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Robb: Reported Big-Money Extension For Cousins Makes Life Harder For Ainge

By Brian Robb, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Few players have been floated in trade rumors over the past two seasons more than Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. The Celtics, in their quest to land another star, have popped up as a potential destination for the big man quite often over that stretch as well. However, those rumblings may be coming to an end for good.

James Ham of CSN Bay Area reported Tuesday that Cousins intends on signing a five-year extension with the Sacramento Kings this summer that would be worth well over $200 million.

The pact will be made possible by the NBA’s new CBA that allows Cousins to qualify for the “designed player” exception. This enables a player’s original franchise to offer a bigger contract and additional years for a franchise player (an All-Star or all-NBA player like Cousins).

So despite the fact that the Kings have not made the postseason or won more than 32 games in a season during Cousins’ tenure in Sacramento, they will look to make him one of the highest-paid players in the NBA this summer, eliminating any risk they might lose him in free agency in the summer of 2018.

There have been mixed reports over whether the Celtics would even want to pay the high price to go after Cousins in the coming months, but Tuesday’s report essentially eliminates any possibility they might be able to acquire the 6-foot-11 center at a discount price.

The Kings have no incentive to move Cousins anytime soon as they lock in the anchor to their franchise through the remainder of the decade. He may get dealt someday, but it’s certainly not going to happen during the first year or two of the extension.

The pact is also an indication of the challenging trade climate Danny Ainge has to deal with in the coming months as he looks to bring in another star to pair with Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas. The new CBA is making it more challenging for top-tier players to walk away from their original teams, since they will be walking away from huge amounts of money if they are a “designated player” like Cousins. Potential Celtic targets such as Paul George or Gordon Hayward may qualify for those type of contracts, reducing the odds they even hit the open market in free agency in the next couple summers.

Ainge still has a truckload of attractive trade assets in hand with future Brooklyn first-round picks and young prospects, but the odds are diminishing that he’ll find someone worth using all of that trade capital on. As more players like Cousins are taken off the market, the chances the Celtics stand pat and try to build through the draft continue to increase.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub

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