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Nothin' but Net: What to do with DeMarcus Cousins?

12:33 PM, Dec 24, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the interest of full disclosure, this column has been a long-time coming.

It was against the Utah Jazz, at home, on Nov. 24 when the advent of a DeMarcus Cousins column was digitally jotted into my phone. Cousins didn't like a referee's call, got a technical, pleaded his case, walked away pumping his fists like a petulant child, got a second "T", then got tossed.

Back then, the ideas that Cousins needs to grow up, he's costing his Sacramento Kings team and any other thought process you conclude about a problem player were valid.

Now, it's just a sad situation that could get way worse before it gets better.

Cousins was suspended twice by the NBA this season, once for confronting San Antonio Spurs announcer Sean Elliott in a "hostile manner," and once for nailing Dallas Maverick's guard O.J. Mayo in a sensitive male area.

Things were taken to a new level on Saturday when the Kings themselves shelved Cousins for "unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team."

As the story goes, Cousins and head coach Keith Smart got into a heated exchange Friday night during halftime against the Los Angeles Clippers. Smart told him to stay in the locker room for the second half.

Cousins was at least contrite after the incident.

"What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. But I was wrong. I was wrong," Cousins said. "I messed up. I'm apologizing to all my teammates for it, for responding the way I did, and we'll move on from it ... I grow from all of my mistakes."

DeMarcus, you haven't.

The Kings have clearly reached their limit with Cousins. What they do from here is up to them. Cousins, 22, averages 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Guys with those numbers, at his age, don't grow on trees.

But guys with Cousins' attitude problems don't have long shelf lives.

Cousins has a history of not getting along with coaches. His relationship with former skipper Paul Westphal was more toxic than left-out cheese.

Owning up to his mistake was great, but it's an ongoing problem. When does Cousins finally grow up? Don't know the man. It's hard to say.

While the blame lies squarely on Cousins and his immaturity, there is nowhere for him to look for help.

Smart is a capable man, but he doesn't command the respect as some coaches in the NBA do. Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie appears to be going through the motions.

The real men at the top, the owners, the Maloof brothers, are more interested in relocating the Kings than the day-to-day operations of the squad.

Cousins is not the first talented-but-pain-in-the-petunia player in NBA history.

Take Dennis Rodman, for example. When Rodman was at his best in his career, his coaches were either Chuck Daly, Gregg Popovich or Phil Jackson. That's three- quarters of a post-70s Mount Rushmore of coaches. They all had the clout and ability to rein Rodman in and maximize his abilities.

Also, do you think men like Michael Jordan, or Scottie Pippen, or Kobe Bryant, or David Robinson, or Tim Duncan, or Isiah Thomas would let a wild-card like Rodman derail the train? Of course, they wouldn't.

Who's doing that in Sacramento? The Kings' most-veteran player is John Salmons with 10 years in the league. He may be trying to help Cousins, but a mediocre swingman, who Cousins was instantly better than the day the Kings drafted him, probably isn't getting through.

This is not to blame Smart, Salmons or any other Kings' veterans. The blame is all on Cousins, but some help, or some guidance, could certainly go a long way into harnessing Cousins' problems into production.

But doesn't it tell you something about Cousins that, when he was in the locker room at the Staples Center, the Kings lost the second half to the Clippers, who are hotter than the core of the Earth, by a point?

Or, what does it say that the Kings came out Sunday night, one day after the suspension was announced, and dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers by 12?

What the Kings do from here is anyone's guess. Again, talents like Cousins, especially at his age, and still on his reasonable rookie deal for this season and next, are not everywhere.

Various reports indicate the Kings aren't ready to trade him yet, and there are some other reports that say there aren't many teams in the NBA interested in dealing for that kind of trouble.

Cousins has to mature at an accelerated rate. He's already taken some steps in his professional career. He dropped his agent, John Greig, in favor of Dan Fegan.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Fegan has a checkered history with the Kings and he was Dwight Howard's agent last season. That saga should be taught to children in schools about how NOT to handle a situation.

Could one infer that this shift in agents might be to facilitate a trade from Sacramento at any costs? Who knows.

The NBA is littered with tales of immature young players who make millions of mistakes, but turn into solid citizens and All-Stars. Guys like Zach Randolph, or Rasheed Wallace, or for that matter, any young player who donned a Portland Trail Blazers jersey in the 1990s, can turn around a career in the right situation.

But this league will spit you out without a moment's hesitation, no matter how great you are. There's a longer list of those players.

It's on Cousins as to which he ultimately falls.

The Sports Network

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