Throughout the highs and lows of his seventh NBA season, one constant remains for DeMarcus Cousins.
The three-time All-Star is the Kings’ undisputed leader, and his coach, Dave Joerger, backs him up in that regard.
On Tuesday, Joerger had a simple reply when asked about Cousins’ maturity after the NBA announced the center would be suspended for Wednesday’s game against the Boston Celtics for drawing his 16th technical foul this season.
“We all still make mistakes,” Joerger said following practice. “I made a mistake (Monday) night. I drew up a terrible play for the last play.”
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On Monday, Cousins thought he was fouled by the Chicago Bulls’ Robin Lopez while attempting a 3-pointer with about seven seconds left in the Kings’ 112-107 loss at Golden 1 Center. After the shot missed badly and the Bulls gained control of the ball, Cousins flailed his arms and screamed at an official, who called the technical, Cousins’ second of the game, with 1.1 seconds left, resulting in an ejection.
Cousins also was fined $25,000 on Tuesday for an obscene gesture toward a fan as he walked to the locker room after the Kings beat the Golden State Warriors 109-106 on Saturday.
You just see the leadership growing in him.
Dave Joerger, Kings coach, on DeMarcus Cousins
After Tuesday’s practice, Cousins was not made available to the media. He also did not speak to reporters after Monday’s game.
Cousins reached 16 technicals faster than any player since such suspensions were enforced beginning the 2005-06 season. At 52 games into the season, Cousins reached the threshold eight games faster than Rasheed Wallace’s mark set in the 2006-07 season with the Detroit Pistons.
Cousins, who has had three technicals rescinded this season, didn’t get his 16th technical foul last season until March 30. He was suspended for one game and finished with a league-high 17.
Entering Tuesday, Cousins led the league in technicals, followed by the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan with 12, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook with 11 and the Washington Wizards’ John Wall with nine.
Every two technical fouls by Cousins for the rest of the season will carry another automatic one-game suspension. He also has been fined for every technical: $2,000 each for Nos. 1-5; $3,000 each for Nos. 6-10; $4,000 each for Nos. 11-15; and $5,000 each for Nos. 16-20. The total: $50,000. He also loses one game’s salary – about $192,152 – for each suspension.
The league has fined Cousins $100,000 for other infractions this season. In addition to Tuesday’s fine, he was docked $25,000 for throwing his mouthpiece and entering the stands at Golden 1 Center on Oct. 29 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, then $50,000 after his latest run-in with local media, including a locker room tirade at Andy Furillo of The Sacramento Bee on Dec. 12.
Joerger acknowledged it will be a test for Cousins the rest of the season. The Kings are chasing the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and given their injury situation, they cannot afford to lose their best player because of suspensions.
“Certainly there’s a lot more bite to it now for having every two,” Joerger said. “So, yeah, it’s a good challenge.”
Joerger said Cousins continues to demonstrate growth despite the technicals.
“I think he’s improved his leadership qualities, helps his teammates, getting guys in the right spots and facilitating,” Joerger said. “The number of triple-doubles he’s had – or near triple-doubles because his assist numbers keep coming up – and the way he goes about his business and how he’s been very positive with his teammates when we’re having tough times and pushing them when we’re having good times.
“You just see the leadership growing in him.”
The Kings have no way of replacing Cousins’ production. He leads the team in scoring (27.9 points), rebounding (10.7), assists (4.7) and blocks (1.35), and his 1.35 steals per game are second on the team.
We all still make mistakes. I made a mistake (Monday) night. I drew up a terrible play for the last play.
Dave Joerger, Kings coach, asked about DeMarcus Cousins’ maturity
Cousins increased his assist rate lately, averaging 6.3 in his past 10 games.
“He’s like our point guard, honestly,” center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “… That’s how much he has the ball in his hands.”
The Kings have played one game without Cousins this season and it wasn’t pretty. With Joerger giving Cousins the night off to rest, the Kings suffered their worst loss of the season, 132-98 to the Houston Rockets on Dec. 14. Rudy Gay also missed that game and now is out for the season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon.
On Wednesday, the Kings host the Boston Celtics, who have won seven in a row and feature All-Star and MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas, who will look to have a big game against his former team.
“We need (Cousins) to be great every single night. He carries a heavy load for us,” Joerger said. “It’s a tough deal to play a game without him, but it is what it is.”