If you want to have some fun with DeMarcus Cousins, tell him deep down he’s really a softie.
A big old teddy bear. Or any other metaphor that’s the opposite of the snarling King on the court.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Cousins said.
Then that smile kicks in.
“No I am,” he said. “I really am.”
All-Star Weekend allows Cousins to show another side of his personality. He’s actually quite funny. His wit is on point, and his inability to keep a straight face can draw laughs.
Sunday’s All-Star Game is an exhibition, so perhaps there will be more chances to see the the lighthearted “Boogie,” who is embracing his status among the NBA’s elite players.
“It’s fun,” Cousins said of his second All-Star selection. “I’m a lot more comfortable than I was the previous year. I came in nervous, not really knowing what to expect, but I kind of know what to look for now.”
It’s hard to tell when Cousins is enjoying himself on the court. And even though you’d be hard pressed to find an NBA player grinning while running the floor, Cousins draws a lot of attention for his menacing expression.
Cousins said it’s not his fault his look unsettles others, explaining it as only he could.
“I’m an ugly dude,” he said. “I really can’t help how my face looks. You’re just gonna have to take it. Some people like it, some people don’t. It’s just my face.”
Cousins’ self-examination wasn’t as dramatic as the Notorious B.I.G.’s declaration that he was a “heartthrob, never” or “ugly as ever”. But only Cousins could get away with being so self-deprecating in the All-Star setting.
Cousins would tell you he’s not intimidating. But because he’s 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds, some easily might see him that way.
“If I was shorter, I don’t think I’d be intimidating,” Cousins said. “They’d be like, ‘That’s a little ugly person.’ Because I’m big, intimidating.”
Cousins is all about his game – disinterested with looking like a commercial star. Asked if he’d like more endorsement deals, he said, “I like to play basketball.”
That’s not to say Cousins is shy or reluctant to be the center of an ad campaign.
“It’s great to get those types of opportunities,” he said. “I don’t want to put myself in a box. I’m always open to doing different things, but I play basketball. That’s my job.”
This weekend, Cousins is excited to be among the other All-Stars, especially in Kobe Bryant’s final appearance. Bryant always has liked Cousins’ game and admired his tenacity.
When discussing Bryant, Cousins turned introspective.
“It’s weird every time I get around Kobe,” he said. “I really grew up watching this dude play. I remember having arguments in the backyard about Kobe, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, and now I’m suiting up playing with him. So it’s always a weird feeling.”
Cousins knows it’s hard to shake the reputation that follows him even after two All-Star selections. So does he believe he gets more attention for being the only player in the top four in scoring and rebounding this season? Or even with all the Kings’ issues, does he feel he gets credit for helping them move closer than they’ve been in a decade to a playoff berth?
“No,” he said.
Asked how he can change those perceptions, Cousins shrugged.
“You tell me. You guys write. I just play.”