Has Cousins turned a corner under Smart?

679062.jpg

Has Cousins turned a corner under Smart?

What a difference a coach makes. Let's go back to January 1, when then Kings head coach Paul Westphal commented about his (at the time) troubled young center, DeMarcus Cousins."When a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwillingunable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely. DeMarcus Cousins has demanded to be traded."Cousins said this to Fox Sports Florida yesterday, re-stating what he had said after Westphal's New Year's day comments:
"I did not ask for a trade. That's what he said, and that's what the story got put out. I just had to take that one on the chin. There wasn't much I could really say. I don't really understand what his motives were, but that's what he said."
The Kings essentially sided with the talented 21-year-old Cousins in his battle with Westphal and fired the head coach on Jan. 5 after he posted a 51-120 record in two-plus seasons with Sacramento.Enter Kings assistant and former Warriors head coach Keith Smart, who was handed the reigns of what looked like a bad job -- a losing team, disgruntled star player, and the cloud of a potential Kings move hanging over Sacramento.
Cousins on his new head coach:
"It's been incredible. I've learned a lot. I've become a better player just from him taking over some things, and I enjoy playing in the system. Everything is great. Everything has been positive."Eveything except the wins and losses, of course. The Kings are struggling with a 10-22 record and are in the middle of a six-game losing streak.Cousins and Smart however, are seemingly in the middle of a love-fest.In fact, Cousins told Fox Sports Florida that he has given Smart his keypad code to his gated community so his coach can come and visit him as he pleases. And according to the story, the two recently enjoyed Gumbo prepared by the player's family at Cousins' house.
The Gumbo dinners might be paying off, at least as Cousins' stat line is concerned.RELATED: DeMarcus Cousins game logs Stats Splits NewsIn 24 games under Smart, Cousins' numbers have improved from his playing-under-Westphal days. His points per game are up from 14.1 to 17.4; his rebounds are up from 8.7 to 11.8; field goal percentage is up from 42.7 to 46.1 since Keith Smart took over.The answers are in the events, and Cousins' elevated numbers have to be considered good news for Kings fans. But perhaps an even better sign is Cousins acknowledging that it's about wins in the NBA, not individual stats.
"They're impressive numbers. But, at the same time, we're not collecting wins."

Has DeMarcus Cousins turned a corner in his professional career and is Keith Smart
his catalyst for change? Or is this just a temporary correction in the career of a highly-talented but ultimately a "me-first" player as has been widely reported?

The answers will be in the events.

You can link to the full Fox Sports story on DeMarcus Cousins here

Geoff James is a writer and web producer for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the All-Star big man to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. 
#LoyaltyisLove #sactownkingforever

Cousins, 26, averaged 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 34.4 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. #LoyaltyisLove

A post shared by DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) on

Player-by-player breakdown of the DeMarcus Cousins trade

Player-by-player breakdown of the DeMarcus Cousins trade

SACRAMENTO -- The transactions came fast and furious over the last 48 hours for the Sacramento Kings and with the trade deadline still two days away, they might not be done. Gone are DeMarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi and Matt Barnes. Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway have joined the fray in a huge roster shakeup.

Dave Joerger learned last season in Memphis that your roster is never set in stone and he will have his hands full trying to put together a makeshift lineup when games resume Thursday night.

ADDITIONS

Buddy Hield

Sacramento tried to move up in the 2016 NBA Draft to get their hands on the flashy shooting guard out of Oklahoma. Hield will eventually move into the starting lineup, with Ben McLemore either shifting to the three or coming off the bench with the second unit.

The 23-year-old wing has plenty of upside and he’s under team control for the next four seasons. After averaging 25 points per game during his senior year with the Sooners, Hield has struggled a bit with the transition to the pro game.

Through 57 games, including 37 starts, the rookie is posting 8.6 points on 39.2 percent shooting from the field and 36.9 percent from 3-point range. In addition to the scoring, he’s also posted 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 20.4 minutes per contest.

Hield, along with a 2017 first round pick, is the centerpiece of the deal for Cousins. Defensively, he is a work in progress, but the Kings landed an intriguing player that is known as a hard worker off the court and a solid locker room guy.

Tyreke Evans

Kings fans know Evans well from his four-year stretch in Sacramento beginning in 2009. The former Rookie of the Year has struggled with injuries over his last two seasons, playing a total of 51 games combined and has been on a minutes restriction in New Orleans.

He is still an effective scorer, rebounder and assist man, averaging 9.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds in just 18.2 minutes per game. And at just 27-years-old, there is a chance he can bounce back and become the multi-positional stat stuffer from a year or two ago.

Evans is in the final year of his deal. If he’s healthy enough to play, he can step in and help the Kings at the small forward position that has been gutted by injury and the string of transactions.

Langston Galloway

Galloway joined the Pelicans over the summer after two seasons with thee Knicks. The 25-year-old point guard likes to shoot it, averaging 8.6 points on 37.7 percent from long range in 20.4 minutes per game.

The early talk had the Kings buying Galloway’s contract out, but it appears he is part of the short-term plan. Barring another trade, he will play behind Darren Collison and Ty Lawson at the point guard position.

SUBTRACTIONS

DeMarcus Cousins

There is no question that Cousins’ 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game will be missed in Sacramento. He has been the major cog in the Kings system for the last seven seasons and Joerger has limited options at the power forward position.

Sacramento can go big with second-year 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who is coming into his own. Veteran Anthony Tolliver is also an option to step in and start as a stretch four next to center Kosta Koufos and rookie Skal Labissiere might get a look as well, depending on what the Kings record looks like in a weeks or two.

The 13th overall selection, Giorgios Papagiannis, is also available to play minutes, although his readiness to contribute this season has been a question mark.

Replacing Cousins as an upper echelon NBA star is impossible this season for Sacramento. It might be years before they stumble on a player this good and that’s if they are lucky.

Omri Casspi

Casspi was a key reserve last season for Sacramento, but lost his minutes early in this year to Barnes and Tolliver. Injuries also played a role in Casspi’s limited opportunity this year. He played in just 22 games for Sacramento this season.

If he’s given the opportunity in New Orleans, Casspi could be a really nice fit on the frontline with Cousins and All-Star Anthony Davis. He’s shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range this year after knocking down better than 40 percent from deep over the last two seasons.

Matt Barnes

Barnes became Joerger’s go to guy at both forward positions and his influence in the locker room was tremendous. A lightning rod for controversy, Barnes was posting 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 25.3 minutes per game.

Evans can step in and fill some of that role as a jack-of-all-trades wing, but he doesn’t have the size to play the power position. Garrett Temple will likely see increased action at the small forward as well once he returns from a torn hamstring.

CAP SITUATION 

The Kings saved money long-term with the deal. Cousins was due $18.1 million next season, not to mention the $219 million extension he was ready to sign. Casspi is a free agent this summer.  

Hield is on his rookie scale deal that pays him $3.7 million next season. Evans is an unrestricted free agent and Galloway will likely opt in to his $5.4 million contract for the 2017-18 season.

The deal frees up roughly $9 million in salary and cap space. In addition, the Kings used the stretch provision to extend Barnes’ $6.4 million salary next season, breaking it up into three-years at $2.13 million and clearing up another $4.2 million in room for the summer of 2017.