Ailene Voisin: Refs downgrade foul against Cousins

In another life, DeMarcus Cousins might have been an actor. The camera finds him for every one of those dramatic shoves, elbows, frowns, shrieks, head-shaking moments.

But tis his season to gripe. Or, at the very least, his day to complain.

An initial Flagrant 2 on Cousins. In the closing minutes of a tight game between regional rivals. When was the last time that happened?

To the everlasting credit of the refs, the play was reviewed, the call downgraded to an offensive foul and near-anarchy averted.

The Warriors’ Andrew Bogut reasonably could have been charged with a foul for holding Cousins in the lane. Absolutely true. Cousins reasonably could have been tagged with popping Bogut under the chin as he tried to free his arms. Also absolutely true.

But that original leap to a Flagrant 2 – and an automatic ejection – still left a lot of folks besides Cousins shaking their heads.

“He just kind of swung through me, clipped me on the chin,” Bogut said. “I made the refs aware of it. I don’t think it was a flagrant. We always battle, and it gets pretty physical out there. I accidentally elbowed (Cousins) in the head in the first half.”

Anytime Bogut takes up for Cousins, though, you figure there’s something to it. These two fellows will never share a meal. Bogut inadvertently helped make the case for Cousins, the argument being that his reputation is preceding him. That the refs are staring too hard at his NBA portfolio, particularly the paragraphs detailing his suspensions, technicals, behavioral issues. That they can’t seem to forgive and forget. That they’re seeing ghosts – the ghosts of Boogie past –and anticipating the shoves, elbows, frowns, etc.

But this isn’t the same guy. This isn’t the same wildcat who came charging into town after one season with the Kentucky Wildcats, overweight and out of shape, and seemingly incapable of keeping his emotions to himself. He has calmed down ... somewhat. He has improved ... significantly. “A work in progress,” coach Michael Malone said. “He cares. He’s trying. He hates to lose.”

Just a suggestion here? The refs have feeling, but so does Cousins, and he has earned another look. Reputations don’t have to inflict permanent damage. Kings fans even seem to have forgiven new minority owner Shaquille O’Neal for his assorted barbs about “Queens” and flopping and choking (as opposed to soaking up) the big moment.

Cousins, 23 – who took over the league lead in technicals (five) Sunday in the third quarter, breaking out of a tie with the loquacious Bogut and Carmelo Anthony – still offers his opinions too freely. But he also is playing the most effective and incident-free basketball of his still-young career, and making a noticeable effort to temper his, um, enthusiasm.

After the latest officiating ordeal was sorted out, Cousins shuttled in and out for the closing sequences, twice tying the score with short jump-hooks over Bogut.

“I told him, ‘Calm down – we need you,’” Malone said. “There’s three minutes left in the game. I’m putting you back in the game. To be honest, though, I didn’t realize they had called a Flagrant 2 and signaled the ejection. So if I would have known that, (Cousins) might have had to calm me down.”

The near-ejection and tense ending overshadowed the Kings’ other issues, including dreadful offensive execution and decision-making. Besides allowing Klay Thompson to bust loose for his career-high eight3-pointers, the Kings committed 24 turnovers, seven by backup point guard Isaiah Thomas (several on ill-advised attempts into the post).

Cousins wasn’t interested in discussing the poor entry passes, however, nor was he eager to further damage his relationship with the refs.

“I’m putting all the nonsense aside,” he said quietly. “I’ve worked hard at that. I’m putting it in my head that they’re not after me. ... I’m going out there to win games, and that’s my main focus every night.”