five years, $58 million)
  • Andrew Bynum (four years, $57.2 million)
  • Pau Gasol (three years, $57 million)
  • Tim Duncan (three years, $30 million)
  • DeMarcus Cousins (four years, $15,800,134)

Cousins, whose salary was set by the rookie scale, stands out like a sore thumb. But given his production – he hit 17-9 in both of the last two years – Cousins, who’s eligible to sign an extension before the season or will become a free agent after it, is about to get paid.

That’s why, at a time many front-office personnel are jetting around the country in pursuit of free agents, the Kings are meeting with their own player. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

Sacramento Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro, coach Michael Malone and former NBA player Junior Bridgeman – a friend of new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive – visited center DeMarcus Cousins in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday to let Cousins know they consider him a cornerstone of the franchise’s future.

“DeMarcus is a really talented player and we look forward to him being a major part of this team,” D’Alessandro told Yahoo! Sports. “We want him to get better as a player and help him get there. That’s our mission. We love him in this role. I’m sure he’s excited about it.”

Cousins wants a max extension, and he might be worth it. But he can also be difficult for teammates and coaches to deal with, which makes committing so much to him dangerous.

However, players with his upside are rare, and the Kings won’t easily have an opportunity to replace his talent if they let another team pay him. If at some point they deem his mercurial personality not worth the trouble, there will be options to deal with that.

In the meantime, Sacramento’s new regime should make every effort to build a positive relationship with Cousins, giving both sides a chance to assess whether they trust the other in the long term, and appears to be what’s happening.