Kings General Manager Vlade Divac had reportedly been asking for a massive return, including the No. 2 pick, Julius Randle (last year’s seventh overall selection) and promising rookie Jordan Clarkson, as well as possibly more from the Lakers. The Lakers held firm, but veteran NBA reporter Mark Heisler has repeatedly asserted that the team would trade Russell for Cousins, straight-up, “tomorrow” if that would be enough to get it done.
Would that ultimately be enough for the Kings, though? Certainly, any actual trade would have to involve something else from the Lakers’ side, if only to balance out the salaries involved. One thing is for certain: Sacramento is close to being in a no-win situation.
Kings Coach George Karl reportedly wants to trade Cousins away, while Divac and owner Vivek Ranadive are said to be opposed to that idea. However, even if they fire Karl, that may not be enough to appease the notoriously moody Cousins, whose camp has leaked stories that he would rather play for the Lakers.
No one in Sacramento wants to see their best player get shipped to their hated, far more historically successful, rivals to the south. For their part, many Lakers fans have quickly become enamored of the slick-passing Russell, seeing him as key to thriving in the NBA’s current small-ball climate.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak seemed to indicate that, had all things been equal, he would have preferred to have drafted a big man, but that he viewed Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, who went third to the 76ers, as not worthy of the No. 2 pick.
“You look around this building. You see [retired jerseys of Wilt] Chamberlain and you see [Kareem Abdul-] Jabbar and you see Shaquille [O’Neal],” Kupchak told Heisler after the draft. “Those are three pretty good centers. There was a center available that we did not select….“You still need quality big men in this league. If any of those players on the wall were available, we would have selected him.”
The Kings are currently in possession of a quality big man, but it might be one who won’t be happy until the team trades him away. Should the team take what it can get from the Lakers — an intriguing young talent who probably better fits Karl’s style — and move on?