Lots of athletes thrive on chaos. Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins seems incapable of living without it. The three-time All-Star continues to put up massive numbers as the alpha and omega of the Kings attack, but his inability to check his emotions and volatile relationships with the NBA’s referees continue to get him into trouble. Cousins continues to be worth the trouble for a franchise in desperate need of a star — dominant big men are hard to find — but the Kings would probably prefer not to have to deal with those issues if they could avoid it.
Cousins displayed everything that makes him a frustrating figure in Monday night’s home game against the Chicago Bulls. He entered the game with 14 technical fouls, two shy of the 16 that trigger an automatic one-game suspension. After earning his first of the night at the end of the third quarter in notable fashion — we’ll get to that one later — Cousins had to avoid another in the fourth or face an ejection and automatic suspension for Wednesday’s visit from the Boston Celtics.
He did that job well enough for the first 11:59 of the period. Cousins helped the Kings battle back from an 85-69 deficit and tied the game on an and-one lay-up with 30 seconds on the clock. Cousins missed the go-ahead free throw, which opened the door for the Bulls to win 112-107, but at least he hadn’t done something very stupid to miss Wednesday’s matchup.
Then, with 1.1 seconds remaining and the result decided, Cousins got very mad to earn that 16th technical foul. Take a look:
Oof. There’s no other way to put it — Cousins let his emotions get the best of him and, barring the rescinding of a technical, will not play against Boston on Wednesday. The suspension itself isn’t damning, because the Kings have 30 games left to play and Cousins has to play with some amount of intensity to be at his best. But this particular technical was completely useless and avoidable — the game was over, and he only needed to wait one second to vent his frustrations without penalty.
Cousins’s first technical of the night wasn’t much smarter. He earned that one when he rushed into an argument between Bulls Taj Gibson and Rajon Rondo (a former king) and the referees. Despite the Kings having no real place in the discussion, Cousins pushed away a Chicago assistant and was hit with the “T” after an official review. Take a look at the bizarre scene here:
I am a Cousins superfan and apologist for life, so I absolutely believe that referees sometimes hand him technicals based more on reputation than on his actions. But he has only himself to blame for these two techs and his absence on Wednesday. He could have walked away from each situation (or just not walked into the first) without much effort. This is who he is, to a certain extent, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for good decisions within that basic framework.
It’s possible that Cousins was frustrated with his own mistakes. While the Kings did well to get back into this game, he finished with an inefficient 18 points on 16 attempts and allowed the Bulls to pull back in front after that missed free throw in the final minute. Dwyane Wade answered with the go-ahead jumper on the final possession:
Wade tormented the Kings again on the next possession by stealing Matt Barnes’s inbounds pass and dunking at the other end. Add in the game-ending technical free throw, and he finished with a game-high 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the field.
Oddly enough, Monday was supposed to be the day that brought stability to Cousins’s immediate future in Sacramento. That’s because Marc Stein of ESPN.com quoted general manager Vlade Divac saying that his star would not be dealt before the NBA’s February 23 trade deadline:
Amid recent reports that the Kings had engaged the Phoenix Suns in talks involving Cousins, as well as suggestions that some in the organization were advocating a trade, Divac insisted by phone that any such speculation was untrue.
“We’re not trading DeMarcus,” Divac told ESPN. “We hope he’s here for a long time.”
Sources told ESPN that Divac recently met face to face with Cousins and his representatives to make it clear that the 26-year-old is not being made available to interested teams and encouraged them to ignore any media speculation leading up to the trade deadline.
The ejection and suspension shouldn’t change that position — Cousins still looks set to sign a $200-million-plus extension this summer — but they certainly clarify what it means to commit to such a mercurial personality for years. Nothing is ever easy with DeMarcus Cousins.
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