But Cousins doesn’t appear to be leaving the Kings anytime soon.
1. The NBA’s new veteran-designated-player rule will allow Sacramento, and only Sacramento, to offer Cousins a five-year contract extension projected to be worth $219 million. Cousins reportedly plans to accept that deal when offered. If another team trades for Cousins, its max offer for re-signing Cousins projects to be $188 million over five years – an amount low enough that Cousins could walk in free agency. Simply, the designated-player tag makes Cousins more valuable to the Kings that he would be to any other team.
2. Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive wants to keep Cousins. Whether or not that’s the rational choice (it is, due to No. 1), the owner’s directive rules.
3. Other teams are hesitant to deal with Cousins’ attitude.
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN – in a incredibly reported piece on Cousins and the Kings – digs deeper into the third reason.
One general manager says he wakes up every day hoping one of his rivals trades for Cousins. Another says “No f—ing way” when asked whether he’d ever consider dealing for him.
Why? Cousins is so talented.
Arnovitz provides an example:
IT’S JANUARY 2015, a few weeks after Malone’s firing, and new coach Corbin is presiding over a film session. The team has fallen off a cliff in recent games, and Corbin has cued up a selection of video clips of the team’s defensive errors. Much of Corbin’s attention is focused on the Kings’ porous half-court defense, and Cousins is receiving heavy billing. After a few short minutes, Cousins jumps up.
“Why don’t we play film of all of this motherf—er’s mistakes?” Cousins shouts to the room, according to a then-teammate, pointing at Corbin. Corbin tries to explain that there’s no intent to single out any one player’s mistakes. Their recent performances, he says, have been teamwide failures. But Cousins is inconsolable. “Show ’em!”
Teammates don’t intervene. Corbin again urges Cousins to calm down. Cousins instead walks out of the film room and doesn’t return. When asked about the episode nearly two years later, Cousins confirms it — as well as his regular insubordination toward Corbin in practices, huddles and meetings.
“I feel bad for Ty Corbin,” Cousins says today about the interim coach who would compile a 7-21 record before being replaced. “We all knew the situation he was put in. That was just a frustrating period for everyone, to start the season the way we did. We finally were on the right path. I truly believe we would have been a playoff team. I was in a bad place. It was never an issue between me and Ty Corbin. He’s a great guy who was put in the worst situation possible — the worst.”
It’s good that Cousins can reflect on that incident, but it was only one of many. Arnovitz has much more, and I highly recommend reading his piece in full.
There are plenty of fair reasons to be wary of trading for Cousins, but his production demands close monitoring. By most accounts, Cousins had been less destructive this year. It wouldn’t take much to justify the risk of trading for him. His upside is so high.
I suspect, if the Kings ever made him available, teams would line up to make offers — even if a few executives talk a big game about avoiding him now.