As you might have heard, DeMarcus Cousins has a bit of a reputation for being a hothead. The Sacramento Kings center has led the NBA in technical fouls in each of the past two seasons, and has finished in the top five in that less-than-stellar stat in all four of his pro campaigns. Some of that, perhaps, can be attributed to the former Kentucky star not getting the benefit of the doubt from NBA officials; some of it, indisputably, can be attributed to groin-striking, throat-forearming and "effing female"-ing. Wherever your sympathies lie, the numbers don't — Boogie's been a double-digit tech-getter ever since he left campus, and his penchant for punishment's become one of the defining characteristics of his early career.
The 24-year-old Cousins aims to change that this season, though. After a successful turn during Team USA's summertime run to the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain — 9.8 points on 70.8 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds, two combined blocks and steals, and an assist in 13.9 minutes per game off Mike Krzyzewski's bench — that saw him exercise quite a bit of restraint in not retaliating to a serious elbow from Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas during a game against Lithuania, Cousins received well-earned praise from USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, who had been one of Cousins' vocal critics in years past.
"In the locker room after our win over Serbia, DeMarcus in particular was emotional," Colangelo told Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee. "He hugged me and thanked me for putting him on the team, and I told him, ‘the past is the past. This is the beginning of your career. Take everything you learned back to Sacramento. You can build on this and have a tremendous career.’”
The first step in that new journey for Boogie, apparently? Setting a pretty steep goal in the technical reduction department:
"My boi @boogiecousins goal for this year," wrote teammate Reggie Evans in the caption of his Instagram post. 5 Technical [sic] this season. I feel like he can do it."
Now, given Cousins' league-leading numbers these past few seasons — 16 techs last year and 17 in 2012-13, up from 12 in '11-'12 and 14 during his rookie year — that seems like an awfully ambitious cut-down. That said, what is training camp if not a time for ambition? Go for the gusto, DeMarcus — heck, shoot for a clean sheet while you're at it. Why not, right?
Seriously, though, five might not be too crazy a number, provided Cousins can keep himself on the same general schedule he managed during the second half of last season, when he went nearly seven weeks — from Feb. 25 through April 13 — without picking up a T. He played 21 full games during that stretch — and played pretty phenomenally, averaging 23 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes per game on 52 percent shooting — without getting put in the book. If he maintained that pace over the course of an 82-game season, he'd end up with ... four technicals, right below his stated goal.
The incentive for Cousins' good behavior during that second-half dry spell? The February tech was Cousins' 15th of the season, meaning that his next ring-up would trigger an automatic one-game suspension and a $5,000 fine. This leads to a fairly simple suggestion: If he just pretends like every technical will get him suspended, Cousins should be home free.
Boogie did wind up running afoul of the refs during Sacramento's April 13 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, earning a suspension for the final game of the Kings' season and an early start on his summer vacation. When he got the T, though, the reaction wasn't one of disappointment in his immaturity or inability to stay the course ... far from it.
“I just told [DeMarcus] to keep his head up and that he should be proud of how he played and of the effort that he’s put into being a better citizen on the court,” Kings coach Mike Malone said after the game, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. “This is just one step, and he’s going to need to be able to handle it and recover.”
After several years of fits and false starts in that regard — prior to his February ejection, Cousins had been picking up technicals at the fastest rate of his career — the talented giant seems closer than ever to being "able to handle it and recover" reliably and regularly. If he can keep that momentum going — leading not by taking well-intentioned but ultimately flawed steps like yelling less, but by his own example — then Cousins could accomplish a slew of goals this coming season: rehabilitating his public image, breaking through in All-Star consideration for a spot in the crowded Western Conference frontcourt, and maybe even inspiring the brand of uptick in his teammates' performance that could lift Sacramento out of the lower reaches of the Western Conference standings.
High-minded goals, to be sure, but hey: so is limiting yourself to five technicals. It's training camp. Why not dream big?
Hat-tip to Matt Moore at Eye on Basketball.
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