DeMarcus Cousins sat down with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated and delivered a very open, honest, and insightful interview. I really suggest reading the interview in its entirety. While the conversation is enlightening and offers incredible insight into the mind of Cousins, there are a few issues that stand out.
First, Cousins deserves to be recognized and praised. This interview is the most I have ever heard Cousins take personal responsibility for his actions and issues. He tells Mannix:
"Sometimes I let some of the small things take over," Cousins told SI.com. "It can be a simple thing, like a call going the wrong way, and it takes me all off. I've got a real problem when I know something is wrong or I feel something is wrong, I'm going to speak about it. I get it from my mother. It's a problem I have. I don't want to say I want to change it because it helped me get where I am. But at the same time, I have to learn to be quiet."
I mean, that isn't the Cousins we're used to hearing from. "I have a problem." Admitting that he allows a bad call to throw off the rest of his game. That's frank and honest self-criticism. I think that should be applauded. It's nice to see some of the self-awareness that we've long hoped to hear out of Cousins.
Cousins then goes on to complain about some of the perceptions of him. I think it's once again a pretty fair assessment:
"I don't think I was given a fair chance. I don't know what I did in college that was so bad to get that reputation. OK, there is footage of me and Coach Cal going at each other. That happens in sports. Coming into the league, everyone said I was going to be fat, I was the next Oliver Miller. I had all these red flags. I just feel I was never given a fair chance coming in."
Around these parts we've discussed the "red flags", even going so far as to create the Red Flags of Cuzizstan t-shirts. Cousins is correct in that the majority of analysts and pundits had a slight against Cousins from Day 1. We saw it as recently as this past summer with Team USA and Jerry Colangelo.
But then Cousins starts to lose me. He says that the Kings organization is among those who failed to give him a chance. The team that drafted him, Cousins says, never bothered to get to know him. And then, when Mannix smartly asks if things are different now, he adds this:
"No, I'm still not [given a chance]," Cousins said. "It flip flops. When everything is good, [the organization] is good. When things go bad, there is nothing about that good person they remember. I just want that balance. You are either with me or you're not."
With Westphal, I could buy this. Westphal and Cousins clashed, obviously and publicly. But with Keith Smart? What happened to all those stories about Smart meeting with Cousins, visiting him at home, spending time getting to know him? Did all of that go right out the window? Smart was extended as head coach specifically because he and Cousins had bonded. It was clear to anyone who watched the second half of last season.
And no, DeMarcus, the Kings do not have to pick whether they are with you or not and stick to that. Around here we've complained that team doesn't go to bat for Cousins when he's in trouble with the league, sure. But this is ultimately a business. The organization, Cousins' teammates, his coaches, they owe him nothing. They aren't his family who will stand by him through thick or thin. Not if he isn't carrying his end of the bargain. Moping, complaining, fighting, these are the things that turn an organization or a coaching staff against a player.
When DeMarcus Cousins is good, he's great. When he's in a good mood, he's a great person, by every account I've ever heard. But when Cousins is in a bad mood, he's not a guy that you want to deal with in any way, shape or form. That part is on DeMarcus. Not anybody else.
The interview then goes on to discuss the Kings organization's attempts to get Cousins to enter counseling. Cousins takes it as an insult, which shows just how little progress we as a society have made against the stigma of mental health support. Cousins says he's an emotional guy, but that counseling isn't the way to help. Of course, Cousins doesn't offer an alternative. The alternative is apparently that the Kings should simply tolerate his outbursts.
Despite these issues, I still think this interview is a net positive. The mere fact that Cousins acknowledges his own shortcomings is a major step forward.
The other reason it's a positive? Cousins once again reiterates that he wants to stay in Sacramento, but he expands on this idea. He talks about staying in Sacramento and being part of the solution. He says:
"That's like a trophy to me," Cousins said. "Taking a team no players really want to go to, a team considered the worst in the league, and through all the struggle and all the negativity, they found the way to win. I want to put Sacramento back on the map. I want to be an instrumental part of things changing here."
The Kings organization and DeMarcus Cousins both want the same things. Let's just hope the two sides can get on the same page on how to get there.