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DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors finally feel real and imminent

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You may be forgiven if you have met the latest round of rumors around Kings center DeMarcus Cousins with a shrug and a yawn. After all, we’ve heard five years of Cousins trade rumors, and “Boogie” is still in Sacramento, leaving behind a trail of suitors who never really got that close to a deal.

But take heart, because there’s reason to think that by the time February’s trade deadline comes around, Cousins will no longer be with the Kings — and a move could come in the first half of December. That’s the speculation among front office executives around the league, at least.

“I’d say they have three months, tops,” one Western Conference general manager told Sporting News, requesting anonymity because he is not allowed to speak about other teams’ players. “Probably more like a month, or month-and-a-half, because the closer they get to the (February trade) deadline, the less they’re going to get back. If you’re trying to trade him the week of the deadline, it’s going to be tougher.”

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The Kings don’t want to give up on this season just yet, certainly not with a new coach in Dave Joerger and point guard Darren Collison now returning to the rotation. The Kings have five straight home games (though all against top-tier teams) beginning Wednesday and running through Thanksgiving. If they flop in that stretch, league executives expect changes to follow.

Cousins has one year remaining on his contract after this season, which pays him $17 million this year, and $18 million next. That’s a great deal for the top center and one of the best offensive players in the league, a guy who is averaging 26.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game and is only 26 years old. There are plenty of teams who would like to drop Cousins into their starting five.

But, as always with Cousins, there is the bad to be taken with the good: the hot-headed feuds with referees, the flouting of team rules, the undermining of coaches. Seven years into his NBA career, Cousins has not helped the Kings to a playoff spot, and there are signs — forward Rudy Gay, for one, has been rumored to be seeking a trade — that his fellow Kings don’t think that is going to change.

That’s has the dual effect of forcing the Kings to finally seriously consider trading Cousins while he still has value while also forcing teams around the rest of the league to cut back on what they might offer for Cousins. Sacramento’s hand is getting weaker the longer they wait.

Last Thursday on TNT’s Inside the NBA, Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal, who does not hold much say on the Kings’ personnel despite being a minority owner, suggested that Cousins could be dealt. “He hasn’t shown great leadership qualities yet,” O’Neal said. “One of the best centers in the league, this cat can do it all. … But he’s a hothead. If they want to make a run, he’s going to have to be a leader.”

O’Neal, however, said he did not think that Cousins can fill that role. “He hasn’t shown me hose leadership qualities yet,” O’Neal said. “That’s why I’m hearing talk of, if things don’t start to become correct then they may be looking to go in a different direction.”

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