DeMarcus Cousins got $62 million to serve as the face of a franchise this summer.
It felt like an AAU team. Everything [critics] were saying before, I believe it’s true. We were the worst. We weren’t building for the future, we were just living in the moment. That’s why we were that bad. … Honestly, I feel like I wasted time. I hate the fact that it took everything we went through to get to this. I guess you could say it makes it that much better.
Cousins is right. Those Kings were bad.
In his first three seasons, Cousins' Kings went 74-156. That's a .322 winning percentage—or a .678 losing percentage for the glass-half-empty crowd—a mark cleared by all but four teams in 2012-13.
These Kings, though, should be different.
There's a new ownership group in place (led by software tycoon Vivek Ranadive), a new coach pacing the sidelines (Michael Malone) and a slew of new players on the roster (including Greivis Vasquez, Carl Landry and 2013 lottery pick Ben McLemore).
Changes aren't enough. Not on their own, at least.
As Ben Golliver of SI.com noted:
It will be up to Ranadive, the new tone-setter, and Cousins, the franchise’s biggest investment, to take the Kings from “way better than before” to “better than league average,” a journey that could take years to unfold.
For Cousins, though, it may be more of the same for the polarizing post man.
Have the Kings added enough weapons to challenge for a playoff spot?
The gaudy stat lines have already made an appearance—Boogie went for 30 points and 14 rebounds in Sacramento's season opener. His trouble with technical fouls, which Cousins called "part of the game" in his chat with Cunningham, will likely surface sooner than later. He led the league with 17 last season and has yet to finish a year outside of the top five.
But he's a special kind of talent, and one who should be welcome to the return of one AAU staple to Sacramento—force-feeding the best player. For all of the roster upgrades around him, Cousins is still the one stirring Sacramento's drink. I've never had it myself, but I imagine it tastes like sorrow with the slightest hint of hope mixed in.
The hope that the 23-year-old Cousins is ready to complete his maturation process, to keep his outbursts tracked more by the scorer's table than the zebra crew. And the hope that this franchise will grow right along with him, trading AAU sizzle for NBA substance.