Hey, look, the West just took a 444-398 lead in the NBA All-Star Game …
Just when you thought the mid-season exhibition wouldn’t produce more than dunks and 3-pointers, a really dumb trade changed all that only moments after Anthony Davis had scored the last of his 52 gift-wrapped points.
In case you missed it — yeah, a lot of us missed the All-Star Weekend snoozefest — the Sacramento Kings donated centerpiece DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans. In return, they acquired Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield and Langston Galloway along with first- and second-round picks in the next NBA draft.
To sum up, the Kings traded a 26-year-old All-Star and a serviceable veteran in exchange for one probable starter who peaked in college (Hield), two jamokes who won’t be around long (Evans and Galloway) and a pair of draft picks who are unlikely to amount to much.
General manager Vlade Divac hasn’t forgotten how to flop, all right, though he might have been pushed from behind. Team owner Vivek Ranadive reportedly believes Hield will become the next Stephen Curry, which may explain why Divac turned down a better offer elsewhere.
Remember five years ago, when then-commissioner David Stern voided the trade that would have sent Chris Paul from the league-operated New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a three-way deal? Well, if his successor Adam Silver has a fair bone in his body, he’ll call off this one to protect the integrity of the league — and Kings fans from their own lame ownership.
The heist reeks of the one that the Warriors were involved in shortly after the 1965 All-Star Game in St. Louis, where cash-strapped team owner Franklin Mieuli gave away Wilt Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers. All he got in return was $150,000, two semi-regulars and a third player who refused to move west. At least the Warriors had a future Hall of Famer in Nate Thurmond to replace Wilt in the middle. Willie Cauley-Stein may have potential, but he ain’t Nate the Great, that’s for sure.
As Balls told you not long ago, after the referees stuck it to Cousins yet again in a close loss in Chicago, it was time for the Kings to move him. Just as he would never realize his potential in Sactown, the franchise had reached the point of no return with him. Culture changes were in order for both sides.
We know Cousins can be a royal pain in the butt. But as one of the elite big men in the game, he has value. Lots of value. Divac should have held out for a high lottery draft pick, an established starter and some sweetener at the very least. Otherwise, the GM could have waited until the offseason. Cousins was under contract through next season, so there was no ticking clock or anything.
Now, the Kings are in full rebuild with a CBA roster. They have two first-round draft picks in the next draft, except neither is likely to be among the top four overall. They’ll also have money to burn in the open market, but who in his drug-free mind wants to play for a woebegone franchise that hasn’t sniffed the postseason in 11 years?
At a time when the game is played outside-in, the Pelicans have two dominant big men in Cousins and Davis, but not much else. They could sneak into the playoffs and last a round, but that might not be enough to persuade the Alabama native to sign a long-term deal and stay close to home. If Cousins is smart, he’ll follow the straight and narrow, play out the string then sign with a big-market team that has real championship aspirations.
REST OF THE STORY: What is it with the weird affection that the NBA has for New Orleans, which ranks barely among the 50 largest television markets in the country?
Simple. Decades after the Big Easy couldn’t cut it with local fave Pistol Pete Maravich and the Jazz, and Cousins and Davis represent its final chance to keep an NBA franchise.
Or to put it another way, the NBA has run out of mid-sized markets to put franchises that have zero chance to ever win a league championship.
HISTORY LESSON: Davis broke Wilt’s record (42) for most points in an All-Star Game, which stood for 54 years, but that’s where any comparison begins and ends.
Wilt had to score big for his East team to stay in the game and do it against a real defense. The West started five Hall of Famers — Elgin Baylor, Walt Bellamy, Bob Pettit, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. He also had 24 rebounds and who knows how many blocked shots in 37 minutes.
Besides, any All-Star record set after 2006 should include an asterisk. That’s when the game became a joke, er, exhibition.
THE LIST: Events that would convince Balls to watch the All-Star Weekend …
Charles Barkley Dunk (Tank) Competition: Curry, LeBron James and other NBA stars take aim at the TNT flannelmouth.
Whistle-blower Competition: Referees Tony Brothers, Marc Davis, Scott Foster and Laura Holtkamp earn their stripes in a battle of blown calls.
Russell Westbrook One-on-One Contest: The Oklahoma City Thunder do-it-all plays against himself to see which can record an octuple-double first.
Flop Fest: Divac, Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics), Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs) and Anderson Varejao elevate incidental contact to the lowest levels.
Long-distance Brick Throw: Bismack Biyombo (Orlando Magic), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers) and JaVale McGee (Warriors) match awful, horrible misses at the charity stripe.
Potty-mouth Playoff: Coaches Steve Kerr (Warriors), Gregg Popovich (Spurs) and Doc Rivers (Clippers) see who can scream the most creative vulgarities in the shortest amount of time.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE … Reggie Dunlop and Joe McGrath?
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