Posted by: Kingsguru21 | October 20, 2011

DeMarcus Cousins: Is he the man in our Mirror?

There is the actual live human DeMarcus Cousins, and then there is the DeMarcus Cousins many Kings fans want to see. The real life Cousins hasn’t actually gotten to that place almost all fans would love Cousins to enter for the heavy majority of his career. (Actually there are 2 different accompanying pieces from Sam Amick. One is with Cousins’ trainer, Keith Williams, and the other is with Cousins himself.)

From Sam Amick of SI:

“With DeMarcus, a big part of it is having trust. He’s not saying he’s perfect, that he doesn’t make mistakes, but he wants to know that ‘you’re with me. You’re behind me as I take this journey.’ We all forget that he’s 21. He’s got unbelievable upside, but he’s still a young guy, still figuring it out.”

The fact that he’s not alone in that regard doesn’t make it any easier. The 11 players already on contract for the Kings next season are an average age of 24, a figure that would have made them the youngest team in the league last season. And while the talent pool rose recently with the additions of former Cleveland forward J.J. Hickson, veteran swingman John Salmons and rookie guard Jimmer Fredette, the roster is still light on the sort of leadership that a player like Cousins so desperately needs.

This is one reason I’ve suggested Nene in the past. Cousins desperately needs to learn, whether it’s in a starting or off the bench role, how to consistently produce. Maybe coming off the bench behind Nene and Sam Dalembert could help be one part of the impetus that provides that all too critical lesson Cousins needs to learn if he wishes to accomplish his goals.

Cousins spent most of his rookie season convinced that Kings officials — from basketball president Geoff Petrie to coach Paul Westphal on down — had bought into the negative hype. He gave them plenty of fuel for that fire too, from being fined $5,000 for verbal run-ins with an assistant coach and trainer to being kicked out of practice after an argument with Westphal, to a locker-room boxing match with teammate Donte’ Greene after a Feb. 12 loss to Oklahoma City. Cousins was fined one game’s pay — $41,000 — for his fight with Greene.

The bolded line is one of Cousins’ real problems. (And one reason I was not of the great belief Cousins would be a great pick around draft time in 2010. All of what’s come out since were all the real knocks against Cousins that are definitely not overblown and not easily overcome.) He thinks a head coach, and Prez of BBall ops, doesn’t want him to succeed? You think this is a kid that is easy to work with? His trainer has to convince him that yoga is worth it. Cousins is so incredibly willed that his trainer has to push, prod and poke to get him to do something as simple as yoga. Now try being a basketball head coach to convince him that playing a certain style of ball in the NBA is not very likely to work. The problem if you’re Paul Westphal: How do you reach Cousins?

This is why, I think anyway, you saw Cousins on that inbounds play to end the game against the Hawks in Atlanta, why you saw Cousins continue to get the ball in situations he really shouldn’t have, and what not. Westphal and Petrie figured they had to break him down to build him up or some such (as cliche as that is). That’s just the sad truth. Getting Cousins to figure out his strengths, weaknesses, and to consistently aim to remain consistent is the single biggest indicator of the (potential) upcoming season that Cousins career arc has promising signs. If he doesn’t? Whoa…..I’m not even ready to contemplate that. In general, I prefer to give players 2 full years before I drop the ax. In the past, I’ve been very light on criticism on Tyreke Evans. For that reason, I’ll not be as nice to Reke in the future when he drops the ball. Cousins? This is Cousins’ 2nd year, which, last I checked, still falls under 2 full years.

This was the quote from Williams that struck me about Cousins (again another issue I had with him pre-draft 2010):

Amick: So you’re seeing progress in his approach, though?

Williams: He has taken a more business attitude toward working out. Last year it was all new. He’s more business-like. He’s trying really hard to stay out of the way publicly, to stay out of those bumps and away from the negativity. I think he’s maturing. I think anybody who is really watching him knows that physically in his game I don’t think he has an issue with. It’s just a matter of doing it. I think what he has to do is stay away from the things that might be misconstrued as negative. That’s why he didn’t really want to be in the media. He really just wanted to stay quiet and do his business, but he’s definitely maturing a lot.

