Winslow Homer, The Life Line (1884).
No one knows that DeMarcus Cousins will become a Sacramento King tonight because no one knows what will happen in picks 1-4. We have an idea, maybe a good idea that he will be on the board. But we don't know. And that will not be answered until roughly 4:50 PM Pacific. That specific question is not likely to be answered before then.
But if he is on the board, and if the Kings indeed select him, that is when the real questions begin. Is Cousins the most dominant player in the draft? Is the best center to enter the league in years? Is he ready to contribute from Day 1? Does he have room to improve? Can he hold up under the increased social and physical stress of NBA basketball? Can he stay on the court due to conditioning and foul trouble? Will he eat himself out of the league? Will he mope his way out of the league?
Can the Kings as a family save him from himself?
Does he need to be saved from himself?
Is the risk too great?
Can the Kings afford potential failure?
I'm reminded of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems, "Bravado."
Have I not walked without an upward look
Of caution under stars that very well
Might not have missed me when they shot and fell?
It was a risk I had to take -- and took.
Cousins might go horribly, horribly wrong. Since the dismantling of the contender and pouring of tomorrow's foundation, the Kings as an organization have not stood out as particularly supportive toward the growth of young players. Spencer Hawes is perhaps the prime example.
Blame Hawes all you want, but the team never strong-armed him into doing the program here in Sacramento under the watchful eye of the franchise. Heck, for his first two summers, there wasn't even a hint the team wanted to play a big role in his offseason development. It can be argued that when your in-season development is limited to one-on-one versus Shareef Abdur-Rahim and lectures from Truck Robinson, there was no evident plan for turning the raw, skinny kid from Washington into an NBA All-Star. I know the team laid out a strength and conditioning program for all the youngsters, and I know everyone does their best.
But there has to be a plan, a system, to support the kid's growth. The lack of such only contributed to Hawes' failure in Sacramento; he, Hawes, takes a portion of blame too, and there's also the underlying possibility Hawes just isn't a starting big man in the NBA now or ever.
That underlying possibility simply doesn't exist for Cousins. He has the size today, the skills today and the ability today to be an NBA starter. And he is 19 years old.
Any potential failure comes down to Cousins' drive and the Kings' ability to develop him. There is no Team DeMarcus, no Blueprint. Cousins simply doesn't have the readymade support system Tyreke brought with him. He has to rely on himself and the franchise. And given the innate and unavoidable issues involved -- his body type, his brash attitude, his position and his talent level -- the team needs to be not just a pillar of strength for DeMarcus, but a rocket to aid his journey into the stratosphere.
He can't do it himself, and should the Kings land Cousins, the team must realize that and plan accordingly. DeMarcus is a sapling. Stake him, feed him, water him, and do everything you can to help him grow strong and blossom brilliantly.
I know that I just totally jinxed everything.