DeMarcus Cousins made some waves on the night of the 2016 NBA draft when he seemed to respond to the Sacramento Kings’ decision to trade down from the No. 8 spot in Round 1 — and the chance to draft super-athletic Washington forward and Sacramento native Marquese Chriss — to the Phoenix Suns’ slot at No. 13 (picking up the No. 28 pick, the rights to rising Euroleague star shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and a 2020 second-round pick along the way) so they could draft Georgios Papagiannis, a relatively little-known 7-foot-2 Greek teenager, by taking to Twitter to pray:
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Lord give me the strength ????????
— DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) June 24, 2016
The All-Star center later denied his tweet had anything to do with the Kings’ draft, joking to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that the call for strength was about “a hot sculpting class.” But at Team USA practice in Las Vegas on Monday, Boogie made it clear that he doesn’t really have much of an idea what Kings vice president of basketball operations and general manager Vlade Divac had in mind by drafting a center — two, if you think that’s where reedy 7-footer and No. 28 pick Skal Labissiere winds up slotting in, though many project him as a four at the next level — when he’s already got Cousins, 2015 free-agent signing Kosta Koufos and 2015 lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein on the roster. From Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee:
Cousins emphasized he is not getting involved in the Kings’ decision making. He’s leaving those duties to general manager Vlade Divac and the rest of the front office while he focuses on playing for the national team.
“I do my job,” Cousins said Monday after Team USA’s practice at Mendenhall Center. “I can’t control (the draft). I control what I can control.” […]
Cousins said it’s not his responsibility to interpret the front office’s moves. His task is to play at a high level as a two-time All-Star.
“I really don’t understand it,” he said of the addition of Papagiannis, “but I do my job.”
That job entails continuing to tenderize fools in the paint as he has en route to All-Star selections in each of the last two seasons, averaging a career-high 26.9 points to go with 11.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and three combined blocks and steals in 34.6 minutes per game last year. But, as has been the case virtually throughout Cousins’ six-year pro career, that remarkable production came in the context of team-wide turmoil, most of which emanated from what seemed to be a disastrous relationship between Cousins and head coach George Karl, who was fired after the season. It remains to be seen whether Karl’s replacement, former Memphis Grizzlies boss Dave Joerger, can produce better results, build a better bond with Boogie, and end Sacramento’s 10-year postseason drought.
For what it’s worth, though, Divac and his front office have quietly had what looks like a respectable enough offseason. Sacramento took short-term fliers on vets Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple and Anthony Tolliver, and claimed intriguing young swingman Lamar Patterson off waivers from the Atlanta Hawks. And, prayer hands aside, Cousins himself seemed to like what he saw from two of Sacramento’s three first-round picks during the Summer League slate in Sin City:
Asked DeMarcus Cousins about Malachi Richardson, someone he's worked with in Vegas, VERY high on him.
— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) July 18, 2016
Cousins, like everyone else was very impressed with Skal Labissiere in Summer League. He also praised the free agents – loves Matt Barnes
— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) July 18, 2016
Still, even if Papagiannis winds up being stashed overseas, the frontcourt does look overcrowded, while the point guard position (where Divac let Rajon Rondo go to the Chicago Bulls in favor of just giving Darren Collison the top job) and small forward spot (where Barnes joins incumbent starter Rudy Gay, seemingly forever on the trade block) seem to be in need of bolstering. For Cousins, who will be 26 as he starts his seventh season and continues to stand at or near the top of the list of the best NBA players never to make the playoffs, that sort of imbalance and uncertainty must be wearing pretty thin by now.
For the next month, Cousins will spend every day traveling, playing and hanging out with some of the best players in the world on a Team USA roster full of guys with postseason experience who expect to compete at the highest level … and then he’ll come home to start a campaign where just eclipsing 35 wins would realistically be considered progress, and where there hasn’t really appeared to be a clear plan in place at any point since George W. Bush’s first term. That’s more than enough to make a man scratch his head and wonder whether his leadership’s heading in the right direction, especially as he continues taking step after step in a marathon that’s got to seem more and more like an ultra with every passing month.
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