DeMarcus Cousins should be on the All-Star team. That debate should have ended days ago, certainly before he sprained his left ankle, jeopardizing his availability for the next few games.
His numbers are overpowering – 22.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 49 percent field-goal percentage – and his intangibles are shifting, leaning over and into the favorable side of the ledger. Gradually, Cousins is closing in on another milestone: the day his enormous talents and consistent performances overwhelm his previous issues.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the Kings center will be rewarded with his first All-Star berth. Halfway into his fourth season, he secretly is coveted by many, but he’s still merely a threat to join the game’s most respected big men; repair jobs on reputations take years.
NBA coaches, who Thursday select players for the remaining seven roster spots on the East and West squads, are a diverse and stubborn bunch. They look at numbers, they look at wins, they look at everything else.
Cousins, who confronted Spurs analyst Sean Elliott after a game last season, won’t be receiving an endorsement from coach Gregg Popovich. He still complains too often to the referees (see league-leading number of technicals), irritates friend and foe with on-court histrionics and has been overheard retorting crudely to fans, not unlike Charles Barkley and a number of other players and coaches who have embarrassed themselves with “knucklehead” moments, as Barkley refers to them.
But this is a talent-driven league. When stock rises, when the numbers jump and the behavior improves, everyone pays attention. And Cousins is drawing attention. One general manager told me last week, “There aren’t enough of those bad incidents to matter anymore.” Late Friday, Indiana Pacers assistant Nate McMillan, a no-nonsense former player and head coach, said Cousins’ abilities increasingly are dominating the conversation among his peers.
“Coaches look at individual numbers and the team record,” McMillan said. “Normally, I would say the team record (15-27) is very important. But his stats are so incredible, that to me, when you’re picking All-Stars, that matters more. I think he’s got a shot.”
When exactly did the earth start to move, opinions start to inch the other direction?
Cousins’ production during the recent six-game road swing raised his profile. But the first hint of progress came last summer when he participated in the Select Team training camp in Las Vegas. Last week, he joined the 28 candidates who will compete for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic teams.
–Ailene Voisin, Sacramento Bee
Josh Thomson’s night ended in controversial fashion, losing a close, split decision to former UFC champion Benson Henderson, and that may serve as the final fight of his veteran career.
Following the fight, Thomson appeared at the FOX UFC Saturday post-fight press conference where he sat sullen in his seat, obviously shaken after losing not only the fight, but also his chance to fight for the UFC lightweight title. With a win, Thomson was set to fight champion Anthony Pettis, and now he ends up back on the pile of contenders all vying for a chance to get a crack at the top of the division.
Prior to facing Henderson, Thomson said on several occasions how his training camp was more than three and a half months long and just did not go as well as he had hoped. Now coupled with a loss, it has him questioning his immediate future in the sport.
“You train this hard for this long and it’s such a long camp and I just see my title shot f***ing disappearing. Without getting emotional right now, it’s really irritating me,” Thomson said.
What really got to him, Thomson said, was the way he lost this fight, because when the final horn sounded he felt 100-percent confident that the victory was his. Despite breaking his right hand during the first round, Thomson still took the fight to Henderson throughout all 25 minutes and said he had no doubt that his hand should have been raised.
Unlike his third fight against Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce that also ended in a split decision, Thomson just can’t rationalize his loss to Henderson on Saturday night.
“This might be it,” Thomson said. “The Gilbert fight, that to me was a close fight, but I can see how it went either way. This fight I felt like I won. I won with one hand. I beat the former UFC champion, it was the guy who was here for two years, and I beat him with one hand. That’s what I can’t stomach. I’m a better fighter, that’s what pisses me off.”
–Damon Martin, FOX Sports
Let’s be serious here, they’re not moving the Super Bowl to another day for weather reasons, they’re just not.
Talking up this possibility, I assume, is mostly the NFL’s way of building some kind of false weather-preparedness drama as the day arrives.
But come on …
Seattle will play Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII next Sunday in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, as scheduled, whether there is snow, sleet, rain, wind or the threat of mussing up Bruno Mars’ hair at halftime.
The owners put this game in the Northeast in February, they knew it would be cold, and there’s no way they’re flipping around the TV schedule or their weekend party plans because of some forecasted precipitation.
So let’s put that issue and maybe a few others into realistic perspective as we look ahead to the biggest issues heading into Super Bowl Week …
The worse the weather, the worse it might go for quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ pass-focused offense.
Of course during all those media sessions Manning will only be asked about his losing record (11-12) in cold-weather games … what … maybe 1,500 times?
That might be a major motivation for Manning, but the fact remains that MetLife’s wind patterns can be a nightmare for touch-pass QBs.
Manning’s brother Eli (the New York Giants’ QB) has at times conquered the winds and at times has very much not.
This is important because during the regular season, Denver had the NFL’s most pass attempts and completions and Manning threw for an NFL-record 51 touchdown passes.
Meanwhile, Seattle doesn’t need to throw it — the Seahawks threw it the second-fewest times in the league (the 49ers threw it the least) for the third-fewest completions.
And this is a particularly big deal when you toss Manning up against the Seattle pass defense, which led the league with 28 regular-season interceptions and then had two more in the NFC Championship game, you might recall.
The windier and snowier it is, the better Seattle’s chances are for picking off one or two (or three) of Manning flutter-balls.
How will Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman handle the Super Bowl spotlight?
It isn’t always the worst thing for a player or two to gobble up all the pre-game attention; sometimes it takes the pressure off of the rest of the team.
Hey, if you can back it up, you can be as brash as you want to be and teammates usually love it.
And in the wake of Sherman’s infamous antics after beating the 49ers last Sunday, we know he’ll draw every microphone this week.
He can probably handle it and maybe it will all only motivate him to play even better in the Super Bowl.
But if we hear that his teammates are starting to mutter a little bit about the Sherman Act … or if Sherman sounds like he’s veering out of control … it might not be the strongest sign for Seattle’s concentration level on Super Bowl Sunday.
–Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News