Nobody around the NBA has taken more criticism lately than Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac, who traded franchise center DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans a week ago for pennies on the dollar. To Divac’s credit, though, he’s trying to explain himself to an angry fanbase. In an interview with the Sacramento Bee’s Ailene Voisin, he said that he felt “stuck” with Cousins around and decided that he had to make a move with the future in mind, adding that he’ll step down if it doesn’t work.
Q: Well, the pressure is on you now. It’s pretty clear that Divac, not Ranadive, is making the personnel decisions. Some people still can’t believe Ranadive actually stepped aside and allowed you to trade his favorite player.
A: That’s my job, and I take responsibility. And I totally understand why some fans would be upset. They supported DeMarcus, and I like DeMarcus a lot. But I believe we are going to be in a better position in two years. I want to hear again from these same people in two years. If I’m right, great. If I’m wrong, I’ll step down. But if I go down, I’m going down my way.
You should read the whole interview, but essentially, Divac’s rationale for the move was simple: The Kings were not going anywhere as presently constructed, and he thought the best way to move forward was to trade their best player, let their young guys play and build something completely new. That holds up fine as an explanation for trading Cousins, but it doesn’t explain everything that led up to this and the paltry return from New Orleans.
The problem with the Cousins trade was not the mere fact that they moved him. It was that they moved him after years of poor front-office decisions and shortsighted attempts to fast-track a return to the playoffs. They moved him without getting multiple first-round picks back. They moved him after publicly and privately promising that they wouldn’t. There’s nothing Divac can say to fix that.
If there’s any good news here, it’s that Sacramento finally has a clear direction. It is going to bottom out and try to develop young talent. It’s time to see what Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere can do. Divac, though, is again saying things that he could regret. Where, exactly, does he expect the Kings to be in two years? It’s possible, with smart management and some good luck, that they could be a fun, up-and-coming team by then, but success is certainly not guaranteed in that time frame. The Orlando Magic still haven’t recovered from trading Dwight Howard in 2012. Now more than ever, Sacramento needs to take the long view.