Nobody likes to lose. Not the Kings, not DeMarcus Cousins, not a salesperson who doesn’t hit his or her mark for the month.
In real life, when things go bad, you drop it into a lower gear. You get up earlier in the morning. You work harder.
When things go bad for Cousins, he throws the ball at Chris Paul – in the back, at his head, with some heat on it. The Kings stayed with the Clippers for awhile Friday, but a 20-0 third-quarter Los Angeles run ended the suspense. Then came the fourth-quarter head shot. Some people think Cousins just wanted to bounce the ball off Paul’s back and out of bounds to give the Kings the ball. The look on Cousins’ face should tell you otherwise. So should his aim. It was pretty good.
Three nights later, the Kings were getting hammered at home by Oklahoma City. Cousins already had a run-in with Kevin Durant, stepping into Durant’s beef with Quincy Acy and putting his hands on Durant, shoving him away. Later, with the blowout in full bloom, Cousins got tangled up under the basket with the Thunder’s Steven Adams, who may have impeded Cousins’ foot. Eventually, Adams raised his hands and arms, and after they sorted out the entanglement, Cousins turned toward Adams, who was still lying on the floor with his back turned. Cousins balled up his fists, wound up and looked as if he were ready to punch Adams in the back of the head, just as he did Paul with the ball.
Only this time, Cousins stopped. He realized he was about to pop his cork in front of 17,000 witnesses and on live TV. It would have looked bad in the Twitttersphere. It would have been worse than the forearm he slammed into Al Horford’s face earlier this season in Atlanta that got him suspended. Or the ejection in December against Golden State when he argued an obvious foul call and topped it off with a physical gesture toward a referee that looked an awful lot like a left hook. Or the sucker punch he threw two years ago that caught Houston’s Patrick Beverley in the stomach while he was running through the key. That one got him suspended, too. Or the time he punched O.J. Mayo in the testicles in December 2012 when he thought nobody was looking that also merited a suspension.
So Cousins pulled back from the sneak attack, which would have led to his second suspension this year for hitting somebody who wasn’t looking, his third in two years for the same offense, and his fourth in just a little more than four years. Still, before he walked away from Adams, he knee-nudged him in the back and kicked out at him, too.
Cousins was slapped with one technical foul in each of the Kings’ three consecutive home losses. He leads the NBA with 14 technicals, or one for about every 3 1/2 games. And he has missed nine games, which could have deprived him of two or three more.
Cousins is not in danger of surpassing Rasheed Wallace’s record 41 technicals in 2000-01, but his general bad behavior has been spiking lately. And this is the year, some have said, in which Cousins has gained maturity. The Paul and Adams incidents suggest otherwise, as do the techs in three consecutive games.
The question was put to the NBA front office if the behavior of the league’s fourth-leading scorer and fifth-leading rebounder has attracted the attention of its disciplinarians. The answer was the league does not typically comment publicly on the actions of individual players. Don’t expect the league to take any action until Cousins gets his 16th technical foul, which will lead to a one-game suspension, just like two years ago.
Reasonable people can disagree about the shot at Paul. They’ll tell you at the District Attorney’s office that intent is always difficult to prove. Maybe Cousins does have a history with Paul, and maybe Paul did come around behind him and hook him in the arm while trying to poke the ball away, and maybe Cousins was trying to throw the ball off Paul and out of bounds, even though he had two teammates open in the backcourt. If the disagreement is reasonable, then there is reasonable doubt, and a jury would have to acquit. There are enough of us, though, to have made the conversation in the jury room interesting.
In the Adams’ case, no charges should be filed. Cousins didn’t swing. And Adams is a funny guy who gets paid to get inside the heads of people like Cousins. You could say Adams is better at his job, which is annoying people, than Cousins is at his, which is supposed to be leading the Kings. If leaders are supposed to energize, inspire and stabilize, mark down Cousins in the box score at 0 for 3. It’s been said about energy that you either take it or give it. Cousins can rile the joint, but the past three home games, he left the Sleep Train Arena depleted.
The Kings’ upper management walks on eggshells with Cousins and has even enabled him at times. But in light of the most recent events, general manager Vlade Divac said in a statement that team officials “recognize the issue and have addressed with DeMarcus” internally.
Come October, the Kings will play in a gorgeous new arena. But it will have something of a feng shui problem with Cousins on the premises. You want to get the energy flow right in your house. The problem with Cousins is he’s sapping it.