It is commonly accepted by reasonable people that Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins is not the easiest player to deal with. In addition to getting questionable suspensions for confronting announcers, Cousins is an emotional, volatile personality. At times, his emotions get the better of him on the court.
It's usually worth it, though, because Cousins is one of the most talented young players in the NBA. Last season, he played like a star, averaging 21.4 points and 13.0 rebounds per game while displaying a varied set of skills. The thinking was that, if Cousins worked on his maturity and progressed at a similar rate, he'd find himself in the thick of All-Star discussions despite playing for a fairly bad team.
Things have not worked out as planned. Without context, his averages still look good: 19.5 points and 11.3 rebounds. But those marks still represent a regression, and Cousins' shooting has dipped to a paltry 41.7 percent from the field. It's gotten so bad that he claims he's lost all his confidence. From Ailene Voisin for The Sacramento Bee (via PBT):
One month into his third season with the Kings, the Big Cuz is in a massive funk. His numbers are down in all the pertinent categories. He isn't running the floor with the same energy or commitment of last season. He repeatedly is finding himself in foul trouble and on the bench, or in trouble with his coach and on the bench.
And he doesn't have any answers.
"I've been terrible," Cousins said bluntly but softly. "We're losing. I don't feel like I made improvements from last year. I really don't have any confidence at all. I'm just trying to think my way through it, but right now, I'm not finding anything." [...]
"He came to camp in great shape and in a great frame of mind," coach Keith Smart said, "but after all those things, the suspension (for verbally accosting San Antonio analyst Sean Elliott), then having to reset, then early foul trouble. … The rhythm of that, and not getting shots to go down, not finishing at the basket, all those things tie in. And when you're losing, that's another setback. He just has to keep working through stuff."
Smart is correct that the answers should be fairly simple. Ramping up his own effort would at least ensure that Cousins sees some sort of improvement, even if that only involves grabbing an extra rebound per game. That's not meaningless — regaining confidence can often be a matter of seeing things move in a positive direction just a little bit.
Of course, the Kings are not in a normal situation and Cousins is not a typical personality. With continual questions as to where the franchise will play next season and a general lack of institutional support (financial and otherwise) from the Maloof family of owners, this work environment is not exactly ideal. On top of that, Cousins is the sort of person who could get continually frustrated with his struggles instead of fixating on minor points of improvement.
The good news is that Cousins is talented enough to render these concerns moot over the course of a few days. One 30-point, 15-board game could help him turn confident again. However, the fact remains that turning things around also depends on his environment, not just how Cousins applies himself.