February 14, 2011
The season demands excessive use of taffeta, chocolates, shiny shoes and pretty jewelry, but DeMarcus Cousins(notes) is going out of his way to let you know that he has other things on his mind. Love is in the air, dear friends, and DeMarcus Cousins just doesn't care.
By now you've likely heard that the Sacramento Kings' rookie center was left at home for a game before the Sacto front office decided to fine the 20-year-old in the wake a punching incident following the team's loss to the Thunder on Saturday. Cousins was upset at the Kings' Tyreke Evans(notes)-heavy offense to end that game, a common complaint for many Kings followers, and the frustration boiled over to a punching match between Cousins and guard Donte Greene(notes) after the loss.
Sam Amick was the first to report the news:
According to the sources, Cousins (whose postgame interview can be seen here) was furious at the last play in which Tyreke Evans missed a three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation that would have won the game. Cousins, who had been calling for the ball in the post in the final possession, watched angrily as Greene in-bounded the ball to Evans for the final shot.
After the buzzer, Cousins let his opinion be known to Greene as he blew by him in the tunnel leading into the locker room. According to the sources, Greene and Cousins began exchanging words inside the locker room. The situation then escalated when Cousins accused Greene of being too "scared" of making what Cousins thought was the right play and with both players taking swings at each other before they were separated.
No fun at all, really. Though, according to Marc J. Spears, Greene and his teammates weren't really shaken up by the whole affair:
Greene left the locker room composed and didn't appear to have any physical marks from the fight as he talked with the brother of Thunder forward Kevin Durant and other friends before departing the arena, a source said. Greene was allowed to travel to Phoenix based on Petrie's initial review of the incident, sources said.
After Westphal relayed Petrie's orders, Cousins departed the plane. Kings guard Francisco Garcia was upset that Cousins had been sent home, one source said. Garcia had Cousins meet with him at the Kings' practice facility on Thursday for a long talk about the rookie's professionalism and how he can better live up to his potential to be one of the team's top offensive options.
While Cousins' teammates get along well with him and hang out with him away from the court, they're often frustrated by his moodiness and immaturity when things aren't going his way, a source said. Some of Cousins' frustration, however, stems from his belief that some of his teammates aren't punished or criticized as hard as he is when they make mistakes, another source said.
And if you'll pardon a bit of "I know what's up, even from here on the couch," it's pretty easy to deduce what's going on with the Kings. Mainly because coach Paul Westphal had to be told to tell Cousins to take a hike by his general manager.
Partially because, just by watching Kings games, you can see why Cousins would chafe at Evans' dribble-happy ways and terrible shot selection, especially as the second year guard isn't nearly as explosive (for whatever reason) as he was last season.
And also because, just by watching Kings games, you can tell that DeMarcus Cousins easily has the worst body language of any of the NBA's 40 trillion players, and in the middle of February (no matter the holiday), that's saying a lot. Few teams offer much less than 10 sets of slumped shoulders per rotation these days.
You see, DaMarcus Cousins is a huge problem.
And so is Paul Westphal.
And so is Tyreke Evans. There is a lot of blame to go around in Sacramento, and not a lot to do about it.
Westphal is this team's leader, but he has been completely incapable of reigning in the squad's terrible shot selection over the last two seasons. Sure, the Kings are a very young team, but that hasn't stopped several NBA coaches from doing their best and succeeding when it comes to getting the kids to think straight with their shots. Even Vinny Del Negro has had young teams in Chicago and Los Angeles keeping it in check.
The former Suns and SuperSonics coach was run out of both Phoenix and Seattle because he was essentially treated like a pushover by his players. His veteran players, mind you, and while I don't know if the man is a type of pushover (I'm not in that huddle, or in that locker room), this is a troubling pattern that appears to have sustained in Sacramento. And while those Suns and SuperSonics teams were filled with heaps of dominant personalities that could drive any coach batty, you can't ignore the similarities.
Evans? The guy, I'm sorry, plays a brand of basketball that doesn't look like it knows how to do long division yet. By all accounts Evans is a cheerful, team-first sort of guy, and we'll partially (and passive-aggressively) ignore his moronic speeding charge from last summer for the purposes of this column. But you can't get past the way he takes terrible shot after terrible shot. All in the name of winning, no doubt, but not usually going about the most cerebral way of attempting to win.
And Cousins? You know, he's right for chirping. Watching Evans' act, even as an impartial observer, is enervating.
Marc quoted him last December, as the rookie said "I like to win, and if we don't, I'm mad about it," and you can understand that. It's no fun to lose close game after close game, and sometimes it feels as if this is all the Kings have done this season.
But DeMarcus is a clear headcase. And of all the current, veteran, headcases out there, none of them exhibited the sort of on-court personality at age 20 that Cousins consistently showcases. Pick your least favorite player, a team's biggest cancer, the bane of your fandom. He wasn't as bad on the court at age 20 as Cousins is right now.
The guy takes terrible shots ... and he's a center! I've never seen a big man with such terrible shot selection. And he mopes and he complains about every call, and he should be averaging three technicals per game if he were even held to a standard that some NBA All-Stars are charged with.
While DMC's play of late has been very good overall and fantastic considering the guy's age, this is still worrying stuff. Headcases don't get better with age. They end up in China, or barred from a locker room, or looking for NBA work, or they publicly admit to taking it easy in rehab after taking offense a team's refusal to hand out a contract extension on top of a seven-year $92.75 million dollar deal you signed in 2004 (one that saw you play 346 out of a possible 547 games, so far, during its duration).
It doesn't matter if he's 20, 30 or 35 years old. A headcase is a headcase, and Cousins is one. We can't get angry at him getting angry here, but we can use this incident as an excuse to point out, yikes, this Cousins kid is a bit of a trip.
This is what general manager Geoff Petrie has put together. He hired the coach. He publicized Evans to no end when the rookie was Sacto's lone bright spot last season. And he was ultra-quick in snapping up Cousins after the big man fell to fifth in last June's draft due to concerns about his headcase-ishness. These aren't wrong moves, but these also aren't done without reflex.
This isn't to say all is lost in Sacramento. Not with that young core, that rabid fan base and the loads of cap room coming during the offseason. But there is much, much work to be done before this all gets straightened out, and it bears pointing out that some of this effort might be given in vain. This is no easy fix, Sacramento.