In the wake of another incident in a career full of incidents, DeMarcus Cousins’ teammates are responding to his latest ejection (and likely suspension) with a round of shrugged shoulders. Playing out the string on another miserable lottery-bound season, potentially the team’s final one in Sacramento, the Kings just don’t seem to know what to do with the guy.
DMC was tossed out of Sunday’s Kings loss to the Milwaukee Bucks after elbowing Mike Dunleavy Jr. in the back of his head, and receiving a Flagrant Two foul. Cousins had taken exception to a somewhat clumsy and certainly dangerous box out attempt in transition from Dunleavy in a previous possession; with the caveat that just about all box out attempts (especially in transition) can be clumsy and potentially dangerous once those legs all mix together in the paint.
What is always dangerous is a blow to the head, which Cousins gave soon after. Watch:
The jawing from Cousins was understandable. It’s frightening to go down after legs get tangled, and wing players sneaking in to hold off big men from the glass often results in this sort of big vs. quick collision. Dunleavy did nothing wrong, but it still could have turned out terribly wrong.
The problem is that Cousins felt justified to nail the Bucks forward with an elbow right after, that this was OK because, y’know – he started it! Three years into an NBA career, Cousins is still pulling this nonsense – ejected four times this season while registering three Flagrant Two fouls; and it’s not as if Cousins is known as a fearsome defender despite his bulk.
What happened next was the worst of both worlds for Cousins.
Though he put up 24 points on 10-12 shooting prior to the ejection, his Kings went on a massive run with Cousins in the locker room and a small lineup on the floor. The comeback fell short because, you guessed it, Mike Dunleavy Jr. put up 14 of his 16 points in 15 minutes following the elbow to the head. So not only did the Kings play better in Cousins’ absence, but one of the two tipping points down the stretch (Monta Ellis being the other) was the man Cousins went after.
The Kings, predictably, don’t know what to do when their big man acts like a boy. From the Sacramento Bee:
"It's hard, he's his own man," said guard Isaiah Thomas. "I say things to him, he listens to me a lot. A lot of people say things to him, especially when that thing happened. Everyone said, 'Just calm down, calm down.' But he wears his emotions on his sleeve. But that's the big thing with DeMarcus. He just has to be smarter. He's got to know when things like that happen they're going to be looking at you. I didn't see what happened, whatever he did."
Added Jason Thompson:
"You can give a person as much advice as you can. From us, to coaches, to Hall of Famers, to whatever. But at the end of the day you're in this league because you're a grown man, you've going to do what you want to do."
Being your “own man” is to be admired, especially in a league that literally demands conformity right down to headband placement and shoe color. When being your own man means hurting the whole team, though? That’s where Cousins fell short. All he’s doing is earning his team better lottery chances, and in front of a crowd that may never get to enjoy the lottery payoff of this awful 22-43 season.
In terms of production, Cousins is about where he was at last season. His turnovers have gone up a bit but he’s also become much more of a willing passer, quite underrated in that regard, and one of the few natural ones the Kings boast. It’s disconcerting that he still makes just 45 percent of his shots and has taken 18 three-pointers this year, but those knucklehead shots pale in comparison to knucklehead flagrant fouls.
And, again, we’re over 200 games into DMC’s professional career.
DeMarcus Cousins has every right to be uninspired. The Kings are a lame duck franchise with owners that routinely give off the message that it’s just fine to act truly uncaring towards those that are playing good money to watch bad Sacramento Kings basketball. The team was never going to make the playoffs this year, its lottery pick from last June has already been dealt, and guard Aaron Brooks (the team’s lone free agent acquisition of any significance) barely made it to March before being waived by the team.
Cousins had time to cool down, after his initial altercation with Dunleavy. He had time to consider his actions, and judge what the appropriate response should be. He then elbowed the guy in the head.
That’s a frightening chain of considerations.