DeMarcus Cousins

Pacific Notes: Griffin, B. Johnson, Zubac, Cousins

Clippers forward Blake Griffin is showing signs that he is getting closer to a return, tweets Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. Griffin went through a “pretty extensive” pregame workout today without a brace or sleeve on his injured right knee. Griffin had minor surgery on the knee in December, and a report on Friday said he could be back in action by the end of the month.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers may soon have rookie power forward Brice Johnson back on the court as well, according to Woike (Twitter link). The 25th pick in the 2016 draft has been playing one-on-one games and is close to being ready for “true on-court activity,” says coach Doc Rivers. Johnson suffered a herniated disc in his lower back in October and hasn’t played yet this season.
  • One positive in the Lakers‘ blowout loss to the Spurs on Thursday was the performance of rookie center Ivica Zubac, writes Mark Medina of The Orange County Register. Zubac, who was taken with the second pick of the second round in 2016, had a season-high eight points to go with four rebounds in nearly 15 minutes. Zubac has seen most of his action in the D-League this year, and the Lakers want him to drop weight to become more mobile. “When you can run more, you can do everything better on the court,” Zubac said. “It definitely helps to stay in shape. I’m not playing a lot with the Lakers. It’s easy to get out of shape. Playing in the D-League really helps.”
  • Andy Furillo of the Sacramento Bee looks at the downside of possibly investing more than $209MM to keep DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento. In addition to being the top player on a losing team for 6 1/2 seasons, Cousins checks in as the slowest player in the league, has had his shot blocked more times than anyone, is tied for first in technical fouls and is second in personal fouls, ranks sixth in turnovers and is only tied for 33rd in offensive rebounds.

Kings Notes: Cousins, Free Agents, Rookies

The Kings and DeMarcus Cousins are reportedly on track to work out a long-term extension during the offseason. Cousins was asked about the breaking news after the team’s win over the Pistons on Tuesday and he responded by expressing his desire to remain with the franchise, as Sean Cunningham of ABC10 Sacramento passes along (Twitter video link).

“I love Sacramento,” Cousins said. “It’s where I want to be.”

The big man could make upwards of $209MM with a new extension, though the exact figures won’t be known until the salary cap for the 2017/18 campaign is determined.

Here’s more from Sacramento:

  • The Kings will likely never be a free-agent destination for the league’s top stars, but in signing Cousins to a long-term deal, the franchise could be appealing to second-tier free agents, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer contends. O’Connor notes that the team could have as much as $50MM in available cap space this summer.
  • If the Kings and Cousins end up working out a long-term contract, the organization will end up regretting the deal, Mitch Lawrence of The Sporting News argues. Lawrence continues to question Cousins’ leadership ability and he doesn’t believe the team can become a contender with the big man as its franchise player.
  • Sacramento’s quest to make the playoffs this season has led to less playing time for the team’s young prospects, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes. The Kings are utilizing their D-League in order to give their rookies court-time and they are making communication a priority as well. “We keep tabs on them,” coach Dave Joerger said. “We watch their games and make sure we reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, we watched the game last night.’ So that there’s always a connection when you’re out there.”

DeMarcus Cousins, Kings On Track For Offseason Extension

A report last week indicated that the Kings are prepared to offer DeMarcus Cousins a designated veteran extension when the new CBA goes into effect this summer, and it seems the All-Star center is receptive to that idea. Barring a late change in direction by the player and the team, Cousins and the Kings intend to work out a long-term, maximum-salary extension during the offseason, a league source tells James Han of CSN California.

Under the NBA’s old Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Kings would still have been in a position to offer Cousins in an extension this summer, but the team can put a far more tantalizing proposal on the table under the new CBA. The new agreement between the NBA and NBPA will introduce the “designated veteran extension,” which allows for players who meet certain criteria to sign extensions that start at 35% of the salary cap. If Cousins were to be traded, he wouldn’t be eligible for such an extension, which is one reason why the trade rumors surrounding him have died down in recent weeks.

The designated player extension is only available to certain players who are coming off an All-NBA season, or who have made an All-NBA team twice in the last three years. Because Cousins has earned an All-NBA nod in each of the last two seasons, he doesn’t have to earn that honor again in 2016/17 to qualify for the designated player extension, though he’s on track to do so anyway.

