DeMarcus Cousins loses cool again, benched by Keith Smart

 DeMarcus Cousins unhappy with a call versus the Golden State Warriors. (Photo: Steven Chea)

There comes a time when an NBA franchise has to look beyond the potential of a player and make a decision that is right for everyone involved. Friday night in Los Angeles, Keith Smart took the first step towards distancing himself from chronic-malcontent DeMarcus Cousins and it wouldn’t be shocking if the Kings franchise begins to do the same.

Following a verbal altercation with his head coach at the end of the first quarter, Cousins was benched in the second half for what Smart deemed “conduct detrimental to the team”.

At this time, we do not know what was said and even if that conversation was revisited by the two men during intermission.

The saying goes that talent trumps all, but that isn’t always the case.  Former lottery picks Rashad McCants and Terrence Williams are both playing basketball in China as we speak. These players could help an NBA team, if not for their behavior and distractions they cause off the court.

Cousins is quickly heading down this path and it appears that even his strongest ally is at his breaking point.

“We’re trying to set a standard for all of our players,” Smart told a group of hungry reporters following the loss to the Clippers.  “And all of our guys that are here (know that). And when guys don’t fall in line to that, we’ve got to move on, we’ve got to move forward.”

With his value at presumably an all-time low, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kings wait this thing out. In the meantime, Cousins has clearly started to burn bridges with both teammates and the organization.

It’s possible that Cousins understands this and is trying to force the Kings to make a move, but that would be a fools’ errand. The book is out on Cousins. The league knows what he brings to the floor, but they also know what damage he can do off it. His troubles are well documented and there won’t be a fresh slate. Whatever problems Cousins has, he would be wise to deal with them here in media-friendly Sacramento because it could be much worst.

Teams aren’t lining-up offers of equal value for a player with this kind of baggage.  Anyone who is calling is looking for a bargain-basement type of deal. I’m not sure what value a 6-foot-10 center shooting just 41.3 percent from the floor has on the market anyway. We aren’t talking about an All-Star player – we are talking about All-Star potential currently circling the drain in his own mediocrity.

Following the game against the Clippers, Cousins spoke to the media and he told them he apologized to teammates, but they know better. You can only apologize so many times before your words become hollow and meaningless.

Cousins needs to look in the mirror. His team is 8-17 and a large part of that record can be directly attributed to him. He has seven technical fouls and he has now missed 3½ games due to either league or team suspension, and we aren’t even through December yet. This is a train wreck of epic proportions and all we can do is keep our collective eyes peeled and wait for the next incident. And it will come, trust me.

It’s time for the light bulb to go on for Cousins or it’s time for Smart to make a bigger statement than just the 24-minute benching. The time for breaking bread over dinner or team-building exercises has long passed. It is time for actual change to take place.

The team has done a solid job of distancing themselves from the issue over the last few weeks. Cousins and his agent are now handling the public relations fallout from each of his incidents.

The 22-year-old big man fell to the Kings in the 2010 NBA Draft because of these issue and sadly enough, it doesn’t get much lower than this. The Kings have become the last hurrah for countless players over the last few seasons. Luther Head, Antoine Wright and plenty others have played their last NBA games in Sacramento Kings uniforms.  If you can’t cut it in Sacramento, where are you going to go?

It’s time for Cousins to grow up. If he can’t or won’t make personal strides to improve himself as an individual, he won’t just be on another team.  He might be looking for another line of work entirely.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".