Some teenagers get it. They understand that when their parents leave them alone for a long weekend for the first time, that it is just a test. A test to see if anything gets broken or if they come home toa smoldering hot, four-alarm fire.
That’s really what’s happening right now in Sacramento. The parents have left and the kids are in charge. Some of those kids are still making their bed every night and cleaning every dish they use.
Others are not.
It’s human nature to test the boundaries of what you can get away with. While most of the Kings players are finding their newfound freedom invigorating, one is not. With the Maloofs away and the battle for team ownership building to a full crescendo, DeMarcus Cousins is throwing a full-scale Weird Science party and the biker gang is just about to spin doughnuts on the Kings’ newly finished floors.
Trust me, it’s frustrating for everyone to watch Cousins push the envelope. For those of us with children, we get it maybe more than others. Kids are going to test the limits until someone puts their foot down and says no more.
But what if no one ever comes home to say enough is enough?
Cousins must know that people are watching, but he clearly doesn’t care. He must know that mom and dad asked the neighbor to keep an eye out for mischief, but he is too far wrapped up in the moment to see the old lady next door taking polaroids from her living room window.
He continues to break the rules. He continues to stretch the bounds of what a rational, well-adjusted 22-year old kid would do when their parents leave town. He continues to embarrass himself and the city of Sacramento with his inability to grasp rudimentary behavioral concepts.
It is an issue and you can feel it starting to escalate.
While he has a built-in excuse or two, it is time for Cousins to realize that this is a test and he is failing miserably.
People are growing weary. They are calling into radio shows and going in on message boards proclaiming that they give up. They are saying that this kid isn’t worth the trouble anymore and that the Kings are better off without the talent of the third-year center. Some of the most loyal fans in professional sports are saying that they no longer want to root for this individual.
And how has Cousins responded to this mess? The same way he always has.
By blame shifting.
It’s tough to hear him rationalize his way through a press conference. I am one of the few people left that would even consider he was right this time. That Mike Dunleavy intentionally tried to go low on him in an attempt to either injure or upset him. But it’s time for Cousins to own some responsibility. It was No. 15 who sat out the last quarter and a half of a winnable home game. No one else.
And let’s dispel one myth, the Sacramento Kings are not losing because they lack talent. There are plenty of teams around the league that can make that claim and Sacramento isn’t one of them. Just ask the Chicago Bulls, who lost by 42 points to a Cousins-less Kings team on Wednesday.
Are the Kings a playoff team? No, but they aren’t losing because they lack NBA players. Rather, they are losing because they refuse to grow. They are losing because they fight each other rather than fight for one another. The are losing because their best player is not ready to take responsibility for his actions and his actions aren’t good. And they are losing because the franchise is in limbo and no one truly has the authority to demand accountability out of a player like Cousins.
So when the cameras are rolling and DeMarcus Cousins tells members of the media his image would be different if the Kings were winning, I say prove it.
This isn’t a media-created situation. This is about a player who’s tied second in the league with 12 technical fouls and has missed more games due to suspension this season (five) than he has due to injury in his first three years (two).
Stop being a distraction and lead your team to victory. Great players prevail. They take the talent they are given and they trudge forward until reinforcements can be called in.
He should know by now that help isn’t on its way. You don’t send reinforcements to a losing battle; you cut your losses and move on. And that is where this is going. This is headed for a very bad ending.
Much like Jimmer Fredette’s defensive issues, Cousins’ behavioral problems have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Teams go at him mentally and physically because he has proven time and time again that he cannot control himself.
And so the Kings are a mess. DeMarcus Cousins is a mess. Be it in Sacramento or Seattle, Cousins is already being assessed and a new ownership group with an outside perspective will make a judgment call on whether he continues with this franchise.
While I would think long and hard before making any kind of long-term commitment to this kid, I also know that I would never have left him alone over night unattended.
He is not a lost cause, but he is heading that way. His talent is undeniable, but still untapped. There is enough blame to go around for everyone involved here, but Cousins needs to realize that if he wants greatness, it is up to him to achieve it.
At the end of the day, he is responsible for who he is as a basketball player and a man.
Winning will not cure all ills like he believes. Would it improve his disposition? Maybe momentarily, but it’s not like his team will ever go 82-0. Would it help his image? Again, maybe. But if he can’t control his behavior, he is always going to be the story, not his team.
The I-am-who-I-am-and-I’m-not-changing-for-anybody approach hasn’t worked. If Cousins is as bright as I think he is, it’s time for him to try something new. It’s time to take accountability and stop with the distractions.