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Morning Conversation: This is DeMarcus Cousins

We’ve seen this all before.

Kimani Okearah

If you’ve been watching the Sacramento Kings throughout the DeMarcus Cousins era, you’re used to the insanity that ensued during the second half of last nights 112-107 loss to the Chicago Bulls. It’s par for the Sacramento Kings course, really. I won’t speak for everyone, but I am certainly desensitized to games like that. It feels like they happen every other week around here.

For those who missed it, you can read our full recap here, but in short, DeMarcus Cousins had a rough game, the Kings went down big, the Kings came fighting back, he received two technical fouls, raising his total to 16 on the season, resulting in an automatic one game suspension, assuming neither of those techs get rescinded by the NBA, and here we are.

This is coming off the heels of the Kings’ 109-106 win over the Warriors where Cousins almost blew the biggest win of the season with an untimely technical foul. It’s a problem now, it was a problem last year, it was a problem the year before that, and so on and so forth.

Speaking on the Bulls game specifically, Cousins had a right to be frustrated. He was struggling, some of the calls against him were bad, but as Grant pointed out, he got away with some fouls that went uncalled. Pretty standard stuff, in my opinion. All of that is really beside this particular point – despite how the officials officiate DeMarcus Cousins (a lot of people have a problem with this, outside of the ordinary NBA officiating is bad label, I wouldn’t say they are aggressively worse officiating Cousins, but that is just me) that is so far removed from the problem that I wish we could stop connecting those dots entirely. Yes, NBA officiating is bad a lot of the time. No, that doesn’t excuse DeMarcus Cousins. It’s a problem for him.

I’m not even looking specifically at Cousins’ ridiculous technical foul count here. NBA players, and NBA stars, get a lot of technical fouls. When you start getting suspended, it’s a problem. When you do it in backbreaking fashion when your teammates are fighting their way back into a game, it’s a problem, but really, it’s the non-stop arguing that hurts him the most. Nothing I’m saying here is news to anyone, by the way, and that is kind of my overall point. This is DeMarcus Cousins. Most players have something you can point towards and say yeah, but he can’t insert criticism here. DeMarcus Cousins’ non-stop arguing with the officiating is exactly that.

I feel uncomfortable trying to psychoanalyze anyone, let alone someone I’ve never met, but as a person on the internet who has watched just about every game of DeMarcus Cousins’ career as a professional basketball player, nothing about Cousins’ actions last night, or Cousins’ actions throughout his career, seem deliberate.

I know, I know, I know, that is a completely unsatisfying excuse for all of this. I don’t think Cousins has any idea what he’s doing out there in those moments. I don’t think he has any idea how bad it looks. I don’t think he can control his emotions when frustration builds to that point of no return.

While that is a frustrating realization, it actually makes evaluating him quite easy for the Kings, and that is what’s most important, anyway.

This is who DeMarcus Cousins is. I don’t think he could hide it if he wanted too. Vlade Divac and the Sacramento Kings have plenty of film on him. They’ve seen everything we’ve seen, and it’s on them to determine if they can build a playoff team around his strengths and weaknesses. Every qualifier should be removed in this process. It shouldn’t be can we build a playoff team around DeMarcus Cousins if he changes? It should be can we build a playoff team around DeMarcus Cousins if he doesn’t? This is the guy you have. This is the guy he’s always been. Proceed accordingly.

I choose to leave the door open for some progress in DeMarcus Cousins’ overall frustration level if the team were better. We’ve never actually seen that, because the Kings’ roster has never been playoff caliber in the Cousins era, but banking on Cousins changing would be dumb. Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t, but that shouldn’t really factor in what decisions the Kings make moving forward. If you don’t leave that door open in your own personal evaluation of the Cousins experience, that is a completely fair take. If I’ve learned anything reading countless arguments and counter-arguments about everything DeMarcus Cousins, it’s that there is no right answer. Nobody has it. It doesn’t exist. It’s all opinion, It’s how much you can tolerate, it’s what you value in a player and person, it’s extremely subjective, and that is why we see so much passion on display anytime someone brings it up. Everyone thinks they are right, but nobody knows.

The Kings have failed brilliantly at building a playoff team around Cousins, but I still think it’s possible, and at the very least, I’d like to see that happen for my own morbid curiosity before the Kings move on. What does a DeMarcus Cousins-led team look like with one other All-Star? What does a DeMarcus Cousins-led team look like with a competent shooting guard? What does a DeMarcus Cousins-led team look like with strong leadership from the owner on down? What does a DeMarcus Cousins-led team look like with an in-prime Isaiah Thomas while hitting on one of the last 10 other lottery picks they’ve had? Sorry, I needed to fill the obligatory quota of one Thomas mention, and one dig at the front office.

These are questions we haven’t been able to answer during Cousins’ tenure in Sacramento. I remain hopeful that they can be answered in Sacramento as opposed to somewhere else, but I respect the opposing opinion because Cousins and the Kings have given you plenty of fuel to feel that way.