Bullies Get Bullied, or Do They?

Although it feels like DeMarcus Cousins is having a career year across the board, really, he is not. His three point shot attempts are way up, his assists are a career high, his midrange shot is going in at a 50% clip. But. He is not posting career highs in points, shots made, offensive rating or PER, which isn’t to say some of those numbers are not very good, they are. But what is happening with Boogie this year is the eye test, his comfort within the Alvin Gentry system, playing with Anthony Davis as his partner in crime and of course playing for a big payday. Put all of that in a bottle, shake it up, and DeMarcus Cousins is the fifth best player in Real Plus-Minus, only trailing James Harden, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic. Now that has never happened.

Something else that has never happened. Cousins starts the pick and roll. It is such a brilliant Gentry move you wonder why no one has thought to use Boogie that way before. First, he can cover space quick. Second, he rolls to the rim like LeBron James so good luck getting out of his way and not getting shoved like a pancake. Third, Boogie can finish. And fourth, he has a lot of Shaq loving to score in him. Boogie has always played like a guard and it presented problems for coaches who didn’t have the luxury of accepting Boogie for who he is and not who you want him to be. He might love scoring like Shaq but he’s not Shaq. Shaq was an in the paint scorer. For his career, Boogie takes 20% of his shots in the paint.

But will all this Boogie-ness mean something in the end?

He elbowed Russell Westbrook accidentally on purpose and was ejected and the Pelicans, with Anthony Davis, still won though it brought up all of those bad DeMarcus Cousins memories. He tried to chase down Kevin Durant when both were ejected and security kept him from confronting Durant in the locker room. And then he went toe-to-toe with Z-Bo in his new stomping ground of NOLA.

Z-Bo, never one to back down or be scared said, “In my hood, bullies get bullied.”  It was a great one-liner but how true is it really?

Z-Bo won the game behind his 35 points and 13 rebounds, old school Zach Randolph. Boogie was balling out too, 38 points and 11 rebounds but he needed 30 shots to get there. Despite their back and forth, in the NBA isn’t it the opposite truth about bullies? Don’t they rarely get bullied? Isn’t that how Boogie has gotten over this long? Take exceptional talent and an entitled sense of DeMarcus justice, exert his will over an organization and voila DeMarcus Cousins run amok.

Z-Bo hasn’t exactly replaced Boogie in Sac-town. 14 points and nearly 7 rebounds is good enough but not Zach in his prime. But clearly he heard all the DeMarcus stories. Being the local bully cost Cousins $205 million dollars and so Z-Bo was right. Vlade Divac bullied DeMarcus by trading him and costing him money.

But is DeMarcus having the last laugh?

Sort of. He’s better this year than last year. Sacramento is still Sacramento meaning lottery and rebuilding and no playoffs. On the other hand, the Pelicans have two great stars but are average.

They are a medicore three point shooting team despite taking a lot of them. They turn the ball over consistently. Their defense is pretty pathetic. At this point, they are just outscoring teams. The $25 million payday they gave Jrue Holiday didn’t morph him into Klay Thompson. He is the same Jrue Holiday as he has always been except now he is making $1.7 million per point. (Cousins is making $666,000 per point.) For a few months, the Pelicans have the value incentive before they have to worry about who comes knocking on Cousins door July 1st, like Magic Johnson.

Anyone who has watched DeMarcus Cousins throughout his turbulent career are prepared for the tightrope between exceptional and at times unguardable and, uh-oh, here comes trouble. When the trade was made with Sacramento, it was an experiment that, frankly, no one was sure would work out. Allen Iverson never got the hang of playing with a second star. So it wasn’t automatic that Boogie, who has had a solo starship enterprise his entire career, would be able to mesh with a talent like Davis. His ability to still be Boogie and to also fit within the structure of the offense, not go rogue, but not pout and sulk either, as was his rep, makes a strong case for getting all talent away from Sacramento.

DeMarcus Cousins was drafted in the same draft class as John Wall who was the number 1 pick in 2010. John Wall has been to the playoffs three times, Cousins, zero times. Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson were picked before DeMarcus. They have all been in the playoffs. Every lottery pick in the 2010 draft has been in the playoffs except DeMarcus Cousins and Xavier Henry. Henry’s career was shortened because of injury. Cousins has the most points scored of his draft class and the most rebounds. But no May games.

Except this May, with Boogie playing like he just got out of jail or hell, he’ll have his first taste of the playoffs, breaking his seven year drought. After the playoffs are done, Boogie may find himself back in Cali with the Lakers and proving Zach Randolph completely wrong.

Bullies do bully and good things happen.


photo via llnanba