The most unstable franchise in the league is once again experiencing a power struggle, as the head coach wants to deal away the All-Star center, the lone pillar Sacramento has been able to land during an especially bad stretch.
The post season has eluded the Kings for each of the past nine seasons, and with coach George Karl now on the hot seat after demanding DeMarcus Cousins be removed from the team, there is little reason to believe the streak won’t extend into a decade.
Before choosing the sixth overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, Karl wanted the Kings to pursue a trade centered around Cousins as the two haven’t spoken to each other in months.
Karl was hired in the spring, marking the fifth different coach the team has employed since choosing Cousins with the fifth overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft. Last season alone, Mike Malone was surprisingly fired after the team began to struggle with Cousins sidelined by viral meningitis, as the result of tensions between Malone and general manager Pete D’Alessandro.
After Malone was let go, the team promoted assistant coach Tyrone Corbin to the head coaching position, with the chance of earning the job permanently, even signing a contract that ran through the end of the season. Under Corbin, the Kings managed just a 7-21 record, and team management decided to hire Karl.
Along with the addition of Karl, Corbin was not offered a position as an assistant coach.
Since the end of the regular season, Karl has been trying to convince Sacramento vice president of basketball operations, Vlade Divac, to explore trade options for Cousins.
Yahoo! published a story saying no one in the Kings organization – not coaches, nor players, nor support staff – wants to imagine the combustible scenario awaiting Karl and Cousins should the Kings try to reunite them in training camp.
Originally new team owner, Vivek Ranadive, granted Karl permission to complete a deal, then flipping sides in the dispute and has grown frustrated with his coach.
Just months after hiring Karl, Sacramento is considering firing him, a move that would result in the hiring of a fourth coach in the last seven months.
For the past five years, the Kings have been trying to establish Cousins as the franchise player, but have yet to provide a stable coaching situation, or a reliable supporting cast around him.
Despite all of the turmoil, the 24-year-old center played well enough to earn his first career All-Star selection, as he posted career highs in scoring (24.1 points per game) rebounding (12.7), assists (3.6), blocks (1.7) and steals (1.5).
The Lakers, equipped with the second overall pick in Thursday’s draft, wanted to include the lofty selection along with promising forward Julius Randle, guard Jordan Clarkson and other assets for Cousins.
Cauley-Stein spent three years with the Wildcats, the same school Cousins attended, and plays the power forward position, a role the team has been trying to fill for years. Cauley-Stein was named the National Defensive Player of the Year last season and has the ability to protect the rim, a deficiency of Cousins.
The Kings haven’t qualified for the post season since the 2005-06 season, the last year they were able to finish above .500.
Sacramento is about $8.5 million below the salary cap for next season, but the team has been unable to lure any high caliber free agents for years, and with such a dysfunction at the top of the organization, adding anyone will be a difficult task, but the team has already been linked to free agent point guard Rajon Rondo.
Employing both Karl and Cousins may be an impossibility next season.