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Ball Don't Lie

DeMarcus Cousins gets his massive contract extension, as Sacramento Kings fans hold their breath

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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DeMarcus Cousins throws down in a game from the 2012-13 season (Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings smartly decided to clear house once the team was freed from the evil grips of do-nothing Maloof Brothers, bringing in a new general manager to help clean up the mess the Maloofs and former GM Geoff Petrie created, while hiring a new coaching staff to help work with a roster that lost former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans over the offseason.

Evans was allowed to join the New Orleans Pelicans as a free agent, without much of a fight from the new front office. Seemingly far more destructive and frustrating than Evans, big man DeMarcus Cousins was thought by many observers and analysts to be the next certain Kings lottery pick to skulk out of town, as Boogie was set to become a restricted free agent (as Evans was) in the 2014 offseason. Instead, the new regime recently made a huge commitment to DeMarcus, signing him to a four-year, $62 million extension that the Sacramento Bee and Yahoo Sports reported yesterday.

Centers that can walk and chew gum (and produce a double-double) are hard to come by. Over $15 million a year on average for a big man seems about right when you notice that John Wall (the top rookie in DMC’s class) is making about the same, and he may never make the All-Star team (that’s not a shot at Wall, just a reference to the litany of All-Star-level point guards out East). You overpay, or pay as much as you can, for talented big man. It’s NBA law.

In Cousins’ case, it’s a law I can’t get behind.

In most instances, I get behind it – you pay way more for the near All-Star big man than you would the All-Star scoring swingman, because the position is harder to fill. Cousins, though, just doesn’t play like the centerpiece of what will hopefully someday become a great basketball team. I genuinely do not care about the technical fouls, or his clashes with coaches, or the team (and not league) suspensions. I don’t care about his clash with Sean Elliott, because NBA League Pass-watchers worldwide wouldn’t mind clashing with Sean Elliott.

And, genuinely, I don’t mind the deal. It’s somewhat tradeable, and Sacramento’s payroll is so skinflint right now that they can still build around Cousins.

I’m just glad DeMarcus Cousins isn’t on my team, and I don’t understand why the Kings didn’t even explore the idea of letting Cousins go through restricted free agency, matching any sort of offer next offseason that would be in line with the deal they just gave the center.

For all we know, with the new regime and Shaquille O’Neal’s giggly presence lifting his mood, DeMarcus might turn out to be the model teammate. What concerns me far more than the complaints about his whining and body language is his actual play. His seeming cluelessness on defense, and in defending the screen and roll. His wildly inconsistent help defense, his failure to run the floor sometimes, and also his remarkably all-over-the-place offense.

Boogie is capable of monster games from time to time, but overall it’s hard to look past 45 percent career shooting (though that has increased from year to year) and his obsession with launching long flat-footed jumpers. This is a guy that reminds of Bob Lanier in terms of shape and size, and yet he’s chucking like Bob McAdoo at times, to disastrous results.

DeMarcus breaks plays, he complains about calls in ways that put his teammates on their heels defensively, his low post footwork is far from refined, and he seems to have no idea that he’s not a jump shooter of any note.

Sacramento fans will tell you that a new coaching staff (not one mainly made up of holdovers from the Paul Westphal era) and Shaq’s presence will help change things. O’Neal isn’t exactly going to be hounding Kings practices, though. Not with his twice weekly appearances in Atlanta for NBA TV and TNT, and not with his 80 trillion other business interests pulling him in several directions. And while we respect new Kings coach Michael Malone, he’s a fiery one. DeMarcus Cousins wouldn’t seem to be the type to do well with “fiery.”

Still, Westphal famously doesn’t even curse on the sidelines or in huddles, nowhere near “fiery” despite his clashes with DMC. And former coach Keith Smart was laid back in his approach (if not his working habits). Maybe new bluster, and more room to work with Evans gone, will help. And $15 million for a center that was born in the 1990s and averaged a Player Efficiency Rating of over 20 last year, on paper, doesn’t seem too terrible.

Most paper, and certainly most aspects of PER, can’t document how much defense means to a person’s individual contributions. And Cousins is terrible defensively, in ways that just don’t remind of an NBA-level player, much less a team’s highest paid player. And for anyone hoping for a Zach Randolph-like turnaround, understand that Zach’s low post game in Portland was already on point in his first few seasons. His transition and maturity came off the court.

I don’t care what DeMarcus Cousins does off the court, and very little about what he does (to coaches, or Sean Elliott) near the court. I care about what he does on the court, and to me that miserable defense and up and down offensive game doesn’t smack of a $62 million commitment.

Smack me around by proving me wrong, DeMarcus. Goodness knows those Kings fans deserve a turnaround on the court, too.

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