The Kings released Barnes because they needed an extra roster spot so they could take in the three players they are acquiring from the Pelicans in the Cousins deal: Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway.
Sources told ESPN that the Kings and Pelicans agreed to the blockbuster deal Sunday, which sends Cousins and swingman Omri Casspi to New Orleans in exchange for the Pelicans' 2017 first-round pick (top-three-protected) and a 2017 second-rounder (via the Philadelphia 76ers) in addition to Hield, Evans and Galloway.
Barnes, who is averaging 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season, has racked up nearly $400,000 in fines from the NBA since 2011. His future with Sacramento had been considered tenuous since his involvement in an altercation at a Manhattan nightclub after a Kings loss in New York in December.
Barnes faces misdemeanor assault charges that are pending in New York as a result of the altercation. A related civil suit has been filed against Barnes and Cousins in a New York District Court.
Cousins was cleared of any wrongdoing and will not face charges after an NYPD investigation that concluded last week.
Barnes, who grew up in Sacramento, was in the first year of a two-year deal worth $12.5 million and is known to be a favorite of Kings coach Dave Joerger after their time together in Memphis.