Remember when DeMarcus Cousins was a Boston Celtic for, like, three hours?
Speculation ran rampant two winters ago when a previously little-known website reported late on a Sunday night that Cousins was all but on a flight to Boston. At that time, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo were all still employed by the Celtics — in various states of health — and the addition of Cousins had the potential to propel the franchise into another half-decade of championship contention.
Of course, Cousins didn’t come to Boston then, and eventually Pierce, Garnett and Rondo were gone, too. But that brief hoopla pops to mind with reports the Celtics are pursuing Cousins again.
Let’s be clear. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge would be highly interested in adding Cousins to his team, and it doesn’t require tracking down any sources within the organization to confirm that. Cousins is one of the top centers in the game, unquestionably elite offensively though maddeningly unreliable defensively, and his talent outweighs any behavioral issues his critics might fear adding to a team’s culture.
It takes two sides to make a deal, though, which is a vital point to remember as Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline approaches. Rumors and innuendo will be thrown around willy-nilly, and every murmur that Ainge has shown interest in another team’s impact player proves only that the head of Boston’s front office is doing his job.
Celtics fans are understandably humbled at the moment, with Rondo and Jeff Green recently traded away and only a late-lottery draft pick or a low Eastern Conference playoff seed to look forward to. The addition of the All-Star Cousins, only 24 years old and as nifty a playmaker and ferocious a rebounder as there is among NBA big men, would lessen the sting and provide hope for the future. (Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter, a tenacious offensive rebounder and surprisingly adept low-post scorer despite his lack of leaping ability, has also reportedly drawn Boston’s interest. Kanter isn’t in Cousins’ class, so this is the only mention we’ll make of him here.)
Looking at this report from the other side, however, the Sacramento Kings dealing Cousins now, of all times, would be stunning. Veteran head coach George Karl takes over the reins Friday — against the Celtics, no less — and Boogie’s presence was surely a selling point to one of the few coaches who managed to wring every ounce of potential out of Carmelo Anthony. Karl knows how to coach players too erratic for other men to wrangle. Bringing him in, just to trade Cousins simultaneously, would be the most nonsensical thing the Kings have done this season — and that’s saying something.
Overlook the technical fouls and the weird quotes if you’re a Celtics fan. You want Cousins in green. Don’t overthink this. Plenty of names will come up in the next two days, but few of them as enticing as Cousins. In all likelihood, this flirtation will end like the one two years ago, with Cousins still in Sacto.
Still, the Celtics’ sustained fascination with Cousins contradicts the belief held by some that Ainge is taking a laissez-faire approach to rebuilding, content to collect draft picks and wait for his players and the league environment to develop. Behind the scenes, Ainge is clearly trying to make things happen, and if he’s shooting for the likes of Cousins, he’s still aiming high.
Thumbnail photo via Kelley L. Cox/USA TODAY Sports Images