For the Sacramento King faithful, DeMarcus Cousins has morphed himself into a semi-enigma. A vastly talented but problematic, enigma. His hot and cold game and personality has not only apparently split the front office, but the fan base as well – his talent so unique but the frustrations he continually brings growing overly tiresome, forcing many King fans to throw their arms in the air and wash their hands of his issues.
While some may claim me to be a Cousins apologist, I’m far from it. I do like the guy and enjoy his game, but I’m a realist when it comes to him and the issues that surround him. I followed Cousins at Kentucky and knew of him well before he put on the Wildcat Blue and the issues that plagued him during his younger days. It’s an ongoing problem and has been – it’s right to worry if you’re a Kings fan, but you knew what you were getting yourself into when the Kings selected DeMarcus with the fifth overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft. There’s a reason he slipped. This is a player who in most drafts goes as the top selection – maybe second in a superstar type draft, off of talent alone – so to slip so significantly? There were obvious warts, but they’re removable with work – right? Right!?
Cousins at times can have a bad attitude. At other times, he can have an awful, piss-poor attitude. In between those you have a caring, funny, good-natured guy who spends a great deal of his free time with children – not exactly the malcontent, cancer or whatever other derogatory term major media likes to use to define Cousins. However, bad attitude included – DeMarcus isn’t a law breaker. He’s not getting suspended for illegal substances. He’s not continually out clubbing until the wee hours of the morning, causing havoc. He’s not finding himself in compromising positions – sexual assaults, etc. This is a guy, a 22 year old guy, mind you, who can be an asshole occasionally. That’s his problem – being an immature, sulking, dick – excuse my slang. It’s not all the time or a constant – but it’s there, often. Still – for as much of a crybaby as Cousins can be, there are plenty of times where you get the hilarious, fun-loving character who dresses up unannounced as Santa for youth at a local Wal-Mart or donates large portions of his salary to families who’ve lost their homes due to a tragedy. Certainly there’s little to no media coverage about those items – it wouldn’t look good towards the bias and slant and making Cousins look normal and human isn’t on their agenda.
Sure, Cousins has had issues with his coaches – obviously the first player in professional sports to do so. And sure, he and Donte Greene had a physical altercation, but I don’t think many questioned Michael Jordan when he sent Steve Kerr to the ground or Charles Barkley when he tried to send teammates through the hardwood in practice. Michael Jordan wasn’t exactly known for being the most pleasant person or teammate, but the guy was a rare talent – so it was overlooked. Am I comparing the games of Cousins and Jordan? Of course not – simply stating the fact that you don’t have to be universally loved to become a great player and/or leader and Cousins has every stitch of talent to be just that – great. Harnessing that greatness is a completely different story and it’ll be up to DeMarcus and DeMarcus alone to fulfill that ability, but it’s there, waiting to be achieved – and for that reason alone, the Sacramento Kings simply cannot give up on Cousins.
A lot of people have compared Cousins to Ron Artest and frankly, I don’t understand why. Yes – they both had and have oddball personalities, but Artest at his strangest wanted to retire mid-season to record a rap album and couldn’t understand why that was a problem. That’s not being immature – that’s a personality disorder. Cousins has a sub-par filter and doesn’t think before he talks – hardly comparable, in that sense. Just because they both have shown an ability to get easily frustrated on the court doesn’t mean Cousins is going to decide he wants to retire tomorrow or attack a fan who disrespects him. Cousins is like so many before him – a Derrick Coleman, a Chris Webber. Guys with issues – some, like Coleman, who couldn’t shake them while others, like Webber, were able to grow from their cocky, immature ways and become a franchise player. How often do you hear of the issues young Webber had? The drug charges. The second degree assault charge. The constant pissing and moaning during his years with the Bullets and Warriors. You don’t. Chris grew up and became the talent (and man) so many hoped he could become. Again – I’m no psychic, so I can’t say if Cousins will ever grow into the talent he has, but for the Kings, finding a player who possess that ability is something you can’t give up on because of a piss poor attitude – King fans should know that as much as anybody since they were on the receiving end of Webber, both of whom the Warriors and Bullets gave up on far too early.
Teams (and professional leagues, for that matter), right or wrong, make excuses for greatness. You can be the world’s biggest jerk, but if you can score 25 a night, throw for 4,000 yards a season, hit 45 HR’s a year or strike out 200 batters in 180 innings – nobody cares. You don’t think the Lakers made excuses for Kobe Bryant? Shaq? Even Phil Jackson? The Yankees didn’t do so for Alex Rodriguez? It’s nothing new – this is a business and if you can excel and be the reason for winning, you’re beloved despite your personality flaws – or even worse.
It’s often overlooked, but Cousins is still only 22 years old – think about that. How many 22 year old’s in the NBA have shown poise and maturity far beyond their years? Not many.
DeMarcus has some issues – there is no denying that. But the issues, irritating and frustrating as they are, are still relatively minor in comparison to what they could be. This isn’t a player who continually finds himself on the wrong side of the law – it’s a player who at times replicates a five year old who just had his toy taken away from him. If you want to sell short on that, be my guest – but I can’t. Not for a talent like Cousins.