The thing that hurts DeMarcus is that he feels like, on the one hand a big man shouldn’t have to work as hard and do all the running. But on the other hand, he wants the ball and he wants to do all those things. The biggest thing is him getting it that if you want to be the dynamic big man that you are, then you’ve got to work like it, you know what I mean? You can’t want to be one way but want to work like the stiff big man.

We have a bulls eye target bingo mister! (In otherwords, this is one of Cousins’ multiple real issue’s.)

“I’m just to the point where it’s getting old, and I really have a point to prove this year. So I’ll just have fun, try to wait until the season starts, and every exhibition game I play in, I want to be the one where everybody is like, ‘Wow.’ I really just want my game to speak for itself.”

This paragraph is a direct quote from Cousins in case you haven’t figured that out. (I just want to make it clear in case somehow you are confused.)

Don’t act like a petulant child Cuz, and nobody will treat you that way. If they see a mature young man playing hard, it’s funny how often people treat you that way. Especially if you’re doing this consistently, you’ll be noticed for this quite often. I guarantee it. (I know DeMarcus Cousins will never read this. But the point should be understood nonetheless.)

One last quote from Williams:

Williams: He has done a good job. For being a young player, and to maintain for so long since we got started really early.

He’s ready to hit the ground running. He wants to show people that he has matured and that he’s ready to take that next step. And I think if he can just stay on the floor, he should be able to do really well this year — if he can just stay out of foul trouble.

I hope this is the case. I really do.

“It was beautiful for Paul to come and sit down and talk with us,” said Williams, whose list of clientele includes Durant, Gilbert Arenas, and Michael Beasley, and who has known Cousins since his early high-school days in Alabama. “The Kings didn’t do a good job of really connecting with us last season. They probably thought we were just out here just riding off the kid, so I was like, ‘Paul, you know if you look at my résumé — you don’t have to listen to me — but check my résumé and you’ll see I’m not about letting him skate by.’ We probably want more from him than they want. And if they can meet him halfway, I think it’s going to work out just fine.

“With DeMarcus, a big part of it is having trust. He’s not saying he’s perfect, that he doesn’t make mistakes, but he wants to know that ‘you’re with me. You’re behind me as I take this journey.’ We all forget that he’s 21. He’s got unbelievable upside, but he’s still a young guy, still figuring it out.”

Okay the bold quote from Williams doesn’t mean much. Consider Williams other quotes about Cousins lacking trust, Cousins finding it difficult to take advice (re: trust issue’s), and thus, how is it possible for an organization that, quite honestly, needs Cousins to develop a relationship with them. It’s very difficult to try and reach someone who is waiting for you to do it. That’s really what Keith Williams’ job is. Not Paul Westphal’s or Geoff Petrie’s. (And no, I’m not saying that Westphal/Petrie or the Kings organization shouldn’t help Cousins if he’s asking for it. I think Cousins’ pride keeps a massive distance and then turns around and blames the franchise for his trust issue’s. You can’t have it both ways, but, young players, and superstars, often expect to have it both ways nonetheless.) The reality here is that if Williams and Westphal can connect, it’s helpful up to a point. But how helpful? Westphal has his own team, and it’s not just Cousins’ mind you, to deal with. There are other players on the rosters with issue’s. One of the problems with Cousins is that he demands an inordinate amount of attention and time that is disproportionate to his actual production and worth to the franchise. Produce like a 20/10 Big Man and then we can talk kid. Until then you’re just a petulant ass.

DeMarcus Cousins is in the big leagues. He needs to learn that he is not in nursery school, high school, college, or in his trainers cocoon. That’s one of the real points and real truth behind Williams’ quote even if Keith Williams’ himself is truly criticizing the Kings here. So what? Again, consider the source.

“Me and Tyreke have never had a problem,” Cousins said. “I hate that that even got out [after the fight with Greene] with me and Tyreke being the core of the Kings. I can understand why that would bother people, but there’s no problem.

