In the wake of his most recent suspension, Sacramento Kings fans have been forced to once again take a long look at DeMarcus Cousins. Reading the comments around here, I'd say this is easily the most anti-DeMarcus sentiment I've seen since the Westphal-induced suspension, and possibly ever.
I've seen comments that Cousins is a unique case of player entitlement. That we're dealing with a player who could change but doesn't want to. Or that Cousins is simply no longer worth the trouble. In short, there is a strong feeling in the comments that DeMarcus Cousins, despite his obviously talent, isn't a player that the Kings should be building around. This feeling isn't unanimous, but it is becoming prevalent in the comments.
These feelings are understandable. We're frustrated. The Kings are once again off to a rough start. Tyreke's jumper still looks like Tyreke's jumper. The offense has been a mess. Our exciting rookie Thomas Robinson has been suspended for an inexcusably lapse of judgment. The early returns on our offseason acquisitions of Aaron Brooks and James Johnson have been mixed at best. And the Maloofs continue to Maloof. It's a difficult time to be a Kings fan right now. For a franchise accustomed to disappointment and heartache, this season has already held plenty.
But none of that changes the fact that the narrative we're constructing in the comments is getting a little absurd.
The notion that DeMarcus Cousins is a standout case of immaturity is acceptable only if we ignore the history of a plethora of stars. The idea that the Kings are the only organization that would allow such nonsense is equally absurd. These are ideas that emerge from our overall frustration with this franchise.
First off, we still don't know what specifically went down between Sean Elliot and DeMarcus, so we can't definitively say how terrible Cousins' action may have been. But even if we assume they warranted a two-game suspension, they're hardly the worst actions we've ever seen in the league. Look no further than on-court fights, off-court arrests on any number of charges, and on-court antics that dwarf anything DeMarcus has ever done.
The idea that the Kings organization is the only organization that would put up with this crap? Please. There have been no shortage of teams willing to employ Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson after the Malice at the Palace. That includes the Kings, but also "prestigious" franchises like the Lakers, Pistons, Spurs and Rockets. As much as we'd love DeMarcus to stop barking at officials after every play, he's come nowhere near Rasheed Wallace's 41 technicals in the 2000-01 season. Wallace, by the way, went on to join the Pistons and "play the right way" Larry Brown, Doc Rivers' Celtics, and now the Knicks. Even good franchises and good coaches will accept a player with baggage.
As for other issues? Let's see. Kevin Garnett, while an incredible basketball player and a sure-fire Hall of Famer, is well known for going to extreme measures to bully opposing players. Rajon Rondo's reputation for being difficult led to him falling to the 21st pick in the draft despite lotto-level talent. More recently, Rondo was left off the Olympic team because of how many other players he has feuds with. Shaq, despite his media-friendly personality, has never met a bridge he wouldn't burn. He has thrown teammates under the bus at every stop in his career, and never accepts blame. Charles Barkley was considered the black sheep of the original Dream Team after throwing what appeared to be an unprovoked elbow at the head of an Angolan player. Barkley also famously threw a man through a plate glass window during a dispute in a bar.
Of course, I'm mentioning a lot of Hall of Fame players here. Cousins obviously isn't on par with these players at this point in his career. So let's reminisce about Zach Randolph. Randolph has always been gifted yet mercurial. He's bounced from Portland to New York to the Clippers before landing with the Grizzlies. Memphis was, in many ways, his last shot. Randolph was a consistent 20-10 player who teams were more than willing to let walk away. Eventually he settled down, but has still has a string of off-court issues that seem to follow him.
Cousins is hardly unique. That doesn't make his mistakes excusable, or any easier to handle as fans. But the frustration is going too far. Maybe we as fans have been too apologetic for his actions in the past. That's entirely possible, and I include myself in the group responsible for that. But it's also possible that even if we're forced to accept more of the reality of DeMarcus, it still might not be as bad as the sudden realization makes it seem.
In the end, winning cures all. If the Kings put together a successful season, we'll look back on these first few weeks and laugh. If we get another Kings season like the last several years, we'll point to this as part of where the team went wrong. Neither is necessarily wrong or right. Things aren't that simple. But it's important to remember that context is everything.
Someday people will point to Cousins as an example of someone who plays basketball with intensity and passion, rather than a player with attitude issues. And that could happen with or without Cousins maturing as an individual. Cousins could change his own narrative through personal growth, or his team could simply win more games.
Either option should do the trick.