Last week, DeMarcus Cousins brought the ruckus. Again. He was suspended by the Sacramento Kings after reportedly getting into a heated exchange with Kings head coach Keith Smart in the locker room during half time of Sacramento’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. It was the third time this season the ill-tempered Cousins was suspended.
Trade rumors began almost immediately. Would the Kings look to deal him? What would they want in return? Could the franchise really afford to give up a player who averaged a double-double only a season ago?
As a Milwaukee Bucks blogger, it’s almost too easy to go where I’m about to go, but I’ll do it anyway.
March 20, 2008. Larry Harris had been fired the day before. At the press conference announcing the move, Herb Kohl was asked about a potential trade that would have sent Bobby Simmons, Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell to the New York Knicks for Zach Randolph, at the time considered to be a productive player with great character risks, and Fred Jones.
“I don’t want to impugn him, because I’ve never met him,” Kohl said about Randolph, the Knicks power forward, who was obtained in a trade with Portland last summer. “Zach started out in Portland, and at the point they traded him, they really wanted to do that. He did not help them win.
“Then they traded him to New York, and within six months they wanted him out. They were prepared to trade him to the Bucks or anyone else. And he had three years, plus this year, remaining on his contract, which was over $50 million.
“Now any owner, I submit, who would not take an interest in that and would not want to be a part of that decision, is not doing his job. When it comes to decisions of that magnitude, the owner needs to be on board.”
Totally fair for Kohl to take an active role when it comes to that sort of money. That trade saw some big contracts heading out and a big contract heading in. Money was redistributed from three players to one, largely. Perhaps Kohl felt Milwaukee could get safer players or not have to take on one huge contract when shipping out Milwaukee’s three dead weight salaries. Clearly he felt like New York looking to dump Randolph so quickly was a warning sign.
He obeyed the sign and stayed away.
Milwaukee would ship out Simmons months later along with Yi Jianlian in a deal for Richard Jefferson – a quality player and person, but certainly no Randolph in terms of either upside or production. Jefferson and Michael Redd created a potentially potent wing combination, but only played 33 games together (17-16 record) before Jefferson was moved again when Milwaukee missed out on the playoffs. Gadzuric and Bell would be moved years later for Corey Maggette, another potential solution on the wing who didn’t quite pan out.
Randolph was eventually traded to the Clippers 11 games into the 2008-09 season, where he played 39 games before being moved again to Memphis, where he’s settled in quite nicely with one All-Star game and two playoff appearances.
Could that have happened in Milwaukee? We’ll never know. It’s easy to find reasons why it wouldn’t have worked and it’s easy to find reasons why it would have. But Milwaukee didn’t take the shot. Instead, the Bucks and Senator Kohl went for the safer play. Jefferson averaged a career high 22 points per game in his final season with the Nets. He’d never had a run in with the law and he’d been a consistent player when healthy. He scored. He could make shots and attack the rim. He wasn’t much of a rebounder, defender or creator, but he was a fine player.
Randolph was more than a fine player in 2008, just like Cousins is more than a fine player now. Both have dealt with trouble: Randolph’s were more of the legal variety while Cousins’ have had more to do with his general demeanor, but there are red flags around Cousins just like there were around Randolph.
But taking a chance on a troubled player is one of Milwaukee’s only options as far as acquiring cornerstone type talent goes. In 2008, the Bucks weren’t ready to embark on a long rebuilding plan. That’s why Jefferson was an option. Four and a half years and seven playoff games later, the Bucks are still not interested in starting from scratch. But picking 10-15 in the draft every year isn’t going to land the Bucks anyone better than Brandon Jennings. He’s a great value as a number 10 pick, but he’s hardly a player that a franchise can retool around from a talent perspective.
Cousins is that type of guy. Those types of guys don’t become available for no reason. As free agents, we’ve never seen one come to Milwaukee. As draft picks, we’ve seen it a few times, but only in the high lottery. Those options don’t look like plausible ones any time soon.
So I’d encourage Milwaukee to do their best in tracking this Cousins situation. He’s already been reinstated by the organization and it doesn’t look like they’ll be in any hurry to kick him out the door. But if that changes, I’d hope the Bucks were one of the first teams on the phone.
A franchise full of quasi-stars can only go so far. They need to find a way to land a potential real one.