Heading into tonight’s game, Cousins had averaged a career-high 28.1 PPG to go along with 9.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.4 BPG, and 1.4 SPG in 36 contests. The longtime King has even become a threat from beyond the arc — his .372 3PT% and 1.8 3PG are both career bests.

The NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement won’t go into effect until July 1, so the Kings and Cousins won’t finalize anything before then, and it’s possible one side or the other could have a change of heart over the next several months. Still, while the relationship between the franchise and the former fifth overall pick hasn’t always been perfect, it’s hard to imagine Cousins turning down a designated player extension if the Kings put it on the table, since he could earn far more from Sacramento than from any other team.

The exact value of that extension won’t be known until the salary cap is set for the 2017/18 season, but based on the NBA’s latest projections, a five-year extension would be worth upwards of $209MM. In Cousins’ case, it would go into effect for the 2018/19 campaign, tacking five new years onto his current deal, which is set to expire in ’18.

Stein’s Latest: Cousins, Dragic, Butler, Matthews

The latest piece from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is packed full of noteworthy trade rumors and tidbits, many of which we’ve already passed along. As Stein reported, the Trail Blazers are eyeing Tyson Chandler, the Nuggets are “openly shoppingJusuf Nurkic, the Hawks are seeking at least a “quality” first-round pick to headline a Paul Millsap trade, and the Nets are looking for two first-rounders in any deal for Brook Lopez.

That’s not all though. Here’s a round-up of several more interesting notes from Stein:

  • With the new designated player extension set to become available when the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement goes into effect in July, the Kings are preparing a summer extension pitch for DeMarcus Cousins, according to Stein. Given the opportunity to present Cousins with a strong extension offer, and the fact that they remain in the playoff hunt in the West, the Kings would require a “monster offer” to consider changing their plans and considering a Cousins trade.
  • The Heat‘s asking price for Goran Dragic remains “too high to encourage any serious trade discussions,” according to Stein.
  • Sources with knowledge of the situation have emphatically denied that the Bulls have made Jimmy Butler available, despite recent speculation to the contrary, Stein reports.
  • Stein is also told that Mavericks swingman Wesley Matthews isn’t currently on the trade block. Sources tell Stein that Dallas has been “batting away pitches” for Matthews.
  • While the Warriors are relatively short on trade options, they’re a strong candidate to add a player who gets bought out of his contract later in the season, says Stein.
  • Stein also relays a report from ESPN colleague Chris Haynes, who says that Norris Cole is nearing a return to full health after battling a hamstring issue. Cole could draw interest from teams seeking point guard help, such as the Cavs.

Blazers Rumors: Stotts, Ezeli, McCollum, Turner

The Trail Blazers are just a single game out of the playoffs in the Western Conference, but with a 15-21 record, it has been an extremely disappointing season so far in Portland. Still, the organization isn’t panicking at this point, as there’s a belief that the team will work its way back into the postseason picture, writes Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. According to Haynes, Terry Stotts‘ job as the team’s head coach isn’t currently in jeopardy.

In a lengthy and interesting piece, Haynes provides several other notable Blazers-related tidbits, so let’s round up some of the highlights…

  • The Blazers went into free agency aiming to retain their own key free agents, as well as adding another ball-handler and a rim-protecting big man. The club targeted players like Hassan Whiteside, Joakim Noah, and Dwight Howard, but came up short. According to Haynes, Portland was ready to renounce a player – perhaps Meyers Leonard – in order to free up cap room to sign Pau Gasol, but the free agent center opted to sign with San Antonio instead.
  • Ultimately, the Blazers landed Festus Ezeli on a two-year, $15MM deal, but Ezeli may end up not playing a single game for the team, as he’s expected to undergo season-ending surgery. According to Haynes, Ezeli gave a “stern” locker-room speech after a tough loss last month — when the big man launched into a similar speech a couple games later, he was cut short by C.J. McCollum. As Haynes puts it, “being lectured by someone who wasn’t even playing wasn’t received favorably” by other Blazers players.
  • Potential trade targets like DeMarcus Cousins and Nerlens Noel aren’t currently on the Blazers’ radar, sources tell Haynes. Cousins likely isn’t available anyway, and Noel is eligible for restricted free agency, so Portland may be turned off by his contract situation.
  • The Blazers are open to making a trade, but don’t feel obligated to make a move. According to Haynes, the team isn’t looking to trade McCollum or Evan Turner.
  • Team owner Paul Allen was insistent on retaining Portland’s own assets during the offseason, and as such, the team “never thought twice” about matching Allen Crabbe‘s offer sheet from the Nets, per Haynes.
  • Be sure to check out Haynes’ full piece for more on the Blazers.

