I thought about deleting the title, but I think it works better as it illustrates I think a lot of the problems regarding DeMarcus Cousins exist. Boogie to put it kindly is a rather divisive subject that tends to get people worked up one way or the other. Some love him; others do not. I love DeMarcus Cousins’ strong points, and don’t care for his weak points. But let’s be honest here: He’s one package where all the pieces exist and work together simultaneously.
Today, you’ve read a bunch of things about Cousins already. Cowbell Kingdom with player reaction, a CK podcast with Sam Amick, a number of opinion pieces at Sactown Royalty, JA Adande did a piece on Cousins at the Daily Dime on ESPN, Yahoo with Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowskiand Sam Amick on NBA.com.
What isn’t clear to me why Paul Westphal matters here. One way or the other, he’ll get his due. DeMarcus Cousins did something that went above and beyond the level of “oh shit what are we gonna do with this asshole now” type of deal. It was an odd as a statement or discipline as you will ever find dealing with a player. There is no questioning that. There is also no questioning that disciplining Cousins for the little stuff isn’t going to go over well. Anything short of “well Cousins is well and wonderful” and fans will react poorly to this. Bad news is not welcome despite the fact that we are all well aware of such a possibility. Whether anyone cares to admit that is another story.
And really, it’s not like Westphal called Cousins out for not boxing out or a silly mental mistake that Marcus Thornton made in the Bulls game. (Things that both Cousins and Thornton should know how to do. I think one of the great mistakes coaches make is incessantly harping on those type of mistakes.) We are talking about a player that, to quote Sam Amick from the CK podcast,”someone who can suck the life out of the room.”
I’m of the opinion that Paul Westphal’s days are numbered, and he did this in sort of an unique fashion. Westphal knows that his days are numbered, but what if he could reach DeMarcus Cousins in a desperate ploy? Not to put too fine a point on it here but isn’t that a pretty important lasting impression? I’m not saying that’s what Westphal is doing here because I don’t think that’s the intent at all. I think it’s a head coach grappling with smoke in the dark and a player as difficult as any that Westphal has coached.
But firing a head coach because DeMarcus Cousins wants it? That’s the worst message you can send in any way shape or form and the prospect of losing Cousins in that scenario is 100%. I think that the drama and nonsense can end here or continue. It’s really about DeMarcus Cousins and where he wants to take his NBA career. Some of that will be some “soul searching” that includes everything. Cousins needs to grow up, and as JA Adande noted, players like Cousins can stick in the NBA long term. It’s just based on the history that players with Cousins’ talent flame out on the teams that pick them. And that, is why I think Paul Westphal did what he did.
I’m not going to say Paul Westphal did the right or wrong thing here. I don’t know if that’s the case despite the significant amount of distaste that surrounds this decision. That, though, is in no large part due to the fact that Westphal has done some very unpopular and exceptionally frustrating things to large segments of the Kings fanbase. The Kings haven’t had a winning record or made the playoffs since 2006. Talented players like Evans and Cousins seem to be going sideways instead of making that Oklahoma City progress Kings fans desperately want, crave and expect.
I don’t care how you discpline your kid; Westphal isn’t Cousins’ father. But the fact that Cousins doesn’t have anthing close to a real father figure that isn’t basketball related is the biggest problem in all reality. No amount of hand holding or patience behind the scenes will change that. DeMarcus Cousins is clearly an angry young man who resents an older male presence like Westphal or Petrie. It’s not an ideal situation, and guess what? What is! I got news for you: I was the same way. (Shocking I know.) And I know my father. I talk to him occasionally on the phone, and see him rarely because he lives in Sacramento and I live in Seattle. But guess what? I was a petulant asshole kid and I grew out of it. Slowly, and surely. I still got my share of problems (who doesn’t?), but they aren’t due to a lack of subtle understanding on how the adult world works.
