This has not been a December to remember for DeMarcus Cousins. The once-glorified sales event that led to Vivek Ranadive’s purchase of the Sacramento Kings, allowing the franchise to stay in northern California, has also resulted in quite a bit of meddling as Ranadive tinkers with basketball operations as he sees fit.
The most infamous example of such came just a few weeks ago, when the Kings fired coach Michael Malone in the wake of a poor stretch of games, contests played without Cousins while he battled a debilitating strain of viral meningitis. Former Utah Jazz head man Tyrone Corbin was promoted to interim coach as rumors of George Karl and Mark Jackson’s candidacy swirled, and earlier this week Corbin was given the title of head coach for the rest of the season.
That management had made the commitment to Corbin was news to his players.
“I didn’t know,” Cousins said. “I didn’t know officially until (Monday) night, either. That’s when a lot of us found out.”
The Kings are under no obligation to let even their best players know ahead of time about any such firings or hirings, but a simple call or text before a press release wouldn’t hurt. Asking a franchise player to concurrently hear important news and form an opinion at the same time while working on the record in front of the media probably isn’t the right thing to do. Cousins handled both awakenings professionally and properly, but it’s probably not wise to keep him or any other player in the dark. Everyone’s got a phone, now. Everyone’s checking their screen.
Cousins liked Malone, and for good reason. These are easy shots, with the Kings at their lowest ebb (Sacto is 2-6 since his firing), but Malone’s defensive instincts and penchant for slowly-paced basketball worked right into Cousins’ strengths on both ends. The Kings have been absolute garbage since Corbin took over and amped up the possession count, and while this may help DeMarcus’ points per game totals, he’s being asked to do things defensively that he’s just not capable of doing.
The sign of a great coach is to make your good players great, and your great players dominant. There is a very good chance the once-dominant Cousins will take a step back under Corbin through no fault of Cousins’ own.
Then again, he’s still capable of this:
With that in place, it still feels like we’re years away from this:
The Kings’ front office put themselves in this sort of situation, so it’s hard to feel bad for the crew. George Karl was never going to take over without the benefit of a training camp, the same goes for Kings personnel advisor Chris Mullin, and there’s no way Mark Jackson was going to walk away from his dual role of taking guaranteed money from the Golden State Warriors while annoying all of North America while calling NBA games. Corbin knows more about basketball than all of us, but time in Utah was unimpressive and his players understand that he won’t be coaching the squad in 2015-16. When management gives up on a season after a promising start, ensuring a lame duck season, players can’t help but follow suit.
With the Western Conference playoff bracket just about set in stone (Kevin Durant returns on Wednesday night, and his Oklahoma City Thunder are sure to rebound and grab the final postseason seed), Kings fans will have to wait yet another year for the payoff. That has to be incredibly frustrating, but apparently this is the unfortunate price they’re going to have to pay for having a team in Sacramento in the first place.
Cousins, who famously vowed to pick up just five techincal fouls on the season prior to the 2014-15 campaign, picked up his third and fourth technical in a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics. Celtic guard Marcus Smart made what should probably be categorized as a dirty move, Cousins responded to his entanglement by throwing Smart to the floor, and Cousins was shown the door.
This is frustrating. And there’s a very good possibility that it’s only going to get worse.
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