- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Two sources told ESPN.com that Cousins could actually have a deal wrapped up before the Kings open training camp next week in Santa Barbara, Calif.
New Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro, who has been scouting the EuroBasket tournament in Slovenia, is scheduled to return to Sacramento early this week and resume negotiations that sources say are well underway. Cousins is said to be seeking a five-year max deal in the $80 million range that teams can award their designated franchise players, as already seen with Wall in Washington and soon to be repeated this week with George in Indiana.
Yet it remains to be seen where the Kings and Cousins end up on contract terms after the 23-year-old's three up-and-down seasons in Sacramento. Cousins has averaged 16.3 points and 9.8 rebounds while frequently flashing his unique gifts for a player his size, but he has also led or been near the league lead in fouls committed throughout a career marked by defensive struggles. Cousins' volatility has likewise resulted in multiple suspensions, including a team-imposed ban last December for what the Kings termed unprofessional behavior.
Judging by the consistent praise Cousins has received from new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive since Ranadive's group won the battle with Seattle to keep the franchise in Sacramento, it's been widely assumed in league circles that the Kings are indeed prepared to make a long-term commitment to Cousins, banking on the notion that new coach Mike Malone -- as well as the fresh-start feel enveloping the organization -- will lead to a more plugged-in Cousins.
After announcing the addition of future Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal as a minority owner and mentor to Cousins, Ranadive told USA Today Sports: "I don't want to say anything premature [about an extension], but I've been constant in my support for DeMarcus. I reached out to him when we first closed the deal. He was the first person I reached out to. They're out there practicing on their own every day, and he's out there leading those practices. He's out there with the team practicing every single day by themselves. They all came to Sacramento early. I don't know if that's ever happened.
"So 'Dr. O'Neal' and I are going to have dinner with him on Monday night, and Dr. O'Neal is going to spend a couple of days with him and the team. So I'm very, very pleased with everything that I'm seeing."
If the sides are unable to come to terms on an extension by Oct. 31, Cousins would become a restricted free agent next summer. But there a strong sentiment, sources say, to try to finalize terms as soon as possible so the issue of Cousins' future does not become a lingering topic during camp.
Other 2010 draftees labeled by league executives as likely (or at least potential) extension candidates include the Utah duo of Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, Detroit's Greg Monroe, Phoenix's Eric Bledsoe, Boston's Avery Bradley and Sacramento's Greivis Vasquez.
8dEthan Sherwood Strauss