When I was 21, my division (I was in the Navy) would play basketball after our shift would get off work. It was part of a typical PT program that the Armed Services has, and instead of running I would play basketball. (Yes I know. Shocking huh?) Anyway, because I’ve got a big mouth and don’t always tend to give a fuck who knows it (shocking still eh?), I tended to mouth off a bit at the wrong times. One of those wrong times were during these pickup games with an older enlisted Chief (E-7). After a string of these moments on the court, I was pulled aside by another guy in my division who was en E-5 or E-6 at that time named JP. JP told me I had to cool it and remember that I was still talking to someone above my paygrade, and, for lack of a better way of describing it, to know my place. The thing was that JP of course was right. There is a time and place for things, and the way I was acting was not that place. It’s really as simple as that. At the time, I was told to cool it and I did. Looking back, because I’m 10 years old now and wiser about things, I realize I was a few steps away from getting written up for insubordination at some point. The talk with JP was a subtle small gesture to keep it from getting to that point. It worked because, among other things, I probably sensed (even if I hadn’t though of it so gracefully then) that it would cost me a lot of things that I didn’t want to deal with. None the least of which was money because it possibly could have included a loss of paygrade (I was an E-4 at that point).
Now, in no way does this relate to DeMarcus Cousins in any real way. He’s a basketball player who has been told that he’s been wonderful and great. Coaching staff’s have tolerated him because his talent was too much to ignore. But at some point, you gotta fight the fuck or say fuck it. I would suspect that with every wearing day of Cousins’ personality and attitude hanging over the franchise (remember there was a game last night and nobody seems to care) gets to the point where the Kings will get what they can get for Cousins and stop fighting the fuck. He’s just that bad behind the scenes. Cousins does wear people down no matter how much you may love his game or appreciate his talents.
Hell, I appreciate Cousins’ talents and game when he is right. The problem is how often is that? You can make any excuse for Cousins you wish, and you probably will, but the deal here is that Cousins needs to grow up as a man in order to become the kind of NBA player he envisions himself here.
“This is a business,” is what Thomas said he would tell Cousins. “You’re not playing for just one team, you’re playing for the 29 other teams. You’ve got to keep playing, keep your head. A lot of guys think it’s all show. You’ve got to keep your head.”
Thomas’ second sentence was the most important. If things don’t work out with the Kings, they probably won’t work out with the next team or the next team, until there’s no more next team. The Kings could look after their player investment and fire Westphal, but this is a Cousins problem, not a Westphal problem. There were issues with the coaching staff during Cousins’ lone collegiate season at Kentucky. There will be issues with Cousins’ next coach, whomever or wherever that is.
Another player I talked to Sunday night said the guys in his locker room were concerned Cousins could wind up out of the league if he doesn’t get it together. Talent and potential will keep problem players around longer than they merit, but it’s not infinite. Ask Stephon Marbury.
This anonymous player said he used to be resistant to any criticism, because he didn’t have any strong male authority figures around when he was growing up. He carried anger with him for a long time. It took getting married and having kids for him to settle down. Now he’s even reconciled with a former coach with whom he had a frosty relationship.
This player realized what Cousins has to realize: The only thing Westphal or anyone else around want is for him to succeed. A more productive Cousins would help Westphal’s job security. But even people with no vested interest only want to help.
After the Lakers’ game in Sacramento on Monday night, Kobe Bryant said he pulled Cousins aside during last year’s All-Star Weekend to give him a little advice. “He has too much talent to be doing all of that [stuff],” Bryant said. “Just play, man.”
Other than I think the Kings have Chuck Hayes and he works just as well as Kurt Thomas in this situation, I think Adande’s message is on point. The worst part is the sobering reality is that I thought about Adande’s very last few sentence’s in this:
Maybe Cousins will go on to have a career like Odom’s and become a valuable contributor to back-to-back champions. The only thing we know for sure is that the best of Cousins will come with a different team. That’s how these stories end.
The worst part about this isn’t Paul Westphal because he is incredibly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Cousins’ on the other hand? If he goes onto become more productive somewhere else, fans will always blame Westphal for not doing what that particular coach did to “reach” Cousins. And, among other things, it won’t be significantly different than what Westphal did will be the sobering reality. But since Paul Westphal isn’t particularly well liked by certain segment’s of the fanbase at the moment (or likely ever), it’s simply easier to say Westphal has dropped the ball.
Cousins has had problems at every stop he’s went in his basketball career to this point. With many kinds of coaches and personalities. It’s not like John Calipari is a passive head coach who doesn’t scream at his players. Calipari very much does. But the control a college coach has is very different from a pro coach. Very very different. A point that many fans seem to forget along the way (although not everyone to be sure).
