DeMarcus Cousins has had a rough season to say the least, and after his most recent debacle including Mike Dunleavy, The Big Cuz hasn’t been able to have the type of year he had hoped for.
Cousins has yet to mature into the player he could be, and hasn’t grown into the player the Kings need him to be. The Kings, however, have stayed firm and stood behind their young center, rejecting several interesting offers around the league. Several times the team has even defended their young star.
Cousins stock as a player will certainly decrease at the end of this season after another season in Sacramento has seamlessly slipped away. The young Kings center has failed to grow or mature into the consistent player he has shown he can be.
However debated the subject may be, I have watched Cousins since he was drafted by the Kings in 2010 and have always said Cousins could one of the best centers in the league, maybe even the best. Cousins has always shown his abilities to lead on the court, but has yet to grow into a player that can out aside the differences with players and officials during the course of a game and a season. He is only 22 though, and is trying to learn the center position, which is debatably a dying position in the league.
The position of center creates an interesting topic, and an even bigger window into the career of a big man entering the league in the last five years. Last year, the NBA announced that at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season the NBA would no longer have the center position on the All-Star Ballot. This in turn has laid the groundwork to reshape the way the game is played.
Kings fans remember in the late 90′s when Jason Williams brought his new style of passing. Williams changed the way the game is played today. With his is ability to distribute the ball in combination with a team that could shoot the ball, run the floor and score inside, Williams help create an entirely new style of basketball
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers ran a two man system disguised as the triangle offense. Shaquille O’Neal was a dominant center; and Kobe Bryant is arguably one of the best shooting guards to have played the game. Kobe and Shaq played a game that keyed on a center, and today’s game has moved from that to a more fast paced running styled game. Almost more of a street style game. The days of teams wearing each other down inside are long gone.
DeMarcus Cousins is capable of playing in a faster tempo offense, and the passing abilities and long range jump shot to make him a very valuable asset on a more modern style of the game.
One reason the Spurs have managed to win games is because Gregg Popovich has seemed to have found a way of fusing the Mavericks style of run and gun offense and mesh it with a big man capable of slowing the game down against bigger teams, and scoring inside.
The Kings big man has shown his abilities several times in his first three years. He has also shown his several downsides, being suspended for stupid fouls committed in anger or out of frustration. The center has had arguments with both coaches substantial enough to warrant team suspensions. Cousins has developed a horrible reputation amongst NBA officials, due mostly with his inability to simply keep his mouth shut.
With Cousins sidelined due to an injury sustained in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Kings have yet again had to find a way to play without their talented big man. Cousins undoubtedly took a cheap shot from Mike Dunleavy, and nothing was called. But obviously the league reviewed the play, and may have ruled in favor of Cousins had he managed to keep his cool.
But with Cousins out, the Kings managed to take advantage of an injury depleted Chicago Bulls team as they won by their largest margin of the season. The Kings may have used all their energy against the Bulls, as they couldn’t seem to keep up with the Lakers, who beat the Kings with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol on the bench nursing an ankle injury. Cousins absence wasn’t as obvious in the Bulls game, but it was entirely too obvious, as no one on the Kings could stop Dwight Howard in the first half.
While Howard had only 12 points, he had 17 rebounds, and five blocks, and established a tone early in the game. With Cousins sitting the game out, the Kings had no other option that could slow down the Lakers big man, as Howard controlled the glass and made the Kings team feel the absence of their big man.
Cousins has to look at his most recent situation and realize that when he overreacts, the only result is more often than not a negative one. He hurts his team and himself by simply failing to control himself. Two negative things happen in the eyes of an official: you lose credibility in future game time situations, and you hurt your overall reputation when you argue and overreact.
Cousins could benefit from simply keeping his mouth shut and smiling. While some would say it is simply impossible, if Cousins would only speak to the officials in response to, or when prompted by the official, things would change almost overnight. Cousins could conceivably even smile at a ref if he disagrees with a call.
While all of this sounds simple enough, it is a long shot and a far cry. Cousins certainly hasn’t been affected any less than fellow Sacramento residents with regards to the news of the teams relocation and pending sale. The Kings have never had strong management during Cousins’ tenure with the Kings, and he has been a legitimate victim to the Kings coaching carousel.
Cousins has never been able to find consistency in the Kings coaching staff, and while Keith Smart has managed to help the center develop, Cousins would benefit from help from previous Sacramento stars such as Chris Webber or Vlade Divac putting their sneakers on and showing the young fella a few things about the game. While both have been vocal supporters of the team, they could help the franchise flourish if Webber and Divac joined Mitch Richmond by playing a more hands on role in the franchise.
DeMarcus Cousins could use a few wise words from from one of the most crafty and intelligent centers Sacramento’s ever had. Vlade Divac was a master at keeping his cool and scoring in creative ways, while also effortlessly seeming to rile up any player in the league. Vlade could help Cousins teach Cousins how to focus his energy and settle scores in more productive ways. Webber had a passion for the game and fire that is rivaled by few players to this day, and could help Cousins develop better ways to take out his frustrations while also being able to contribute to the young centers overall growth as a basketball player.
While players could very easily place the majority of the blame on the lack of proper management or supportive ownership, the players must also be capable of looking in the mirror and holding themselves accountable for their actions on and off the court. The players must find a way to believe in their coach, their teammates, and must maintain the will to compete everyday; all while getting better as a a team and as individuals.
In the face of the teams uncertain future in Sacramento, Cousins and his teammates will soon learn one inevitable fact about their future with the team. Regardless of whether or not the team stays or leaves Sacramento, the team will almost guaranteed have new ownership and management next year. The ownership is likely to decide which players it wants to keep and build around, and who is on the trade block. The team as well as Cousins will be getting some high level viewers in the closing weeks of the season, as scouts watch potential prospects.
With Cousins nearing the end of his third season, his career averages have taken a dip, and he still hasn’t found a way to silence the doubters who all pinned Cousins as a head case and potentially troublesome to a team and its locker room. Yet he has managed to become a double double machine, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Cousins has on one hand shown he is without a doubt one of the best centers in the NBA, but then in the same breathe shown he hasn’t matured and grown enough to stop arguing with officials. Cousins still allows the officials determine how he plays, and allows opposing teams and players get into his heads. Opposing teams almost seem to include ways to rile up the young center in their game plan against the Kings. The Kings need him to mature into a team leader, and a dominant big man.
If Cousins has any hope to turn his ship around he has a long road ahead of him. While he could simply keep his mouth shut for the remainder of the season, and play determined basketball, things don’t appear to be as quick or simple a fix. Cousins could potentially be a similar case to Rasheed Wallaced, and never move past some of the mental aspects of the game, thus never allowing himself to grow into a better all around player he has shown he is more than capable of being. But he could just as easily develop into a valuable player with mouth like Gary Payton.
Cousins needs to make note of the mistakes of many of the players who have come before him. Unless Cousins himself finds a way to move beyond complaing over calls, arguing with officials, and stops worrying about getting even with opposing players, he wil never be capable of becoming the player he is capable of being. Cousins arguably faces several hurdles that could present more challenges than he may realize, but he must learn to stay focused on his career and his team.
Cousins is a young man, and his ship has definitely not sailed yet. He still has an opportunity to grow into a top three center in the league, and change opinions and perceptions of his game. Cousins could easily develop into the best center in the league, but its a head game, and its all his choice. Cousins needs to want to get better as a player, a teammate, and to develop as a person everyday. Cousins needs to find his drive and desire to compete against the best. Winning only comes with the desire to compete with the best before he can be the best.