Could It Be Magic If Cousins Goes On Block?

The Magic could emerge as the best trading partner if the Kings ever get serious about moving DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Mannix of The Vertical speculates in his latest column.

The Kings have shown no inclination to trading Cousins, particularly since they’re in the running for a playoff spot, as Mannix emphasizes. If that dynamic changes, Orlando has enough young pieces and expendables bigs to make an attractive offer for Cousins, Mannix continues. A package that includes Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic would hold some appeal to Sacramento and give the Magic a clearcut franchise player to build around, in Mannix’s view.

Orlando’s glut of power forwards and centers has left Mario Hezonja, the fifth overall pick in 2015, scrounging for minutes despite a lack of floor spacers, Mannix adds. Hezonja would benefit from Orlando paring some frontcourt players.

Naturally, we’ve heard all kinds of rumors and proposals regarding Cousins. The Celtics have been prominently mentioned as another logical trading partner, given their glut of guards and extra draft picks, including the Nets’ first-rounder in June. The Magic are loaded with former lottery picks, so it’s fair to put them in that group of teams with enough assets to entice the Kings.

Cousins recently said he expects to remain put and there’s no rush for the Kings to cash in their biggest asset. He doesn’t become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2017/18 season.

Pacific Notes: Cousins, Lakers, Clippers, Griffin

DeMarcus Cousins enjoyed another big game on Monday night, going head-to-head with star rookie Joel Embiid and leading his Kings to a victory, the team’s fourth win in a row. Multiple reports this season have indicated that Sacramento has little interest in moving Cousins, and the team’s recent run of success – along with a new CBA that gives the Kings a leg up to re-sign him – has likely only solidified that stance.

The Kings’ apparent desire to hang on to Cousins could be for the best, since it may be tricky to find a trade partner. As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders points out (via Twitter), even teams that believe the big man would benefit from a change of scenery and culture are reluctant to pursue him themselves.

According to Kyler (via Twitter), he spoke to teams that said they’d want to sit down with Cousins and “understand his goals” before acquiring him, which could only happen in free agency — not in a trade. That’s probably fine with the Kings, who have moved into playoff position in the Western Conference.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Cap expert Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report takes a closer look at how the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement will affect the Lakers. As Pincus notes, the lack of an amnesty clause this time around means that the team will have no easy out down the road if the four-year contracts for Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov become cumbersome.
  • Recent injuries to Chris Paul and J.J. Redick have sidelined the Clippers‘ starting backcourt at a time when the team is already without Blake Griffin. Still, even as the injuries pile up, head coach Doc Rivers prefers to look on the bright side, as Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times writes. “I always say, there’s something good in this,” Rivers said. “We’ll find something out. I don’t know what it is, but I always think you find a diamond in any of this stuff when it happens.”
  • In a piece identifying three noteworthy players who could get traded before the deadline, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer makes a case for why it might make sense for the Clippers to move Griffin — and why it might be too late to get fair value.

Pacific Notes: Buss, Lakers, Karl, Tolliver

Lakers president and part owner Jeanie Buss will face a major decision after the season ends, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Buss could signal a change of direction for the franchise by firing her brother Jim, who serves as executive vice president, and GM Mitch Kupchak. It has been nearly three years since Jim Buss promised to resign if the Lakers weren’t “contending for a championship” in three or four seasons. Coming off three of the worst seasons in franchise history, L.A. sparked some hope with a 10-10 start, but has lost 12 of its last 13 games. “We’re like every other team that we will play a season and we will assess that season when it’s over,” Jeanie Buss said. “No reason to speculate on any possible changes. It’s a waste of time to speculate.”

