Let’s say DeMarcus Cousins is accurate. Let’s say his account of what led to the second technical foul and ejection Monday night in Salt Lake City is court-stenographer verbatim and that he didn’t say anything beyond calling one of the referees an “effing female,” according to what Cousins told Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee after the game.
It doesn’t matter.
Cousins moved to a special place on the NBA radar in November with a two-game suspension for leaving the locker room after a game, still in uniform, and, in the words of the league, “confronting Spurs announcer Sean Elliott in a hostile manner.” The turbulent Kings center knows he is under a particularly powerful microscope, that past acts will cost him in the future, and that he has no leeway with refs. And yet he keeps inviting trouble.
This is on Cousins. There is no one else to blame for 2 1/2 seasons of anger and maturity issues, and the season before that at Kentucky as teammates quickly learned of his temper. One person and one person only is costing Cousins money in suspensions and his team wins when the best player on the roster is getting an early shower or out of the arena entirely on suspension.
But how does no one on the Kings get Cousins out of harm’s way long before he could get a male referee submit to a gender exam? The greater question is how anyone let him get within shouting distance of Elliott courtside that November night in Sleep Train Arena. Out of the locker room, maybe, because team personnel are busy after games and not exactly keeping an eye out for unprecedented actions from a specific player. But out the door, through the tunnel, back on the court and nearly to the other end of the court, about 30 yards, all while in uniform, and nobody threw up a detour.
Maybe that happens because no one could imagine it happening. Maybe. The Elliott incident, though, should have been the final sign that Cousins is incapable of controlling his emotions, despite the grossly oversold stories that coach Keith Smart is reaching him, and that all the Kings have to deal with it.
It is not the perfect solution. It certainly is not the fair solution. But the Kings’ best chance to win is if he plays, and so this is everybody’s problem. That may be babysitting, but that’s also the truth.
As long as Cousins is on the team – there never has been an indication from around the league or within the organization that management looked hard at any trade – the team will have to deal with it. Players, coaches, support staff, the guy driving the bus on the road. At the first sign of rising blood pressure, someone has to stay between Cousins and referees. A teammate has to stay in his ear about remaining focused only on the next play.
Monday at Utah, he got the second technical leaving the court before halftime. That can’t happen.
“Before that, (the referees) tell us if you have a problem with them, come talk to them,” Cousins was quoted as saying by Jones. “They give us permission to do that. I tried to wait until the play was over. I waited until the play stopped, I went up to the ref… he kept telling me, ‘Don’t talk to me, don’t talk to me, I don’t want to talk to you.’ So I waited until halftime. He said the same thing… he was saying, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ So my response was, ‘You don’t have to act like an effing female.’ I shouldn’t have said that. That’s about it.”
Cousins is right about one thing. Refs will have explanations/conversations with players and coaches during a stop in play. That just doesn’t mean a player with his history is going to get too far inside that buffer zone.
A veteran teammate or coach, schooled in the ways of dealing with officials, could have had the conversation for him. At the very least, one of them should have been aware Cousins had an issue and done everything possible to get him away from the referees. As long as he is on the team, this is a team issue.