Power Balance Pavilion isn't the Pentagon, but given DeMarcus Cousins' history, his recent outburst and repeated trade demands as related Sunday by Kings coach Paul Westphal sort of fit the profile.
Reputations aren't always reflective of reality. We weren't there Saturday and he wasn't around Sunday to explain his behavior during the previous night's player-coach encounter. The NBA has been global for decades, but this is still America; Cousins gets his day on the witness stand/hot seat. And by the way, he was far from the only Kings player venting his frustrations after Saturday's excruciating loss to the New York Knicks.
Clearly, though, the second-year center is young and emotional and yet to master the art of self-censoring. It's what mothers have been telling their children for generations: It's not what you say, it's how you say it.
"I think it's time for this solution," Westphal said before Sunday's victory over the New Orleans Hornets. "There are many, many things that go on behind closed doors in this business that is nobody's business. Certainly you've heard the cliché, 'the tip of the iceberg.' This is certainly the tip of the iceberg." But where's the rest of it? A one-game (at least) slapdown? By refusing to offer specifics about the incident, the Kings left too much to the imagination. Locker rooms buzz like the old game of telephone game, the story juicier by the retelling.
Rumors and innuendo ran scooted around the arena last night like a four-month-old puppy. The tweeters had enough punch lines for a sequel to "The Social Network." And, initially, at least, Westphal's action had the feel and smell of a diversionary tactic, an attempt to spin the team's downward tale and sluggish start on the biggest and easiest target in the building: the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.
Cousins, 21, is hardly the only disgruntled player of the three-year Westphal Era. Kevin Martin, Omri Casspi, Carl Landry and Samuel Dalembert expressed similar trade desires during their own Kings tenures, though none apparently took their requests directly to the coach. Additionally, Westphal's one-game sitdown of Spencer Hawes in Feb., 2009, for publicly stating confusion about his role still seems like a gross overreaction.
Asked again late Sunday about his reasons for the dramatic and very public spanking of Cousins, Westphal replied: "He asked to be traded. We're going one direction. He's going anything direction. It's that simple." But, of course, it's not that simple. Cousins, in only his second year, has made significant progress by any measure. This is not the same player who was drafted with the No.5 overall pick in 2010 and showed up at the Las Vegas Summer League woefully out of shape.
Asked to improve his conditioning during the offseason, he arrived at training camp noticeably lighter and quicker on his feet. Until tweaking an ankle and getting kicked above the knee injuries that cost him valuable practice days and hurt his conditioning during the shortened preseason he was dominant in practice, grabbing rebounds, scoring underneath and remaining the Kings most willing passer.
Many of his complaints after Saturday's loss were right on point. Notwithstanding Sunday's win over the rebuilding Hornets, the Kings effort had been lacking, the ball and body movement nonexistent, and a sense of cohesiveness nowhere to be found.
For most of these opening days, the Kings have been solo artists, dribbling their way to three painful losses.
Seriously? Cousins wants to be traded? The Kings would be nuts to entertain a single phone call, which apparently are not. "We leave that stuff (the benching) to the basketball people," Kings co-owner Joe Maloof said before tipoff, "but we're not trading him." They might have considered picking up the phone, though, and placing a pre-emptive courtesy call to Cousins' agent, John Greig. That would have been prudent and mature and pre-emptive, and a clear indication that, amid the stormy season's start, cooler heads indeed will prevail.