“Me and Tyreke are boys. We have the same goals, the same mindset. We want to go out and win games and do whatever we can do as individuals and teammates to help our team win. Me and Tyreke are on the same page. He’s in incredible shape. I’m excited. I really believe this is going to be a good year if we ever get it going.”

Look at that quote about “Me & Tyreke”. He and Tyreke is the core of the Kings. Tyreke, up to this point, has certainly shown that. Cousins has not. Show that you’re a real part of the future, and not just tease with glimpses, then you can talk about being part of the “core”. Until then, it’s 100% grade A horseshit you are spewing.

“I believe I’m on the right track, and I know it’s going to take time,” Cousins said. “It’s nothing that’s going to happen overnight, but I’ll just continue to grow, to prove each person wrong one by one.”

The last line I find 100% disturbing. It doesn’t tell me that Cousins’ takes ownership of his real problems; he’s just using “others” as the reason that DeMarcus Cousins has problems. This is the kid the Kings failed to reach? Really? I didn’t realize that my beloved NBA team became a psychiatry office for young adults.

******

I happen to believe that Cousins’ perimeter game is significantly farther along than his post game. (Cousins had an eFG% of 37.4% from 16-23 ft but 30.4% from 3-9 ft last season. Don’t tell me that Cousins is significantly better in the post and his inefficient ways on the perimeter is causing poor shot creation in the post. Being in bad shape, learning the NBA, and not being the dominant post player many had Cuz pegged for are the reasons behind that 30.4% as much as anything.) Because his perimeter game is so good, this is not nearly as damning a statement as many would tell you it is.

On the other hand, I think all of his percentages in all his ranges will go up. Better shape, experience, and better attitude will do wonders for our “young growing man”. Cousins may complain that he’s growing up in the public eye, but that was his choice and not ours. He can’t complain about being in the public eye and then turn around and cash his paycheck that is hefty, in large part, due to the public exposure.

Last year I hoped Cousins would average 14 & 8 (with a better TS% of 48.1% no doubt) and within reason, I would say that Cuz came within most of the things that I had hoped for in his rookie season. Because for all the problems Cousins had, he certainly performed significantly better than every rookie not named John Wall, Blake Griffin, or Greg Monroe. Which is saying a lot.

Do I think DeMarcus Cousins will ever become a dominant low post offensive machine? No, now I don’t. (I didn’t think that in July 2010 though.) I do think his perimeter game is once in a lifetime special that can make up for the lack of post game simply because big men hate leaving the paint on defense. (It’s a mentality thing, and, you do want your big men in the paint on defense.) That’s a weapon that if Cuz can harness can make up for a lot of dominant post up game. It’s worth remembering that for all of Cousins’ problems a year ago, he still managed to get to the line for five Free Throw Attempts.

There is a lot of potential in DeMarcus Cousins, and it’s up to him to cash in on it. That includes creating a better working environment for the Kings franchise, and teammates while we’re on the topic, so that Cousins’ can grow. It would be nice if Cousins can average 18 points & 10 rebounds in 32MPG, between 6-7 FTA’s, hit somewhere between 75-80 on the FT% line, get his FG% near 50% (and TS% in the 55-58% range), reduce his fouls by 1 a game, maybe get a block a game (I’m hoping for that–not expecting it).

Cousins’ isn’t perfect and has many flaws. That’s why Cousins’ dropped to the 5th pick in the 2010 draft. As John Calipari said, you are going to have to earn every bit of progress with Cousins’ by pushing him at every juncture in every manner possible. The talent is there, but, the difficulties are abound and, if we are talking right now actually, are easier to find.

Before we anoint Cousins’ as the next great big man in Sacramento Kings lore, it might be wise to hope that he can get on the court for consistent chunk of minutes and with it create a level of consistenc reliable production Cousins’ has not displayed since High School.

On the other hand, it will be “interesting” to see what transpires with Cousins and what growth does happen. If nothing else, Cousins is never boring.

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