(Our Basketball Panel answers 5 questions about DeMarcus Cousins)
DeMarcus Cousins stated he wanted to be the MVP? How realistic is that? Does he have any shot at the award?
Ben Kalra: Although it is not likely that Cousins wins this season’s MVP award, it is not out of the question. In his fifth NBA season last year, Cousins was 5th in the NBA in scoring and 3rd in rebounding. He has gotten better each year and his relationship with George Karl can only improve (or at least we can hope), making MVP aspirations very ambitious but not completely unreasonable.
Alex Khalifa: To be fair, Cousins didn’t predict he would be the winner. Why not strive to be the best? He was an All-Star last season, after all. The problem is that even a better year from him might not matter to MVP voters unless Sacramento gets better in a hurry. He’s not on my short list, but there’s a nonzero chance that he wins.
C.J. Hampshire: He has zero shot at the award. It’s not happening only because the Sacramento Kings are not going to be good enough. They would have to finish in the top four of the Western Conference and even though I like the off-season moves, the Kings need an established shooting guard to counter Klay Thompson. With this two guard lineup George Karl is in love with, he’s losing so much because of size. Darren Collison isn’t a starter. Get a solid shooting guard, like an Oladipo and then yeah, Cousins can be in the conversation.
Julian Billick: It’s realistic because Cousins is a dominant offensive player. You can pencil him for 22 and 12. The league is too small to be able to guard him. But where his offense is MVP worthy, his defense is mediocre and there is all that evidence of how he takes plays off because he sulks.
That leads me to the often pondered about question of his maturity? Is he ready to change his reputation? Everyone grows up, right?
Brendan Gillespie: Everyone doesn’t grow up but I do think Cousins is one of those guys who has to get the mental part of his game down. In a lot of players, it is the reverse. They have the mental part, they just don’t have the talent. In Cousin’s defense he has had so many head coaches, it’s hard for him to get continuity. He is doing this in baby steps. Saying he wanted the MVP was saying he wants everything that comes with it.
C.J.: The question you are asking is Cousins willing to sacrifice? What it comes down to is that. Can he put his big ego in the background? You know that line of Phil Jackson’s when he is asked about coaching and he says it’s teaching players’ to get rid of their innate selfishness. Cousins has been selfish his entire career. Good but selfish. Now he has to be good but selfless.
Julian: Winning changes everything. Cousins has a lot to prove because everyone thinks he is one thing and he believes he is something else. It may be true. We haven’t seen it. What we have seen is that in games that are close, there is some moment when he goes off the island for about forty seconds, the other team gets consecutive baskets and that’s that. The Kings lose. It’s not even about being a bad teammate. It’s about respecting the moment in the game, the moment you control. Until you lose your cool.
Valerie Morales: It is less about changing and more about adapting. All of us have to adapt to our environment as our environment adapts to us. Cousins has been stubborn about unconditional giving. You give first. Then you receive. He’s emotional which I like but there is a point in your life when you learn how to manage your emotions and make them work for you, not against you.
How do you expect Cousins and George Karl’s relationship to evolve this season?
Alex: Karl has to get a lot out of Cousins in order to win games, particularly in the Western Conference. There is some concern that Cousins’ role will be compromised in Karl’s fast-paced offensive scheme. Nevertheless, Karl has learned the art of keeping calm under pressure as his career has progressed. It will be beneficial if he can impart the same mentality to Cousins, who tends to be an emotional guy.
Julian: On the surface it seems like one of those things where you buy popcorn and get a front row seat. There’s going to be drama. Karl likes control. Cousins likes to be free. But, I’d like to think there will be some middle ground. Both have something to prove, here. Cousins has the burden. He’s buried in Sacramento. Karl already is proven. If it doesn’t work out Cousins will be blamed.
C.J.: Evolve is perfect. I think it’s going to start off rocky. They Kings get good teams early. Cousins is going to get frustrated. But the elephant in the room no one is talking about is Rondo. I think having Rondo on the team takes all the psychic pressure off of Cousins because Rondo’s relationship with Karl will be more intense. Point guards and coaches have this private little club. So in a lot of ways I think Cousins will skate and won’t be in the doghouse too much.
Valerie: Karl wants to pass Don Nelson on the victories list. He needs this Sac gig to work out. He is trying to cement his legacy. One more thing to remember is that Karl is a cancer survivor and his type of cancer was brutal. He beat it. So he has a very good understanding about life, what is important about it, what he needs to do, how to survive all of the noise. Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, had rounds of chemo, lost weight, lost his hair, lost his voice and then beaten the very thing that was supposed to kill him can coach DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins has never won more than 30 games in a NBA season. How much responsibility does he have to bear?
Alex: I don’t absolve him entirely: nobody thinks Cousins is a great defender, for example. He is also not helping his team much by taking shots behind the arc. Still, he didn’t put together the rosters in Sacramento which have been far from stellar over the years. There are mediocre players on championship teams, after all. Cousins is a top ten player in the league by some metrics.
C.J. He’s played with Luther Head and Donte Green and J.J. Hickson. I rest my case.
Julian: He is their best player. What he still has to learn is that a best player has two responsibilities: to carry a team to wins, and to lead a team to wins. He can carry but he cannot lead. Until he learns to lead he will never get near the playoffs.
Brendan: The Kings has been dysfunctional. They got off to a good start last season, then Cousins gets a viral infection, and during that stretch they played hard. They are in games. So what does management do? They fire the coach. So Kings-like. I hate to quote Jerry Krause but….organizations win championships.
Will Cousins be an All-Star this year? If so, who will he beat out to get to Toronto in February?
Ben: Yes, Cousins will be an All-Star. The only players to out-score Cousins on a per-game basis last season were Anthony Davis, LeBron, Harden, and Westbrook. The only two players to out-rebound him were Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan, and he also ranked 11th in blocks per game. Cousins should no-question be able to compete with players such as Chris Bosh, Al Horford, and Pau Gasol for a spot in Toronto in February.
Alex: The same numbers (24 points, 12 rebounds per game) could certainly get him there again. The case against him is how much talent is concentrated in his conference. In addition, there are only so many roster spots to go around even among deserving candidates. He’ll be competing against top big men like Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol.
C.J.: Yes. I think he beats out Gasol. I think his numbers are going to be sick. He has Rondo on his team who can’t shoot and likes to pass. I also think he has a high level of motivation that we see in players once they have been in the league awhile. I think his All-Star run is just beginning.
Brendan: I’m not sure Aldridge gets there this year. His numbers are going to go down because he isn’t the number one option anymore. Cousins numbers will stay the same but he’ll have easier baskets so I think his PER will be better. I think this is the year when he throws his past in the gutter. If it’s not this year, it’s not going to be any year.
photo via llananba