Leading Off

Charles Barkley, DeMarcus Cousins more alike than different

Maybe the problem between Charles Barkley and DeMarcus Cousins stems from how much they’re alike. They’re both very vocal, often speaking before thinking, and emotional on the court.
Maybe the problem between Charles Barkley and DeMarcus Cousins stems from how much they’re alike. They’re both very vocal, often speaking before thinking, and emotional on the court. AP

We’ve been amused by this feud between Kings center DeMarcus Cousins and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, who now earns a living being bombastic during TNT’s NBA coverage.

As an analyst, it’s Barkley’s job to be critical, to point out flaws in a player’s game.

But he’s been particularly brutal on the Kings’ big man, starting, Cousins has said, when Barkley criticized him after watching him play in an Alabama high school playoff game. Barkley later ripped Cousins for leaving Kentucky after his freshman year, saying he wasn’t ready for the NBA.

When the Kings suspended Cousins in his rookie year, Barkley publicly backed then-Kings coach Paul Westphal, Barkley’s coach in Phoenix. And throughout Cousins’ five seasons in the NBA, Barkley has criticized him, saying more than once that the big man needed to grow up.

Maybe the problem between Barkley and Cousins stems from how much they’re alike. They’re both very vocal, often speaking before thinking, and emotional on the court.

As a player, Barkley was known as an incredible talent who said and did what he wanted, often behaving boorishly and believing he never committed a foul. In his 16 NBA seasons, Barkley averaged 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists, but he also was called for 329 technical fouls (32 in both the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons) and 11 flagrant fouls.

And it’s been well documented that Barkley almost wasn’t picked for the original “Dream Team” in 1992 because USA Basketball officials were concerned about his behavior on and off the court.

In his fifth season, Cousins is averaging 23.8 points and 12.5 rebounds (not much different than Barkley’s fifth-season averages of 25.8 and 12.5). Cousins has been called for 65 career technicals and five flagrant fouls (none since his third season).

Cousins, who made Team USA last summer, might have been picked earlier in his career, but officials were concerned if he was mature enough. Now, after playing well and behaving even better in the FIBA World Cup in September, it seems almost certain he will play for the United States in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Perhaps Barkley is so critical of Cousins because they’re so much alike. And he wants to protect his legacy as the best basketball player from Alabama.

– Tom Couzens

tcouzens@sacbee.com


What to watch

College baseball, Cal at Stanford, 1 p.m., PAC12: It’s baseball’s version of the Big Game.


Worth repeating

Cousins on Barkley: “I don’t respect him and I don’t care what he thinks.”


On this date

1968: Rick Barry of the Warriors scores 52 points against Chicago in Fresno for his second consecutive 50-point game.

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