HANG TIME WEST — And so it turns out the last three seasons of DeMarcus Cousins vs. Himself, an epic showdown without a winner, was nothing more than a warmup. Spending the No. 5 pick in the 2010 Draft on Cousins was a pocket-change investment for the Kings.
The real drama begins now, with news the Kings and Cousins have agreed to a four-year, $62-million extension, a deal first reported by the Sacramento Bee. This is going to be a great ride.
If Cousins, the team’s mercurial center, finally learns how to get out of his own way, the new management team headed by owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Pete D’Alessandro has made a move of foresight that will save millions compared to what Cousins could have commanded as a restricted free agent next summer. They will have secured one of the better talents among big men — though not the most-talented big in the game, not even close — and the franchise will take a giant step forward. They will have cornered the futures market.
If this turns out to be more of the same with Cousins, DMC on a loop, the crater will be much larger than anything seen before in Sacramento. The Kings are on the hook for a lot more money now. They’re reducing the chance to offload Cousins, if Cousins remains Cousins. There is no such thing as a low-risk investment anymore.
In what should be the greatest concern for the Kings, this signing was more about emotion than basketball tangibles. Ranadive drove this with a very public commitment to Cousins before the GM, the guy with the basketball background, had been hired. The outcome will be determined by Cousins’ maturity and whether he can find the stability necessary to reach his potential and better get along with teammates.
With the opportunity to spend a season evaluating Cousins in a fresh environment and the advantage of him being a restricted free agent in July 2014, management instead moved now on the logic that, “Things will be different now. Just because.” The Kings have pledged eternal love. How could Cousins possibly not reciprocate in kind?
For months, every Ranadive statement regarding Cousins has included some version of how much the team believes in him, how Cousins was the first player Ranadive called after the sale of the Kings, and how Cousins is the future of the organization. Management’s vision is that DMC will rise to the occasion because he feels the warmth (though the previous administration made the same embrace).
They see no risk in $62 million over four years.
“I don’t see it that way,” Ranadive said a few days ago. “In some ways every decision you make is a risk. There are risks in games. Somebody could get hurt. Anything could happen. This is a young man of amazing talent. Few big men have that kind of talent. He’s healthy. He’s energized right now. He’s a very smart man. I’m excited.”