DeMarcus Cousins smiles, proves he is a nice boy (Rocky Widner/ Getty).
Over his two NBA seasons (plus his year at Kentucky), DeMarcus Cousins has not exactly earned a reputation as a no-nonsense professional. While various dust-ups — especially his longstanding feud with one-time coach Paul Westphal — are more complicated than a simple case of immaturity, Cousins has a tendency to let his emotions get the better of him. Despite being an extremely effective big man, Cousins' demeanor has kept him from getting attention as one of the NBA's brightest young stars.
Cousins realizes that his approach has not necessarily been effective, and he's looking to overhaul his method. Except, he's not just doing it for himself — he wants to be the Kings' leader. From Jason Jones for The Sacramento Bee (via SLAM):
"I'm trying (to lead)," Cousins said. "Just in a better way that will be accepted more and accepted better."
It's one thing to be a fiery leader. But if that intensity disturbs teammates, Cousins might as well be talking to a wall. Cousins is a bright player, but his observations and messages are often ignored if they are shouted to teammates. It's something Kings coaches and players have relayed to Cousins, who says he's listening.
"Sometimes you may be asking a valid question, but your demeanor and demonstrative way puts out that it's more than it really is," said coach Keith Smart. "So you have to figure out a way, how do I communicate to my teammate?"
Smart said Cousins realizes he needs his teammates and could not continue to come off as adversarial with them.
This is a useful point not just for Cousins, but for virtually any leader in the NBA. The assumption is that leaders will demand much of their teammates by challenging them, which more often than not means yelling. Kevin Garnett has done that particularly well, and his many years of success ensures that other players will pay attention. But that approach doesn't work for everyone, particularly if that player is a young man who hasn't yet built up a career of accomplishments.
Leaders can inspire by asking others to meet their example, but more often than not they can only do that by connecting with their colleagues or underlings on a personal level. A one-volume-fits-all approach will rarely work, because every person won't react well to the same treatment.
What that means, oddly enough, is that even quieting down might not help Cousins become an effective leader. The key isn't to temper his volume, but to vary it based on the situation and person. That's a difficult art to master, but that's also why veterans are often the most effective leaders. If Cousins doesn't get everything right immediately, it doesn't mean that he's a failure as a leader. It just shows that he hasn't figured it all out yet.
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