Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins entered Sunday's matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves sitting on 15 technical fouls for the season. On one hand, that's a lot — more than anyone else in the league except Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin. On the other, though, it's the same amount that Cousins has had since Feb. 25, when he got T'd up twice and ejected from a blowout loss to the Houston Rockets. That outburst put the third-year man from Kentucky within a hair's breadth of getting a mandatory siesta — according to the punishment schedule laid out in the NBA rulebook, a player's 16th technical foul of the season carries with it not only a $5,000 fine, but also a one-game suspension — and in the aftermath of the loss to Houston, Cousins promised his coaches, teammates and Kings fans that he'd be on his best behavior to ensure that he remained in the lineup as the Kings finished out their season.
To his credit, Cousins has been a man of his word for the past seven weeks, avoiding technicals while turning in spectacularly productive play, averaging around 24 points on 52 percent shooting, 12 rebounds, three assists, and three combined blocks and steals in 32.4 minutes per game since March 1.
"I think he is doing an outstanding job of handling and controlling his emotions. Ever since that Houston game, you know, he hasn't got a technical foul, I think he should be commended on that," Kings head Michael Malone told Blake Ellington of Sactown Royalty two weeks back.
"I just think I'm locked in more on the task at hand, and you know, zoning out the other things," Cousins added.
But nothing lasts forever — not even cold November rain, if we're being honest — and Boogie came up juuuuuust shy of making it to the end of the season without ringing up another T. Cousins' streak ended late in the fourth quarter of the Kings' 106-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night:
After a missed jumper by Minnesota center Gorgui Dieng, several players — Cousins, Kings teammates Travis Outlaw and point guard Isaiah Thomas, and Wolves All-Star power forward Kevin Love — began fighting for the rebound. The loose ball careened around the paint a bit, with Cousins, Dieng and Kings guard Ray McCallum all hitting the deck to scoop it up, before eventually came up with it and got fouled while attempting a layup. Cousins stayed on the floor a bit longer than usual, then got up, faced the crowd, jumped up in frustration and walked the baseline with his hands atop his head.
The refs responded to what they perceived as Cousins showing them up by whistling him for a technical, giving him 16 on the season. The league office brought the hammer down on Monday afternoon:
Cousins' absence from Wednesday's home affair against the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento's final game of the season, surely comes as welcome news for the Suns. It could also have a real impact on the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, provided the Suns can stay alive by knocking off the Memphis Grizzlies in a win-or-go-home Monday matchup.
Cousins was extremely upset after the game at the call, and at the prospect of not finishing out the season on the floor with his teammates. From Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee:
“I ain’t talking about that,” Cousins said when asked about the technical, called by official J.T. Orr with 1:13 left in the game.
Cousins was upset about a foul called on Travis Outlaw. Cousins was walking away from the basket and was demonstrative in his displeasure. Cousins, however, refused to discuss the idea of not playing in the season finale.
“I’m not talking about it,” he said. [...]
“I feel for him,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “He has made a concerted effort to handle his emotions and not get that last technical. Obviously, we’ll try to do whatever we can to get that rescinded, but it’s disappointing. I know it meant a lot to him.”
Malone said Cousins has made progress this season and called the situation “unfortunate.”
“I just told him to keep his head up and that he should be proud of how he played (Sunday) and of the effort that he’s put into being a better citizen on the court,” Malone said. “This is just one step, and he’s going to need to be able to handle it and recover.”
The good news for the Kings and for their fans is that Cousins has begun to show that capacity to handle it and recover. As Jones notes, the 22-game streak between technicals No. 15 and 16 represented the longest tech-less stretch of Cousins' career. Beyond that, after getting T'd up, Cousins responded by blocking a layup try by new league scoring champion Corey Brewer, and then scoring four of Sacramento's final six points, finishing with 35 points on 13 for 21 shooting, 15 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and a steal in 37 1/2 minutes of playing time, outdueling Love (43 points, 11 rebounds) to salt away the win:
And even though the effort to get the 16th technical rescinded was unsuccessful, it won't undercut Cousins' all-around advancement this season — including the emotional growth his head coach has repeatedly referenced — or keep Akis Yerocostas of Sactown Royalty from considering Cousins' first post-extension season a success:
In Cousins, the Kings have their first legitimate franchise cornerstone in a long time. The road back to respectability is a long and arduous one, especially in the West, but thanks to Cousins' improvement this year, a big step forward was taken, even if the team's record hasn't changed from last year. Awards, accolades and winning will eventually come in future seasons, but 2013-14 is the season in which Boogie took the next step in his development.
It's just a shame that he couldn't take one more step across this season's proverbial finish line. Oh, well. Have a nice summer, DeMarcus. We'll eagerly await your return in the fall.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, feel free to check out the infraction elsewhere, thanks to Antoine Pimmel.
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