DeMarcus Cousins says he was a fool for not leaving Sacramento sooner

New Orleans Pelicans forward DeMarcus Cousins was traded by Sacramento last February. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

DeMarcus Cousins put his turbulent six and a half years with the Sacramento Kings behind him in February after being traded while he was on the floor for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. However, the way Cousins tells it, he could have, and should have, escaped the Kings much sooner.

In anticipation of his nationally televised return to Sacramento on Thursday, Cousins spoke to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, sharing thoughts about his time in Sacramento and his falling out with George Karl.

Cousins discussed a previous opportunity he’d had to escape the bottom-feeding Kings before they decided his fate for him:

According to an NBA source, Cousins’ representatives told Kings general manager Vlade Divac after the 2014-15 season that their client wanted to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers but was open to other possible deals. Cousins’ representatives also warned him that his situation with Karl could get worse and he should push for a trade. Cousins ultimately told his representatives and the Kings that he wanted to stay.

“I wanted to give it a chance because my representatives told me I shouldn’t stay,” Cousins said. “I guess you could say I was stubborn and loyal. I wanted to make things work.”

More from their conversation:

Spears: How do you look back on that situation with George?

Cousins: I should have left when I had the chance and avoided it all, because they told me what would happen. All last year, I felt like that’s all it was about. “I got traded” and “He hates Sacramento.” I kind of fed into it. At the end of the day, it’s a business. I kind of blame myself for even putting myself at this point. Like, you knew coming in it’s just a business. How you gonna be loyal to something that ain’t loyal to any player that’s ever played this game? I was a fool.

Cousins calling himself a fool is a little strong. Naive might be more accurate.

The period of time Cousins may be referring to is the summer of 2015, when Karl spent the offseason trying to convince the front Kings’ office that it would be in their best interests to jettison Cousins even though they were finishing construction on a new arena. The Karl-Cousins relationship was already toxic and it would continue to irradiate everyone in their vicinity.

The organization ultimately chose to retain Cousins and Karl, then threw in Rajon Rondo and a troubled Ty Lawson, which was gross NBA upper management malpractice. After flirting with firing Karl during the 2016 All-Star break, Sacramento then chose to keep him around for the balance of the season. It, um, didn’t work out.

However, Cousins seems to be implying that he was just as opposed to skipping town at a time when his advisors thought he should find greener pastures elsewhere. Cousins’ loyalty ultimately didn’t matter; the Kings faltered last season, the organization realized his free agency was approaching, and they decided to get something (namely, 2016 lottery pick shooting guard Buddy Hield, guards Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway, and a pair of 2017 draft picks, one of which became rookie point guard Frank Mason) for their All-Star center while they still could.

For what it’s worth, Cousins will have another opportunity to prove his loyalty in the summer of 2018. He’ll have the chance to opt out of his current contract a year and test free agency, and he can either commit to stay in New Orleans for the long haul or try his hand with a third NBA team.