The Curious Case of Demarcus Cousins

When two sides decide they have had enough, and agree to split ways, there is usually a backstory. Whether it’s disagreements, one of the two acting out, or simply not caring, some bad blood has already been brewing. Well without getting too cute on you, Demarcus Cousins could open a Starbucks with all of the bad blood he has brewed in his short three year NBA career.

(Cousins even looks disinterested in his NBA profile picture.)

Cousins came into the league drafted 5th overall by the Sacramento Kings in the 2010 draft. The buzz before the draft was that he was the 2nd best player(after Kentucky teammate John Wall), but stock had fallen because of “character issues”. So many times you hear these character issues come into play with players, but it is never well documented what that means. Can they not listen to direction? Are they bad at remembering plays? Do they not hustle? Or is it all of the above? In his one year at Kentucky, Cousins averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds. This was after originally committing the Memphis of course, but then following Calipari to Kentucky. That was also after originally committing to UAB, but then opting out after their coach left. Should this have been a sign to come? It seems as though Cousins was looking for a role model, and could have found that in Calipari. However, Cousins butted heads at times with his college coach, not willing to completely fall into place with Calipari’s system. That Kentucky team, full of talent that included Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and Terrence Jones, fell short in the Elite Eight.

(Talented? Absolutely. Misguided? Probably. A future in the NBA? Still up for discussion.)

When Cousins entered the draft, many looked at the physical specimen and saw a possible project that was definitely worth the risk. Between his interior presence on both sides of the ball, his ability to quickly move up the floor despite his 6’11, 270 pound frame, and his rebounding ability which was rated second to none in that draft class, he looked like a sure thing. However, NBAdraft.net was quick to point out his one major weakness in his draft profile; where he scored 5 on intagibles:

Cousins’ lack of maturity and mental focus is evident in his negative body language and lack of composure … He tends to lose his head, looking disinterested or frustrated if things don’t go his way. Also does not appear receptive to coaching, tuning out his coaches when they attempt to give him advice on the bench … The big question is whether it’s merely a lack of maturity due to age or something deeper … To his credit he made it through the entire season without any suspensions or ejections. However, there were a few times (flagrant fouls) where he may have deserved to be.”
Fast forward three years, you have to think they hit the nail on the head. Cousin’s has been heavily rumored to be the major cause of Paul Westphal’s firing early into the season last year, just four days after Westphal decided to sit him down for “going against team direction.” Now again, he has already been suspended on three different situations for verbally attacking a sideline analyst, love tapping O.J. Mayo in the no-no zone, and now simply for lashing out at his new coach during a halftime session in the Kings locker room. The Kings reinstated Cousins earlier today, and he practiced with the team this afternoon. But on a young team where guys are looking for their best player to step up and be a leader, it Cousins the right man for a King’s franchise desperate for a guy to build around?
One might play devil’s advocate as well. Are the Kings right for Cousins? Since the Chris Webber/Mike Bibby/Peja Stojakovic neucleus that was robbed of a title chance in 2002 and ultimately fizzled out along with Rick Adelman’s end in 2005, the Kings have failed the make the playoffs. More than that, they have failed to win 40 games and finish better than 4th in their own division. A young player coming with a history of turbulence in his own right is not magically going to fix his own attitude to better the team. The Kings have been called “the worst pick-up basketball team every assembled” by Bill Simmons. This doesn’t seem like a good situation for Cousins to grow as an NBA player, and even more important, as a person. I won’t even get into the ownership situation in Sacramento, but you know it can’t be helping.
At this point, the Kings have to be thinking it is time to cut the cord. They are not going to win at all this year, and while be it a small sample size, the Kings looked lively in their 12 point victory over the Blazers without Cousins in the arena. As he returns after the holidays, do they look elsewhere? As this whole situation has worked it’s way out, one name has come to mind. Zach Randolph. Randolph, once a member of the Jailblazers, has completely revived his career in Memphis. He was placed on a team with a great coach, on a roster full of team-first guys, and a organization whose first priority was to build a winning NBA team, and then let everything fall into place once it arrived from Vancouver. Randolph is now playing for a title contender and is considered one of the best big men in the game. When was the last time your heard “Maturity Issues” and “Zach Randolph” in the same sentence. Phrases that used to go hand in hand now seem completely obsolete. 
(Randolph’s career was almost characterized by all of his faults. Now it’s being characterized as a winner and leader that any team would be lucky to have.)
Their are many spots Cousins could go. He could learn and grow under a guy like Kevin Garnett in Boston. He could go to Houston and learn how to play the four under Kevin McHale (I include Houston, because let’s face it, they’ll trade for anybody.) He could even go to a team like Golden State for the right price, and fall into place with other team-first guys who are looking to build a winner(although unlikely in the division). Wherever he goes, the right no nonsense veteran coach and guys in the locker room who account for others actions is where his new agent should be shooting for. Whatever it is, Cousins need to realize the NBA world has a real thin patience. What he’s doing in Sacramento is speeding up his career clock.
I’ll end with this. On each NBA.COM player profile their are five links to videos under a tab called: WATCH VIDEO. Highlights if you will. Here are Cousins five highlights currently:
When four of your five most recent highlights are not about your play(which mind you, is a double double every night. And yes, this is the first time I’m mentioning it all post because it is far and away not the first thing you think of when you hear his name.), maybe it is time to look in the mirror and realize everyone around you might not be the problem.
(If Cousin‘s doesn‘t soon change his attitude, he won’t be arguing with refs. He’ll be arguing to get a team to take a chance on him.)
Oh yeah, Merry Christmas everyone!
-Bford
 

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