The Rough Times of DeMarcus and the Kings

The Kings won last night, squashing a talented (but probably over-performing) Detroit team in a game that was largely decided by the end of the first quarter. A late run leading to a 9 point loss gives the Pistons more credence in their clear water revival than they probably deserve. Rajon Rondo played an spectacular 48 minutes for the second consecutive game, in a length-worthy performance that has been unrivaled since the latter days of the Nelson administration when Monta, deeply, movingly, had it all.

George Karl has never felt like such a prick as to play a player with such a history of injuries all 48, but fuck, when you gotta have it all, you’ve gotta have it all. Karl was going with what he’s got in terms of talent, depth, and a disbelief in Belinelli or like, McLemore to play the point for more than a few possessions. It sounds hard, harder than it needs to be, to play Kings basketball right now.

Word on the street – and I don’t know how or why these rumors and reports keep reoccurring – is there are some issues with the organization in Sacramento. I don’t get it either, but when a team is kept away from the beauty of northwestern Washington through a unique partnership between a certainly corrupt, possibly pedophilic mayor, an impossibly ridiculous tech billionaire, and David Stern’s heavy hand, you’re probably betting on the results to be a fucking mess regardless of the honest, eloquent intentions of the fan base.

The agony of DeMarcus Cousins isn’t a result of any of that collusion (and I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel sullen on that “final night” in Sacramento a few years back, as Grant Napier and Jerry Reynolds signed off at the end of the season), but Cousins is undoubtedly a contributory factor in the chaos that has surrounded the team for some time. Due to this awful stew, Cousins’ remarkable complexity as a basketball player feels secondary to the baggage that surrounds him.

I feel for him. I feel for the fans of Sacramento. I wonder how this is fixed, given the amount of money involved. I largely expect news about Karl being fired to be released on Twitter during the halfway point of this column.

But, if we’re to feel as if basketball is a sport at least as much as a soap opera, then we need to consider his talent (which isn’t easily replaceable) and his contract (which is manageable for a couple of years, and then most certainly a monster cap hold), and then: why would any good manager let him go to like, the Celtics? What does it mean about what we think of DeMarcus that we’re enthusiastic to see him walk away from a situation where the team has been built around his short-term success? Do we really believe in him at all?

Talent with the perplexing dichotomy of high on-court ascription and frustrating demeanor have existed in the league since time immemorial, and depending on the player’s grace in maturation, have led to both Shaq/Wilt ‘dicks who people have been fine with’ as well as countless washouts. It depends on how you grow old.

Cousins has a couple short seasons left to define himself, and with the cap jump, it’s unclear if a team aside from Sacramento will be willing to build around such a presently enigmatic figure when the alternative is to cede legislative power to someone whose inability to get along with coaches, et al. is significantly documented. Recognizing the nuance with which Ainge and the management team in Boston have developed their roster, and given Brad Stevens an ability to be egalitarian and flexible in his coaching, pushing Cousins into their structure seems almost like blowing up the mine shaft before the gold has been found. In this situation, it seems like wishful thinking it would work. It makes more sense for the Kings to hope for patience.

It’s difficult to surmise what message Karl was given when Cousins railed at him, and if they will ever co-exist (hopefully last night helped, I recap with a gentle faith). While both parties can understandably want success sooner rather than later, “soon” means something different to a man in his mid-60s than a man in his mid-20s. That palpable misconnection is a shame considering the team is undoubtedly a work in progress, albeit one with a perplexing level of veteran talent. It’s a mixed message, not dissimilar when management cans a beloved coach and replaces them with a not-identical, not-Michael Malone, and all parties have to live with the unenviable and impossible case of having to live up to that coach’s example that, with time and memory fleeting, only exists in the recesses of youth.

But cheer up: the person hired to fix all of this is Vlade Divac.

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