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Kings GM: 'I'll step down' in 2 years if DeMarcus Cousins trade hasn't helped team

Vlade Divac is putting himself on the line.

NBA: Sacramento Kings-Media Day Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

In a wide-ranging interview with The Sacramento Bee’s Ailene Voisine, Kings general manager Vlade Divac talked about the aftermath of the DeMarcus Cousins trade. Divac believes fans should give him time to see if the trade puts Sacramento on the right path, and that if it doesn’t, he’ll step down.

“I totally understand why some fans would be upset,” Divac said. “They supported DeMarcus, and I like DeMarcus a lot. But I believe we are going to be in a better position in two years. I want to hear again from these same people in two years.

“If I’m right, great. If I’m wrong, I’ll step down.”

The statement is reminiscent of recently fired Lakers general manager Jim Buss, who promised in 2014 that he would step down if the team wasn’t contending in three years. He was reassigned in favor of Magic Johnson just before the 2017 trade deadline.

Divac said the Kings needed to trade Cousins when they did because it was ‘time to start over,’ which is understandable. What Divac has been mostly criticized for is the perceived lack of value in return for the All-NBA big man. In fact, Divac admitted last week that there was a better offer on the table two days prior. In the interview, he clarifies that it was the Pelicans, who had offered another first-round pick before taking it off the bargaining table.

“When I was first talking with the Pelicans, it was about Buddy (Hield) and two first-round picks,” Divac said in the interview. “I talked to DeMarcus’ agents (Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana) to inform them we were having talks, negotiating terms, and they called teams and threatened them, saying that if Cousins was traded, he would not sign an extension. They got scared and dropped it down to a second-round pick.”

Divac once again stressed that he was making front office decisions for Sacramento, not owner Vivek Ranadive. Not everyone will believe that, but Divac has been consistent with that message.

With Cousins gone, Sacramento can start a new rebuilding process in earnest. Though they remain just one game out of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, their best case scenario is to lose games to keep their top-10 protected pick from going to Chicago. Unfortunately, Philadelphia owns a pick swap with Sacramento that will control exactly where they end up. The 76ers also own the Kings’ 2019 first round pick straight up.

Divac thinks the Kings can recover by then, and he’s taking responsibility for it.

“If I go down, he said, “I’m going down my way.”