As Kings fans, we are eternal optimists. For decades now, we have supported a perennial lottery-bound team. We have the unequivocal worst owners in all of professional sports. To the outside observer, the only thing our team has going for it is us, the beyond-passionate fans of Sacramento. This has served us well, to be sure. This is no better evidenced than the grass-roots efforts that kept the Kings here, however temporary that stay might be. We see players and coaches and cities (see ya', Virginia Beach!) come and go (with players seemingly getting better after they go), but we see very little difference in our team's performance year-after-year. But the role of the underdog is to keep believing something will change. Hell, we saw it change that one time. You know, that one time over ten years ago? (Petrie, we are looking at you.)
In any event, the point is, we want to believe. First and foremost, we want to believe the Kings are staying. Next, we want to believe the Maloofs are selling (yes, in that order). And coming into this season, we wanted to believe that this team was going to be better. We didn't care how much better, necessarily. Just "better" and we'd be happy. We knew it was only a matter of time before the team would "figure it out" (and other assorted cliches). After all, they are a young group with a ton of individual talent, right? And we have this new cornerstone franchise big man, DMC, and those kinds of players don't come around too often (so we've been told). Shoot, even the real basketball experts said so. Once he grows up mentally, the sky's the limit for this team. I mean, the guy is only 22!
But what if, aside from all of his well-documented "issues", Cousins isn't really that great from an NBA standpoint?
Of course, it's near-impossible to talk about DMC without mentioning his attitude. But, as Kings fans, we tried to spin his perceived bad attitude as a positive. Remember the spins we put on him:
He's just young and misunderstood.
We just need to channel his energy in the right direction. (seriously?!)
He's just competitive! (This is my personal favorite of stating absolutely nothing as an argumentative response to DMC's repeated idiocy - we might as well just say, "that's just DMC being DMC". Much like when people at work tell me "it is what is is"...sigh.)
Westphal and Colangelo and Donte and Elliot and Mayo (to name a few) - they were all just plain wrong. And even if they were right, screw it, because when DMC brings it, he's a beast, goddamn it. More so, he's OUR beast. We are just trying to get him to understand the bigger picture. Now, of course, the sentiment towards him has changed dramatically. We do not know exactly what transpired at halftime against the Clippers, but we do know that it had to be fairly awful to have Smart, seemingly the most patient of all DMC supporters, past and present, play a significant disciplinary card. Even more impressive was DMC's unprecedented contriteness. These are clues as to the depths of the unknown details.
I know that the fans herein are, for the most part, some of the more knowledgeable basketball fans in the country. Many of us played at higher-competitive levels and can see obvious strengths and weaknesses of players and lineups/rotations (e.g. I like to think a lot of us question why Jimmer and Tyreke are rarely our two guards at the same time, for crying out loud - but that is a topic for another time). Now, I would like to think that, after 2 1/3 years of watching DMC, we could objectively analyze his strengths and weaknesses on the floor. I know that a lot (or arguably inordinate) amount of time is spent evaluating newfangled player efficiency ratings. For this exercise, I don't want to look too much at DMC's stats. Let's talk in terms of our scouting report (i.e. what would be written down on your clipboard were you evaluating him as a prospective roster addition). So, with that in mind, this is my humble take on his play (NOT his attitude, though surely one's attitude can affect one's play):
- Does not block shots.
- Conversely, gets his shot blocked...a lot.
- Tries to take too many charges (he's a center!).
- Turns the ball over at a high rate.
- Very poor shooting percentage, particularly for a big man.
- Doesn't finish around the basket.
- Doesn't get to the line enough.
- Fouls...a lot.
- Doesn't run the floor terribly well.
- Not athletic by NBA standards.
- Not a great passer. Arguable black hole at times.
To be fair, here are some general things that DMC does well (again, in my not-so-expert opinion):
- Big body and strong.
- Draws a good deal of charges.
- Good, maybe even great, footwork for a big man.
- Gets great position on the glass, particularly on the offensive end.
- Good rebounder for someone with comparably less athleticism than his opponents.
- Decent free throw shooter.
- Good outside shooter. (In fact, in an obvious isolation setting where I know he is not going to pass, I often find myself hoping he will take the 20-footer and, please, for the love of God, don't drive.)
Duncan Alridge Ibaka Randolph Bosh Pau Gasol Marc Gasol Howard Varejao Noah Horford Chandler Brook Lopez Monroe David Lee Pekovic Anthony Davis JT (our best player!)
With that, I cordially offer that DMC really is not that great. We see him in the teens, in terms of ranking the NBA big men (I could even argue some more players for the list above). The fact that this is a guard-dominated league means that his ranking in the grand NBA schematic falls even greater. Further, I would take any of the names mentioned above in a straight-up trade for DMC, even if he was a model NBA citizen. The fact that he is currently residing somewhere between locker-room cancer and leprosy lessens his value exponentially, which in turn, hurts our team's ability to improve over the proverbial longer haul. Of course, this is assuming that Petrie would have ever made a deal, to begin with...
So does the indefinite suspension hurt us? Sure, I suppose. But I think there is a growing contingent out there that really don't care if DMC is on the floor. I also think that said apathy has more to do with him than his play. Please understand that my own indifference has more to do with the latter than the former. His presence might mean a few more wins (and, based on the aforementioned rudimentary player evaluation, I will emphasize "might"). But do we really care about the difference between 24 and 28 wins for the season? Sadly, those are standard-fare numbers around these parts.
Yes, I realize this can come off as yet another topical dump on DMC for his continual poor attitude. And like many/most of you, I cannot stand watching his body language and waiting for the next technical to be called on him. I hate it. (I think part of us also hates it because all of those pundits right now are saying "I told you so" regarding why we should not have selected him.) But, also like many/most of you, I could easily cast his unsavory on/off-court antics aside if he was contributing greatly on the floor. But the fact is he isn't/wasn't. I would argue that he hasn't been that much better than his NBA peers over his short-lived career. And I have serious doubts that he could ever be that great, even if he "figures it out".
This sucks because, like a good Kings fan, I wanted to believe otherwise.