Sunday Musings: Cousins’ All-Star credentials

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Is there a breaking point for greatness?  That moment when it no longer matters whether or not you are on a winning team or what type of temperament you have.  There has to be, right?

Kevin Love has made three All-Star teams despite being on a perennial loser.  The same can be said about Carmelo Anthony in recent seasons and plenty of others.  The NBA All-Star game is part-popularity contest, part-lifetime achievement and part-recognition for someone who has earned the opportunity.

DeMarcus Cousins has been waiting for his moment and now the point has come where his play speaks louder than any of the issues that could detract from his inclusion.  This should be the moment when people forget about the fact that the Sacramento Kings are under .500 for the ninth consecutive season or that Cousins hasn’t always been the easiest person to get along with.

He’s too good to ignore anymore. Regardless of how loaded the Western Conference is, Cousins’ play is  worthy of All-Star status.

Here are some numbers to chew on:

– Cousins ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring at 24.0 points per game.

– Cousins ranks third in the NBA in rebounding at 12.4 per game.

– Cousins is second in the league at defensive rebounding percentage at 30.8 percent, third in offensive rebounding percentage at 14.2 percent and fifth in total rebound percentage at 21.4 percent.

– Cousins ranks fifth in the NBA in PER at 26.1.

– The Sacramento Kings are 16-24 on the season, but just 2-10 without Cousins.

The Kings are a .500 team with Cousins in the lineup, and that doesn’t even consider his recovery from viral meningitis or the fact that his coach was fired 24 games into the season.

If you need more on why Cousins is an All-Star, here are a few testimonials from respected opposing coaches:

“He’s become a great young player.  He plays extremely hard.  He’s very physical.  He’s relentless.  He goes after everything.  He’s a great rebounder, and he’s got a great inside game.  He can drive it, he can shoot outside.  There’s no weakness in his offensive game, and defensively, he’s one of the top guys at taking charges.  He gives his body up, and he plays his butt off.  From afar, I’ve got great admiration for the growth of his game.” - Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle

“I think he’s been amazing.  I’m so proud of him. I really am.  Listen, he’s an opponent, but I’m a fan of the league and when you watch a young kid like this grow up… he’s grown up emotionally.  His game has grown up.  I think he’s the best low-post player in the league, and he’s doing it every night.  He’s doing more than just scoring, he’s doing everything.  So I’m just very proud of him.” -Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers

Rivers would go on to say that in his mind, Cousins is an All-Star.  And so will almost every coach in the league when asked point blank.

If the coaches he plays against aren’t enough, how about a quote from NBA All-Star Blake Griffin?

“Absolutely,” forward Blake Griffin told Cowbell Kingdom when asked if Cousins is an All-Star.  “The way he’s played is incredible and you can’t deny his production, his numbers.  You saw what happened when he wasn’t playing, but I say this every year – there are guys that deserve to play in the All-Star game that unfortunately don’t get to play in the All-Star game.”

There are always going to be players that are snubbed, but the numbers say that Cousins is the elite of the elite.  Here is a different perspective from Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier who was in Sacramento earlier this week to give Ben McLemore the NBA’s Community Assist award.

“DeMarcus is, without question, the most skilled at his position in the today’s game,” Lanier said.

The statement is basic, but the center position is now wrapped up into a blanket “forward” position in the balloting.  And in the Western Conference, there are plenty of star forwards to compete with on winning teams.

But Cousins is unique.  He can shoot from the perimeter, take you off the dribble or destroy you in the post.  He is an elite rebounder, and his passing skills are improving.  On the defensive end, he has made huge strides as both a position defender and as a shot blocker.

“I think you’ll see more DeMarcus Cousins (type players), but he’s blessed,” Lanier continued.  “This boy is just blessed with gifts from God, because his feet are so quick and he’s got physical size. When he came out of Kentucky, he’s tough on top of that.  He’s very blessed.  He’s got some nice skill sets.”

When pressed on how good those skills are or if there is a player that Cousins reminds Lanier of, his answer was stunning.

”There aren’t a lot of people that can do that, that’s kind of Hall of Fame-credential kind of guy,” Lanier said.

Lanier isn’t a casual observer.  He knows Cousins well and has had plenty of discussions with the 24-year-old star.  Like Rivers, he has seen the emotional growth from the college level to where we are today.  He sees a lot of himself in Cousins.

“He’s matured, which is good.  I remember talking to him one time, and I said, ‘You remind me so much of myself when I was younger.’  I used to let stuff get to me and then be reactive instead of just calming down and just getting through the process.  He’s really matured a lot.”

Cousins has put in the work both in Sacramento and with Team USA.  He has stayed out of the trouble that plagued him in his early NBA years, and when healthy, he has led his team to big victories.

There isn’t a player in the league who can defend Cousins in the post, and there are very few double-teams that can slow him, either.  He is a top-five player and the best big man in the league.

We are at the point where the NBA powers that be need to acknowledge that DeMarcus Cousins is not only an All-Star, but one of the best players in the league.  He is a player who transcends team record, not to mention one who has done his part to grow and accept responsibility for his actions.  It’s time to let this kid in the club and greet him with open arms in New York next month.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is the 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 since 2010. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also contributes to ESPN.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".