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DeMarcus Cousins is only responsible for being DeMarcus Cousins

Jan 7, 2012, 12:00 PM EDT

DeMarcus Cousins Royals

We tend to treat NBA players as action figures. Fun to look at and watch do whatever actions they do, ultimately hollow, and easily classifiable.

“This one is a hero.”

“This one is a villain.”

The problem is that these are people. I’m not imploring you to be more considerate of their feelings; that’s a futile pursuit. But we should at least recognize the huge gap between people who share one characteristic and those that share multiple characteristics, and the fact that they are not all systemic. I’m talking about DeMarcus Cousins.

Paul Westphal was fired this week after a 2-5 start. Immediately, this became about DeMarcus Cousins. He was labeled as a coach killer. That this was about him. To do so ignores the fact that Tyreke Evans had said earlier in the week that the Kings literally did not know what offense they were running. That there was no cohesive strategy to the Kings’ approach to personnel deployment. That their defense was atrocious. That players had not only not developed under Westphal, but actually regressed. This isn’t to make Paul Westphal responsible for all the Kings’ problems. The guy who steered the Titanic into the iceberg didn’t put the iceberg in the water, didn’t build the ship, didn’t manage the evacuation procedures. But the Kings’ problems being pinned on DeMarus Cousins is like blaming one compartment that was flooded for the entire thing going down.

What’s worse it that there’s an immediate subtext to the conversation about Cousins. “He’s just one of those guys.” That’s code for “thug,” a phrase that’s been used for decades in the NBA and represents the worst of outside examination of the NBA from those who don’t pay attention. “You know what kind of guy he is.” This kind of approach seeks to attach characteristics to Cousins which are not representative of who Cousins has been.

Cousins hasn’t been arrested in the time he’s been playing organized ball at Kentucky or in the NBA. He hasn’t failed a drug test. He isn’t known to run with people of concern in the locker room. And yet people want to attach elements of the worst disappointments and character issues in the NBA to him. That’s not who Cousins is.

Just because you buck at any attempt by coaching to try and control you, to wrangle your play, that doesn’t mean that you have no respect for authority and are a loose cannon. Just because you don’t get along with teammates (and multiple people I’ve spoken  to as well as a dozen published reports indicate that Cousins is about as popular in the Kings’ locker room as a polka mix would be), that doesn’t mean that you are likely involved in criminal activity. And being known to get physical and berate officials on the floor doesn’t mean that you have an anger management issue off of it.

It just means you’re a jerk.

And by all accounts, Cousins is kind of a jerk. Much like 80% of 21-year-olds in the eyes of those older than 25. And Cousins may not grow out of it. There are certainly enough jerks in the world over the age of 25. He may not develop into a respectful young man, may never be able to control his problems with coaching and reach his potential. He may wind up involved in drugs or guns or violence. He may get arrested. But those issues aren’t tied to him yelling on the floor with his coach or teammates, or dogging it on the defensive end. His problems are the problems of DeMarcus Cousins, and don’t involve anyone else’s issues or context. His life is is his own.

DeMarcus Cousins is only responsible for the problems of being DeMarcus Cousins.

  1. brianspider - Jan 7, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Well said.

  2. doctorfootball - Jan 7, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Cousins is just another immature player that was physically, but not mentally ready for the NBA. He is a jerk. And a talented one at that, but he has a lot of growing up to do. Also, as with so many young players entering the league, his basketball IQ is atrocious.

  3. khuxford - Jan 7, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    Wow, this is a fairly slanted article. “One of those guys” can be said meaning a headcase or diva, not just a thug. When Derrick Coleman was thought to be “one of those guys”, it was about him being a headcase with no commitment to make the most of his talents.

    And being known to get physical and berate officials on the floor just means he’s a jerk? No…he’s a jerk with anger management issues, if he’s a jerk at all.

  4. henson58 - Jan 7, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    Now wait a second have you ever met Cousins to call him a jerk? I have met Cousins before and he is a polite respectable young man I have an 8 year old son that thought the world of this guy not because of anything on the court but the way he carried himself when we met Mr. Cousins. So for all of you to just write him off as a jerk for wanting to win is just unthinkable.

  5. abasketballthing - Jan 7, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Most 21 year olds might look like jerks, but most 21 years old NBA players certainly don´t. Cousins is being given too much of a pass for being young. Many others have been in his situation and have behaved much better than he has. He might actually be the biggest jerk among all of the NBA’s young players or at least one of the biggest, so being 21 is no excuse. Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans, Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Stephen Curry, Kevin Love and others have been very young players on terrible teams, and none of them has acted the way Cousins has. It’s not just that he’s young. He has a problem, and while he might change someday, right now his attitude is very negative and will prevent him and his team from reaching their full potential.

  6. sfm073 - Jan 7, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Sounds like a young punk to me. This happens when you’ve been the best at something your entire life and no one has ever told you no.

  7. paminlex - Jan 7, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    DeMarcus Cousins is young. Yes. Talented. Yes. Coachable. Yes. A good human being. Yes. Does fame and fortune at a young age bring this kind of pressure and level of negativity. Yes. I support him and wish him the best. Youth and drive are a good combination when supported by positive role models and good prayer. I believe that DeMarcus will not and current does not deserve to be called anything but a powerhouse for good. A good role model in development. His actions to date are proof of that. He expects a lot of himself and others. Good citizens do that. He is worth watching and supporting.

  8. coldplay519 - Jan 7, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    If he can’t take the scrutiny of being a multi-million dollar athlete in an info-centric sports world, he can move on and find a new career. He sure as heck isn’t entitled to (nor does he need) sports bloggers to stick up for him. Fans have their opinions -right or wrong- and they are rightly shaped when immature athletes who have been catered to their entire lives act like princesses. Cousins is a princess, and he made his own bed. Why won’t you let him lie in it?

  9. borderline1988 - Jan 7, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    This isn’t about being a jerk. Kevin Garnett is a jerk, but he’s also fiercely loyal to his team and the success of his team.
    Obviously Westphal needed to be fired. That press release was a lame attempt to place blame on others.
    But Cousins is trouble. He is all about himself.
    I wouldn’t want my team picking him up even if he were completely free.

  10. trbowman - Jan 8, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    Seriously, Matt? Are you related to him?

    • mytthor - Jan 8, 2012 at 1:31 AM

      Must be, I know that I spend a lot of time calling my relatives immature jerks in public forums.

  11. dexterismyhero - Jan 9, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    DeMarcus Cousins is only responsible for the problems of being DeMarcus Cousins.

    That is well said and all you needed to put in the artcle because those problems are HUGE!!!!

    Grow up kid.

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