Cousins reinstated by Kings’ owners
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
SACRAMENTO – When Sacramento Kings forward James Johnson sank the most unexpected of buzzer-beating three-pointers Friday night to stun the New York Knicks 106-105, there was no one happier than the team’s coach, Keith Smart.
He was happy for his players who have endured a disappointing 10-19 campaign, happy for himself and his coaches who have been searching for answers. Perhaps most of all, Smart was surely happy that the focus of the postgame news conference wouldn’t be the return of third-year big man DeMarcus Cousins.
After Cousins’ halftime tirade aimed at Smart in a Dec. 21 game at the Los Angeles Clippers led to an indefinite suspension the following day for the center and his reinstatement two days later, not everyone within the organization was happy to have him back.
The decision to reinstate Cousins on Dec. 24 was made unilaterally by the team’s owners and went against the wishes and planned protocol of the team’s front office, according to three people with knowledge of the situation who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Specifically, one person with knowledge of the situation said Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof initiated a dialogue with Cousins on Dec. 23, had him discuss the situation with Smart and then made it clear that Cousins would return to the team the following day at practice.
Smart, whose contract with the team runs through next season, was later allowed to sit Cousins in Wednesday’s game at the Portland Trail Blazers and start Cousins on Friday. Longtime general manager Geoff Petrie, however, was not a key part of the reinstatement process.
Asked two separate times via text message if the decision to reinstate Cousins was made without the involvement or endorsement of Petrie, co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof did not reply.
Petrie is in the last year of his contract, and people close to him … [For more on DeMarcus Cousins reinstated by Sacramento Kings owners, click here.]