DeMarcus Cousins has said he considers it a “compliment” when opponents try to irritate him or get “into my head” as a way to slow him down.
In the next three games, the Kings center can expect to get figurative pats on the back.
The Kings host the Los Angeles Clippers tonight, followed by games against the Warriors on Sunday and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday at Sleep Train Arena.
Each team features players who have done all they can to play mind games with Cousins and take advantage of his emotions. Sometimes, that means trying to bait Cousins into technical fouls or frustrating him to the point that he begins committing personal fouls.
Regardless, the coaching staff keeps an eye on the situation to make sure fouls, technical or otherwise, don’t become a problem, as they’ve been in recent seasons. This season, Cousins has four technical fouls, tied with Golden State’s Andrew Bogut, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Houston’s Dwight Howard for most in the NBA.
A technical foul called against Cousins in a Nov. 13 blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets was not rescinded, as he expected. Cousins picked up two more technicals in Los Angeles last weekend. The first came Saturday against the Clippers and the second Sunday against the Lakers – both losses.
“It’s a constant conversation,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “I told him after that one (against the Lakers) in the huddle, ‘Let’s maintain our poise and composure and not let anything take us out of being poised right now.’”
Technical fouls have been an issue for Cousins throughout his career, now in its fourth season. Cousins led the league in technicals last season with 16 and was second with four ejections. He racked up 12 technicals, second in the league, in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. Cousins was fifth in the NBA with 14 technicals as a rookie and tied for the league lead with three ejections.
Sunday’s technical came with 5:42 left in the game. Lakers guard Jordan Farmar stole the ball and was fouled by Kings rookie guard Ben McLemore. As Farmar fell, Cousins put his hand on Farmar’s back. As Cousins tried to help up Farmar, Lakers forward Shawne Williams stepped in and words were exchanged. After they were separated, Cousins tried to get at Williams, who was still talking, but was restrained by coaches and team security.
“I thought DeMarcus kind of pushed (Farmar) down, and I just told him that can’t happen,” Williams said. “I just tried to stick up for my team. We are a team, and I feel like Jordan would stick up for me, so I stuck up for him.”
It’s not always about technical fouls. In the Kings’ first regular-season meeting with Golden State on Nov. 2, Bogut’s physical ways pushed Cousins to the point he picked up an unnecessary third foul in the first half of an easy win for the Warriors.
Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins plays similarly to Bogut and uses roughhouse tactics to try to take Cousins out of his game.
But there’s no one who gets to Cousins lately quite like the Clippers and star guard Chris Paul, who publicly has questioned Cousins’ maturity and made a point to say the Kings’ center wasn’t thinking when he was assessed a taunting technical Nov. 1 after blocking Paul’s shot late in a Clippers win at Sleep Train Arena.
Cousins goes out of his way to avoid Paul’s chatter and doesn’t even want his teammates dealing with the Clipper. He kept guard Isaiah Thomas from shaking Paul’s hand after Saturday’s game in Los Angeles, pulling him away from Paul.
That led Paul to tell Fox Sports during a postgame interview: “He’s young, man. He don’t know no better. He needs some guidance. It is what it is.”
Malone said Cousins is doing better, but the coaches remain watchful of their emotional player.
“It’s a work in progress, and he understands,” Malone said. “But at the same time, he’s such a competitor. He understands, but when you’re in it, it’s hard. So we’re trying to help him, and he’s trying as well.”
TODAY VS. L.A. CLIPPERS
• Time: 7 p.m.
• TV/radio: CSNCA, 1140