SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Hours before Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal ordered DeMarcus Cousins to stay away from Sunday's game against the New Orleans Hornets, the temperamental center had yet another shouting match with Westphal in the coach's office, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Westphal and Cousins’ agent John Grieg are at odds over whether Cousins issued a actual trade demand – the coach said yes, the agent no – but a Kings player said he heard the center yelling at Westphal that he wanted out of Sacramento, sources said.
“Trade me now,” Cousins was heard to yell from the coach's office after Saturday's loss to the New York Knicks, a source told Y! Sports.
Before the Kings' 96-80 victory over the Hornets Sunday, Westphal told reporters that Cousins requested trades on Dec. 24 and again after Saturday night’s loss to the Knicks. In a statement released by the Kings earlier Sunday, Westphal said he ordered Cousins to stay away from that evening's game because Cousins “continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team.”
Kings co-owner Joe Maloof and general manager Geoff Petrie said they will not trade Cousins, regardless of his wishes. Cousins, 21, is in the second year of a rookie contract paying him $3.6 million this season, and it would be tough for the Kings to get equal value for a talented player who already has a long history of throwing temper tantrums.
“We’re happy that he’s a King,” Maloof told Y! Sports. “But when a coach asks you to do something, you got to do it. We’re not trading him. …We have great expectations for him. It’s just one of those things that happens.
“Sooner or later he’ll understand what the NBA is about. Just get along with people. That’s all.”
Teams interested in Cousins have called the Kings, but none believes the team will seriously consider trading him so early in his career. Several rival executives expect the Kings will eventually make a coaching change and try a tougher style with Cousins.
“Once you saw that release only came from Westphal, that was a telltale sign that this was a coach venting and not a call to the league by management and ownership that they were trading Cousins,” one Eastern Conference executive told Y! Sports.
Cousins had nine points and 11 rebounds against the Knicks and asked Westphal afterward if he could meet with him. The two met in the coach's office, a source said. Cousins had told reporters he wasn't happy with the team's offense. Westphal told Cousins in a private meeting Sunday morning that he wouldn’t be playing in the Hornets game, a source said.
Just last week, Cousins had another verbal altercation with Westphal after Westphal called him for a technical in practice, several sources said.
Cousins is an immensely talented young player, which is why the University of Kentucky and the Kings have tolerated his behavior over the past two seasons. The fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft pushed through a rookie season full of spectacular promise on the floor tempered with volatile, immature behavior on and off the court. The Kings disciplined Cousins several times for behavioral issues, and Cousins had run-ins with Sacramento coaches, including Westphal, former assistants Truck Robinson and Mario Elie, and strength-and-conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro. Cousins was also was suspended after a locker-room altercation with teammate Donte Greene last season after Greene didn't pass him the ball for a potential game-winning shot in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. At the time, Greene called Cousins "spoiled," one source said, a reference to the franchise's coddling of its young center.
"He's selfish," one source close to the team said of Cousins. "He's always angry or clowning. He needs to change. The Kings have been great about covering things up for him, and his agent has been protecting him.
"He's always miserable. He acts like he's entitled."
Some players are disillusioned with the constant drain of Cousins' tantrums, sulking and absence of professionalism. "He's a bully, and they let him get away with it," one source said. "No one wants to deal with the guy."
Cousins is averaging 13 points and 11.2 rebounds in four games. The Kings don't doubt Cousins' talent, but they want to see him become more professional.
“He’s passionate and he wants to win, but he just needs to learn how to control his actions," Kings center Chuck Hayes said. "Some things are better left unsaid. And if you’re not feeling the system, the team, the players, don’t let your body language say it.”
Said Kings guard Tyreke Evans: "I’ve known DeMarcus for a long time and I want nothing but the best for him, but hopefully he can keep his head on straight and be a part of this team because we need him.”
Cousins accompanied the Kings on their flight to Memphis Monday, but team officials had yet to say whether he will play on Tuesday.
“He just has to put away the childish things and start to grow up,” Petrie said. “Learn to be more professional. Learn to put in effort and time and grow as a player. We want to help him help himself and the team.”
The Kings are 2-3 this season. Prior to Sunday's victory, Petrie was asked about Westphal's performance as coach.
“I don’t think anyone is happy with the way we are playing," Petrie said. "We have to play better. That’s what we are all working on.”
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