Take the good with the bad and recognize the incremental improvements. That is pretty much how Kings fans have approached this season as a whole, and that same mentality runs parallel to how things are with DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins is currently on one of his incident-free stretches, having gone more than a month without picking up his 16th technical foul. He also had one of his incredible statistical nights (in a losing effort) on Wednesday against the New York Knicks, with 32 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, shooting 10-15 from the field and 12-12 from the free throw line.
Cousins' numbers this season are the best of his career (22.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.5 steals and shooting 49 percent from the field) and have been well documented, so for the sake of this article, let's focus on the big man's improvements in regulating his emotions.
Head coach Michael Malone shared his thoughts on the subject following the 107-99 loss to the Knicks.
"I think he is doing an outstanding job of handling and controlling his emotions. Ever since that Houston game, you know, he hasn't got a technical foul, I think he should be commended on that," Michael Malone told Sactown Royalty.
The Houston game he is referring to is the one in which Cousins punched Patrick Beverley. He was subsequently fined $20,000 and suspended for it.
He is currently tied with Kevin Durant (heard of that guy?) with 15 technical fouls for the most in the NBA. In 2012-13, Cousins tallied an NBA-high 17 technical fouls, just ahead of Russell Westbrook, who had 15 (heard of that guy?).
On Wednesday, Cousins did not want to discuss the fact that he hasn't had a technical foul in a month, but he did say that he has been more focused lately.
"I just think I'm locked in more on the task at hand, and you know, zoning out the other things," Cousins said.
His non-confrontational, more subdued play as of late would suggest this to be true. There was a sequence in the game against the Knicks when Tyson Chandler appeared to be baiting him a bit by pushing and shoving on consecutive possessions, but Cousins ignored him.
In reality, however, the chances are Cousins will pick up that 16th technical foul before the season ends, which will result in another suspension. And even if he doesn't, that probably isn't something that should be pointed to as a prime example of how the sky is opening up for the often-troubled center out of Kentucky - he still has been in the top five in technical fouls for four seasons in a row after all. Not to mention we have seen him on good behavior for stretches after incidents before.
He has had five or more personal fouls in 21 games this season, and that hinders his minutes, which impacts his teammates. He had 24 games with five or more personal fouls in 2012-2013 and 23 in 2011-12 (shortened season).
To his credit, Cousins is becoming more vocal about leading the team. He has been pushing and mentoring rookies Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum. He's saying all the right things as well. When asked on Wednesday about putting up 30 points, he said scoring 30 points isn't a concern to him, but winning is. He also complimented the coaching staff for the work they do with scouting reports on opponents.
With these slight signs of improvements, we cannot forget that his slip-ups are not long ago. We already mentioned the Beverley incident, and there also were those reports of him yelling obscenities at the crowd at Sleep Train Arena in December.
He did apologize to Spurs announcer Sean Elliot recently for their 2012 incident.
The good with the bad.
Overall, compared especially to his first two seasons in the league, Cousins seems to be showing more self restraint. And his teammates who were in Sacramento last season say they see a difference in the center.
Travis Outlaw said he has noticed an uptick in Cousins' communication.
"He's talking more, you know, he's become more of a leader on the court so yeah, I mean, I've seen a lot of improvement," Outlaw said. "I believe he set himself up, you know, this season to next season to where he should become an All-Star."
Jason Thompson, who has been Cousins' frontcourt mate for multiple seasons now, said the league is beginning to respect Cousins more.
"He's been more aggressive...I feel like around the league they are starting to respect him more so he's starting to get more of the calls," Thompson said.
Cousins said that his goal at the beginning of the season was to get the Kings to the playoffs. That didn't happen, but he seems motivated to try to make it happen next season, praising the direction of the franchise.
"This season, of course we're not a playoff team, we're not playing for a playoff spot, but we're playing to continue to get better, we're playing to continue to grow," Cousins told Sactown Royalty. "Last year, we were playing to get the season over .... We really didn't have a goal for our future. We were in the moment. It was really no, there was nothing to look forward to last year."
The good has been outweighing the bad a little more frequently as of late with Cousins so maybe Kings fans have something to look forward to next season.
Have things been a complete success with Boogie since he signed a long-term deal with the Kings this past offseason? No. Has it been a failure? No. Is he maturing? Maybe. Maybe not. Are his flare-ups simply a result of his passion to win, as it's been suggested since he was drafted? Only he knows.