Ailene Voisin

Incident involving Barnes, Cousins an unnecessary distraction

Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell listen as their lawyer announces a lawsuit against the Kings’ Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins on Thursday in New York.
Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell listen as their lawyer announces a lawsuit against the Kings’ Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins on Thursday in New York. The Associated Press

Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins mixing it up in a New York nightclub and tweeting all about it. Great. Fabulous. Perfect. This is exactly what the Kings don’t need as they celebrate their spectacular new building and attempt to reinvent themselves in the Western Conference.

Did Barnes choke a woman? Did Cousins kick a man while he was on the ground?

What a mess. What an unnecessary mess.

As the legal process crawls along following the incident that took place at 3 a.m. Monday at the Avenue, a high-end nightclub in Chelsea, the larger question for the organization is this: Why in the world was Barnes reacquired during the offseason and assigned the unofficial duties of mentoring Cousins?

That move made no sense for a team intent on recasting its image and curbing its best player’s petulant behavior. Barnes, who starred at Del Campo High School, is 36 going on 16. He is smart and versatile and capable of helping a good team. Yet where he goes, trouble follows. His list of transgressions includes numerous NBA suspensions, an arrest on suspicion of domestic violence (the charges were dropped) and a misdemeanor for resisting, delaying or obstructing a police officer.

In a highly publicized incident a year ago, the veteran forward was suspended yet again for fighting with Derek Fisher at the home of his ex-wife.

So again, what were the Kings thinking? Who do they want to be when they grow up? Do they want to be the Spurs and Warriors and Cavs and Celtics? Do they want to become an appealing, embraceable bunch that leaps forward in the Western Conference? Or do they want to remain the West Coast twin of the chronically inept New York Knicks, who just happen to be in town for Friday night’s game at Golden 1 Center?

The injuries are there. The marks are there. The witnesses are there. And there is a surveillance tape that will corroborate all of this. But the bottom line is – men are not supposed to touch women. That’s what I was taught.

Michael Lamonsoff, attorney for the plaintiffs

But let’s go back to that early Monday episode in New York. This much is known: Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell are suing Barnes and Cousins for compensatory and punitive damages pertaining to events that allegedly occurred in the wee hours. In an account offered Thursday by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Michael Lamonsoff claims his clients were seated in a nearby VIP booth when a commotion involving Barnes and Cousins “and their entourage” erupted.

“Jasmine got up to leave to avoid the ruckus,” Lamonsoff said from his New York office, “and that’s when Barnes came over and choked her. Her boyfriend intervened and tried to stop Barnes, at which point he was sucker-punched by DeMarcus Cousins. Barnes and Cousins just started pummeling (Powell), and other members of their entourage joined in, beating and kicking my client while he was on the ground. While Jasmine and Myrone went to the hospital, Barnes and Cousins took off before the cops got there.”

According to Lamonsoff, Besino, who was briefly rendered unconscious, was treated at Lenox Hill Hospital for a possible facial fracture, spinal fluid leakage, headaches, back pain and trouble swallowing. Powell, the attorney continued, suffered two black eyes and reduced hearing in one ear and faces surgery for herniated discs in his back.

“The injuries are there,” Lamonsoff said. “The marks are there. The witnesses are there. And there is a surveillance tape that will corroborate all of this. But the bottom line is – men are not supposed to touch women. That’s what I was taught.”

Alex Spiro, the criminal defense attorney retained by Barnes and Cousins, did not respond to emails requesting an interview. But TMZ obtained photos that showed scratches and cuts on Barnes’ neck, and in an Instagram post Monday, the veteran forward insisted he and Cousins were defending themselves and said “there’s always two sides to a story. The side the media consistently tries to paint of me … And what actually happened! Don’t believe everything you read.”

The NBA’s security staff is looking into the matter. According to a source close to the situation, the Kings also have hired an independent investigator. The source did not want to go on record because the individual did not have authority to speak on the matter.

There’s always two sides to a story. The side the media consistently tries to paint of me … And what actually happened! Don’t believe everything you read.

Kings forward Matt Barnes on Instagram

So while the season continues, statements are being taken, surveillance video scrutinized, hospital records analyzed and any number of medical experts consulted. Barnes and Cousins, who are entitled to a vigorous defense, might in fact prove to be innocent bystanders, consistent with Barnes’ statements.

But back to that larger question: Who do the Kings want to be when they grow up? Tabloid fodder that captures their potentially criminal late-night escapades?

“Honestly, if you ask me about what happened in New York, I don’t like it,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said Thursday. “But we are following it closely, and I want to find out exactly what happened. Matt was brought here to play defense, be a tough guy that we didn’t have last year. And he and coach (Dave Joerger) worked together in Memphis. I also like the fact he was from this area. But, you know, we didn’t bring Matt here to turn this franchise around.”

That is supposed to be Divac’s and Cousins’ job, and though it’s early in the season, that’s not happening, either. At some point in the near future, reality will return. The glitz and glamour of Golden 1 Center will fade and fans will scrutinize the on-court product more intently. Teams don’t have to win titles to be exciting, entertaining, embraceable (see Kings of the early 2000s).

These Kings are none of the above. Team officials might keep that in mind as the Feb. 23 trade deadline approaches. G1C deserves a better anchor tenant. So do the fans.

Ailene Voisin: 916-321-1208, @ailene_voisin

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