Sacramento Kings need to stop coddling DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins talks things out with an NBA official (Photo: Steven Chea)
DeMarcus Cousins
has the potential to hear his name in the same breath as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal long after he retires.

But being remembered as one the NBA’s most dominant big men is never going to happen.

His latest incident involving Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliott reveals how far from greatness the Kings’ starting center really is. While the details of the confrontation still remain unclear, the truth is DeMarcus did not answer Elliott’s comments the same way great players respond to criticism.

The greats do it on the floor, not through a war of words long after the buzzer sounds.

Save the age defense. It was Cousins who decided to leave the University of Kentucky after one season to play professional basketball. He chose to become a pro, to leave the amateur games aside. That meant growing up on and off the court.

That has not quite happened. Every season with the Kings, Cousins has been suspended or sent home at least once. The infractions include a locker room scuffle with former King Donté Greene, arguing with then-head coach Paul Westphal and the recent NBA-labeled “hostile” confrontation with the Spurs analyst.

Every time something negative happens with Cousins, the Sacramento media tends to become the enemy to Kings staff. Doubt the New York press would be as kind to a franchise that hides its star player from recorders and cameras.

Not sure who has kept Cousins from addressing the media since the suspension, but there was no hesitation to send rookie Thomas Robinson to discuss the flying elbow. Allowing Cousins to be coddled by the organization is only going to prevent the callow center from taking the steps he needs to become a truly great player.

The Kings management does nothing to help him. Organizations like the Spurs support their players in various ways behind the scenes and make them get out and confront their mistakes when their employees make them. Agents will attest that in Sacramento, it is not quite clear who the players ultimately answer to. Seeing how the arena debacle unfolded, one can deduct how the organization is run from the top of the pyramid.

Kings Head Coach Keith Smart has become one of the few people Cousins trusts and it appears the man who is in just his second year with the team is set on protecting that relationship.

“I don’t know anything,” Smart said to media when asked why the league deemed Friday’s incident involving his star big man hostile. “I know, but it’s over. I’m not going to talk about that.”

Smart knows he can make up with the media later, saying something that Cousins would take as a slight may only permanently jeopardize that bond. Lose Cousins as Westphal did (Cousins was not the only player to be fair) and ultimately the Kings would be looking for their 25th head coach in franchise history.

When Cousins is euphoric and motivated, the flashes of greatness peer through the cloudy doubts he has been labeled with. On the floor he hustles, opts to make the extra pass, can knock down the 16-foot jumper and can be seen cheering on teammates regardless of how far his team is behind.

It is for these reasons the offense should run through DeMarcus with Jimmer Fredette and Marcus Thornton sitting on the wing to limit double teams and add more space for the near seven-footer. Cousins can be that player that elevates his teammates, can command respect on the block and frustrate opponents for his tenacity to go after the offensive rebound.

That smile can be infectious as well. His goofiness during media days or after shoot-arounds lures doubters into his corner forcing a chuckle from those who would rather rip the 22-year-old than praise him.

At times, it seems Cousins should be allowed to take the wheel of the franchise, but the continuing sophomoric outbursts only keeps those along for the ride nervous that he’ll yank the car into oncoming traffic.

Labels are hard to shed. Ask Metta World Peace.


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