The Hardwood Macbeth
I don't know if a there has been a player that I change my mind about more often than Demarcus Cousins. I recollect disgust back in his Kentucky days as he would pout and scream at the officials and also argue with coach Calipari as if he was roaming the sidelines and calling fouls on his as well. He would remind me of everything that most people I know complain about with modern basketball. I would argue that not all players were prima donnas, selfish and didn't truly love the game. With every new tirade and blasé performance, Demarcus made my stance increasingly difficult. All he seemed to care about was himself and it didn't matter who or what stood in the way of his own needs. I would openly chastise him but then he would actually focus and everything would change. For being such a large man-child, he has soft hands, great feet, incredible length and great bounce. His talent and natural athletic gifts are undeniable but his psyche is incredibly fragile. I always found it ironic how polarizing he was with me considering he always seemed bipolar. At any given moment, he can snap and lose focus and throw himself and his team out of the game. I feared that any team that would take him in would be bringing on the second coming of Derrick Coleman. Derrick could be breathtaking on the court and you would swear that you were witnessing the ascension of one of the all-time greats. Like Demarcus, Derrick could be incredibly immature and mercurial. No matter how outrageous their actions were and are, you could not help but be intrigued by their gifts. Big men with skill sets like Demarcus and Derrick are like unicorns or Bigfoot. Where Derrick fell, I hoped that Demarcus would rise.
Cousins had a rookie years full of ups and downs. For being so long and also being quite large, his field goal percentage ended up being only 43%. This was mostly due to poor shot selection but he also shot only 30% from 3-to-9 feet. Only 32.5% of his buckets at the rim were assisted and a point guard that can create for him would be optimal but a big man with as much skill as he has should be able to finish at close range regardless of the players around him. He obviously needs to finish and take better shots but he also just needs to take care of the ball. Cousins throws horrible passes and tends to force the issue rather than let the game develop. I think he has the ability to create for others but he needs to find patience and for somebody that doesn't seem to understand how to control himself, this may take some time to develop, if it does at all. Demarcus can also rack up the technical fouls. He was towards the top of the league with 14 T's and he was tied for a league high 3 ejections. Cousins has issues controlling his temper and these stats did not surprise me in the least. Being young and inexperienced, he also had a tendency to foul too often. He averaged a foul every seven minutes. His understanding of the game flow should improve but he also needs to not reach or go for balls that are out of his range. With all of these stats, you would think I felt he could not play at all and only showcased a set of red flags. This is not true. He was in the top 30 last year in rebound rate and was among the top 15 power forwards in steals per minute. I can recollect watching his game against the Lakers on 1/28/11 and feeling like he was the best big man on the court for periods of time and that was playing against Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. He overwhelmed almost everybody in that game with his size and athleticism and I could truly see the true glimmer of hope that most scouts and GMs saw within Cousins. For his own good, I hoped he would take that momentum he built in the second half of the season last year and silence critics like myself. Unfortunately, history just repeated itself.
Only four games into the season, Demarcus supposedly demanded a trade from Sacramento. This stems from issues with Coach Westphal and the lack of an apparent offensive system in Sacramento. There is seemingly no direction right now and when the touches are not coming and you feel that there is no connection with the head coach, trouble can only be looming. When I first heard about this, I could somewhat empathize with his position but the old school part of myself felt that second year players do not have this kind of leverage, especially players that have obviously not shown that are an elite NBA player yet. We all get caught up in the potential of players, especially young bigs, but how much do you give up for a player like Cousins? I am intrigued by him like anybody but his personality on the court and in the locker room could be a team killer if you try to base your franchise around him. If I was a GM and had the chance to pull the trigger for Demarcus, I would try to not to give up too much of my future with picks and proven NBA talent. Cousins may have the highest risk/reward of any player in the league and if the Kings actually do elect to let him go, they will either look like they fleeced another team or look like they gave up on an all-time great far before they hit their prime both mentally and physically. If I were the Kings, I would let Westphal go and start anew. He lost the team and the Kings need a new voice and a leader that can optimize the talent they have assembled. Cousins is still only 21 and a strong leader could help both him and the other young Kings like Evans and Fredette reach their full potential. I hope Cousins reaches his ceiling as he could be a force coming into a new decade of NBA stars, but I am also on the side of the fence of those that question his mental makeup. Life tends to be cyclical and he truly seems to be Derrick Coleman 2.0. A big that transcends the game but won't allow themselves to succeed due to not being able to keep their inner demons at bay. For any fan of the game, this should break your heart.