Sunday Musings: DeMarcus Cousins makes amends with Sean Elliott, takes step forward

DeMarcus Cousins grins while standing alongside Tim Duncan. (Photo: Steven Chea)

The Sacramento Kings have been waiting for an incredible moment down the stretch of the 2013-14 season.  At 24-45, not a lot has gone particularly right.  There’s been change, even an upgrade in talent, but the process has been slow to yield rewards.  For the Kings – a team limping to this season’s finish line – the team is looking for something special to happen that they can hang their hat on for next season.

On Friday night, we had a moment.  It wasn’t Vlade Divac waving to the crowd or Royce White making his NBA debut 145 games late.  Granted, those were nice moments, but in the grand scheme of the franchise, they held very little long-term value.

It didn’t involve rookie Ben McLemoreeither. The 21-year-old guard picked up three fouls in a 25-second stint of the second quarter and continues to show flashes brilliance, while tormenting the entire coaching staff.

While the cameras were off, something happened that may mean more to the health of the Kings’ franchise than any other singular piece to this crazy puzzle.

According to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express News, DeMarcus Cousins walked over to Sean Elliott of the Spurs’ television broadcast team and apologized for an unsavory incident that took place a season ago.

As the story goes, Cousins was suspended two games by the NBA for confronting Elliott in a hostile manner after the Spurs’ 97-86 win over the Kings on Nov. 9, 2012.  Elliott had made comments about Cousins on the Spurs’ broadcast that had gotten back to the Kings big man.  Cousins left the locker room and sought out Elliott, who was still standing on the floor at Sleep Train Arena.

What was said in that altercation by Cousins is still a bit of a mystery.  We have heard rumors, but nothing we can put in print.  Needless to say, the incident was worthy of league intervention and it cost Cousins nearly $80,000 in game checks.  It was a mistake of epic proportion that furthered the negative DeMarcus Cousins national narrative.

Why now?  Why after nearly a year and a half of time, did Cousins make amends?

The “why” doesn’t matter.  All you need to know is that by approaching Elliott with an outstretched hand, Cousins began to rehabilitate the way that Elliot and hopefully others in the Spurs’ organization view the 23-year-old center.

This is a moment for Cousins.  It coincides with a stretch of controversy-free games since Cousins picked up his 14th and 15th technicals in a wild loss to the Houston Rockets back on Feb. 26.  He has teetered on the edge a few times, but managed to show incredible restraint.  He is stepping up and accepting the challenge.

“When I heard that he did that last night, I was really proud of him,” coach Michael Malone said following practice on Saturday.  “I think DeMarcus Cousins is misunderstood, I really do.  I had heard all of these different things about him prior to getting here and working with him for the past year.  He’s growing up, he really is.”

Cousins hasn’t been perfect this season.  There have been a few behind-the-scenes incidents and, of course, a suspension in February for popping the Houston Rockets’ Patrick Beverley when he tried to cut through the lane.  But the truth is, we are seeing growth from Cousins as both a player and a person.

“He’s making an effort,” Malone said.  “That’s all you can ever ask.  He’s making a concerted effort to handle his emotions, to mature, to be a leader and a great example of that is how he went up to Sean Elliott last night, unprompted – no one told him to do that.”

Sources confirmed to Cowbell Kingdom that Cousins’ impromptu apology was an individual act.  The team did not approach Cousins and nudge him Elliott’s way.  And if they did, they forgot to inform the folks holding cameras.

“(I see) major growth from him,” Tim Duncan said following the Spurs’ win. “He’s improved every year and has become more and more steady.”

The Kings will take steady.  They can build on steady, when you consider that his play on the court has become something closer to exceptional.

Not to state the obvious, but Cousins will never be Duncan on or off the court.  The two are cut from a different cloth as people and players.  But it is telling that in a hard-fought battle against the Spurs, it was Duncan who finished with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting and a technical foul.

“He’s continuing to improve,” Duncan said.  “I think (the type of player he will become is) up to him.  It’s up to the team that’s going to be around him.  This isn’t a one-man game.  This isn’t a one-man situation.  You put a team around him that can do something and make him the centerpiece or two or three other pieces, then we’ll see what happens, but this isn’t a one-man game.”

The Kings showed great faith in Cousins when they inked him to a four-year, max-money deal this summer.  It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but we are seeing baby steps from an incredibly talented player.  He still has work to do.  But a conversation with Elliott was long overdue and shows that there is hope for the future.

“Once he can get that mental toughness and that poise and that composure, and use his emotions in a positive way, well then we’re going to get an even better DeMarcus Cousins, which I think is a scary thought,” Malone said.

It takes a big man to apologize, no matter how long it takes.  Looking back at the time of the incident, Cousins showed no remorse for his actions.  He didn’t see that he was in the wrong.

Cousins has tried it his way and his reputation couldn’t be worse for the experiment.  No one is expecting him to change overnight, but this represents solid progress.  It’s a place from which he can build.  Today, DeMarcus Cousins is a better than he was the day before, and that is where it starts.

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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".