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Nearly all of the Lakers‘ offseason signees are now eligible to be included in trades, notes Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Power forward Thomas Robinson passed his deadline December 23rd, a day after Metta World PeaceMarcelo Huertas, Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov and Jordan Clarkson all became eligible on December 15th. The one exception is backup center Tarik Black, who cannot be traded until January 15th. League rules stipulate a later deadline for him because he received at least a 20% salary increase while re-signing with Bird rights.
  • Critical comments about the time he spent coaching the Kings were removed from George Karl’s new book, according to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears and Marc Stein. A proof copy of “Furious George” obtained by the network included negative passages about DeMarcus Cousins, GM Vlade Divac and owner Vivek Ranadive. Karl said he had “not authorized” those parts of the book to be included. Sources told ESPN that Karl agreed to refrain from critical statements about the organization in the settlement he reached when he left the team after last season.
  • Anthony Tolliver is earning more playing time with the Kings, relays James Ham of CSNBayArea. The well-traveled forward signed with Sacramento in July for $16MM over two seasons. He has been in and out of the rotation during the first two months of the season, but has found a larger role in the past week. “Professional — he can sit five games in a row and his name is called and he’s going to come out and play like it’s his last game,” Cousins said. “True professional. He’s always ready to play.”

Lowe’s Latest: Lakers, Cousins, Ingram

The Lakers have the pieces to trade for a superstar, but the team isn’t rushing to make any moves, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com writes. “If you grow from within, you control your own destiny,” coach Luke Walton said. “That’s the game plan. We want to see what this group can do. We don’t want to rely on anything else — on free agency, or trades.”

Lowe passes along more in his latest piece. Here are the highlights:

  • DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t appear to be available in trade talks because the Kings are in contention for a playoff spot, Lowe relays in the same piece. Sacramento is just one game behind Portland in the win column for the eight seed in the Western Conference
  • Rival executives are split on the value of the Lakers‘ young core, according to Lowe. Some would trade D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram for Cousins without hesitation, while others consider such a deal to be outlandish.
  • If the Lakers could steal Cousins for a package of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and a future first-rounder, they should pull the trigger, Lowe opines. Though he adds that should the Kings deal the big man, it will likely be for a better package.
  • Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour wasted a year of player development and the Lakers can’t properly gauge the team’s young talent because of it, Lowe contends. Rather than playing and learning in a balanced offense, the team watched Bryant run an inefficient offense. “It was definitely a strange year,” Larry Nance said. “Playing with Kobe was awesome. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But it was a weird season.”
  • Ingram will take time to develop, but he’s already comfortable making plays for the Lakers and the team maintains high hopes for the 2016 No.2 overall pick, Lowe adds. “You can’t teach [his] feel,” Walton said. “We feel very confidently about the player he is going to become.”

Kings Notes: Cousins, Joerger, Barnes, Afflalo

Kings coach Dave Joerger is defending DeMarcus Cousins after his latest controversy, which involved two technicals, one of which was rescinded, and a brief ejection in Tuesday’s game, relays the Associated Press. Cousins, who leads the NBA with eight technicals and is third in fouls committed with 102, has complained that officials treat him differently than other players. “I wish they’d just call it like a high school game,” Joerger said. “Set the tone in the first 5 minutes how you want to officiate and go from there. He’s not easy to officiate. He creates a lot of contact and people bump him, just like they do with all the bigs.”

There’s more tonight out of Sacramento:

  • The Kings took the easy way out with a $50K fine for Cousins’ latest run-in with a journalist, charges Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Considering that Cousins makes about $15.7MM this season and $16.7MM next season, the fine won’t impact him, she writes, making it the latest in a series of incidents in which the franchise has enabled his bad behavior.
  • A woman who was allegedly involved in the December 5th nightclub brawl involving Cousins and Matt Barnes in New York City has been arrested, according to Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee. Police took Laura Closure into custody on suspicion of assault and attempted assault for allegedly throwing a bottle at a woman’s face inside the club. The New York Post has reported that Closure was with Barnes and Cousins at the time of the incident. Neither player has been charged, but they were named in a civil suit earlier this month filed by Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell.
  • Arron Afflalo is denying a report that he refused to enter a game in Houston last week. In a video posted on the ABC 10 website, Afflalo says he has been “active and available” for every game this season. Joerger refused to discuss the incident, according to station reporter Sean Cunningham (Twitter link).

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