Shaquille O'Neal doesn't normally deal in reports or rumors in his role as an analyst for TNT, but he did so Thursday while discussing the situation with DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings. And the fact that O'Neal is a minority owner of the team gives more weight to his comments than usual.
“In the previous years, he’s been hot-headed, he hasn’t shown great leadership qualities yet,” O'Neal said. “He hasn't shown those leadership qualities, and that's why I'm hearing talk that if things don't start to become correct, they may be looking to go in a different direction.”
It's an open secret that the Kings need to trade Cousins — because given all that's gone wrong during his time with the league's worst franchise there's zero chance he voluntarily re-signs as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018. And league executives believe that the February trade deadline will be Sacramento's best chance of receiving maximum value in return because that would give a new team almost a season and a half to convince Cousins that his new situation is indeed the right spot.
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Sacramento hasn't made the playoffs in 10 years, and the 4-7 Kings haven't done anything to make anyone believe that this season will be any different. No big-name free agents will come willingly to a small-market franchise with a long history of failure, so surrounding Cousins with All-Star talent is essentially only possible through the draft, and the team has a poor track record of using its picks wisely.
O'Neal may or may not be hearing things from inside the organization, but it's widely known that the relationship between Cousins and the Kings is destined to end sooner or later, and the only thing that would be worse for Sacramento than trading Cousins would be letting him walk for nothing just as soon as he's able to leave — which at this point seems like a foregone conclusion.