But here is the worst part of this fiasco (or the 2nd to worst part): Tell me this team wouldn’t be better off in the long run swapping Cousins for Greg Monroe straight up. The worst part? We aren’t talking about the game last night because of DeMarcus Cousins. We are talking about DeMarcus Cousins’ behaviorial issues. We are talking about whether Paul Westphal is the right head coach for this team. We are talking about the wrong things in all the wrong fashion because it incenses us. We are incensed because this team has been sucky for too long. We are upset because Paul Westphal wasn’t our first choice as a head coach. We are upset because we perceive this as a Spencer Hawes redux situation with significantly more serious consequences. We are upset because we want DeMarcus Cousins to beat the odds wearing the jersey we adore so much, and right now it seems like the odds are longer than they ever were to do just that. I got news for you: The odds that Cousins would play the majority of his career for the Kings was extremely slim anyway. The amount of players who have beat the odds and overcome the kind of personality that Cousins have typically bounce around a few stops in the NBA. Some of it’s a realization and reality that things can’t keep going on, and some of it is age. When you draft a player like Cousins, this is the risk you take.
Most Kings fans who are upset at Westphal adore Cousins style of play. There is very much a mutually exclusive relationship to all of this. That’s the damning truth of the situation. It’s much easier to say Westphal is the problem when Westphal isn’t even close to the problem. The problem is the same problem that it was in June 2010 with no real ability except for Cousins to change it. You can want anything you want, and that’s okay, but the problem is that reality has crept in here. The reality of Cousins’ real personality and how difficult he is for anyone to manage is a daunting reality for other teams. The Kings will get low-balled on trade offers because that’s what any team will do. Cousins is a real risk and why give up something of major tangible reality when you can take a player with slightly less talent with a significantly greater likelihood of tapping all of that talent?
I don’t think the real point of Paul Westphal’s press release has anything to do with grandstanding or ego. I think it has a lot to do with the odds that the Kings influencing a real change in DeMarcus Cousins’ sooner than later is what the press release was really about. Because the odds were always steep that Cousins’ stick around with the Kings due to his personality, it was always going to be a tough challenge. So far, Cousins’ seems pretty insular based on his tweet last night:
Don’t listen to everything u hear …smh glad to knw who the real fans are tho …thanks
For people complaining that Paul Westphal can’t handle Cousins appropriately or handled this incorrectly, the problem is that Cousins doesn’t think his attitude and actions are at the root of his problems. Why would you ever give a young hothead angling for every piece of power he can get the illusion, no matter how realistic, that he controls the coaching situation?
I don’t care what the Kings do here because the only winning solution here will be DeMarcus Cousins sticking around long term in a Kings uni in Sacramento. Anything else will be grandstanding from a fan perspective. I bring you the Jason Jones game recap in the Bee that is discussing Cousins and ignoring the game for the most part (a sobering reality and not in a good way):
“The thing with him is he’s so emotional,” forward Francisco Garcia said. “And when things go wrong, he really shows his emotions. The thing is, he’s really not a bad kid. He’s going to travel with us (today), hopefully.”
I like what Chuck Hayes had to say (and really hope he is right):
“I believe he’ll come around,” said Hayes, who’s taken it upon himself to mentor the young center this season. “He’s a competitor, he wants to play, he loves his game. I’m sure it’s eating him up that he’s at home and he has to sit there and watch instead of competing with his teammates. But that’s a decision that the office and the coaching staff, they’ll all have to come up with. And us as pros, we’re going to have to just go out there and perform.”
Oh, and DeMarcus Cousins ended up getting on the plane.
UPDATE 1: Just in case you thought that Cuz may cool it, well, that just ain’t Cuz’s style. I wonder now after this statement will he even play on this road trip. I know if I was Paul Westphal I wouldn’t play him. But that’s me, and I’m not Paul Westphal.
From Sam Amick’s Twitter:
Kings F DeMarcus Cousins has issued a statement: “I want to address my missing the New Orleans game Sunday. I have not demanded or requested a trade. I don’t agree with the actions taken but will give my sincere effort to put it behind me and compete the best I can……for my team.“
Additionally, Amick tweeted this:
Cousins’ statement was sent to media through his agent, John Greig. Clearly this isn’t water under the bridge in their eyes.
This has gotten ugly, and hopefully it resolves itself soon. But whatever happens, it sounds like the drama of DeMarcus Cousins is going to swallow the Kings franchise up whole. Groovy.