LOS ANGELES -- DeMarcus Cousins has earned a reputation for being volatile, something he reminded everyone of with his ejection Tuesday night and subsequent suspension for punching Houston guard Patrick Beverley.
Kings coach Michael Malone said there’s no need to avoid the obvious, and Cousins has to accept that in order to continue maturing after his first ejection and suspension of the season.
“Every team that we play against is going to try to get under his skin and bring that side out of him,” Malone said. “We know that players get reputations in the NBA from the officials, from the opposing coaches, from the opposing players. So every game we go into he’s got a bull’s-eye on his back. Fair or unfair, it’s just what it is.”
That target will be on Cousins tonight when he returns to the lineup against the Minnesota Timberwolves after being banished from Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
Malone’s challenge to Cousins is to not feed into his reputation with actions that hurt the team.
“He has to be able to accept that, embrace it and not allow everybody that’s trying to get under his skin to accomplish that,” Malone said. “He’s got to rise above it and be stronger, and that’s a great challenge for him.”
Added Malone: “If he ever can rise above that and be mentally strong where he doesn’t let players and the refs get under his skin, then obviously he can focus his energies on more important things.”
Focusing on officials is a reason Cousins has a league-high 15 technical fouls. Cousins’ next technical foul would result in an automatic one-game suspension.
“We’re hoping he can finish up these last 25 games on a positive note,” Malone said. “Try to get through these last 25 without being suspended because of the 16th tech. And that’s a challenge but one that he has to embrace and he’s aware of.”
Malone did not like that Cousins’ shot to Beverley was deemed a “punch” by the NBA.
What Malone also noted is the NBA has been consistent about such actions, including when Cousins was on the receiving end of a questionable hit this season.
And regardless of what you call it, Cousins was wrong.
“I’m not condoning the action by any means, but I think there’s a big difference between a punch and a jab, if you will,” Malone said. “But obviously we don’t want that in our game. It happened earlier in the year with the Hawks where they suspended Dennis Schroder because he grabbed DeMarcus in the private area, and that’s not part of the game and the league did it.
“So he’s been on the receiving end of it and on the side of delivering a blow like that. And that’s not part of the game and we don’t condone that action. It’s a physical game, but there’s a limit to what’s acceptable and unacceptable, and obviously he crossed the line.”