HANG TIME CALIFORNIA BUREAU — In a strange moment even by the standards of their relationship that has tested the limits of patience, the Kings announced Sunday that problem-child DeMarcus Cousins was suspended for that night’s game against the Hornets and that Cousins has “demanded” to be traded.
It is not known whether the second-year center was suspended without pay or told to stay away in the latest attempt to impose discipline on a prospect so lacking in structure. It is also not known for certain whether Cousins actually demanded, asked, hinted or used a Ouija board to ask for a trade – his agent, John Grieg, denied there was any such request, according to Sam Amick of SportsIllustrated.com, and said “Maybe Westphal is just feeling the heat early this season.”
Whatever the impetus of the latest breakdown, a lot of front offices around the league are knowingly nodding their heads. Cousins was the second-best talent in the 2010 draft, at worst, and maybe equal or ahead of No. 1 pick John Wall, but went fifth to Sacramento because of issues that ranged from attitude to inability to always play hard. Cousins had the talent to reach the All-Star game but the personality and approach to get some GM fired.
The Kings took the risk with the understanding a lot of patience would be required, then got exactly the rookie season and opening weeks to the second campaign that should have been expected: Cousins had some good moments that were countered by a level of immaturity that could make him one of the great underachievers.
As recently as Thursday, coach Paul Westphal was working to emphasize the positives of Cousins’ supposed growth, but it was all in the perspective of 2010-11. While Westphal backed Cousins, the comments to NBA.com were, tellingly, how Cousins was doing better than last season, not doing well, period. Conditioning was still an issue at the start of the new campaign. The temper was still an issue.
The spinning disappeared Sunday, when the Kings released a statement that for some reason came with Westphal’s name attached, not from Geoff Petrie, the head of basketball operations, or owners Joe or Gavin Maloof.
“Whenever a new season begins, in any sport, there is great hope that everything will progress in only a steady, upward direction,” the statement said. “As we all know, it seldom happens like that in this life!
“As coaches, we can only ask that our players do everything they can to improve themselves as individuals and teammates. If they do this with all their hearts, we live with the results.
“Everything that happens on a team does not become known to the public. This is how it should be. However, when a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely.
“DeMarcus Cousins has demanded to be traded. In the best interest of our team as we go forward, he has been directed by me, with the support of management, to stay home from the New Orleans game tonight.”
An exclamation point and everything.
It should always be understood that “Everything that happens on a team does not become known to the public,” but in this case it is the Kings wanting everyone to know there were a lot more issues with Cousins beyond whether he was in proper shape for the start of camp or able to control his frustration level. Even for an organization that has done well to not coddle Cousins, this was a unique amount of candor.
By tipoff Sunday night against the Hornets, it was impossible to know whether the Kings would try to trade Cousins, something they never came close to doing in the past while preaching patience, or whether this would become the latest moment for both sides to get past.