Cousins joins Davis, giving Pelicans powerful pair up front
By Brett Martel
AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins is on his way out of Sacramento — and right into an All-Star frontcourt pairing with Anthony Davis.
The New Orleans Pelicans acquired Cousins in a five-player, two-draft pick deal with the Kings late Sunday night, the same night the center was playing in the All-Star Game in their arena.
The Kings dealt one of the most talented but temperamental big men in the game along with Omri Casspi to New Orleans for Tyreke Evans, 2016 first-round draft pick Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway and first- and second-round draft picks this summer.
“It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said. “Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward.”
The first-round pick is protected — meaning the Pelicans would retain it this year — if it winds up being a top-three lottery pick.
The deal pairs the 6-foot-11 Cousins, a frontcourt All-Star from nearby Mobile, Alabama, with the 6-11 Davis, who on Sunday night was the All-Star Game MVP after scoring 52 points, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 1962 record of 42.
The move also sends a message that the Pelicans are more concerned with making a 25-game push for the playoffs this spring then where they’ll be drafting next offseason.
Pelicans general manager Dell Demps previous’ attempts to provide Davis a requisite supporting cast has been under increasing scrutiny as losses have mounted — New Orleans is 23-34, 2 1⁄2 games out of the final playoff spot in the West with 25 games left. When the deal was made official Monday, Demps thanked Pelicans owner Tom Benson and top executives Mickey Loomis and Dennis Lauscha for their “continued support and providing the resources for us to be successful.”
“This is an exciting time for Pelicans fans as we continue our quest for long-term success,” Demps said.
The deal was still in the works when Cousins spoke with reporters after the All-Star Game. He played just two minutes as trade rumors swirled.
He said he was happy with the Kings, but would also be happy playing closer to home and alongside Davis.
“If I’m blessed enough to have a job here, absolutely,” Cousins said. “If that’s what happens.”
Cousins, like Davis, is a former college star at Kentucky. He is averaging 27.8 points and 10.6 rebounds this season. But he is to become a free agent in 2018 unless the Pelicans can sign him to an All-Star caliber extension. New Orleans will also have to hope Cousins can dial back some of his after-the-whistle intensity and antics. He leads the NBA in technical fouls with 17, putting him one away from another one-game suspension.
While Davis said after the All-Star Game that he wasn’t aware of an impending trade, he said he admired Cousins as a player.
“He’s a great player, dominant in this league, of course, with all the numbers he puts up,” Davis said. “Of course, DeMarcus is an elite player in this league.”
But the Kings decided to move on without him, having not made the playoffs since taking Cousins with the No. 5 pick in the 2010 draft.
The Kings get a player with a lot of potential in the 6-4 Hield, although he has been inconsistent during his rookie season out of Oklahoma, where as a senior he was one of the nation’s best players.
Hield, drafted sixth overall last summer, is averaging 8.6 points but has been explosive at times, with a season high of 21 points. The 6-6 Evans, who can play point guard, shooting guard or small forward, will be entering a second stint in Sacramento, where he was drafted in 2009 and went on to be Rookie of the Year. Galloway has been a solid reserve, providing scoring punch from the perimeter.
The 6-9 Casspi has been playing about 19 minutes a game for the Kings this season, averaging 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds.