We have yet to fully figure out DeMarcus Cousins.
Is he misunderstood? Is he unstable? Is he just a fierce competitor who doesn't know how to channel his passion? Does he simply not have the right players around him?
We could have an entire 30Q series on the big fella.
What we do know about this talented center going into his fourth season is that he's on his third head coach. He's also had numerous other potential mentors around him during his time with the Kings - Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Truck Robinson and his high school coach Otis Hughley, just to name a few.
Yet his defense, his effort and his temperament has continued to stymie his expansive potential.
Insert Shaquille O'Neal, who said the top three reasons he wanted to join the Kings as a minority owner were Vivek Ranadive, Mark Mastrov and DeMarcus Cousins.
O'Neal said he is focused on having "conversations" with the Kings' center, rather than working on technique. Cousins has never had someone like this in ear. O'Neal has a championship pedigree, is one of the most well-known athletes in the world and was arguably the most dominant player ever at Cousins' position. It's because of this that there should be some optimism (just above cautious) that O'Neal can help get him on the right track.
"He knows that I know what I'm talking about," O'Neal said at his introductory press conference on Tuesday. "A lot of these guys, and I was sort of like this, when I would have a conversation with people who didn't really understand what it takes, I was kind of reluctant to listen to them, but once Phil [Jackson] came in, coming off six championships, I knew he knew what he was talking about."
O'Neal said he sees a lot of himself in Cousins.
"I was like him when I was a youngster, just like him. I was stubborn and I don't like this coach, and I don't like this, it's not going to work. But once I embraced the change and once I said to myself, you know what? I am the leader, I have to step up, once I step up, Penny Hardaway will step up and D [Dennis] Scott will step up and Kobe [Bryant] will step up," said O'Neal, who averaged 26.6 points, 11 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 blocks in his fourth season.
There's that "embrace the change" mantra again that we heard all summer. The Kings' ownership group is going all in on the "we believe in you, so you should believe in us" card with Cousins (and it sounds like they will soon put their money where their mouth is). In a sign of how serious he be may taking the role ahead of him, Cousins is reportedly in tremendous shape and has been working hard in the offseason. With the future of the franchise settled and a motivated ownership group running the team, he's also now surrounded by stability for the first time in his NBA career, making it more likely that with a little nudge from his coaches and O'Neal he can put it all together.
Cousins does hate to lose though. He's been unable to hide his chagrin about in the locker room in recent seasons. Unfortunately, with the talent level on the current roster, it's unlikely that the Kings will be challenging for a playoff spot. So he, at least this season, will probably have to quench his thirst for progress with incremental team improvements in the defensive and effort categories (something he has to buy into himself).
O'Neal, along with the coaching staff (watch for Akis' post tomorrow on the Michael Malone-Cousins dynamic), will need to pull the best out of Cousins and help him recognize and build off the small steps this team makes, while teaching him how to set an example.
"We’re going to build the team around DeMarcus. He needs to understand that when you're the leader the others will follow when they see you set the perfect example," O'Neal said. "He's going to have to play on every play, he's going to have to accept that leadership role and that's the conversation I am going to have with him."
If there is anyone who can get through to Cousins, it is this guy. O'Neal is a larger-than-life figure who will demand respect from Cousins. He once dominated the paint - here's to hoping he can be a dominant agent of change for the Kings' franchise player.