Yesterday's incident with DeMarcus Cousins and Jonas Valanciunas was not a bright spot for DeMarcus. Yes, he didn't throw a punch when everyone expected he would. And that's wonderful. I'm glad Cousins didn't throw a punch and undo all the positive strides he's made with Team USA. But not throwing a punch isn't something to be celebrated, it's to be expected.
DeMarcus Cousins has a reputation for having a bad temper. As Kings fans, we've watched the growth of DeMarcus since his rookie year. Rookie DeMarcus, in the same situation, might very well have thrown a punch. DeMarcus of two years ago, if presented with the same situation in the Olympics, might have thrown the punch. But that's why DeMarcus Cousins wasn't on Team USA two summers ago.
What's held DeMarcus back in the eyes of the Team USA powers that be, and in the eyes of the general public, is that he can't be trusted to keep his cool. A guy you can't trust to maintain his calm is a risk, talent be damned. Cousins' temper, improved as it may be, is still a risk for the Kings. He's doing better, and I'm glad he didn't throw a punch, but I'm not celebrating progress. I'm thanking the basketball Shammgods that Cousins only took a small step backwards. But make no mistake, Thursday was a step backwards.
We can justify Cousins' reaction all we want.
"He plays with passion."
"Jonas was throwing high elbows."
"I would have been pissed too."
"The refs hadn't called it all game"
But those reactions don't change the fact that Cousins hurt his team on Thursday. Sure, Team USA won in a rout. But what if it hadn't been? Cousins drew a technical. And while I think there should have been a call against Jonas, a technical was absolutely deserved for DeMarcus.
Beyond the technical, what happens when Cousins get angry? We all know the answer. It throws off his game. He loses control. He either sulks, which he did on the bench Thursday but did less often last season, or he plays out of control trying to prove he's better and therefore, somehow, in the right.
Ask the average fan what they know about Cousins in the FIBA World Cup and they're going to point to the highlight that made Sportscenter on Thursday. They aren't going to talk about Cousins averaging nine points, five boards and an assist in just 14 minutes per game. They're not going to notice that he's shooting 70% from the field. They're going to know that Jonas Valanciunas feared his imminent demise at Cousins' hands.
We're Kings fans. By extension, many of us are fans of DeMarcus Cousins. I consider myself a fan of his. But an incident like this doesn't make me feel like celebrating his progress. It reminds me just how far Cousins still has to go.