34 Wins: A Final Farewell to DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins is, without a doubt, one of the greatest Sacramento Kings of all time. Despite never winning more than 33 games in a single season, Cousins’ statistical and physical dominance was something to behold. He earned the cheers and support of Kings fans with his offensive explosiveness on the floor, and stole the hearts of many in Sacramento with his incredible work in the community. The record books will show that every season with Cousins in a Kings uniform was a failure, but he provided some incredible moments that are cemented in franchise history.
While his on-court attitude and technical foul issues drew the ire and criticism of many, along with his too frequent outbursts and clashes with teammates or media members in the locker room, Cousins was a genuinely fun-loving guy with a fantastic sense of humor and a contagious smile that would light up the room. His ability to connect with Kings fans, willingness to take extra time with kids, and passion for helping those in need around him will never be forgotten in Sacramento.
Late in the evening on February 19th, 2017, while competing in the NBA All-Star game, the Kings traded DeMarcus to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans and 2017 first and second round picks. The trade was quite controversial, with the Kings promising Cousins that they were going to sign him to a super-max contract that summer, not to mention Sacramento General Manager Vlade Divac’s infamous, “I had a better deal two days ago”.
Sacramento has agreed to trade DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, league source tells @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 20, 2017
While not directly a result of the Cousins trade, the Kings managed to draft De’Aaron Fox with the 5th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, a position they lucked into by a mix of lottery ping-pong balls and post-trade losses. The Pelicans’ pick, which ended up being 10th overall, the Kings traded to Portland for the 15th and 20th overall picks, where they took Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.
Divac put his neck on the line, promising fans after the trade that, if the team wasn’t better two years from then, he would personally step down. He was determined to do things his way, insisting that trading Cousins, who he was very fond of, was the best way to achieve his overall goal; bring the Kings back to the playoffs with a core that can compete for future championships.
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) February 26, 2017
Just over two years later, on March 17th, 2019, the Kings defeated the Chicago Bulls 129-102, earning their 34th win of the season. The Sacramento franchise hadn’t won 34 games in a single season since 2007-2008. Led by a promising core of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield (who has blossomed into one of the leagues best shooters), Bogdan Bogdanovic, and 2018 2nd overall pick Marvin Bagley, the Kings are one of the surprise teams of this 2018-2019 season, blowing their projected 25 win total out of the water, and competing for a playoff spot late in the season.
It’s safe to say that Divac has kept his promise, and has earned the respect of Kings fans and NBA front offices. Cousins, who tragically injured his achilles in January of 2018, is now with the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, securing his first ever postseason appearance. The Pelicans are the above-and-beyond losers of the trade, now watching their core completely fall apart while Sacramento’s is just emerging. Cousins, in all likelihood, will win a ring with the Warriors and use it to secure a significant contract with some team this summer.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for the most loyal of DeMarcus’ supporters in Sacramento, but the Kings are in a better position now than they ever were with him. The 34 wins is a symbolic close to what was a very topsy-turvy era in the franchise’s history. Cousins ultimately failed in his time with the Kings, who share equal blame in that failure. While, for the last two years, fans have tortured themselves on what could have been, Sunday’s victory should be the closure everyone left needed.
He probably will never be a Sacramento King again (although it is possible), and that’s honestly a good thing. His jersey may not ever end up hanging from the rafters inside the Golden 1 Center, but he will always be one of the best players in the history of the franchise. But that was yesterday. Today, the Kings are a fun young team. And tomorrow looks brighter than ever.