Defending DeMarcus Is a Coach Thing

DeMarcus Cousins attracts drama to him and unless you have been under a rock for the past seven seasons you know not much has changed since the gifted big man has been in the NBA. Professionalism has always been a struggle. The reasons are both complex and simplistic. Poor impulse control and little anger management, emotional outbursts for miniscule offenses, pouting inappropriately and rages- they have never left the fallow ground of his early adulthood and so it is his great hyperbole. On the one hand DeMarcus Cousins has no NBA peer. And on the other hand he can’t get out of his own way. He is the face of the Kings franchise and has never been to the playoffs which is more a testimony to the Kings as a poorly run group than it is to Cousins but he is partly responsible for the Kings mediocrity which is a polite way to put it. But you can count on Cousins taking the nuclear option at some point in the season and this time new coach Dave Joerger has Cousins back.

What happened this time? Cousins was egregiously hostile in an exchange with Sacramento Bee writer Andy Furillo which the Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of the Sacramento Bee, Joyce Terhaar, classified as Cousins trying to intimidate the media. What set Cousins off was a column Furillo had written about a situation DeMarcus got himself into in May at a club in Tampa. Cousins was ushered out but his brother was arrested. Furrillo mentioned Cousins’ brother by name in his column and Cousins went full 24-7 lost his mind crazy.

“Don’t ever mention my brother again; you don’t know my fu**ing brother. Say whatever you want about me but don’t mention my motherfu**ing family.”

Terhaar’s interpretation was that Cousins was trying to control what was written about him; good luck with that. The sure way to make a writer skew negative towards you is to punk him in the locker room with f-bombs.  Um…the pen being mightier than the sword and all that.

Dave Joerger, Cousins coach, defended the mercurial star without being asked to. He put his own two cents in and on the one hand it makes all the sense in the world. Cousins has more job security than whatever coach is charged with trying to get him to play playoff level basketball. Might as well get on his good side. Stars run the league. Only Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle are immune to the star industrial complex the NBA has been married to the past thirty years.

Joerger made it clear whose side he was on.

“This guy is the face of our franchise. He’s done and said some things that he wishes he could do over. He’s improved. He’s gotten better. But to go and use other reporters, third person, oh he bullies his coaches or he bullies, that is trash. And to put it out here like that, that is ridiculous.”

Ridiculous? Not really. Not in a social media age. This is how the world works now. Throw out shade. See if it sticks. It is open to interpretation how you feel about Cousins. He is either misunderstood. Or he cannot reign in his emotions in moments of high stress. The problem is professional basketball is performance under high stress. Something has to give.

Joerger is between a rock and a hard place here. He needs Cousins to perform at a high level and even then the Kings probably won’t make the playoffs. Too many roster holes. But if he is critical of Cousins he is on his way out like the five coaches before him. Paul Westphal. Keith Smart. Mike Malone. Ty Corbin. George Karl.

“I’m not justifying anything he’s done. What he did is excessive. We’ve talked about it.” (Dave Joerger)

The problem with Cousins is one of accountability. Rarely does he take ownershp for his walk down Crazy Street. It gets talked about, is social media gossip, entertains the Cousin haters, makes the Cousin apologists see red and inevitably link a racial bias, and then in a week when he goes 30 and 15 it is over. But these things do add up, whether they are forgotten or not. They are the building blocks for the Cousins reputation where there is no do-over and little understanding, empathy or forgiveness.

The league may fine or even suspend Cousins for his unprofessional behavior because as the Sacramento Bee pointed he has had a string of anti-media hostility exchanges over his career with the team. One Sacramento columnist, Ailene Voisin, called him a bully.

This incident will die down but it brings up a bigger problem for the Kings infrastructure.
Can the Kings ever trade Cousins?

If they do will they get shortchanged because Cousin’s behavior makes it difficult to get equal value. He can be a headache. Teams know that. They will use Cousins behavior as a negotiating tool to give them leverage. Cousins, as we are all fully aware, can be a great player. But greatness is a combination of physical and mental talents. Do you have the ability to sacrifice and that means emotional sacrifice too. He is 26 so he should be beyond this. Who cares what a reporter says about him and his brother. Hasn’t he ever heard what you think about me is none of my business.

There is nothing easy about this Kings season that started with Rudy Gay saying he was opting out at the end of the year and Darren Collison pleading guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence and Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins being sued by alleged victims of an assault and the Kings having improved on defense but terrible on offense and DeMarcus Cousins being the oxygen in the room. George Karl has his memoir coming out in January and you can expect more DeMarcus and Kings shade.

The Sacramento Bee, in an attempt to finally even the score, made their case for Cousins as a horrible human being and the Kings as enablers.

Joyce Terhaar wrote, “A losing team is one thing. A franchise player who regularly bullies the journalists covering him is another. And management that enables such behavior is not fitting of an operation working to be at the center of entertainment in this city.”

As for basketball, the Kings played the worst team in the Western Conference and looked bored and disinterested as they lost at Dallas. DeMarcus Cousins had 33 points and 6 rebounds. The only other double figure scorer was Ty Lawson who had 10 points. It is the bottom line that has the Kings in no man’s land and treading water. The Kings are exasperated by the impulsive behavior of DeMarcus Cousins. But the Kings desperately need DeMarcus Cousins.


photo via llananba