Sunday Musings: A challenge to DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins finishes strong with the jam. (Photo: Tobin Halsey)DeMarcus Cousins returned to the court Saturday night after a league mandated hiatus.  While this was the first time this season the Sacramento Kings’ talented young center missed a game due to suspension, it has been a recurring theme throughout his four seasons in Sacramento.

Strangely enough, Kings fans seem less tolerant of the 23-year old’s behavior this time around.  They have turned out in force on radio programs and message boards to express their displeasure and even offer up a few words of wisdom.

“We made him the franchise,” Michael Malone said of his emotional young big man.  “When we signed him this summer to that contract, that was, we believe in you, you’re the future of this franchise and you’re going to have to be the leader of this franchise.  And with that comes responsibility and he has to own up to that and show that he is ready for that.”

Cousins is now under a much larger microscope than he has ever been in the past.  Money will add to that pressure, but so will wants.  He wants to represent the Western Conference in the All-Star game.  He wants desperately to make the Olympic team.  But before he can do any of that, he needs to properly represent the Kings on a nightly basis.

“We haven’t won a game without him,” Malone said.  “It does us no good to have him back here in the locker room while his team outside here are fighting and trying to win the game.

“He has to put his own personal emotions and issues to the side for the betterment of the team,” Malone continued.  “It’s a lot easier said than done.”

Cousins’ personal issues are his own.  We won’t speculate on the why or try and psychoanalyze the young man, but since being snubbed three times for the All-Star team in mid-February, there has been a chippiness to Cousins.

“A lot of guys put so much into, and this isn’t just on DeMarcus, but so much into making the All-Star team,” Malone said when asked if he’s noticed a difference in Cousins after he was passed over for a spot in this year’s All-Star Game. “When they make it, they relax.  If they don’t make it, there’s frustration and regardless on either side of that, how you handle that shows how mature you are as a player.”

A $62-million contract doesn’t make you mature.  It only intensifies the need to represent your team and your community the right way.  For most of this season, Cousins has tried to do that. Has he had moments of failure?  Yes, plenty of them, but nothing compared to what we have seen in past years.

“The other teams are going to try to get under Cousins’ skin and try and irritate him and try to take him off his game,” Malone said.  “Because they know that if Cousins is right mentally and physically, he’s a load and he’s proven he’s unstoppable at times.”

He has had moments of complete dominance this season.  In fact, he has had a lot of moments that have shown a maturation of both a player and a person.

Cousins is a work in progress and so are the Sacramento Kings.  When the coach, the general manager and the owner all said that this season wasn’t about wins or losses, they truly meant that.

Or maybe they didn’t.  Maybe this season was about losses and lots of them and DeMarcus Cousins is a notoriously bad loser.

“My biggest challenge is right now with 24 games to go, where (we’re) not in a playoff race, how do I keep this group together,” Malone said.  “How do I keep DeMarcus engaged?  Understanding that this isn’t just 24 games just to play. We have to find a way to play the right way, to stay together and try to get something out of these games.”

The Kings don’t need to win games.  They need to continue to build a new team culture and develop young players. Cousins is one of those young players and the next 23 games, he has an opportunity to improve himself.

Here is the challenge to DeMarcus Cousins: prove that you can play the next 23 games without a technical foul.  There are plenty of NBA players that play their entire careers without getting a single technical. He just needs to do it for 23 games.

For a player that hates to miss games and hates to lose even more, prove to everyone that you understand that your team doesn’t win without you.  Sacramento is 0-9 without their starting center on the season.  Unless he is the most selfish player in the league, he should understand that a loss for the Kings means a loss for him as well.

So buy a giant pillow to scream into or grab Reggie Evans’ beard and pull every time you feel the urge, but the officials are off limits.  Punching players or yelling at fans is off limits.  It is time to grow up and accept the fact that without you in the lineup, your team will lose and that is your fault.

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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 provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".