Thanks to Tuesday night’s CSN California report that DeMarcus Cousins intends to sign a designated-player extension this offseason worth five years and more than $200 million, we got to see the pure, unadulterated Cousins, which is the best version of Boogie.
After the game, Cousins was asked about the report and said, “I love Sacramento. This is where I want to be.” This is a normal response for a normal player playing on a normal team answering a normal question from normal reporters. But the Kings aren’t normal. Cousins then took a microphone from one of the reporters and turned the tables by asking two Sacramento Bee journalists if they wanted him to be in Sacramento.
“No comment. I’m not the GM,” said Ailene Voisin.
“I would say no,” said Andy Furillo — no surprise since Furillo is the same reporter Cousins had a locker-room confrontation with in December.
“Well, guess what!” Boogie said with a grin on his face, “Well, guess what, people! I’m here!”
This is the Cousins whom Kings fans love. This is the Cousins the Kings organization needs. The Kings have missed the playoffs in 21 of 31 seasons since the team moved to Sacramento in 1985. In the Cousins era alone, the Kings have had six head coaches, missed the playoffs each season, and never won more than 33 games. Loyalty isn’t something you’d expect from Boogie. This is a bad relationship gone worse, but Cousins, at least reportedly, plans to stick around. And he will be very well compensated for it.
When Cousins signs the extension (assuming he does) after the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement kicks in on July 1, it will be a significant moment in recent Kings history. The deal would keep him signed through the 2022–23 season and provide the front office with what it needs most: time and flexibility.
The designated-player extension was designed to prevent another Kevin Durant–type exit by enticing star players to sign extensions or new contracts with their current teams for more money and security than they can get elsewhere. It’s possible that players like Paul George and Gordon Hayward won’t qualify for it because of the complicated nature of the rule (a player completing the eighth or ninth season of his career qualifies only if he meets one of these performance criteria: being named to one of the three All-NBA teams in either the previous season or both of the prior two, winning the MVP award in one of the previous three seasons, or winning Defensive Player of the Year in either the previous season or in both of the prior two). The stringent requirements of the designated-player exception might end up persuading young stars still on their first deals to stay with their original teams so they can eventually qualify for huge paydays, leaving the free-agent market dry of superstars for the foreseeable future.
The idea of rebuilding through free agency could be dead. That isn’t a bad thing for Sacramento: It isn’t a destination franchise for free-agent superstars. But the Kings could have some appeal for second-tier players. With Cousins possibly signed through his prime, there’s more certainty in Sacramento’s future (or as much certainty as anything involving the Kings and Cousins can be). Sacramento can pitch free agents with the promise of playing alongside one of the NBA’s elite bigs in a city of hard-core, loyal fans who are desperate to win again, in a shiny new arena. They can also end up with more than $50 million in cap space this summer, so they’d have the financial means to facilitate signings as well.
Sacramento has been rife with institutional unrest, and the speculation about Cousins’s future could not have helped. With the understanding that Boogie will be a King for years to come, Sacramento can maybe, finally, hopefully begin to make some smart personnel decisions and build around its All-Star big.
By the way, for any Kings fans hoping the Boogie Trade Machine is shutting down for business: think again. An extension only increases Cousins’s value. A designated player who signs an extension won’t be able to be traded for one year under the new CBA, so Cousins will be eligible to be traded again in the 2018–19 season. If the Kings show no signs of progress by 2019 or 2020, we’ll be right back to where we are today. That’s a long time from now, though. Today, the Kings are only percentage points behind the Trail Blazers for the 8-seed in the West, so they hope that by that point they’ll be a winning organization with room for further growth. Cousins does, too, and maybe by then the local media will be glad he stayed around.
An earlier version of this piece misstated the length of time before DeMarcus Cousins would be eligible to be traded after signing a designated-player extension under the new CBA; it’s one year, not six months.