DeMarcus Cousins was once one of the league’s best big men, a dynamic offensive force who has since had to adapt his game to the realities of life after injuries.
Cousins now finds himself in Denver, reunited with coach Michael Malone and backing up the league’s reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic, and while he insists there’s nothing good for him in wallowing in pity over how his career was derailed by an Achilles injury (and later a quad injury), he does have plenty of thoughts on the place his NBA career started. Cousins was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft out of Kentucky, joining a Sacramento Kings team desperate for a franchise centerpiece.
Over seven years in Sacramento, Cousins piled up stats, averaging 21.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in his Kings tenure, but their playoff drought persisted and the constant turmoil within the Kings organization wore on the star. In an interview with Marc Spears of Andscape, Cousins was asked about the one thing he’d change in his career if he could go back and do it differently. His answer was matter of fact.
I would’ve skipped my draft workout [in Sacramento].
Why is that?
What did Sac do for me? Besides say my name [draft day]. I did more for them than they did for me. That’s just being honest. Just being 100% honest. I had two owners, three GMs, seven coaches in seven years. I was there seven years. I had three GMs, two owners and seven coaches. Not much more needs to be said.
It’s hard to fault Cousins for wondering what could’ve been had he gone somewhere with some stability and an existing organizational culture, rather than a place that saw constant turnover during his time. How the organization treated Malone in particular soured him on the Kings, and he believes had they kept Malone in place (who has proven his coaching chops in Denver) he would still be there and the Kings would be on a much different trajectory.
Absolutely. We would’ve been winning. We would’ve won. Probably would have finished my career there along with Mike. Simple as that. I don’t reflect on it much anymore. I’ve kind of bounced around and been through so much other things, it’s hard to even harp on that situation. Sitting there focusing on that, I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at now. I had to put a lot of time and focus on just righting my wrongs, correcting my body, trying to get back in shape and all the other rehab. It was just so much other things. It’s hard to even focus on Sacramento, and for what? They sucked before I got there. They sucked when I was there. They sucked after I left.
Given how Malone has made the Nuggets into a perennial contender, it’s hard to fault Cousins or any Kings fans from still being upset with his firing. That doesn’t necessarily account for the fact that a coach needs a good roster and the Kings have not exactly proven they can put one of those together, but it’s hard not to wonder what could’ve been had they given Malone more than a year-plus with Cousins and company.