When you cover a team that is 12-34, you often times have to look at the world a little differently. You look for silver linings and moral victories so you have something to write about that isn’t entirely negative and depressing. You can call me a glass half full guy or call me an optimist or even crazy, but I think the Kings are a better team because they lost to the Boston Celtics last night. I can’t say this about every loss this season and I wouldn’t even try, but when facing an opponent of this ilk, sometimes a good lesson is better than a win.
Before you open your bookmarks and click to another site, hear me out for a second.
Coming into the game against the Celtics, I think we all knew that Kevin Garnett was going to bring something a little special for rookie DeMarcus Cousins. K-G might not be the player he was a few years back, but he still has a sharp tongue and a propensity for getting under the skin of his opponents. Basically, Kevin Garnett is the equivalent of a senior in high school who loves to throw freshmen in trash cans. He is the big man on campus.
Following the Kings’ win Saturday night against the New Orleans Hornets, I asked DeMarcus Cousins if he thought he was ready to weather 48 minutes of Kevin Garnett barking in his ear.
I’m going to take these few days to prepare for it. I know it’s going to be crazy.
In case you missed it, Kevin Garnett did get into Cousins’ head early, helping to hold the young big man to just three points in the first half, including this tense moment with 1:45 left in the second quarter.
Obviously, Cousins had enough. Enough of the grabbing, the talking, the chippy play and he said as much when he stood over a first ballot hall of famer laying on the ground. Here is what Cousins had to say about the physical play:
It’s all in the game, it’s nothing personal. That’s the Celtics and I’m standing my ground.
With this being the second game in row where we have seen DeMarcus Cousins step up to an NBA superstar, some people might start to get concerned about Cousins’ demeanor or penchant for getting into altercations. Those people need not worry.
We are seeing the development of a leader. The Celtics came in with a plan to disrupt the Kings volatile young center, and in the end it was the Celtics who picked up the technical foul, not DeMarcus Cousins. More than that, Cousins sees this entire experience in a light that few thought he would. He gleaned something from the abuse, something he plans to install into his own game:
It’s the way they talk. They constantly talk. KG constantly talks. Rondo constantly talks.
Now I could stop the sound bite right there and no one would think twice. The Celtics talk? You’re damn right they do. But here is the rest of the quote:
They have each others’ backs all around the floor and that’s how you become a team. That’s how you become an elite team.
Cousins is right. Is it just me or did a 20-year-old rookie just avoid missing the forest through the trees?
When I asked Coach Westphal about Cousins’ post game comments after practice today, he was very excited:
That is one of the most pleasing things a coach can hear. Every coach wants the team to be verbal defensively because there are certain things, like if you are guarding the ball for example, that you can’t see behind you. You have no idea which way to force a guy or where the problems are without the talking. If your big player,particularly, can learn the value of that – however they learn it, you tell them, you work on it in practice, the guards scream at them when they get picked- to learn it from another team as well as all those other things, if it sinks in, it absolutely makes your team a better team.
Cousins is a sponge. A 6′-11″, 280-pound sponge, but a sponge none the less. While everyone is concerned about what he will do next or how he will react to someone who gives him grief for 48 minutes, Cousins is busy absorbing information at the speed of light.
Westphal agrees, with one caveat:
“He is an intelligent person and he’s shown that he can learn lessons. Sometimes he learns them the hard way, but the fact that he learns is very encouraging.”
Sure, Cousins learns some of life’s (and basketball’s) lessons the hard way, but if he didn’t, the Kings would never have gotten him with the fifth pick in the draft.
In a season of struggles, there is a beacon that is beginning to shine brighter by the day. So while some fans are counting up all the losses and talking about what could have been, they should really be looking at these players and smiling about what will be.