Kobe Bryant will return to play for the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and while Derrick Rose has hinted that he might be in good enough shape to contribute to his Chicago Bulls in the playoffs this spring, that’s still a pipe dream at this point.
Both Rose and Bryant have had promotional shoe campaigns based on their long recoveries from both ACL and Achilles tears, taking advantage of a big story, an evocative narrative, and clout of two of the NBA’s biggest stars playing in two of the NBA’s biggest cities. DeMarcus Cousins, though he is a very good player, has no such national recognition – partly because of his up and down start to his NBA career, partially because he’s a pivotman (at his best, at least), and partly because he plays in one of the NBA’s smallest markets.
Bryant was rumored to have pinned Friday’s contest against Cousins’ Sacramento Kings as his return date, which is why DeMarcus was asked about Kobe’s possible comeback after Sacramento’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night. Jokingly, Cousins decided to shift the attention to his relatively mild ankle sprain and eventual return to the Kings lineup after sitting Tuesday out. Again – AS A JOKE. From Ailene Voisin at the Sacramento Bee:
“Kobe’s not the story,” he joked. “The big story is my return. Maybe I’ll get a commercial out of it.”
We chatted a few more minutes .... about Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Derrick Rose was never mentioned. If anything, I interpreted Cousins’ comments as a humorous reference to the number of professional athletes (including Robert Griffin III) who through the years have used their comebacks as themes for their commercials. Kobe’s own new sneaker commercial that was released Wednesday, by the way, features an image of stitches at the back of the shoe - an obvious reference to the surgery on his left Achilles.
Cousins’ subsequent comments to other reporters probably created the confusion. When again asked if he was playing Friday, he wisecracked, his voice booming as he walked out the door, “Probably not. I think I’ll be out the rest of the season and I can get a comeback commercial.”
The joke here is that DeMarcus Cousins, not exactly a fixture in your “19 shopping days left!”-adverts, wants a commercial touting his comeback from an ankle sprain. It wasn’t a shot at Kobe, or Derrick, or anyone else. The joke that DeMarcus Cousins made was self-deprecating; as in, “I have never been major endorsement fodder, but this mild injury will change that.”
The problem here is that the quip taken out of context seemed to reference Rose’s infamous “Return” advertisements for his shoe supplier of choice, commercials that looked somewhat unsavory once it became clear that Rose would (understandably) miss the entire 2012-13 season after an ACL tear, never really making a “Return” until the this season.
And because this conversation took place on Tuesday night, Cousins had no way of knowing that Kobe would kooly and krassly make reference to his Achilles tendon surgery by putting stitched-in scars on his new signature shoes; shoes that were released on Wednesday.
Twitter, to paraphrase a line from The Rutles, got a hold of the wrong end of the stick and beat around the bush with it. The quote quickly got out of hand, which forced Cousins to hop on Twitter to defend a throwaway joke that, once again, was at his own expense:
Let me clear this up now! In no way shape or form was I taking a shot at drose! Stop trying to make a story!!!
— demarcus cousins (@boogiecousins) December 4, 2013
All this is incredibly unfortunate, because Cousins is having a monster season.
The Kings are struggling at 4-12, but Cousins is making 48 percent of his shots from the floor while tossing in 21.7 points per game in only 30 minutes a night. He’s also averaging 10.1 rebounds and a combined 2.8 blocks/steals a contest. Those are fantastic, All-Star-level stats, especially when you consider the fact that Cousins is only topping out at 30 minutes per game.
It’s easy to jump to a nasty conclusion with an initial quote like that, and it’s often hard for late night NBA beat writers to provide contextual clues in 140 characters or less. And when you toss in DeMarcus’ somewhat surly NBA history, we can understand why some got this wrong.
They got it wrong, though. Spread the word, to anyone who has yet to hear the story in full.
Cousins will return against the Lakers on Friday night. Cue the cameras.
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