In our recent mailbag there were at least a dozen or more questions that had something to do with DeMarcus Cousins. That makes sense because there is at least a perception that he might be that elusive star that might become available on the trade market and the Celtics have trade assets burning holes in Danny Ainge's pockets.
Despite reports of a rift between Coach George Karl and DeMarcus, it seems like the pair are headed toward starting off the season as part of the same team. Instead of making guesses at what all this means, I figured I'd go to a Kings blogger and get their perspective.
The following is a Q&A I did with Aykis16 from the awesome Sactown Royalty blog. Enjoy!
1. Please get us up to speed on the transactions this summer. Aside from Rondo, who did the Kings add to the roster? Do the additions fit into a long-term strategy or are they more win-now oriented?
The Kings were busier in Free Agency this summer than they have ever been at any point in their history. That's not an exaggeration. Aside from Rajon Rondo the Kings added roleplayers like Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli, Caron Butler, Quincy Acy and Luc Mbah a Moute in a bid for serious depth. Mbah a Moute's contract was later voided after he failed his physical. They also re-signed Omri Casspi, who thrived under George Karl last year.
Those moves alone added tremendous depth to a Kings team in need of it but new Kings VP of basketball operations Vlade Divac also kept an eye to the future with the additions of guys like James Anderson, Seth Curry, Duje Dukan and of course, Willie Cauley-Stein, the 6th pick of the draft. With these moves the Kings hope to both compete immediately while having a nice talent base for the future. Regardless of what you think of the Kings moves or how they came to do them, it's hard to say they didn't get better across the board.
2. How are things going between Cousins and Karl? Obviously it is impossible to know for sure, but in your opinion does it sound like they are headed in the right direction together?
I do think they're headed in the right direction. Whatever behind the scenes tension there was/is, they're saying all the right things in public right now. Vlade's greatest skill as a teammate was bringing people together and I know for a fact that both Cousins and Karl have a lot of respect for Divac so that's a promising sign going forward. The bottom line is that both Cousins and Karl want to win and if they find a way to do so they'll get along just fine.
3. Celtics fans can relate somewhat to what the Kings are going through since we did this with Rajon Rondo. Rumors, speculation, endless debates, and a lot of uncertainty. Personally I vacillated between stubborn defiance and resignation of the inevitable (remember, all of this was pre-Dallas meltdown). What is the sense among fans in regards to Boogie?
Boogie is a very polarizing figure, as you all probably know. That being said, I think the majority of Kings fans would like Cousins to stay in Sacramento long term, given that he's the best player the franchise has had since Chris Webber. Of course, fans also want to see some success and so far the team has not been good with Cousins leading the way. The blame for that should not solely fall at Cousins' feet, especially considering the supporting cast and extraneous circumstances he's had to deal with each year. But if the Kings continue to lose, there probably won't be as big of an uproar over Cousins being traded as you'd think. As of right now, I don't see a scenario where the Kings choose to trade Cousins unless things absolutely collapse on the floor. This year is extremely important, because on paper, Cousins hasn't had this kind of talent or depth surrounding him at any point in his NBA career, and George Karl will also have a full training camp to implement his system.
4. While we're at it, what are your expectations for Rondo?
I'm trying to keep my expectations for Rondo as low as possible. I know there's probably no chance we see the guy who single-handedly carried Boston for several years, but that doesn't mean he can't be a good player. He's still one of the best passers in the NBA and should do a good job running the offense in George Karl's free-flowing system, unshackled from the more rigid constraints of Rick Carlisle's playbook. He's also an excellent rebounder for a guard, which should allow for more fast break opportunities and easy baskets for Sacramento. Rondo's three point shooting was surprisingly effective in Dallas, but that was a small sample size so I'm not holding my breath that he magically finds his jump shot this year. I'm at peace with the fact that he can't shoot as long as he finds the guys that can.
Defensively, I'm also not expecting to see the guy that pestered LeBron James despite being half his size but I think his experience will help the team as a whole if he is vocal and keeps the team on the same page. Whatever the case, Rondo can't be worse than some of the Point Guards the Kings have trotted out in recent years, and Darren Collison is a decent Plan B if Rondo somehow regresses even further than he did in Dallas.
5. Ok, enough lead-in. Here's what Celtics fans really want to know. If for some reason the situation sours for one reason or another and it becomes clear that Cousins will be traded, is there a package deal that you'd like to get from the Celtics? Is there a minimum package deal that you'd accept?
Here's the problem with accepting any deal from the Celtics. The Kings want to win now and Boston's best assets are long-term assets, draft picks and the like. Sacramento is heading into a brand new arena in a year and they want to start achieving some relevance by then. If the situation deteriorates enough that the Kings are willing to trade Cousins, they'll want a bonafide star in return and given that Cousins is still locked in for two more years on his deal after this season, the Kings have a lot of leverage. Boston's best chances for acquiring Cousins probably would involve roping a third team in that would get the picks and assets while giving Sacramento someone who can help them immediately.
And if for whatever reason I'm wrong and the Kings did do a straight up trade with the Celtics, I think Marcus Smart would have to be involved at the minimum to make it palatable to Sacramento. Vlade would probably be interested in Kelly Olynyk and/or Jonas Jerebko as well, as he's expressed interest in acquiring a stretch four.
Personally I think there are other teams out there that could provide better trade packages for the Kings, but Boston might be aggressive enough that they'd have a real chance. They did offer a ridiculous price to Charlotte for the #9 pick this year after all, and a player like Cousins is worth considerably more.
All that being said, I wouldn't expect anything imminent on Cousins, especially if the Kings taste some success this year. Of course this is the Kings we're talking about though, and we've seen enough situations devolve out of nowhere that it's unwise to guarantee anything in regards to this team.
That should put this subject to bed, ...for about a week or so.