There are literally millions of players worldwide that dream of playing in the NBA. There are players that wish they could still play against today’s greats and there are players whose careers were cut short with injuries. Greg Oden for example would love to switch places with DeMarcus Cousins. Our big man sulks after missed calls and scowls at refs, he yaps to opponents and even got into an altercation with a teammate.
Meanwhile Oden works tirelessly and humbly to try to ease any doubts a team has about his injuries. [The Kings are considered longshots for Oden]. But with a second invite to the USA National team this year has DeMarcus matured enough to relish in and fulfill his tremendous talents?
I believe that Cousins has matured only to the point where he knows he will be held more accountable than anything he’s dealt with in the past. Make no mistake DeMarcus is a kid, he will turn 23 on Aug. 13. The Ranadive consortium has defended DeMarcus from day one, with owner Vivek Ranadive claiming he wants to make Cousins an ‘international superstar’.
But this new regime will not stand for foolishness in their first year as owners and Mike Malone is a tenured coach and is the son of former Detroit Pistons coach Brendan Malone, who coached under the legendary Chuck Daly. They will both undoubtedly command respect this year, with or without Cousins, but preferably with him though.
And the stats show that Cousins is worth keeping. Cousins’ rebounding numbers fell just a tick this season [9.9, down from 11.0 in 2011-12] but his points remained relatively comparable to his career averages [17.1 this year versus 18.1 in 2012].
He’s a double-double generating man-child! In fact, Cousins racked up 35 double-doubles this past season, the highest of his three-year career. But for every stellar mark Cousins has earned in his NBA career, he’s managed to be the star of some head-scratching, patience testing, petty childishness.
But ultimately this is the guy who you want as a teammate. He gets ejected, always has some choice words for a big man down low and has made an art form of the technical. But Cousins also shows up to watch the Kings rookies in Summer League games, he understands the team is moving in a defense-first share the ball mentality. DeMarcus Cousins is the consummate teammate, just a highly volatile one.
Cousins must also find a way to stay on the court late in the game. DeMarcus can’t continue to foul out of games and jaw-jack with the officials like he has from the jump. He needs to stop getting into childish arguments like the head-shaking Sean Elliott fiasco where he verbally confronted the Spurs color commentator post-game. He can’t get sent home by the coaches or demand trades, this is a business it’s time to act like a professional.
I think this new ownership group and this set of Coaches realizes what a talent Cousins is, but don’t think for a second they won’t trade him for some valuable assets if Cousins gets out of line. DeMarcus has maintained that he loves Sacramento and recently stated that he wants to stay. The only way this will have a happy ending is if Cousins grows into his role and understands that the NBA and the Kings specifically are behind him 100 percent as long he commits to a few rules.
It seems to me that Cousins is actually a pretty nice guy, fiercely competitive and highly motivated. Being invited to play with Team USA can do those types of things, but when talking to reporters after the USA shoot-around he avoids eye contact, deflects questions, asks for clarification or the meaning of questions as if dissecting a personal attack, talks pointedly and has a rise to his voice that sounds as if he’s deeply annoyed at times.
When asked who his competition was on Team USA with a group that incldues Kenneth Faried among others he flatly replied ‘Nobody.’ The media will always try to goad Cousins for some good sound bites, he has to realize that they have a job to do as does he, but it doesn’t have to elevate into something that serious. And talking like that only hurts his cause, not helps it. But winning fixes even the most stubborn of attitudes, the Kings can do that this year.
DeMarcus told reporters he hasn’t spoken with Coach K much and doesn’t know much about him. Cousins would benefit greatly to get to know the man. Coach Krzyzewski knows winning but he also understands that hard work and dedication to something greater than you leads to immense and meaningful rewards, like Larry O’ Brien trophies.
As Coach K put it when asked what he's generally looking for from the players assembled here: "The ability to blend your talent willingly with other people who have talents ... blending your talents with other talented people in a willing manner." Cousins would be wise to soak up some pearls of wisdom from Coach K, it makes him a better man and makes the team he plays for, in any jersey, that much better.
UPDATED: Sam Amick has a great piece where he sat down with Coach Malone to discuss how the two plan to work together.