Tom Sorensen

Best cigarette smoking Hornet ever just got taken like ... Charlotte in Kobe trade?

Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac was going to lose on the DeMarcus Cousins trade. That’s just the way it works.
Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac was going to lose on the DeMarcus Cousins trade. That’s just the way it works. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Vlade Divac, the general manager of the Sacramento Kings, traded center DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday. With Anthony Davis playing power forward for the Pelicans, theirs is an imposing combination. Cousins averages 27.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and four technical fouls a game.

OK, Cousins doesn’t average four technical fouls. But he leads the league in them. He picks up technical fouls with the ease the rest of us pick the morning paper up from the porch steps.

I understand New Orleans’ rationale. The Pelicans are 11 games below .500, and at the moment out of the playoffs. The theory is that with his time with bottom-feeding Sacramento behind him, Cousins will adjust and thrive. That’s what he did when he was added to the U.S. Olympic team.

Divac got a first- and second-round draft pick and three players in the deal. The most interesting of them is Buddy Hield, who excelled at Oklahoma but has struggled in this, his rookie season. The deal in no way was equitable, but the way trades are set up, Sacramento was going to lose.

Divac played two seasons for the Charlotte Hornets, 1996-97, and 97-98. He is part of one of the great urban sports myths in Charlotte history. The myth is that Kobe Bryant once was a Hornet.

Charlotte made the Divac deal before the 1996 draft. The Los Angeles Lakers sent Divac east and, with the 13th pick, the Hornets honored the deal by selecting Kobe Bryant, whom they sent west.

Peja Stojakovic, a three-time all-star, went 14th, and two-time MVP Steve Nash went 15th. The Hornets also drafted 16th and chose Tony Delk, who like Cousins and Anthony Davis played at Kentucky.

Divac wasn’t a great center, but he was a good one at a time when the position was especially valued. Of all the Hornets who smoked cigarettes, Divac might have been the best player.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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