Jan 2, 2012, 12:53 AM EDT
To list the things that should not happen in a professional sports organization
- A professional ball player should not behave in such a way as to elicit multiple suspensions and a press release stating that he has asked for a trade and has been sent home.
- A coach should not, under any circumstances, issue a press release stating that a player has demanded a trade. That should come from the GM, from ownership, from a team spokesman on behalf of the entire organization. But in general, it should never happen, period. It paints the player into a corner and alienates him. Did Cousins put himself out on that plank? Absolutely. But you don’t respond to an employee acting inappropriately by releasing a statement regarding their behavior. You either fire them or work to re-integrate them.
SI.com reports that it wasn’t even a real trade demand. Reportedly during yet another long argument with Paul Westphal, who Cousins has clashed with multiple times over the years, did say “Trade me!” but it was meant in the tone of “If that’s how you feel, then trade me!”
So who’s wrong here? Everyone. Cousins is 21 years old. He’s a big boy. He gets to make his own decisions. And while pretty much everyone over the age of 21 can look back at being 21 and acknowledge that they were full of stupidity and immaturity, Cousins has a professional obligation to conduct himself better. Maybe the situation really is that bad. But if that’s the case, your representation is fully charged and capable of handling your situation.
Westphal’s in a spot. The team’s bad, he’s on the hot seat, the ownership made a handful of dubious decisions over the past three months. He’s likely to be fired, he’s been in the league a long enough time to not have to deal with this kind of abuse from a 21 year old. But that’s part of coaching. Maybe it wasn’t his idea to release the statement, maybe it was a suggestion from PR or an order from management. But the impact is the same. This isn’t about Cousins, it’s about a reflection on the organization and specifically the coaching staff that indicates they alienate and throw players under the bus.
So now they almost have to trade him. Keep him and you’ve neutered Westphal, which is worse than firing him (especially since he still gets paid). So instead, they have mortgaged leverage and now have to find some sort of way to move him without endangering their entire rebuilding project. Let’s be clear, Cousins can play. He’s off to a hard start this year, but he’s also obviously not mentally checked in. The kid has the talent, no one has ever denied that.
Furthermore, Cousins isn’t a “bad kid.” He hasn’t gotten in trouble with the law. His run ins with teammates and coaches are basketball related, not about gambling or women or anything else. That doesn’t mean he’s a good teammate; he’s clearly not. But it does impact what we’re talking about here.
The Kings’ season has been weird. It just got a lot weirder.
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